INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Marek Talarczyk CEO at Netguru reveals to us how Product Design Sprints has helped them Minimize Waste, Enhance Design Thinking, and Encourage Innovation
First of all, how are you and your Family doing in these COVID-19-affected Times?
Marek Talarczyk: During the lockdown, we were juggling between our everyday parental responsibilities while working from home. It was a crazy time. Fortunately, COVID-19 didn’t affect my family; we are all healthy, which is the most important thing.
Tell us about you, your Career, and how you Joined Netguru?
Marek Talarczyk: I joined Netguru nearly five years ago. Last year I took on the role of CEO, supporting the realization of the company’s strategy and leading the top management team.
Prior to joining Netguru, I held the role of Chief Operating Officer at Videntifier, a VC-based high-tech startup offering solutions based on a proprietary database and computer vision technology. I spent one year in California helping to transform the business from a startup to a mature company with repeat business, a larger customer base, and increased profitability. I shared my time between Reykjavik, Iceland (HQ), and Silicon Valley (US office).
How does Netguru Innovate?
Marek Talarczyk: Innovation is the very essence of our services. We’re working with innovators and entrepreneurs from all over the world, offering consulting, tools, and resources to companies of all shapes and sizes – to make beautifully designed digital products in a way that’s fast and fits their needs.
Product Design Sprints allow us to solve complex business problems – creating new products, improving clients’ existing offerings, and testing new ideas. They have a workshop format that we developed after years of experience and many scoping sessions and kick-off meetings with our clients. Each phase has a different focus and allows multidisciplinary teams to go through research, discovery, ideation, prototyping, and testing ideas with stakeholders and clients. It’s a great way to reduce the risk of bringing a new product, service, or feature to the market. Design sprints minimize waste, enhance design thinking, and encourage innovation. Most importantly, they allow you to compress months’ worth of work into a single week.
We also believe in the power of the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) before rolling out a new software product. It provides the ability to understand the product better, test it in an environment that includes all risks, and understand the users’ needs. We’ve joined the temi team in building a robot envisioned to lead the market of home robotics. We put a lot of effort into research and testing. The goal was to find the best use-cases of architectures and technologies for temi’s operating system. The outcome of our joint teamwork has received fantastic feedback from the first testers, industry experts, and media outlets.
We also innovate within Netguru. Whether you’re a small business owner or a member of a corporate team, it should all start with this question: have you ever checked how predictable your core business processes are? We asked ourselves that question, and we weren’t pleased with the result. We were wasting time and money and missing market opportunities as we struggled to deal with project crises. We came up with a new approach to managing predictability, supported by Salesforce. As a result, we’ve managed to increase the predictability of our core processes by 102% in nine months. When we asked around, we were told that we were unlikely to get predictability above 60%. With Salesforce, we’re continually achieving 80%. We can slice and dice our data in a whole variety of different ways to unlock richer insights, view different perspectives, and spot trends.
How has the Coronavirus Pandemic affected your Business, and how are you coping?
Marek Talarczyk: Happily, we managed to avoid most of the churn caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. We are closing new deals and, at the same time, seeing a high number of new leads coming in.
One of the biggest changes was closing our offices. Before the pandemic, we worked in a hybrid model, letting our employees decide whether they worked remotely or from one of our offices. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we decided to close all nine offices and move 650 employees into fully remote work. This way of working is deeply rooted in our company’s DNA, which is why we successfully managed to move to a fully remote operating model in less than 24 hours.
Did you have to make Difficult Choices, and what were the Lessons Learned?
Marek Talarczyk: One of the challenges we faced was the onboarding of new hires. Before introducing the necessary changes, onboarding took place at our HQ. We have managed to move it fully online without giving up on any part of the process.
The whole situation made us realize that our 12+ years of experience in remote work should be shared with others. We created free webinars with our experts, covering various topics around remote work. We also decided to give freelancers more opportunities to find a project through our platform, The Talent Marketplace.
The outbreak made us realize how easy it can be to move meetings and events online with a limited negative impact on effectiveness. We managed to change the Disruption Forum event that was supposed to happen in NYC to an online experience. It turned out to be a great decision. We’re already working on the next online editions of the event.
Above all, we learned that clear, frequent, and transparent communication is key to crisis management. At the beginning of the outbreak, we created the COVID-19 task force team. One of their responsibilities was constant communication with the entire company. Feedback from the team showed that this was crucial for staff and allowed them to focus on tasks instead of worrying about the future.
How do you deal with Stress and Anxiety? How do you Project yourself and Netguru in the Future?
Marek Talarczyk: It’s important to accept the existence of stress and anxiety. I am not deceiving myself that there is no stress; it is part of our human nature that there are more and less stressful moments.
Usually, it helps me when I try to put a stressful situation into a wider perspective, and then, most situations turn out to be less serious than I initially thought. At the same time, we shouldn’t disregard the seriousness of some of them. The COVID-19 outbreak is a great example. Instead of panicking, thinking only about the negative scenarios, and letting ourselves feel lost and stressed out, we looked at it in the most objective way possible. We accepted that it would be stressful, and at first, we may not be able to predict all of its outcomes. We put the COVID-19 task force in place to ensure that every person in Netguru is on the same page. It helped us to calm the mood in the company and to maintain our team’s efficiency.
The outbreak turned out to be an important checkpoint for us, confirming the relevance of our business strategy. With an even stronger sense of urgency in becoming fully digital, our goal of supporting businesses on their digitalization journeys couldn’t be any more relevant. Digitalization was already a strong trend and then became even more important. What at first seemed impossible has happened – standard offline channels stopped being an option. Companies that were able to switch to digital quickly have survived, and those that were not, are no longer in the market. It not only shows the importance of digitalization but also the significance of adaptation and the ability to react quickly in a changing environment.
Who are your Competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the Game?
Marek Talarczyk: This huge market is extremely competitive and will likely remain so. Our competitors will also have been affected by the pandemic to a greater or lesser extent. I think the game will continue for those who can best adapt to the new reality while understanding the need to build a deep relationship with clients.
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