Delivering value during Covid-19 - lessons from a successful failure

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

Marc Liew leads digital channels for a global insurer.

Constantin Papadopoulos is a B2B sales and marketing consultant.

This short read shares insight on how we developed a solution at the request of one customer, built it, and (un-) successfully deployed it. While celebrating failures is not really in human DNA, performing a proper after-action review is a source of improvement opportunities.

The context

On April 30th it was announced that restaurants in Switzerland would be able to re-open under certain conditions. One of the criteria set by the Swiss Federal council: restaurant owners ensure that all guests submit their contact information. A few hours later, Marc, who leads the digital channels for a global insurer during his day job received a call from a friend owner of a quick-service restaurant chain. What would it take to deliver a solution before restaurants re-opened? The solution had to be mobile, simple, and cost-effective.

The sprint

Marc decided to put on his cape and mask and became the Minimum Viable Product super-hero, one of his hobbies. After a few hours of analysis followed by a couple of evenings coding, the solution was up-and-running - Now that he had secured free-sandwiches for a few weeks, he contacted me to look for a distribution strategy. In other words, we made a flyer and I connected with potential partners. I had been active in the Swiss Hospitality scene during my last corporate job. Could I find some partners to collaborate with? Our ambition: cover the development costs with a partner and share the solution to as many restaurants as possible.

The disruption

As I started connecting successfully with potential partners, the data protection evangelists pushed to make the registration voluntary. In this battle between privacy and health, the defender of privacy rights won. In the aftermath of this political dispute, our value proposition lost a lot of steam. Potential partners became suddenly less inclined to support us financially. Our last prospect in Germany informed us on May 14th, they had found a lighter free version.

The end

After one and a half weeks of after-hours development, sales tactics, and experiments we decided to close the project by making it free for all restaurants in Switzerland. You can test the solution here. While the value we wished to generate did not come to fruition, society could still profit from our effort.

The After-Action review

As good former/current Swiss officers we did an after-action review. Here are the key lessons learned:

Build and bring MVPs fast to the market

Timing during uncertain times is everything. The context will change very quickly. While we did not control the sudden change in the legislative framework, we knew that our solution would be short-lived. Minimizing costs and development time while building an MVP is simply a must, i.e. lean and mean.

Fail fast and share your lessons learned

While we mostly operated at a loss for two weeks, we managed to bring an MVP within five days to the market, connect with potential partners, and gather customer feedback quickly. This fast or successful failure convinced us that we can build and bring MVPs to the market. So if you need professional MVP builders and distributors, you know where to find us.

In the end, our monetization efforts were not successful, we excelled at building an MVP, and we have offered a simple and effective solution to the public. A successful failure could be defined as one that does not destroy excessive value and benefits society. Let us know what you would have done differently in the comments.

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