The Fressnapf | Maxi Zoo Group is a German company that sells pet food and supplies. In over 1600 stores in eleven European countries, the company offers a wide range of products and services for pets. The company headquarters is located in Krefeld Linn, about 120km from Münster and employs about 1000 people, excluding logistics and stores. The IT department of Fressnapf employs about 150 people. With a turnover of 3.17 billion euros in 2021, Fressnapf is the market leader in pet supplies in Europe.
Judith Ingenbleek has been working for Fressnapf since 2017 and became the product owner for task management in the stores at the end of 2018. Using design thinking and Scrum, she developed much more than just an app with tasks for the stores over the years. Below is an interview with her about the motivation and beginnings of the product, as well as stakeholders and activities and finally the outcome.
— START OF INTERVIEW —
Lena Schleupen: What was the motivation to develop MIA?
Judith Ingenbleek: Before MIA, there were different channels for tasks and information to reach the branches: Mail, weekly report, workbook, phone, etc. Most of the administration with a lot of signatures and checklists was done via paper and not digitally. The more work in the back office the less time is left for the customer on the floor. Because of this, priorities were sometimes not apparent to store employees. In addition, information was not available when it was needed because instructions and notes were in folders in the back office, not on the sales floor.
Lena Schleupen: What does MIA stand for and what is the goal of MIA?
Judith Ingenbleek: MIA stands for My intelligent Assistant. Our vision is this: Technology meets good store employees and supports them in their daily work, which thanks to the MIA app can take place on the floor and paperless, as all the information and content needed is accessible anytime and anywhere. In doing so, we act sustainably and streamline processes. MIA increases employee satisfaction and motivation.
Lena Schleupen: Why was design thinking used for this product?
Judith Ingenbleek: After eliciting business requirements, user requirements and technical requirements, and taking into account the overarching IT vision, no standard solution on the market came into question. A solution was developed that offers maximum flexibility and can be adapted specifically to Fressnapf’s growing needs.
Lena Schleupen: What is your role as product owner?
Judith Ingenbleek: I make sure that the customer’s interests are always at the center and coordinate the collaboration with the development team, the Scrum Master and the rest of the stakeholders. At the beginning, I developed the vision and mission for the product. I also manage the backlog of the product, so pre-define user stories that can be worked on in the next sprints. The last important point is to present the progress not only to the project team and stakeholders, but also to the whole company.
Lena Schleupen: Who were stakeholders, organizers and team members in the project?
Judith Ingenbleek: Store managers, store employees, head office, sales field service, sales office, franchise partners, sales communication, sales processes. Indirect customers are the Fressnapf end customers. The project team is cross-functional and works in an agile manner. Internally, there is the Product Owner, Solution Architect and Business Process Expert. Externally, we are advised by Scrum Master, Developer, QA and UI / UX Design.
Lena Schleupen: Which phases did you go through and were there any special workshops or similar?
Judith Ingenbleek: We started by launching in-store interviews, international online surveys, and a workshop with market staff to get empathy for the user. So we did user research and business analysis as a first step. Then, before conducting three design sprints, we had a design thinking workshop. Our way of working is always focused on the user. We reinforced this by actively involving market personnel, sales, and stakeholders in the process. We also defined our personas together. In the concept phase, we develop further ideas and the user journey, so that in the next step we can expand the click dummy and test new ideas early on. A two-week sprint is structured in such a way that we start the sprint planning on the first day. We look at the defined user stories and think about which ones we want to implement in the next two weeks and formulate them further. Every day we have a Daily, where we meet for 15 minutes to tell what we have worked on the day before and where you can briefly present problems. Once a week we meet for a weekly meeting, where we can discuss major problems, but also report information about dependent projects or information from the company. At the end of the Sprint there is a Sprint Review, where we look at which requirements have been implemented and how, and which user stories we could not process. The stakeholders from the customer workshop also take part in this meeting at the beginning. On the same day, but only once a month, we have the retro, where we discuss what went well, what drives us but also what slows us down, what went badly and risks we see. After that, the sprint starts all over again and adjustments can be made or enhancements implemented. There is a design sprint for each overarching theme, which means that we have a separate design sprint for task management, knowledge management and incident reporting.
Lena Schleupen: How was the design thinking workshop with the customers structured?
Judith Ingenbleek: We met with market employees in May 2019, where we started with an empathy map and collected statements, activities, thoughts and feelings. After that, AS-IS scenarios were run through and the most problematic points were voted on. These were defined in more detail in order to formulate Need Statements afterwards. Finally, we asked which customers would like to be further involved in the process for a successful co-creation. After that, we were ready for the design thinking workshop with the project team.
Lena Schleupen: How is a design thinking workshop with the project team structured?
Judith Ingenbleek: At our first workshop, we met with the entire team (including representatives of market staff and thus future users) to get to know each other better and introduce the product vision. Since the product launched before Corona, we were able to conduct the workshop with everything involved in the same room. At the beginning, the economic goals, user goals and technical realization were defined as basic requirements and the already defined personas were presented. In this case it was a store employee and a store manager. After that, the AS-IS scenario and 4 Need Statements, which were developed in the customer workshop, were presented. From this we drew our goal for this workshop: “the store employee has an overview of all pending tasks including status, assignment, due date and description in an application that she can process without further coordination, paperless and without signature.” With this goal in mind, we thought together about what the user experience could look like, with steps and activities. Then paper and LEGO prototypes were built to test the ideas early on. After presenting the results, we concluded with a discussion about the workshop itself. For example, whether we had always kept the user in mind, whether we had taken all the important points into account, and what hurdles we could still face.
Lena Schleupen: At what points were there hurdles and were there deviations from the process?
Judith Ingenbleek: We are an agile product team in an environment that is very hierarchical, chaotic, and slow in places. In addition, we have many dependencies on other teams and classic projects. Every now and then we had to deviate from the process in order to jump over hurdles. When Corona started, many ongoing projects were stopped for the time being and we had to take a six-month break in MIA development.
Lena Schleupen: When you were allowed to start again with MIA during the Corona pandemic, how did the work change and would you say that the changed way of working was positive or negative for the product?
Judith Ingenbleek: Basically, the way of working, especially the actual work (daily business), has not changed much at all. Our team already consisted of people at different locations. Of course we got together from time to time, but that hasn’t happened for over 2 years now. We also never really celebrated the pilot. For our online meetings we use Mural, a kind of online whiteboard and we are very happy with this solution.
Lena Schleupen: What is the result of the product and are you satisfied with the outcome?
Judith Ingenbleek: We have developed a task management that combines all tasks for the store employees in one app and is open for further services through digitalization. The employees from the head office have a reduction in effort and more flexibility, as do the store employees, who have fewer administrative tasks to complete. This means they can spend more time in the store advising customers. We have been able to eliminate a large part of the paper communication in the stores through IT-based processing and archiving. MIA’s second solution is the Knowledge Transfer area. In the app, employees can view e-learnings on various topics related to the market and read new articles. Thirdly, MIA establishes a connection to the head office, for example, to contact IT, sales or logistics, or tickets can be created directly in the event of malfunctions. In the future, there will also be a social network to exchange information with other store employees in other stores. In 2020, MIA won the Best Retail Case Award for the best retail technology.
Lena Schleupen: Is MIA finished?
Judith Ingenbleek: MIA is not finished. We still have lots of ideas and will implement some more themes for our store employees.
Lena Schleupen: What did you learn and what would you do differently in the next project?
Judith Ingenbleek: We relied a lot on external resources and had agencies work for us, because at the time we didn’t have the capacity and expertise internally in some places. Now I would definitely rely more on internal resources in order to be able to continue to use the knowledge and expertise.
— END OF INTERVIEW —
So MIA is an app for store employees to make their daily work more flexible and paperless. Design thinking and Scrum were chosen for the development. For the Problem Space, customer workshops, interviews and surveys were conducted to find empathy, and there was a team workshop to define the problem. The Solution Space started with brainstorming ideas on how to solve a requirement. User stories were then defined in Scrum sprints and tested, adapted and implemented interactively. The first pilot of MIA went live in 2020 in some stores to get early feedback from the daily work. Currently, MIA is still being worked on, as there are still many ideas in the heads of the product team.