From Special Projects to Experience Design @ Sigfox
Why a so-called « Experience Design » team at Sigfox? Where does it come from? Why is it key to Sigfox? And how could this be used to inspire other companies ?
Here are some of the questions I will try to answer in this article. But before explaining the birth of Experience Design team, we need to start from even before, when the Special Projects was initiated, and when I joined Sigfox. Impossible to introduce the Experience Design team without explaining my own experience at Sigfox.
My debut at Sigfox
I joined Sigfox in September 2014, at a time where the company was 60 people. The fund raising for 100 millions of euros (Serie C) was ongoing, so we were about to grow a lot. I was hired initially by Ludovic Le Moan (Sigfox Co-Founder & CEO) to begin startup & developer relations. The objective was simple : show how Sigfox could play a big role in Internet of Things (IoT) projects.
Because of the small size of the Communications team and my background, I happened to do much more than just startups & developer relations. Example is that I had to prepare our first presence at Mobile World Congress in February 2015, where we started to give a first generation of Sens’it, that was presented as a giveaway at that time.
When I joined Sigfox, the brief was clear : bring with me the entrepreneurial mindset and way of doing things that had gained from several entrepreneurial experiences Before Sigfox: I had created Cookening (who was sold later in February 2015) but I also created a subsidiary of Seesmic, was first employee of Goojet (which gave birth to Scoop.it) and launched or took part to several ecosystem initiatives (Joined Techcrunch France and LeWeb during a few years, founded French Startupers Network, co-founded La French Touch Conference)
Special Projects — Startup within the startup
In May 2015, Ludovic and I saw an opportunity to launch a new initiative. We needed to create a marketplace where all of our Sigfox partners could be visible and available for business contacts. More than a product challenge, from the beginning we wanted to deliver a powerful service to our ecosystem.
To make this a reality, we could not defocus existing Sigfox teams, so a new one had to be created. And this team should be independent, autonomous, agile, and of course, hyper-effective. A startup within the startup. Because the team name needed to be given before the product name, that’s how the « Special Projects » team was born.
After some sort of « internal fund raising », I had to find, like any other entrepreneur would do, my partner for this journey. While marketing, product & communications would be my duties, I needed to find a technical co-founder, and with amazing help from my network, I was able to find Frederik Eychenié to become Technical Leader of the team. In October 2015, we were able to start.
The so-called Sigfox Partner Network, was launched as a first beta in February 2016, and then full launch in June 2016. Ever since, this is a major asset to speed up and animate our ecosystem of partners. End of 2016, the team had slightly grown to a total of 6, Frederi+ 3 developers (Remy Loubradou, Damien Smagghe, Benjamin Talou), Myself on Product and Team Management, and Laura Cattelain Lopez for Partner Success Management on Sigfox Partner Network. Because we had shown the value of such a commando team, not just to build a new service, but to run it, we decided to go beyond and address new topics for 2017.
Fast forward to September 2017, with the first edition of Sigfox Global Eventin Prague, where the team announced as part of the main keynote the new services we had worked on. We especially announced Sigfox Build, a platform to help device makers at every step of their journey, with dedicated content & ressources. Sigfox Build, next to Sigfox Partner Network, were gathered as part of Sigfox Sunrise, our global initiative to help our ecosystem accelerate their experience with Sigfox. We also announced buy.sigfox.com, a platform to ease the buying experience from Sigfox Operators, and the latest version of our Sens’it Flagship Device.
At the end of 2017, we had doubled the size of the the Special Projects Team, with 14 people.
Redefining Who we are — Experience Design
End of 2017, beginning of 2018, with all such services and platforms to run, and with an increase of internal requests to be involved in more « special projects », we had to redefine our mission and our focus. Some of our platforms are now at the core of Sigfox Adoption Strategy, we are not running projects but end-to-end products and services, and while we will still be considered as a « special » team (meaning not working the same way as others do at Sigfox), we could not be called Special Projects anymore. Also, more and more, we could not be considered independent from the other teams, since interactions and dependencies increased a lot.
But we had to find the common denominator between all of our activities, with the 3 main platforms:
The first one is helping partners to be visible, connected, and reachable. The second one is a platform specifically targeting device makers, and the last one is the only device and solution that is built directly by Sigfox and then distributed to speed up market adoption (business targets, but also developers).
Very quickly, the word « Experience » appeared as something central to everything we were involved in. For every topic, for every platform, the product outcome was always the answer to an experience problem.
- Clients and new partners have a hard time to find the right products, solutions, services or partners to move forward in their Sigfox journey? We answered with Sigfox Partner Network.
- New device makers don’t know where to start and need more help, in a scalable way, including certification? Here comes Sigfox Build.
- Because Sigfox core offer is to provide a connectivity service based on a new global network, it’s hard to explain and onboard clients and partners with some tangible IoT use cases. Sens’it was born as a giveaway, and is now a full, customisable, open IoT solution to let anyone start its IoT Discovery.
Sigfox Partner Network is for Partner Experience. Sigfox Build is for Developer Experience. Sens’it is for Customer Experience.
Every time, designing, building and running a powerful experience is at the center of the journey. Our mission is to design experiences, so let’s call ourselves the Experience Design team.
Experience Design — Building and running new services
Today, the Experience Design team is still organised like an independent startup, with around 18 people in the team. Of course, we have had our growth challenges like other startups, since you cannot be organised with a team of 18 like you were with a team of 6. Within the team, we have full stack web developers, product managers, UX/UI Specialists , but also an embedded Software Engineer for the Sens’it, a content Strategist for web platforms , a partner success manager. And we finally decided to hire an experience designer, to help us reach the next level for our services. And we’re working on new team structuration, with inspiration from Spotify for feature teams. More on that later this year.
Despite being mostly publicly known as an « ecosystem guy », I’ve always enjoyed building new products and new services. I feel really lucky to have been given the chance to be involved in such diverse product developments in such a challenging and diverse environment that is the IoT.
This team we’ve created with Frederik, is for sure one of the most rewarding (and challenging) achievements I’ve had in my small career.
And now that we better know who we are, and have clarified our mission for Sigfox, we know where we need to improve, what are our strengths and areas of improvement. But the vision hasn’t changed, to better empower our ecosystem and accelerate journeys of stakeholders around Sigfox.
The beauty of the IoT, is that it needs a strong diversity of skills, partners, stakeholders for any project to happen. This makes a huge challenge for Sigfox, both internally and externally, because we have to address many different target partners, users, consumers.
With investments in Sigfox Experience Design, we understood that if we want to success big, and as fast as possible, focusing on our core services (connectivity, geolocation etc.) was not enough. We needed to invest in the overall experience around these services, to accelerate adoption of these services.
Everyone should see how to increase Partner Experience, Consumer Experience, Developer Experience etc., beyond the core services that are being sold.
The better the experience, the more business. Period.