Pictured is the Agri Sprint Participants hard at work
Jonathan is a dairy farmer with more that 300 cows, a situation that is becoming more prevalent in Ireland since the lifting of milk quota production in March 2015. Jonathan’s day is filled with decisions that directly impact his business and profitability. From whether to fertilise or cut grass as part of efficient grass management, to closely monitoring sick cows ensuring they are properly segregated in the milking parlour. As one of almost 140,000 farmers in Ireland, looking after about 7.2 million cows, making good decisions for his business and for the health of his cows actually has a significant impact on the Irish economy.
With a plethora of technologies and new advancements in mobile apps, Internet of Things and AI, Jonathan certainly sees that he could be doing better on making more informed decisions. However, not being a technologist, he simply has to wait for new services and products to come onto the market so he can benefit.
There is a new and exciting option for him. Jonathan engaged with the TSSG to discuss his main pain points and problems with the technology experts, and have them put together a set of practical and feasible solutions. The TSSG, experts in technologies including AI & ML, IoT, autonomous systems, AR&VR and mobile pervasive systems, have the knowledge of the tools and techniques that can help Jonathan in his everyday business.
TSSG ran a workshop with Jonathan to see if we could improve his situation, we call it a Sprint. Originally inspired by Google, a Sprint is run over the period of a week where each day is highly focused on progressing a problem to a feasible solution. Gathering a wide section of expertise from TSSG, often very surprising and novel solutions are arrived to.
Next lets describe what a is Sprint and how’s its run.
Day 1 – Problem Discovery
On the first day of the Sprint, we focus on problem discovery. This involves interviews with customers in a target market segment to understand their daily issues, pain points and main problems. The main rules around these interviews are to listen carefully to the customer. When these customers mention some issues as “a living hell” or “we’re wrong 50% of the time”, you need to listen and probe further. At the end of the day, the team should have a good understanding of the issues, pains and main activities of the customers. These are then listed, ordered and categorised into problems. We use the Problem Canvas to make sure we fully understand the problem from the experts perspective. It’s also very important not to jump to a solution too quickly.
Pictured is Steven Davy of TSSG and Johnathon Tighe explaining some problems he faces
Day 2 – Solution Discovery
At day 2, the customers have left the technology experts with a set of problems. These are then voted on as to which needs to be solved first. One or two problems are selected depending on the size of the team. In picking a problem to solve, you need to look at the wider impact of solving it. We do some market research answering questions like, what exists already?, what other markets have this problem?. All the while we are conscience that the customer has a problem to be solved, which is continuously reinforced during the day with the problem canvas. Then the brainstorming starts, each person puts down as many solutions to the problem as they can think of. These are then presented and discussed. Out of this some may be merged and eliminated. At this stage the diversity of the room really comes through. Experts in computer vision, AI or machine learning are assisting information architects , sensor experts and software engineers. At the end of Day 2, we have a short list of solutions to the main problems identified in Day 1.
Day 3 – Solution Elaboration
Here we look at the practicalities of the solution we have honed in on in Day 2. The day looks at storying boarding out the solution, starting at the instance the problem is experience, and continues, through all of the solution components, until the problem has been relieved and feedback given back to the customers. We keep a focus on the problem being solved and evidence of this being shown to the customer. We then examine all of the solution component and identify any technical risks involved, if new technologies are required or if existing technologies can be used. Surprisingly, going through this process helps to further understand the practicality of the solutions and if they are actually solving the problem. By the end of Day 3, we have a fully story boarded solution ready for design.
Day 4 – Prototype Mock-up
Today is focused entirely on trying to realise an instance of the solution, whether it’s a dashboard, mobile AP, VR experience, which involves leveraging AI, sensor networks or IoT technologies. The prototype is to further make sure we understand whether the solution is actually solving the problem, and making sure it can be used at the instance the problem is experienced and to illustrate how the problem is solved for the customer. Furthermore, we need to make sure that the customer can understand and comprehend the benefits for the problem being solved, and to emphasise this to them. By the end of the day we should have a fairly nice looking mock-up of a proposed solution.
Pictured is the Agri-Sprint participants working on creating a Prototype
Day 5 – Pitch Day
After a week of intensive discussion and in-depth analysis into customer problems, the moment of truth has arrived. The aim is to put a pitch together – almost a sales deck – to present the solution to the customer for their feedback. Their feedback is essential in understanding where to move next. The teams listens in to see if terms like “hit the nail on the head” is used, or “you missed it entirely – total overkill ”. The customer sees a hugely accelerated time to get a solution to their problem that takes advantage of the expertise of TSSG. For the customer though, the solution to their problem is purely mocked up – an illustration based on deep consideration. However, for TSSG we have a new avenue for developing a new product or service.
Pictured is Steven pitching the solution to Johnathan and the other Agri-Sprint Participants
In the end Jonathan can be relieved to know that his problems will be solved soon, and he’ll be ahead of the queue to test out the new solutions. The next steps for TSSG are to see if we can either partner with a technology vendor already in the market that could commercialise this solution through an Innovation Partnership, or to take commercialise the technologies ourselves through a new start-up company with assistance from Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund.
If you represent a customer segment and you think you should be doing better on a day to day basis with the decisions that you need to make, please get in touch to see if you can qualify for funding to have your very own Sprint, and have a true impact on the direction of the technologies emerging in your future.