In an important collaboration with the Wesfarmers group, we were challenged to help them co-design, co-create and launch a brand new SaaS product from scratch.
As this was the client team’s first foray in the world of SaaS, we had to help shift their perspectives to see Decipher through the lens of a product, not as a project.
From refining pricing and business models, to user journeys, design, development and marketing through to launch, we helped the Decipher team take the product from concept to market in 11 months.
This isn’t one of our typical client stories; in fact, it’s about 50% longer than average. But, this isn’t our typical collaboration either.
For starters, Decipher is a startup born within CSBP Limited, a successful long-standing WA business in the Wesfarmers portfolio.
Secondly, working on Decipher gave us the opportunity to apply the co-design and co-creation principles we’ve been advocating for some time with some really smart folks.
And finally, Decipher is a super smart concept—and we got the chance to flex all of our specialist capabilities to help turn it into a super awesome product and bring it to market. It doesn’t get much better than this.
So if you’ve got a few minutes, sit back and enjoy the story. If you don’t, just read the bullet-points at the top of each section to get the summary and you'll get the gist.
- CSBP is part of Wesfarmers Chemicals, Energy & Fertilisers.
- CSBP sells fertiliser to West Australian growers, working with agronomists and agribusiness partners, and has done so for over 100 years.
- CSBP developed several pieces of software over the years (GreenPrecision, FERTview and NULogic) which, in Western Australia, have been provided to fertiliser customers free of charge.
CSBP has a rich agricultural heritage, having provided West Australian growers with crop nutrition solutions for over 100 years. CSBP was acquired by Wesfarmers in the 80s and merged with its energy division in 2010 to form Wesfarmers Chemicals, Energy & Fertilisers (WesCEF). WesCEF delivers strong financial results, generating $395 million in EBITDA in 2017, while investing in innovative ideas and opportunities to serve its customers in the future.
The incumbent business model
CSBP’s fertiliser business centers on manufacturing, importing and distributing phosphate, nitrogen and potassium based fertilisers developed specifically for WA soils. The business model leans on regional sales reps who sell direct to growers, works with agronomists to optimise nutritional decisions, as well as working with agribusiness partners such as Elders as a distribution channel.
In recent years, CSBP developed several different pieces of software to provide to customers for free as a differentiator and value add.
- GreenPrecision: NDVI satellite imagery to help see crop variability.
- FERTview: a data storage and management platform supporting on-farm nutritional decision making, which combines the features of GreenPrecision with nutrition planning, rotation planning and sampling features.
- NULogic: a powerful nutrient recommendation engine that harnesses CSBP’s deep knowledge and extensive data sets.
While it was clear this software helped to service customers and secure fertiliser sales, CSBP recognised the untapped market potential and began exploring how the IP could be repurposed to form an agtech SaaS product.
Building the foundation
- We identified the three audience segments (the grower, the agronomist and the ag service network) and helped refine the business model and product strategy to honour the dynamic between them.
- We shifted the way Decipher was viewed within CSBP to help them see it as a product not a project and instil a product mindset.
- We conducted a comprehensive review of multiple SaaS products to inform and inspire the broader team, which ultimately helped shape the Decipher strategy.
The first step was to identify the people who would find the Decipher product useful: the grower, the agronomist and the ag service network. Honouring the dynamic of these user groups was something we kept front of mind as we worked with the Decipher team to refine the business model and product strategy.
It was important to ensure Decipher could offer a clear value proposition for each segment and avoid encroaching on established relationships. In tackling this challenge (and a number of others), we found a role model in Xero. We gleaned analogous inspiration from analysing how the cloud-based software product democratised accounting for small to medium sized businesses, while also providing a clear value proposition for bookkeepers and accountants too.
Product vs. project
In order to develop an appropriate strategy, we had to champion and instil a product mindset. Across the wider team, this meant shifting the way we thought about everything from budgeting to resourcing and timelines. Spoiler alert: successful products often outlive their creators.
We also had to influence a shift in perspective from viewing Decipher as a reskin of existing software (which was provided to customers free of charge) to viewing Decipher as a brand new standalone product. This meant we had to deliver demonstrable value to each of our customer segments, wrapped in an exceptional user experience.
Putting the aaS in SaaS
As Decipher would be delivered as SaaS, we had to extend our thinking further to ensure we considered all of the unique nuances of this type of product. To guide our thinking, we carried out an extensive review of the best SaaS products in agtech as well as completely unrelated verticals, reviewing them against a series of criteria related to pricing, bundling, branding, acquisition and retention.
This review helped us uncover a myriad of routes we could take with the product and assess what we liked (and what we didn’t), which ultimately helped shape the Decipher strategy.
Product development & delivery
- We gathered insights from frontline employees and proxy customers to map journeys for each of the customer segments.
- We built on some existing branding work to develop a family of brands with accessible and extensible assets.
- Across the collaborative team, we designed and delivered the Decipher web application, Decipher Go app for iOS and Android, the public website and all related branding, marketing, onboarding and support content in 15 weeks.
- We planned and delivered a suite of onboarding and help content and a support centre to help customers get the most out of the product and troubleshoot issues.
User journeys and needs
Although there was plenty of customer insight held within CSBP, it wasn’t formally captured or documented. So as we moved from product strategy into product design, our first area of focus was to gather key insights about each of the customer segments and visualise them as customer journeys.
To harness the internal knowledge, we tapped into frontline employees and others with first-hand farming experience. Working with these proxy customers not only helped us map the customer journeys, it also helped us understand the voice of the customer to shape our language and tone.
We gathered insights on the different use cases and constraints to ensure the solutions we were planning could deliver on various needs. For example, we explored the use case for the mobile app versus the desktop experience to uncover the different mindsets, needs and conditions each touchpoint needed to accommodate, such as mobile data connectivity being an issue for users in remote areas.
To ensure customer needs and preferences remain at the heart of the product roadmap, we worked with Painted Dog to conduct choice-based modelling with actual customer segments. The insights from this helped refine the product bundles, pricing and features that will be rolled out over the coming months.
Some preliminary branding work for Decipher had previously been completed so we were tasked with building on that to deliver an extensible brand with a comprehensive suite of assets. Our first task focused on adjusting the colour palettes to increase contrast and therefore reduce potential accessibility issues.
We then began developing new branding components, including sub-branding and naming for the mobile app and product bundles, a suite of custom icons and the brand personality and tone. All of these written and visual elements were combined to create an online style guide that has continued to grow and evolve with the product.
Co-design and co-creation
Decipher was designed and delivered through a wholly collaborative approach including four teams:
- Hatchd - co-designing the product experience and delivering branding, UX, design, content and front-end development
- Decipher - co-designing the product experience and delivering back-end development on the web application (through a development team seconded from WesCEF)
- NGIS - working with the Decipher team to implement the mapping components
- Adapptor - developing the iOS and Android mobile apps
To build a same team mentality and ensure successful and efficient delivery, we worked through planning and delivery challenges together in co-design workshops and members of our production team frequently co-worked from their office to eliminate distance barriers through delivery. We also held daily standups (in-person when co-working and otherwise over the phone) to ensure that we could identify and overcome barriers in real-time.
Delivery of the MVP product was divided into seven sprints. The sprints were designed so UX and content worked on a specified chunk of work at the same time, before moving through to design, front-end and finally back-end or mobile development in the following sprints.
Across the collaborative team, we designed and delivered the Decipher web application, Decipher Go app for iOS and Android, the public website and all related branding, marketing, onboarding and support content in 15 weeks.
Onboarding and support
Being ‘easy-to-use’ is central to the Decipher proposition, so it was important this was reflected in the experience from the very start. An onboarding experience was devised to walk new users through key features so they could get familiar with using the product within minutes.
We also planned and delivered a support centre to provide a comprehensive customer resource for getting the most out of the product and troubleshooting issues. Planning and production of this content was synced to product delivery sprints, which meant we were starting to plan support content in line with product wireframes.
With ease of use front of mind, we wrote help and support articles using simple language and added categories and tags to ensure they were readily accessible using the support centre’s search functionality.
Taking it to market
- We helped devise the product marketing strategy and implemented it starting with the launch campaign.
- Choice-based modelling was conducted to help define future release bundles, pricing and features and prioritised them onto a product roadmap.
In tandem with product delivery, we ran a series sprints to devise the product marketing strategy and produce the corresponding assets. To start, we mapped multiple marketing journeys encompassing different customer types and needs, from becoming aware of Decipher, to signing up and using the free product and continuing through to upgrade and up-sell once paid products and features are available.
After distilling the key phases from the marketing journeys into a custom sales funnel, we devised a marketing plan that defines the channels (paid, earned and owned), strategies and tactics used to push prospective customers from one phase to the next through the funnel.
With the overarching plan in place, we devised a media plan and developed a suite of headlines, straplines and creative assets to support the MVP product launch.
Product development & evolution
This first release is considered MVP and it’s safe to say we’re just getting started with Decipher. The product has a robust roadmap, including a commercial release next year which will deliver a suite of advanced features and tools that can be unlocked by upgrading from the free version to a subscription-based model.
From our clients' perspective, they are on a rocket that has cleared orbit fast and see us as an integral part of their team. Here's what Decipher Marketing Manager Suzanne Malone had to say:
From the beginning we worked as one team to build the service offer from creation to development and design through to activation in the market.
We found the team had the ability to quickly understand what we wanted to achieve and what our customers’ needs were to deliver the best outcome. During our many in-depth co-design sessions the visual prompts helped us to step through the service workflow and understand all the different pieces of the service - technical, in-product engagement and support wrapped around it.
There were many learnings from the experience, the key ones for us were understanding software as a service industry best practice, the different dimensions to the UX process and that it’s about the customer perspective and use of the service.
Four weeks after launching our free service we had over 270 customers, 50% farmers and 50% ag service providers, from all over the world and no support request. This is a credit to the team in delivering an easy to use self serve service.
Our journey has only just begun, with many features and functions yet to be developed and we look forward to working with Hatchd and our other partners to bring them to life.
Interested in working with us?
Whether you have a clearly defined product brief or you're not sure wherein the problem lies, drop us a line for a no-pressure chat about where you are at and how we might help.