Case Study: De-risking Innovation

When ideas are abundant but resources limited, how do you prioritize what innovation efforts will deliver actual value?

Like most new ventures, ZenQMS started with an innovative idea. Founder Panos Boudouvas saw an opportunity to simplify and ultimately revolutionize eQMS (electronic Quality Management Systems) for companies with complex regulatory requirements. 

But as the business grew, so did the pool of competitors. With limited resources and an already stretched team, knowing where to focus new innovation efforts was no longer clear. 

“We’re so proud of what we’ve built at ZenQMS — and that we’ve radically helped organizations across sectors simplify the regulatory documentation process. We have no shortage of new solutions to explore,” says Boudouvas. “But as a small team, we were too busy looking after what we built to focus on what’s ahead.” 

As with most founder-led businesses, the ZenQMS team was built to deliver on the customer experience — not discovering new opportunities to innovate. 

We don’t have an internal team dedicated to diving deep into the user journeys of our next big features and doing the exploration necessary to execute a well-thought-out, yet simple, design,” explains Boudouvas.

While it’s common for corporations confronted with capacity issues to turn to consultants to bridge the innovation gap, this is an intimidating venture for small to medium-sized businesses like ZenQMS. 

“Most SMBs don’t think to hire an innovation consultancy to help navigate between growth stages because they think it will be too expensive, explains John Jarosz of Sightglass Partners. “Or they’ll be passed onto a junior partner who won’t have enough relevant experience to offer real value.” 

Before starting Sightglass, Jarosz was Head of Design at a global consulting firm, advising corporations on optimizing innovation practices. 

“Not only can the investment in a consultancy firm be significant, but it can also be hard to realize the benefits of consulting services when the internal team is too busy to bring those recommendations to life. All you end up with is more ideas.” 

And yet, when both time and talent for innovation are at a premium, an innovation consultancy can help fill the gap. 

For Sam Heck, Director of Product Delivery at ZenQMS, the key was to engage an innovation partner like Sightglass with experience bridging an executive team’s strategy with product development. This gave the ZenQMS team the flexibility needed to get more value from the consulting process by making it more contextualized for the team.

Jarosz and the team worked with ZenQMS through a Market Opportunity and Product Vision framework that clarified the a product market fit, business model and sustainability study for a new Public Portal. The Portal would be a strategic touchpoint for interacting with customers, further reinforcing ZenQMS’ position in the quality management space. 

The framework outlined the problem space, user persona and use cases, and a value proposition for innovations that address these challenges. 

“We identified a minimal viable product (MVP) that would ensure that ZenQMS continued to have the ‘unfair advantage’ in the compliance space they had when they started.”

It’s one thing to discover what innovation should be the focus for future growth, it’s quite another to make that innovation happen. Sightglass mapped the user experience to the workflow, defined the sprints required to execute the plan, and provided a breakdown of the full scope of the project.

But even with a complete MVP roadmap, all parties recognized that the project’s Achilles heel would be a lack of resources. The ZenQMS team would be challenged to prioritize new innovation projects when it was already focused on ensuring the current customer experience functioned smoothly. 

So Sightglass helped ZenQMS explore ways to increase its capacity for conceptual experimentation. This includes co-delivering prototypes and software development so the core team can stay focused on current business.

“Sightglass has been able to help us outsource and co-source special projects so our internal development folks can keep doing what we have planned and speed up our product backlog. Having that capability and capacity has been really refreshing,” explains Heck.

As Jarosz likes to describe it, the engagement with Sightglass has provided the ZenQMS leadership team with a safety net, allowing the team to innovate with greater confidence. 

“For many smaller organizations, especially those who may be in late-stage start-up mode, every resource spent on innovation counts. There’s no shortage of ideas, but knowing which is the right one to pursue is the critical question. De-risking its product innovation process allows a company to make more strategic plays in the market.”

Combining innovation strategy with implementation support also benefits the larger team, giving them insight into the bigger strategic vision and teaching them how to discover innovation opportunities in future. 

“We’ve been able to work with very smart professionals who know exactly how to conceive a product and lead its design,” adds Heck. “And that’s been educational for all of us.”

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