Kupfer – digitalizing German crafts businesses

We set out to create a solution for German crafts businesses that would enable them to work more efficiently by digitalizing many manual back office processes.

The challenge

Customers expect seamless and on-demand experiences. This is true for almost all industries, also for installer companies. To offer such services, installer companies need to digitize their processes first. We want to enable installers to do precisely this.

In Germany, installer companies take a special place in the value chain. They are a middleman between vendors and the end-customer.  If someone wants to install a new heating system, he or she consults an installer company first before making the buying decision. Thus, for end-consumers, the installer companies must stay independent and uncompromised. Today, most installer companies have 3 to 10 employees and are family-owned. However, also installer companies face pressure to change. New players are entering the market, trying to build platforms pushing the small companies out of the market. Installers are forced to get more efficient to survive, and we want to enable them to do this by digitizing their processes. 

Our Process

A few installer companies use the CRM system we built actively in their everyday life. Also, we defined clear paths for how to develop our product further, so that even more installers would use it. Now, we're discussing how we proceed and how we scale the solution up.

This project had a heavy user experience (UX) focus, as we closely worked with the target audience of our client to identify their pains and needs as well as work processes in order to make a better and informed decision on how the solution for the challenge could look like.

After doing desk research on the market and the distribution of craftsman businesses in Germany, as well as doing focused interviews with experts from our client, we quickly identified and narrowed down our target personas. We decided to focus on company owners of crafts businesses first, as they have the best understanding of all processes involved in their daily work and the struggles the company and the employees in the field are facing.

Ten exploratory interviews with companies distributed all over Germany as well as ethnographic research in one Brandenburg firm, allowed us to gain a deeper understanding of the current status quo of handling back office tasks and communication amongst employees. We understood that the main reason for inefficient work was that many processes still relied on manual labour, and due to a focus on printed documents many steps had to be done twice (e.g. the manual tracking of working hours for field craftsmen and a later manual digitalisation of that same information). This time-intense conditions forced managers to spend more time focusing on paper and office work while keeping them from the field work they actually enjoyed.

With those findings in mind, we conducted an Ideation session with our colleagues from different disciplines in Data Science, UX, Business Development, and Tech around the question: How might we help crafts companies better manage their office processes to free up time for work they enjoyed?

The ideation yielded a concept for a easy-to-use and intuitive software that would support company managers in doing administrative tasks and be aligned with their unique work processes, while also covering the needs of employees in the field with a mobile solution.

With the technological solution in mind, we explored the minimal requirements for craftsmen software based on our interviews with them before we started creating wireframes that mirrored our learnings.

 

 

The outcome

In case you want to chat about this project, please reach out to julius@wattx.io

Using the knowledge from interviews as well as findings from the competitor and design research, we developed our first prototype based on high-fi wireframes. Lastly, repeated testing sessions informed the design of our MVP (Minimum Viable Product) which covered identified user requirements.

The MVP on the one hand tackled work inefficiencies by covering the core needs of craft companies, such as:

  • handling customers and their requests,
  • communicating with customers, employees in the field and other stakeholders
  • planning and scheduling, and
  • manage projects and tasks.

On the other hand, the MVP also included a mobile use case for craftsmen in the field so that they could:

  • see customer details and access the projects they are involved in
  • while providing basic communication features so that workers in the field could stay in touch with the office.

With the software solution, we enable crafts businesses to dedicate more of their time for the work on site that they actually enjoy. All while also freeing up space for education on new and more innovative products from Hidden Champions.

A few installer companies use the CRM system we built actively in their everyday life. Also, we defined clear paths for how to develop our product further, so that even more installers would use it. Now, we're discussing how we proceed and how we scale the solution up.

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