Embedding a lean startup approach to help launch irexchange

irexchange is a startup in the retail sector disrupting the wholesale market by enabling independent retailers to order stock directly from suppliers, through the company’s cloud-based B2B platform. Since launching in January 2017, this innovation has introduced efficiency within the industry’s supply chain, by virtue of cutting out the ‘middlemen’ and allowing smaller retailers to compete on a more even playing field with larger retail conglomerates.

 

Achieving the vision

The intended effect of this disruptive technology was twofold; firstly, by providing a transparent aggregated purchasing model, small retail businesses could pool their orders to access better price points and savings through larger volumes; secondly, by removing the need for warehousing and wholesalers, it assists suppliers in lowering their provisioning and delivery costs. 

To achieve their vision irexchange needed to pull off a complex set of innovations across the supply chain: from ordering and pricing, right through to logistics. The major challenge they faced being a startup centred on how to bring their idea to market in an efficient and meaningful way – while also testing the key business hypothesis.

 

Articulating the strategic intent

Prior to Elabor8’s engagement, irexchange had already begun analysis on how to achieve the company’s ambitious goals, but it was still difficult to see a way forward. The first action our team took was to help articulate a strategy. Elabor8 used a combination of rich pictures and visualisation tools to illustrate the main elements in the system, and identify how all the components in the value stream would interoperate. This helped teams to understand the link back to intent and share a common mental model, allowing decisions to be made around feature prioritisation, release planning and team design.

Turning Agile intent into reality

Working as part of a cross discipline multi-vendor team, Elabor8 took the lead in establishing good Agile governance, team practices and habits using facilitated roadmap planning and value-oriented prioritisation.

Multidisciplinary and t-shaped people

Working as part of a startup it was imperative that all team members wore multiple hats. Elabor8 consultants worked across the subject matter domain as product designers and product managers whilst at the same time providing the link back to the delivery teams as product owners.

 

Proving the model

Although irexchange was a well funded startup, the vision was ambitious and the breadth and depth of innovation required was complex. Elabor8 was integral in prioritising speed to value and embedding a lean startup approach, to ensure we were reducing the company’s risks of over investing, and so the business concepts and hypotheses could be proven or disproven early. While also finding and mitigating any technical risks, so that the team could proceed with confidence.

 

Successful launch

irexchange has been successful in piercing the market for small retailers and suppliers nationally with a wide variety of household brands signing up to the platform. The company has already demonstrated their ability to adapt to early learnings and are now eyeing new channels including pharmacy, petrol, convenience and food services to continue to expand and grow the business.

As a startup in a challenging domain, reducing time-to-market and getting fast feedback from our customers was paramount to our success. Elabor8 have contributed significantly in setting us up to be able learn, adapt and pivot quickly. They were instrumental in arming the team with the right skills, tools and practices to allow us to confidently prove our business model.

Greg Frye, Chief Information and Technology Officer at irexchange