Entreprendre dans un grand groupe : le meilleur et le pire des deux mondes – le cas de Sodexo

Etre entrepreneur au sein d’un grand groupe, c’est à la fois le meilleur mais aussi le pire des deux mondes.

C’est ce que dit Yannick Villar, intrapreneur chez Sodexo

Yannick est à la tête de l’initiative Wx : un projet qui a pour but de développer de nouveaux services pour les clients de Sodexo et d’accélérer la transformation des métiers chez Sodexo. Il nous raconte son aventure pleine de rebondissements.

Dans un premier temps, la stratégie est de monter un joint-venture avec un acteur de l’immobilier pour construire une offre commune : l’immobilier avec le service. C’est comme proposer le hardware (l’immobilier) et le software (Sodexo).

Mais les ambitions de ces deux acteurs ne sont pas alignées et le projet patine …

Finalement, le groupe immobilier se retire du projet et Yannick fait prendre a Wx un virage.

Au fil des conversations, il commence à conseiller certains clients sur la gestion de leur espace de travail. De là, il identifie une opportunité : mesurer l’usage de ces espaces de travail pour pouvoir mieux les gérer.

Capter, analyser et remonter les données d’usage des espaces de travail, bureau, salle de réunion, etc.. pour optimiser leurs usages. Voilà ce que souhaite proposer Yannick. Comme Sodexo ne sait pas faire cela, Yannick identifie une startup qui sait le faire : Connected Space Management.

Yannick propose donc à son management l’acquisition de la technologie manquante qui permet de faire ces mesures.

La proposition est finalement acceptée, ce qui confirme le soutien du management au projet Wx.

Grâce à cette capacité, Wx se développe mais l’innovation se heurte à des résistances en interne.

Certains trouvent l’activité de conseil de Wx trop abstraite en comparaison aux services concrets de Sodexo.
D’autres se demandent pourquoi cette activité n’est pas simplement vendue en supplément des autres services. Pourquoi en faire une entité indépendante ? Pourquoi faire un contrat séparé ?

Bref, pour faire coexister les intérêts de la petite structure et ceux de Sodexo, Yannick doit se battre.

Retrouvez l’histoire complète racontée par son principal protagoniste :

Ou bien sûr :

How to Interview Customer — field guide

To build a business, you need to clearly understand who you can create value for -your customers- and what job are these customers trying to get done.

One way to answer these seminal questions is to actually interview potential customers and enquire about the problems they have. It seems easy to do, but it is difficult to do well.

A map to structure what you are learning

When interviewing customers, my main objective is to explore their own specific behaviors and resolution mechanisms. How do they solve problems on their own? On this exploration, I have a map: the customer interview sheet. It helps structure the feedback and ensures that I am covering the key areas to research so I don’t walk out of an interview with unanswered questions.

This customer interview sheet is structured in 3 parts: questions you ask yourself before the interview, questions you ask during the interview to guide the conversation towards specific learning points and the conclusions you need to draw after the interview.

Before the interview

Before running the interview you need to have clarity on what you want to learn. This makes the interview process easier, allowing you to refocus the interview when it goes off-topic.

  • Target Customer

Who is my target customer?

Define the type of customer you want to talk to. It is a reminder of the criteria you are looking for in your target customers. If the person you’re meeting does not match your specifications, you should move on. Where to find them? Think about their habits and their daily journey, and identify where are you more likely to find them.

  • Problem/Need

Which of their problems/needs am I setting out to solve?

You are assuming that your customers are encountering problems that are irritating enough for them to seek solutions (ideally your solution). List those problems here.

During the interview

In each interview, I keep an eye on the sheet thread to make sure I steer the conversation towards my learning goals. Below, for each frame of the sheet, I added the questions I usually use to get valuable customer insights.

  • Customer info

Who is this person I am talking to? What are some of the facts that define her/him?

Try to gather as much relevant data as you can. Sometimes, you won’t have all the details but you will be able to estimate an approximate age for example. Bit by bit, you will collect valuable information and write them down in this frame.

  • Customer stories

What problems do you encounter regarding this situation? When was the last time you had this problem? Can you tell me how it happened?

The best way to understand customer behavior is to ask for stories. Stories force the customer to recall their precise actions around the event. By drilling down with questions, you can understand their motivation and why they make the choices they make.

From their stories, you can decipher their perspective on the problem and assess the energy and efforts that the customer is putting into solving that problem.

Stories will reveal bigger and unsuspected problems encountered by your customers.

  • Existing solutions

How are you solving this problem? Is it effective?

This question allows you to understand who you are competing against. You will be surprised. If your customer is not using a solution to solve that problem, then maybe the problem you are after is not that important to them. Once you know what solution is being implemented, you can start improving on it.

You can also learn how your customers are looking for solutions, this will provide insights on their journey and inform you about potential marketing channels.

  • Pains with existing solutions

How is this solution working out for you?

Ask for the story to learn about the things that seem complicated, frustrating, or unpleasant. Again, assess how much of a problem this is for your customer. Is this something they are actively trying to solve? Or are they happy to live with those frictions?

After the interview

  • Key Takeaways

What were the most important things you learned?

Share your learnings with your team, and reflect on the 3 most important learnings. Is there a bigger problem the customer is trying to solve? What don’t they like about the solutions they are using?

  • Problem Importance

How important is this problem for this customer?

You need to understand if this is worth solving. Again you assess this based on the story they told you and their perspective on the problem. Is this person aware of having the problem? Is he/she paying for a solution?

  • Problem Frequency

How often does the customer have this problem or need?

This quantifies how often your solution could bring value. If the problem is not happening very often, then your solution might not be used a lot.

  • Early Adopter

Now here comes the hard question. Is this customer an early adopter?

Is this person actively looking for a solution? If not, this customer is unlikely to be the first person to jump on your solution.

So what?

Listen actively, read between the lines and try to dig deeper. Get into the mind of your customers, understand them as much as possible. If you feel stuck at some point, it’s ok. Regroup your thoughts, broaden your perspective, look at your sheet and see what information you are missing.

Get the Customer Interview Sheet

If you want to learn more about how to think and move like a startup, contact me on Tango.

Put this Hammer Down – Why do Customer Discovery ?


“When you have a hammer everything looks like a nail” -Bernard Baruch

Here, the hammer is your solution and the nails are your customers. I am sure you have already found lots of nails for your hammer. But please take a closer look at those nails. They are screws.

Put the hammer down and look at that poor screw. If it’s actually a nail, take the hammer back and take a swing, but if it’s a screw, you will need something else.

Many entrepreneurs start by building the solution they have imagined (a hammer) and then come up with a list of potential customers that could be interested (screws that look like nails) and hit them with their solution.

And the screw says ouch. The entrepreneur don’t hear the screw and hit harder, ouch, and then try to hit another screw. But the end of the day, the entrepreneur is exhausted that the nothing has being build.

The entrepreneur should really look at the screw, understand what type of screw it is, how the head is, the thread, the length, the alloy. And then think about the tool he can use for the job.

So put the hammer down and take a close look at that screw and decide what the solution should be. Don’t hit the screw on the head.

That’s called Customer Discovery. Remember, no hammer allowed.

Kano framework, classification of user needs

As part of the design course by Karl T. Ulrich (pictured) that I follow on coursera.org (great site btw, which is changing access to knowledge in a very significant way), I came across the Kano framework to classify the user need. Vertically is the user satisfaction (if the user is satisfied or not) and horizontally is if the need is addressed or not (or can be partly adressed). Here is the framework:
kano framework

User needs can be plotted in 4 curves which are:

  • Don’t care: either it’s here or not, but not all users care: for instance on a search engine it could be the need to search for images.
  • Linear: the better it’s done, the more satisfaction the user for the search engine it could be to find an answer to the query, this is provided by the relevance of the search results.
  • Must have: If it’s not there, the user is un happy. For search engine, it could a way to enter the search query (search box).
  • Latent: Little things, un-expected that create delight. For instance the ‘see from cache’ or ‘translate page’.

A little amazing feature on Gmail

Well, it was quite simple, I wrote an email, and somewhere in the email I wrote “I attached …” this document. Re-read the email and hit the send button.

And this pop-up came up.

Ouf! Thanks Gmail. How clever. I knew gmail was reading emails content to serve targeted ads, but it also tries help user avoid mistakes. How thoughtful. I feel like I have a safety net.

That’s the coolest gmail feature I have seen since the Unsend option. So simple, yet so useful.

Behavioral economics and the mistakes we do

In his gamification lecture on coursera.org Prof. Kevin Werbach talks about behavioral economics. At the intersection of ecomomics and behaviorism, behavioral economics differs from economics by looking specifically at people’s behaviors. What are people actually doing when facing a situation as opposed to they logically should be doing.

Kevin points out 3 interesting ‘mistakes’ people make consitently:

  • Loss aversion
  • people’s tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. Some studies suggest that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains.

  • Power of default
  • people are more likely to go with the default option than to change it. This is observed regulary on the web while selecting an opt-in or opt-out process.

  • Confirmation bias
  • tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way.

    Loss aversion and power of default – seems to be able to be corrected by paying attention. The confirmation bias seems pretty strong and much harder to correct. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs – says Wikipedia. The related effect are: polarization of opinion (think politics), persistence of discredited beliefs (beliefs remain when the initial evidence is removed), preference for early information, illusory association between events (see non-existent correlations).

    It is about the users

    I recommend reading ‘The design of everyday things’ by Donald Norman.
    The book convey a very rich idea.

    The idea is about putting the user at the center of the design. It’s user-centric design: designing based on the needs of the user, leaving aside other considerations. It involves simplifying the structure of tasks, making things visible, getting the mapping right, exploiting the powers of constraint, and designing for error. It’s about designing for usability. Putting by the user at the center of the design process.

    On the web
    Since the book was published in 1988, the user-centred approach has gone a long way and is today extensively adopted in web design. On the web it possible to create different version of a site (with different text, colors, photos, layouts and functionalities). Splitting the visitors into the different version of the site and analysing how the visitor behave on each version allows to conclude which version is most effective. This is multi-variatant testing.
    Classical user testing – observing the user interacting with the site – is also providing valuable insights on how to improve a web site. But the aim of those techniques is make sure the visitors can use the site easily, to help them do what they what to do.

    On video games
    That’s how I see user centred design being applied to the web. We are seeing such evolution in the video games today: the classic game pad is removed and replaced by a microphone, a guitar, a camera, or a wii detecting you movement. It’s simplifying the way the way the player interact with the game. Its removing the need to understand or learn the complexity and controller. Before you had to press left-left-right-cross-square-square-circle to trigger the power move. Now you just have give a punch with your Wii.

    On the rest
    Now, how about stretching the idea other fields, where complexity is still high. Simplifying the way things are done, making them easy, understandable and accessible. How about applying that to tax forms, contracts, opening banking accounts. That’s the point Alan Siegel is making in this short TED talk.

    Any other area where this idea will bring significant changes ?