What do you need as a team to win a funding opportunity
The new way of working?
For many, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be coming to an end. Some are fully returning to the office, others have discovered that they could do it remotely, but most companies have developed a hybrid approach—a split of days between the office and working at home.
But, as it usually happens, with change, some challenges arise. Many asks themselves:
How do we coordinate the incoming employees and make sure that there is enough seating for all?
What is a simple solution for knowing if your teammate is in the office on the day when you have planned some collaborative work?
How can we align in-office meetings with remote working employees?
What about bookkeeping? Don’t we need an overview of home office days spent by an employee in order to reimburse them for some of the fees?
These were also some of our questions, but we are past that now. How? Oh well, I thought you’d never ask. Let me tell you a little story.
In 2020, when the pandemic hit, we started developing FLEXIDESK, our own desk- and room booking solution. FLEXIDESK would allow us to have an overview of the number of colleagues that were in the office, due to the restricted numbers, while also booking our seats in advance on the days we wanted to come in.
This helped tremendously with returning safely to our offices after the initial lockdown. It still makes it easy to this day to work in the office or at home, have a real-time overview, and help us work collaboratively.
Nevertheless, the technical complexity of the solution was obvious to us from the start.
The first features
First, we had to map out how FLEXIDESK could be integrated with other systems used by companies internally, such as SAP, internal calendars, or direct-messaging systems. Some of ours are Slack and Google Calendar It was important to us to assure data security, so, with FLEXIDESK, all connections are authorized and encrypted via SSL. Subsequently, unauthorized users cannot access the private information of our clients.
On top of that, as we wanted to offer a seamless user experience, we made sure to also have external data integrated into the backend. Data sources such as holidays or vacation days were considered.
As such, FLEXIDESK can react in real-time to current situations. It generally does not allow bookings on holidays. To ensure real-time data, additional interfaces communicate with external services.
Another feature waiting to be implemented, is an AI-based component, to support booking decisions or to automatically make them, if, let’s say, an employee wants to continuously reserve a seat.
All in all, these features proved to be very functional and, thus, the acceptance was fantastic in our team. This led us to believe we could offer FLEXIDESK to other companies in the Austrian market and beyond.
For this reason, we were looking for a funding opportunity that could support the further development of this project from a financial perspective. The Innovate4Vienna funding from the Wirtschaftsagentur Wien proved to be ideal, as this funding focuses on new innovations that emerged during the pandemic. We were so grateful, to this point!
When we decided to apply for this funding, we knew we wanted to win the challenge, and this ambition, in the end, was probably one of the best drivers for our efficiency. Thankfully, we managed to prepare the submission, and we were one of the winners, from 50 other competing companies. As such, FLEXIDESK started the journey to become publicly known!
We knew it was going to be a soliciting endeavor, of course, but we pulled through. In retrospective, we’ve identified the following factors that helped us win this funding opportunity:
The principles of success
1. Go-ahead mentality
One of our most important success factors was our straightforward and go-ahead mentality.
Rather than spending too much time on preliminary checklists or administrative tasks, we agreed on one working document, a strong focus and clear priorities. Due to a clear objective, we managed to stay in a very positive and motivating workflow for many days, supporting each other whenever needed. This approach of ours is rooted in our very agile mentality.
Often, focusing on the little steps will get you further than only seeing the final goal. One of the steps was to consider and estimate the costs of our endeavor.
We knew we had to first consider all the cost centers. This would be: our internal resources, hosting costs, hardware, services.
2. One focus, one approach, one destination
To make sure that everyone knew exactly what to do, we clearly divided the responsibilities. We had someone responsible for the business metrics of the proposal, others focused on why FLEXIDESK would be indeed relevant for many, while some focused on budgeting, product features and coordination. This clear division helped us to move forward quickly and efficiently.
In order to make sure that we were pulling on the same rope, we agreed on a few things we wanted to address. No matter what, those few things were set in stone and formed an easy-to-follow guideline. Those were:
Fairness / needs of employees (no first come, first served)
Rotating booking plan strengthens social interaction
Supporting a hybrid work model (building the bridge to a hybrid work environment)
For offices to be used more purposefully for company culture and exchange
Home office for concentration
Boosting decision-making and responsibility taking among the employees
Less control, more trust and empowerment of employees
Spontaneity—a real-time overview of colleagues that are or will be in the office
Simplicity—in use and overview
An affordable pricing
Our purpose was driven by first understanding the priorities for the different stakeholders, and then, creating a product guided by exactly that. We were addressing HR stakeholders, in order to ease their day-to-day tasks of managing legal tasks for remote or hybrid employees, or office-managers, taking care of availability concerns. Nonetheless, we thought about team work as well, promoting a flexible way of work in which teams could book desks close to each other on days with collaborative work.
3. Short and fast iterations
Since we started to prepare the funding proposal in only one document right from the beginning, we decided to work in very short and fast iterations. That way we were able to stay flexible and to constantly check if we are still on the right track or on the same page. Rather than being afraid to make mistakes or focusing on perfectionism, we tried to provide and implement feedback immediately.
Furthermore, we also stayed in constant contact with the Wirtschaftsagentur Wien, so it was easier for us to check whether we fulfilled all the requirements of the application.
4. Walk that extra mile
Last but not least, we were also willing to go the extra mile, e.g., there was an official maximum number of words one was allowed to use for each part when writing the application. Nevertheless, we wanted to submit a detailed technical description of how our FLEXIDESK solution would work. Therefore, we approached the Wirtschaftsagentur Wien again, who finally allowed us to submit a more detailed technical description and was impressed by our professionalism.
In terms of our teamwork, we not only focused on the minimal tasks that everyone had to do, but also made sure that everyone kept an overall view of the progress of the proposal.
In conclusion, there aren’t any bad ideas, only poor executions. This doesn’t mean that we were confident at all times, but we pushed through. I wouldn’t say that we were fearless, but we definitely were courageous, and by knowing that, sometimes, trying your best is enough.
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