“It is an added value to have a partner by our side that not only knows its way around the ERP-world, but also believes in our mission”

Successful start-up with modular and repairable smartphone, lays a foundation for further growth with a robust information system.
How do you take the next step as a fast-growing start-up with a sustainable mission? For Fairphone this meant taking a closer look at their current IT-landscape and to get the information flows in order. For the telephone company, the experience a partner brings to the table is important, but the cultural connection is not to be underestimated. “At Skopos they get truly excited about what we do.”

Fairphone started in 2013 as movement for honest electronics. A crowdfunding-campaign enabled Fairphone to launch a mobile phone that was more sustainable than the offering customers had to choose from up until that moment. Honestly acquired minerals, acceptable working conditions, recycling and re-use were the starting points. Of the first two models 180.000 untis were sold, and in the meantime they launched the third model, the Fairphone 3.
Over the past few years, Fairphone grew into a company of about 75 employees, with an office in Amsterdam. This is still pretty ‘lean’: activities like logistics, assembly and reverse logistics are outsourced to partners in, among others, the Netherlands, China and France. Still the company has a typical ‘start-up’-vibe, with a low average age and a culture in which ‘doing’ is key. The awareness has landed though, that, if the company wants to be able to keep growing, a different way of working is needed.

Endless copy-pasting Fairphone ERP information system

“A couple of years ago the feeling arose that our way of working was not scalable”, says Marco Jorritsma, project manager and process analyst at Fairphone. “Our IT-landscape was fragmented, which resulted in many data related problems. Copy-pasting between systems was normal for us and during reporting cycles, information had to come from everywhere. We used different tools and worked with a lot of spreadsheets.” A visit to a business-software fair, by Marco and the CFO, in Utrecht brought confirmation: an ERP-system was needed, as well as the right partner to lead the way.
“It soon became clear that the people we spoke to, at Skopos, really knew what they were talking about”, says Marco. “We also learned that there are two types of groups of people when it comes to ERP-systems: a group who have been through such a trajectory once and never want to do it again and a group who will always keep doing it.” Skopos belongs to the latter group, which gave us confidence. “After a search we came up with them. It is a party with a lot of knowledge, with people who are sincere and involve you in the process. And by their willingness and ability to support our way of thinking, they also had a cultural fit with us.”

Towards a process driven organisation

The latter became clear during the creation of the ERP-blueprint, where all processes are mapped to determine the need for information. Fairphone came up with the tool Promapp themselves to plot these. “with Promapp we want to train our employees in process thinking and we will also use the processes that were defined in the Blueprint in the next phase, during the implementation.” Applying more ‘systematics’ should lead to a more smoothly run operation. “Our people currently loose too much time on doing tasks that can be done easier. One of our main goals is to make the work of colleagues more fun by freeing up more time for improvement so that less time needs to be spend on day to day issues.”
What is unique of the blueprint, that has been developed together with Skopos, is that at the moment it is one of the few documents in our company that documents how the processes at Fairphone work. “We have had many discussions that made clear, that within our organisation different ideas existed about how these processes should be organised. That alone has already proven very useful for us.” Freeing up a core team for this project in a relatively small – and busy – organisation was a challenge, therefore the presence of a ‘Skopos-colleague’ was a prerequisite to deliver the blueprint. “We have written the blueprint mainly ourselves, but Erik Huttema of Skopos was always there to supervise it and to guide us. Together we have written many sticky notes and worked out processes.”

User Experience is leading

In the selection phase, different suppliers were invited for a demo. “During that phase it was also an added value to have an organisation by our side that has already seen it before and knows the finer points.” Marco points out that during these demos it soon became clear which suppliers Fairphone had a match with. “Our key-users were very positive about one party. The system of this organisation had much overlap with our processes and equally important was the user experience, that made our users feel comfortable, in addition to the cultural match: it is a relatively young provider with an open source-background.”
The implementation phase is about to start. “Naturally we will do this gradually. Together with the supplier and our implementation partners we brainstorm about the parts we want to integrate and the ones we want to start with. Most important for us are the processes of repairs, warehousing and the flexibility in realising integrations with partners.” The open attitude towards partners makes it clear that a right decision in this area is essential for Fairphone.
“We are an organisation of “young hounds” and the experience of Skopos makes a great difference for us. But that is not all: we prefer working with people who become excited about what we stand for and who want to contribute to our success. And that certainly applies to Skopos.”
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