Due to their complex business operations, companies often find it difficult to respond to
changes in the market. Baris Kavakli, consultant and managing director at Portera,
developed an action plan, allowing these companies to make important strides within
one to four weeks. “We orchestrate technology, strategy and data to be able to help our
clients to leapfrog their competition.”

Baris Kavakli often sees the same issue when talking to companies: they want to change
but lack the skills and simply don’t know where to start. “We often see companies
embracing the language of innovation. Phrases like ‘agile development’, ‘pivoting’ and
‘failing fast’ come thick and fast. Yet whilst these are key elements of innovation culture,
few companies truly live by them.”

‘We orchestrate technology, strategy and data to be able to help our clients to leapfrog
their competition’


Baris Kavakla

Baris Kavakla

“The stark reality is that many companies still have a hierarchical top-down structure,
are slow to make decisions and rather than truly failing fast, they claim success at almost
any cost. They like the idea of innovation, but it isn’t a core value.”
Corporate culture
So what is going wrong? “It certainly isn’t their ambition, their energy or their ability.
The people in these companies are typically highly successful, highly intelligent and
driven. It is not a capability issue. It is a corporate culture issue.”
“What happens is a brainstorm session is organized, ideas are thrown into the mix and
comes out a PowerPoint presentation. They start to ask for ideas, call another workshop
or get further feedback from their colleagues. Somebody adds feedback, somebody adds
another question, somebody puts other thoughts in there, somebody puts another slide
and then it starts to become big. As the slide deck grows bigger, the scope of the project
is growing bigger as well. This, before the decision maker has seen anything.”



Green light

“Before you know it, it’s a € 1 million project which has no proven business case behind
it, little true data driven insight and at the same time, the hidden cost that is spent on
preparing this slide deck is tens of thousands of euros. Weeks have gone past, thousands
sunk in internal costs and a huge scope with a € 1 million investment PowerPoint
presentation. On rare occasions these proposals get the green light, it’s therefore no
wonder that everyone on the project team is hell-bent on making it a success. Failure isnot an option. That is certainly what we see when we first get involved with many
Massimo Mercuri, Digital CoE Director, AkzoNobel, agrees. “What would have taken me
weeks with my current technology partner, at a cost of over 100k euros, Portera did in 2
weeks for for a few thousand euros.”
Portera, a management and technology consultancy that delivers commercial advantage
to its clients, uses a unique approach, Baris says. “At Portera, we insist on doing things
differently. We want to get to the point of success, or failure, as fast as possible.
Sometimes that happens in a couple of days and sometimes a month or two. We call it:
Portera Hop, Portera Jump and Portera Leap. Portera Hop is a one-day workshop where
our consultants and technologists work with different people within the organisation to
validate an idea and identify a strategic direction.”

Proof of concept

“The Portera Jump takes two weeks. We start from the business issue, and then we
deliver a proof of concept. Instead of a presentation to your boss, you take the proof
concept to your boss, showing him the problem and the solution. The company can then
use this deliverable as a proof of concept to move further in their investments. And if it
doesn’t work, they can throw it away.”
The third approach is Portera Leap which is quite an extensive process and takes four to
six weeks. “From the business issue, we come to a Minimum Viable Product, MVP. The
MVP is a streamlined product which our clients can use. It can be an internal or external
product that they can use to test and understand if it’s working.”
Baris gives a concrete example of a business issue. “Let’s say that it’s a business issue
about consumer loyalty, they want to retain their consumers or cross sell products. We
analyse their data to understand what is currently happening within their market, we
look not only at their own data but also at data from the competition to understand the
market dynamics.”

Viñoly-gebouw, Claude Debussylaan 42 op de Zuidas.

Viñoly-building, Claude Debussylaan 42 op de Zuidas.

Fail fast

“Our MVP will deliver a new or improved strategy that people can test, trial and demo
directly with their colleagues or customers. In this way, the team members very quickly
get feedback and insight into whether the innovation is likely to be viable, or not. All this
happens before any significant investment is deployed or time incurred. And from here,
it’s possible to be agile, pivot or truly fail fast.”

‘At Portera, we insist on doing things differently. We want to get to the point of success,
or failure, as fast as possible’

Portera’s approach is not limited to certain industries but at the moment they’re mainly
active in FMCG, healthcare and telecommunications. “These are three industries we are
really involved in and we are known in as well. But we have some clients in banking and
automotive, too.”If there’s anything that characterizes Portera, it is agility, according to Baris. “You need
to be flexible. You need to have different expertise and you need to make fast progress.
Progress isn’t a linear journey. And it’s not about running as fast as you can. Actually, it’s
about being agile as you proceed. The key thing is to have the right team in place to

enable fast and purposeful progress, so that decision making can happen earlier in the
innovation cycle, like in lean start-ups. It’s not about changing the overall company
culture, it’s about enabling innovation within the organisation’s culture.

Same language

“We choose our strategists and consultants in Portera amongst M-shaped professionals.
I-shaped professionals are experts in one field, T-shaped professionals are experts in
one field but they have a general knowledge in a domain. M-shaped people have wider
knowledge in both business and technology areas. They speak the same language as the
business owners but have broad and deep knowledge in multiple technological areas.”
Ending the conversation, Baris says that all the team within Portera loves to be
challenged in various business areas – “without challenges, there is never progress”.