What a fantastic way to start into 2022. 9 new Sparkies have been added to the team recently. Great to have you all on board!
Anneke obtained her bachelor’s degree in International Business Administration and a master’s degree in Innovation Management at the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University.
Already from the start of her career, she worked in consulting, for example at De Kleine Consultant in Rotterdam. Outside work, Anneke enjoys the art of making coffee, baking, and a good tennis match.
Jan holds a bachelor’s degree in International Business Administration, a master’s in Finance & Investments, and a master’s in Business Information Management from the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University.
In the past two years, Jan worked at companies operating in blockchain, strategy consulting, and venture capital in Shanghai and Berlin. Outside work, Jan enjoys road cycling, drawing, or board games and has a passion for automotive.
Maxime’s academic career started with a bachelor’s degree in Business Economics from Utrecht University, followed by a master’s in Finance and Investments from Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University.
Maxime gathered experience with companies like Nestlé and Picnic and was a member of the European Youth Parliament. Ever since her childhood, Maxime enjoys drawing and painting. When it comes to sports, cycling and skiing are her favorites.
While studying for her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, a master’s in Management, and a master’s in European Law & Economics, Micol studied in several European cities from Hamburg to Florence and gathered work experience in the (luxury) fashion industry.
Originally from Italy, Micol also has a Portuguese family background. In her free time, she enjoys opera and is determined to learn Japanese.
Last summer, Pim finished his double bachelor’s degree in Econometrics and Economics at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. Now, he works on his master’s degree in Econometrics and Management Science.
While working at a global leader in data centers, Pim got interested in digital. In his spare time, Pim likes to engage in cooking, scuba diving, and almost any sport that involves a ball.
With a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering in the pocket, Tijmen recently started a master’s in Sustainable Energy Technology at TU Delft. He gained his first work experience consulting for De Kleine Consultant and TAPP.
Next to studying and at work, Tijmen can be found on the golf course, the hockey field, or on the bike. His next goal: the half Ironman in Aix-en-Provence.
After following a bachelor’s in Clinical Technology at the TU Delft, Tomas recently started his Master’s education in Econometrics at Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University.
Next to his postings at consultants like the Young Advisory Group, Tomas founded his own brewery ‘Delfts Goud’. Kickboxing, padel, and tennis are only some of the sports he likes to do in his free time.
After having obtained a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Annabel is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Organizational Psychology at the VU Amsterdam.
Before joining Spark’s support team, Annabel worked at Germany’s biggest automobile club ADAC. She fills her free hours with music by playing the violin and loves to draw and paint.
After following a bachelor’s in Clinical Technology at the TU Delft, Tomas recently started his Master’s education in Econometrics at Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University.
Next to work, he volunteers at an organization that helps children explore different professions. Nassim can be often found at the gym, traveling, or reading a book.
What do the founder of e-mobility startup Felyx, the strategy and operations lead at Spotify, and the chief strategy officer at Infinitas Learning have in common? They’re all alumni of SparkOptimus! Friday before Halloween, a big group of ex-Sparkies returned to our Amsterdam office to catch up with each other over snacks and drinks.
Reconnecting was indeed what everybody had been missing for a while, as the pandemic has kept us from sending off leaving Sparkies properly for while. Usually, there were proper goodbye parties and speeches that reminisced on how the person has grown and revived fun memories. As this tradition had to be paused for quite a while, it was high time to make up for it during the alumni party.
Not only old colleagues gave the alumni their 3 minutes of fame, also SparkOptimus co-founder Alexandra Jankovich took the time to highlight and celebrate the exciting new career paths of the alumni in a speech. Very intriguing to see to which companies the Spark-spirit has spread!
Marinus Israël, for example, is now CPO at Lepaya, a company offering ‘blended learning’ trainings for professionals. He’s not the only person who switched to education, on ex-Sparkie is now chief strategy officer at Infinitas Learning.
Maarten Poot co-founded Felyx, a sharing platform for e-scooters that operates in many Dutch and German cities. While one conquers e-mobility, another ex-Sparkie makes waves in the eyewear market: Marijke van Ark is the head of strategy and business intelligence at Ace & Tate.
Two old colleagues found their next challenge in rapid grocery delivery services Flink and Zapp. Similarly, two ex-Sparkies went to investment company HAL investment.
If we look at media companies, we find Luisa Eymer who is now strategy and operations lead at Spotify, and Felix van der Sommen, chief digital officer at Keesing.
This was only a small selection of the incredible careers ex-Sparkies are currently having. We can’t wait to hear even more of it at the next alumni event!
After a period of only seeing most of our colleagues from the chest upwards during video calls, it was time for a real get-together again. This time, the SparkOptimus team took the latter part of the motto ‘work hard, play hard’ rather literally: We met for a fun game-day at the western fringes of Amsterdam.
But first the work: The day started early with a training session for all managers. Removed from the daily business, the team learned, discussed, and brainstormed the morning away in one of the repurposed hangars at the location. After lunch, the rest of the Sparkies, coming from the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland – all vaccinated or tested – joined for the rest of the program. Even a few of the new-joiners who will start early next month bravely took the opportunity to meet their new colleagues in this special environment.
Grouped randomly in different teams, all Sparkies set to the first task: come up with a name for their game team, design a team flag and practice a team cheer! When all chants were demonstrated and ranked, the teams were ready for the real “Robinson” survival challenges. Redirecting water, solving puzzles, cracking codes, making fire, and building a slingshot – these and all the other tasks could only be solved when working together as a strong team!
Next to learning how to ‘fight’ a colleague with a rope, the Sparkies surely got to see some surprising facets of their teammates’ personalities playing each of the games.
With all riddles solved and the prizes collected, it was finally time to mingle with a few cool drinks and a delicious barbeque. With the great weather and the sand at their feet, some Sparkies even had some extra energy for a match of beach volleyball!
What a great way to finally get together with the whole team to celebrate the summer!
While data-driven decision making is a must for most modern businesses, educational institutions are typically less data-driven. For our pro-bono program SOcial, a team of Sparkies, together with the management of a local education foundation, mapped out the potential of data for their school project and implemented practical processes with relevant KPIs with the educators.
To increase education equality and quality in Rotterdam, the philanthropic organization “Stichting De Verre Bergen” (SDVB) has created a new education foundation: “Stichting Epos Onderwijs Rotterdam”. SDVB focuses on making the city of Rotterdam better and stronger, by developing, supporting, and executing social programs. The first project of the education foundation is establishing the elementary school “Het Epos” in Rotterdam-Zuid. The school aims to boost the growth and talent development of the children in the neighborhood, and to give those children – who have not always had the same opportunities as other kids – every tool to thrive. The foundation has decided that one of the key pillars to make this school succeed, is data. And to better understand how to improve their education quality and operations through data, they approached SparkOptimus.
Although data is on the agenda of every organization these days, data in education is a relatively unexplored field. It didn’t take long to realize that there was a huge opportunity: With data, teachers can much more accurately decide on how to distribute attention and resources more efficiently. And while staff members are permanently under the pressure of having insufficient time and resources, they still need to rely on very subjective decision making, as objective measures are difficult to obtain. Increasing objectivity by any measure may in that sense be even more effective in these settings than anywhere else.
One great example of the untapped potential is the use cases the school identified and implemented: Mapping children’s performance on both development position (grades) as development speed (improve in grades). This enables teachers to identify what children to invest more time in: Children that have relatively good grades, but have dropped in development speed, might require some more attention than originally thought, and children that seem to be behind on their development, but have high development speed, don’t require as much help as initially assumed. Based on this more objective information, the school can now create sharp monthly plans.
At the beginning of the engagement, we pulled together an enthusiastic team, being fully aware of the challenge ahead. Although we felt comfortable with data subjects in corporate environments, the overarching issue to solve here was how to translate those lessons learned to an effective data-driven way of working in an educational setting. To jointly succeed, we had to find solutions to four key questions:
We set out to jointly tackle these questions in three workshops. We were in for quite a ride…
In the first workshop, we shared relevant knowledge on creating KPI trees and embedding them into an organization. We then jointly identified KPIs on all relevant functions in the school, ranging from management to educational quality and talent development. Identifying these KPIs would allow us to understand, e.g., how well children are developing certain hard skills and soft skills, but also, e.g., how well the school engages with the children’s parents.
In the second workshop, we prioritized KPIs and discussed how they could be practically measured, without overburdening staff or creating a bureaucratic monster – a pitfall that is all too common in these settings. The key is to rely as much as possible on data you already collect and to make a strict assessment about what data you really need, vs. how it is collected. Always stay pragmatic!
In the final and third workshop, we determined how to make the data actionable. In our view, this is one of the most overlooked topics. Often, efforts of using data are wasted by merely displaying results and not considering the “so what”. This results in the all-too-familiar settings of fancy dashboards with complicated graphs and plenty of data but nobody knowing what to do with it. That’s why we tackled the question of how to “inject” the data outputs into existing processes and working rhythms, targeting the key decision moments, supported by targeted dashboards. This way, educators and staff can actually use the data in their day-to-day job.
As a result of our joint efforts, Het Epos is now equipped with clear KPIs and dashboards. Together with practical steering rhythms, the processes help to grow the quality of their education and operations to a higher level through data. Their efforts transformed them into a front-runner in data-driven education, which they will only push further in the next years.
At SparkOptimus, we are super excited to have gone through this journey together. Already today, the school applies data-driven insights in the decision making processes, while making big steps towards the future of education, where data will be key.
“Working with SparkOptimus has been a great experience. By asking the right questions, structuring our process and giving experience-based advice they enabled us to make a huge leap forward. The level of commitment of the SO team to the project even though we were a free of charge client was truly remarkable.”
– Hidde Verkade, General director – Stichting Epos Onderwijs Rotterdam
Tech Solutions for Global Challenges – this was the motto of this year’s all-digital edition of CES Unveiled in Paris and Amsterdam.
During a series of sessions titled “Leadership in disruptive times” Alexandra Jankovich talked to European leaders about the lessons learned in the current crisis, sustainability, and adaptability.
Missed the conference? Watch the sessions “Leadership in disruptive times” below.
André Hoffmann, Vice-Chairman of the Board, Roche Holding Ltd
“We have decided some years ago that the only way to measure business is for financial flows, but we do not account at any stage of the impact our businesses have on social systems, on human systems, and our natural system. As a shareholder, I would like to know the impact that the companies I’m invested in are having on the planet.” André Hoffman speaks about how businesses can and should be a force for good, the possibilities of technology in medical contexts, and the need to embrace complexity.
Petri Hofsté, Member of the Supervisory Board at Rabobank, Achmea, Fugro, and Pon Holdings
Petri Hofsté talks about responsible leadership and advocates for a new way to approach education in the future, closing the gap between need and supply of knowledge and skills.
Benoît Coquart, Chief Executive Officer, Legrand and Vice President- Building, FIEEC
“You need to be humble enough to understand: if [your product] doesn’t fulfill the need of the customer, it will be good for the books, but not for the business.” Benoît Coquart explains how to stay relevant and serve the customer while being “technology-agnostic”.
Going digital instead of going to the airport: One of our most cherished traditions at SparkOptimus is the SparkOptiWeekend. Each year, the full team meets abroad for a moment of pause. Together, we reflect on the past year, celebrate successes, and work out ideas and initiatives to improve even more. Usually, the destination would have been kept secret until the last minute. In the year 2020, however, just like most plans, this tradition needed to be adapted due to the pandemic. While the relaxation of restrictions during the summer had given us hope to be able to meet in person at a venue close to Amsterdam, the latest developments required another change of plans.
FULLY DIGITAL CONFERENCE
With a physical meeting being impossible, we overhauled the program completely and set up a fully digital conference in lieu of prepping a venue. Instead of a plane ticket to a foreign country, every Sparkie received links to multiple-hour meetings on Microsoft Teams. Next to following various presentations, we split the group in several shorter break-out groups. In each workgroup, a handful of colleagues brainstormed and discussed ideas to improve further, covering topics including training and expertise, internal values and culture, as well as internal and external communications. Afterwards everyone reported back to the group, sharing the best ideas. The second day included a round of completely new workshops, hosted by Sparkies themselves. In one-hour sessions, the facilitators taught their peers lessons learned during recent projects, covering topics like venture building, data-driven marketing or how to build a recommendation engine.
MAKING IT FUN
One important aspect of the traditional weekend is getting to know each other and to bond with colleagues beyond the day-to-day tasks. Spontaneous conversations about hobbies or experiences don’t happen easily via screens. On the flip side, virtual calls make it possible to meet our colleagues’ furry friends that would otherwise not have been able to join the outing. To keep energy levels up, the facilitating team had prepared a special version of Bingo and included little secrets about every colleague. Several project teams provided further diversion paired with valuable learnings by showcasing their recent project work (and video editing skills) in the form of fun video clips.
DIGITAL DRINKS & PROMOTIONS
A round of virtual drinks marked the festive finale of this year’s all-digital SparkOptiWeekend. From their own desks, all colleagues raised their glasses to celebrate the promotions of 19 Sparkies – breaking a promotion record. Congratulations to Alexander Gullón, Aron Hartveld, Amy Tuk, Barbara Linssen, Coen van der Linden, Daan Alberdingk Thijm, Denise Klop, Emile Röell, Fabian Kösters, Frank van Wingerden, Henriëtte Hoving, Jochem Knuttel, Jantijn Kromwijk, Justus Poldermans, Lucas Hermsen, Philip van der Ven, Vincent Vollebregt, Wiemer van der Veur, and Wouter van Haaften!
Digital transformation is not only relevant for regular businesses, it’s also changing the non-profit and NGO-sector. As potential donors are routinely using digital channels in a private consumer context, charities need to evolve digitally, too. What’s more, digital channels offer unique chances to engage with donors in unprecedented ways. Within the scope of our SOcial program, we help non-profits and NGOs to become successful in a digital environment similar to how we assist our business clients. In the past 1.5 years, we’ve worked with SOS Kinderdorpen to shape their digital transformation.
DISCOVERING THE DONOR JOURNEY
In the first phase, we organized workshops during which we jointly established a better understanding of the digital donor. Together, we also identified initiatives to remove barriers in the donor journey, e.g. enabling smooth online donations, and improving the website (see also our related post: What impact does my donation have). In the second phase, we focused on optimizing current processes and customer interaction through digital, and brainstormed about digital innovation in the charity sector. The brainstorm helped SOS Kinderdorpen fundamentally rethink how digital can help their donors through digital channels. An example of ideas jointly generated is to build a community platform for donors and village mothers, so donors can interact with the village directly.
PREPARING THE BUILDING BLOCKS
To set the commercial initiatives up for success we jointly defined and started implementing the necessary building blocks for their organization and technology. These requirements include embedding new roles in the organization to accelerate digitization and innovation, and ensuring a futureproof IT-landscape. The first results are already showing, as the digital coordinator is improving the website and data landscape, as dashboards to steer the business are being built and improvements in CRM systems to better serve the donor are being made.
It has been an inspiring journey for SparkOptimus to experience how our ‘digital know-how’ has helped SOS Kinderdorpen to embark on their digital transformation: to increase their global impact and improve many more children’s lives.
“SparkOptimus has provided us with tools that give us the opportunity to adopt to a professional digital approach which will open the gate for new opportunities, innovation and new strategies that support our mission; providing a caring and loving home for every child in need”
– Arian Buurman, Managing Director, SOS Kinderdorpen Nederland
Having the right idea is crucial when building a startup, but in order to become a success, it takes time and adaptation to get the strategy right. For the past months, a team of SparkOptimus consultants supported two winners of the online hackathon HackTheCrisis Netherlands in scaling their ideas. Using our core business-building skills, we helped AnalysisMode and PplCert to define their strategy and set clear priorities. As our collaboration is coming to its end, we’re sharing the results we helped the two startups achieve.
From the start, AnalysisMode had the implicit aim to accelerate life sciences research through a game platform. We helped them to uncover and formulate their purpose as well as further explore it. They designed their first online game with the goal to discover a vaccine for COVID-19, but soon realized their platform can be applied more broadly, and without necessarily competing with the plethora of resources already available in Coronavirus research. With 10,000 unique players and three versions of the game released in one month, they have proven that the game works and that they’re experts in translating science problems into games by using AI. Currently, they are exploring three promising business models advancing data processing in life sciences research. All three combine the power of AI and human potential using a gaming platform:
Go to analysismode.com to find out more and get in touch, or just play the game “Amino Crush”.
PplCert makes it easy to stay safe by creating trust and transparency around medical supplies. In an industry that is ripe for disruption, their aim is to digitally connect organizations looking for trustworthy medical supplies directly with the OEMs, putting data and consumer information, such as reviews, at the core of their business. We have been helping them define, structure, and communicate their business model. As a concrete result, they are soon going to launch their MVP — an online platform that allows customers to find information and reviews about products from different suppliers and to connect with manufacturers directly.
Go to pplcert.org to find out more and get in touch.
Over the past months, many companies have accelerated digital initiatives due to COVID-19. These efforts include internal initiatives, such as the digitization of internal processes, as well as initiatives towards customers, such as improving the proposition.
After the first successes and invaluable learnings, it’s time to take a moment to reflect on what your roadmap should look like going forward. As SparkOptimus, we are here to help you with this. For many of our clients we performed a “Digital Status Check” – a focused four-week assessment along the three dimensions that define success:
We will base our findings on interviews with your team, thorough data analysis, and our own desk research. At the end of the “Digital Status Check” you will receive:
Interested in a Digital Status Check? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Partner Michiel Bos via email@example.com or +31 (0)20 305 9000.
Resistance to change is a natural reaction. It takes energy to change our mindset and create new habits, whether it is in the private or professional sphere. Hence, this is equally true for organizational transformations. The COVID-19 outbreak forced us to rapidly adapt all professional and social aspects of our lives. The extreme situation exposed our resilience and flexibility creating momentum and openness to leap forward and set up your organization for digital success. In this article, we share with you our approach and learnings from a decade of digital transformations across industries.
Digital transformations help your business to better organize around the customer through cross-functional processes, relevant KPIs, and digital capability-building. We recognize four building blocks in doing so:
For a decade, SparkOptimus has supported her clients to achieve concrete results in areas that are now more relevant than ever. This has resulted in our fourth #1 position in digital consultancy in the Netherlands. Especially in these days of turmoil, we are determined to help you navigate current and post-Corona times, setting up your (online) business for success. Feel free to reach out – we are here to help.
This article is part of our series “Accelerating digitization & organization in times of Corona”. Also read: