Do you see data, apps and technology as friends or foes? Georgina Knock in our marketing team reviews a talk titled ‘Data & Apps’ hosted in the Innovation Theatre at the Cereals event in June this year.
Chaired by Marc Skivington at SmartFarmer with the panellists included Rob Sanders at Glas data, Tom August at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and Hugh Martineau at Map of Ag. Each panellist delivered an insightful, short presentation followed by a Q&A with the audience.
“Going from paper to data and digital is the only way forward,” explained Marc at Smart Farmer.
Do old habits die hard?
We can all relate to how difficult it can be to adopt a new behaviour. From that morning run, we promised ourselves at the start of the year, to maybe not having always that extra slice… And the same goes for working in a business and part of a team culture; changing our behaviours is not an easy, 24hour process! But the rewards for this can be invaluable.
So we were keen to ask the panel about the barriers they have experienced when working with people who try to adopt new technology. They mentioned the importance of educating the younger generations, who usually require less convincing on the benefits of integrating more digital practices into a business. This final point from the panel made me reflect on my personal experience in a family farming business that has different generations.
When the older generation attended Business School, it was extremely unlikely business models and strategies that harnessed platform solutions were mentioned or even existed(!). This may encourage resistance, therefore a shift to a ‘hybrid model’ could be the logical next step, especially when the majority are built on traditional business models in our sector because they were formed many generations ago.
The older generations are not ‘tech-phobic’, in fact, it’s the opposite, they are amazed by the possibilities of finally joining up different data sets. For example, be able to see the rainfall from the previous season and how that impacted yield, which can be used to gain insights on the current season and predicted yields. They suddenly realise that they do not have to rely on keeping all that information in their head or scribbled on notes which can easily get misplaced or squirrelled away.
Also, the panel emphasised the importance of demonstrating the benefits to encourage people to collect data - are they motivated to do this? And by removing any barriers e.g., forgetfulness by adding reminders via notifications direct to their mobile phone, so this new behaviour becomes part of their daily or weekly routines.
Changing Behaviours & Mindset
An integrated, platform solution connects the links in the supply chain and provides the digital transformation we require for the smart, intelligent supply chains of the future to feed our growing population. Frequently when our team speaks with prospective customers, who can clearly see the value from an integrated, platform solution such as KisanHub; however, they are met with hesitant to change and move away from a conventional system:
“We have other processes in place by senior management that we follow, so moving to another system will be more work.”
From my background in Behaviour Change research, there is a simple model to see the factors at play when changing behaviour. The COM-B model (Michie, Van Stralen, West, 2014) shown below, can be applied to a company and personal scale, which describes three components to any behaviour: Opportunity, Capabilities and Motivation. Below is the example of this model at work when a company is keen to change their team’s behaviour to adopt a new system. Let’s break these down:
The team must have the physical opportunity for the behaviour to take place, these can include having the time and resources, such as a computer and mobile phone with a camera on to take Crop Monitoring Diaries on the KisanHub mobile app which syncs to the online platform viewed by colleagues based in the office.
This component also refers to the cues in the working environment, such as regular meetings to update the senior team. From experience, our customers have found these regular check-ins useful, as the insights gained from the platform are shared with the company and becomes part of the company culture.
The team must feel physically and psychologically able to do the behaviour. They must have the knowledge, skills and abilities to engage in that behaviour. This is why from day one, KisanHub has had a dedicated Customer Success Team, to make sure our customers have the capabilities of adopting this new way of working with the KisanHub platform.
We put our customers at the core of what we do at KisanHub and pride ourselves on working closely with them to create a design and User Experience (UX). For example, we have a Customer Advisory Board, where we discuss various aspects of the product with our customers, so our team can continue to deliver a platform that has both the best functionality and is enjoyable to use.
The team must want to carry out that behaviour more than competing ones. These internal processes which influence behaviour can be based on reflecting e.g. looking back at what worked last season or automatically driven, such as enthusiasm to maximise the data to strengthen customer relations or a competitive edge.
The reasons why people in the fresh produce industry use these apps must be clear and defined from the start. For example, the goals can include saving time, reducing waste, disaster mitigation and noticing patterns for improving productivity. By making sure these goals are understood by all stakeholders, can increase adoption, and return on investment. We work closely with our customers to define what success looks like to them and how they can optimise the KisanHub platform best to achieve their objectives.
Back to basics: Points vs. Platform Solutions
Many of the apps listed during the introduction of the talk fell under the ‘point solutions’ umbrella, which is a tool, product, or service that delivers on a singular value proposition for a customer, for example, a soil moisture tracker or room booking software.
In comparison, are ‘platform solutions’, also known as ‘integrated solutions’ which are more extensive than point solutions as they maintain automatic connections between processes and connect data sets from multiple sources including apps. Examples of an integrated solution include eBay, Facebook, Google, Amazon and KisanHub in the agri-food sector; each platform brings many data sets and people together.
Moving to digital processes is a great first step, however joining all this information together through integration, should be the end goal to see the true benefits of using apps. The low attendance at the talk could be due to a lack of awareness of how different solutions can best serve your business, such as Point vs Platform. Or due to an assumption made that a new system will be expensive, without the ability to calculate the ROI.
Our behaviours and business culture should support the way we grow and supply food, to benefit the planet and everyone from the grower to the end-consumer. Producer Organisations fall into the vital middle part of our food system and are pivotal for connecting data, supply chains and people using systems that are available now.
Whether in person or online, events like Cereals that host talks like this one, open up different perspectives, conversations and provide the opportunity to dive deeper into the successes and challenges faced by our sector. We must adapt to the changing landscape of food production, so we look forward to seeing you next year at Cereals, with a healthy appetite to form some new habits!