Design process helps SNPShot sample success

When the team at SNPShot developed the technology to make livestock DNA sampling simpler and seamless, they soon recognised good hardware to do the job was only part of the solution.

At the heart of the company’s technology lies the SNPShot Smart Sampler, a hand-held DNA sampler and scanner for in-field collection of tissue samples, and in itself a revolutionary breakthrough in portable DNA collection technology. Once connected via a smartphone app, data details from the sample can be downloaded direct to the service providers’ laboratory. The actual end user for much of the SNPShot data are farmer customers, but labs and service providers are the key contact customers for the company.

“We had the hardware and the established connection between it and the smartphone using the app. What we didn’t have was a plan on where it goes from there,” says SNPShot technical development manager Rory Bladen. He said the company realised it needed some help from Rezare about how it managed to put the data into its system, and turn it around. “Collecting data in the field was one thing, but we also needed more generic data that sat around that, on user fields – it was almost a CRM tool in the background that was required.”

On top of that SNPShot needed a way to funnel the data from users in the field to the lab and back. Aligning the customer data held by service providers with the data collected by SNPShot in the field required a more integrated system.

In addition there were layers of responsibility that needed to be delegated – from overall administration control on who could add SNPShot service providers, and then the ability of service providers to in turn add technicians and customers to their database. “So what seemed like a simple idea became quite complex, aside from the data itself.” The company’s initial prototype app had focused more upon the end product and its connectivity to the device, recording ability, and transmission to cloud storage. As a result the entire technology risked being ignored by service providers on grounds it did not accommodate their information needs within its data recording parameters.

Engaging with Rezare, SNPShot undertook three intensive workshops examining every angle of the technology and its link to service providers. The “eye opening” process did not change the company’s hardware, but did change how SNPShot approached its client information needs. Rather than dividing up the team, the entire company was engaged in the workshop at the insistence of Rezare managing director Andrew Cooke. “Coming away from that resulted in many good ideas from all over the company. We had been struggling on the ‘where next’ and had to take a few steps back to give ourselves a far better overview on our business model and how we engaged it with clients. “We are now confident we can go out to potential clients and say we know this will sit within your system, it is adaptive to whatever you have, which is not where we were before.”

SNPShot officially launched its technology at the 2018 World Congress for Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, to a ringing endorsement from industry specialists, geneticists and laboratory managers. Continuing to work with Rezare, SNPShot has the company working on the technology’s app, both Apple and Android simultaneously, and developing Bluetooth capability for the technology. “The use of the design sprint model takes some getting used to, but puts a sharper eye and time frame around what can be achieved by a team, prioritising problems and processes does require some discipline,” says Rory. “The key learning for us working with Rezare was the importance of investing that time to evaluate the entire technology and its application early on, to plan and evaluate before doing anything else.

“We learned through the process your product does not have to be a polished prototype. A rough prototype is far better to create, put out and assess for performance, than having a nicely polished app that perhaps does not do all that is required of it.”