A long-term collaboration: from supplier to partner

  • Jonas Vonlanthen

Our over 10-year collaboration with Jaeger-LeCoultre is an excellent example of a long-term partnership where agility contributed to the watchmaker's digital transformation.

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It all started with a call for help

In 2011, we had just opened our office in Lausanne, and at the time, it was all about developing a client base. We would get excited every time the phone rang (to give you a picture of what it was like back then). One day, we got a call from the famous watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre. They had a good website, but much higher ambitions. They wanted to offer a reference website in watchmaking.

We were already using agile methods at that time, but agility was not widespread yet among our clients. At Jaeger-LeCoultre, they used the classic V or 'waterfall' approach in project management. In our initial discussions about our collaboration, we did not commit to the project scope. However, we assured them they would have a team with the technical expertise dedicated to them. With help from Liip Fribourg, as our team in Lausanne was still quite small, we ran three sprints in 3 months to gain a handle on the code base. Ultimately, we achieved the desired goals - the client was delighted about the result and with working agile, enabling us to make progress quickly and efficiently.

A collaboration full of surprises

The famous watchmaker in the Vallée de Joux belongs to Richemont, a large luxury group with more than a dozen luxury companies. This includes Cartier, Piaget and Van Cleef & Arpels, to name a few. The success of this project made Liip a name within the group and its companies. A second project for Van Cleef & Arpels followed this. Unfortunately, due to a new strategic orientation, our then well established collaboration with Jaeger-LeCoultre was put on hold. It was then decided to migrate their website to a new CMS system, Adobe Experience Manager (AEM).

Meanwhile, we decided to test the AEM tool, train some Liipers and look into its potential. Despite some interesting qualities, we were not convinced by this system, which was not very agile or flexible. Therefore, we informed Jaeger-LeCoultre that we would not be able to offer them the same added value and quality by following this change. The suggested CMS was incompatible with our agile, iterative and fast-paced way of working.

The collaboration that rose from the ashes thanks to Phoenix

Fortunately, a couple of years later, we faced an opportunity to revive our partnership. The strategic constraints for the CMS system had changed, opening the door for a new collaboration. We then suggested to Jaeger-LeCoult that they capitalise on a custom PHP solution that was still being maintained for other companies and transform it into a more modern, fast and secure product. We called this ‘Phoenix’. In a little more than a year, we had refactored the vast majority of the code and continued to tailor the functionalities to the needs of the company. Phoenix has been a success, it even performed so well that we were able to strengthen our relationship with the group and form partnerships with new companies, for example A.Lange & Söhne and Roger Dubuis. And last but not least, this success allowed us to work with our long-standing watchmaking client Jaeger-LeCoultre again.

It was time for a complete overhaul and redesign of the entire Jaeger-LeCoultre website, our biggest website dedicated to watchmaking up until that point. And the deadline was less than a year away! Work on the design and development started in spring 2021 with a launch date set for 14 March 2022, everything was on schedule. When the day came, at 9 a.m., the new website went live for all markets and in all languages. This achievement, completed in record time, also benefited from the experience gained using Phoenix with the other companies in the group. Phoenix is a high-quality, high-precision CMS made in Switzerland, all qualities shared by Jaeger-LeCoultre, whose digital transformation we have been supporting.

A true partnership forged over time

Our collaboration with Jaeger-LeCoultre is an excellent example of how how long-lasting relations evolve into a partnership. Over the years, the initialy small Phoenix team has grown significantly in order to respond to the requests from Jaeger-LeCoultre and the other Richemont companies that also placed their trust in us. From very formal relationships at the beginning, we gradually started to get on more familiar terms. We think familiarity is a good way to make it feel like we are all in the same boat when it comes to managing projects effectively.

But being in a partnership also means knowing when to say no – and we shared our decision to Jaeger-LeCoultre not to ensure support on a CMS we were not comfortable with (i.e. AEM). A difficult decision to make, but looking back, it was the best thing in the long run.

Being able to show how agility works allowed us to overcome the e-commerce challenges we faced and even inspire our client. It was a pleasure to accompany them in agility and scrum. We share this pragmatic approach in digital projects, no matter how complex they may be. We have come a long way since that first phone call that started us off on this exciting journey!

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