Andrew Filev, CEO and visionary of Wrike is constantly looking towards creating a more collaborative and productive future for his customers. He effects change from a deep place within his team and has taken some time out to discuss his methodologies with Chaos and Rocket Fuel…
Where was the idea for Wrike borne from?
In the software world that I worked in, I began to see a shift in work cycles. It would typically be every two to three years that a new product would be released, compared to how the world of software development is today, with sometimes weekly updates.
I also saw this exact same change in the marketing world as well – with the introduction of digital their work cycles accelerated. So there I was in the middle of this development trying to manage both the marketing and software worlds where the work could be broken down into very simple steps – you plan it, you do it, you review it. At the centre of all of that is of course collaboration, and yet there were no tools on the marketplace that could do it. I was amazed; when you’re working at that speed you suddenly need that support from a tool perspective so I set out to build the best one in the market to do just that.
And now Wrike has become an essential component in many businesses across the globe. How do you continually stay at the top of your game?
We have some brilliant developers, they literally rock. I know enough to speak their language to impart some of my new ideas, but it’s even better when they come up with new ideas themselves. We have a very collaborative culture in that sense and feed off each other.
I’m a big fan of cognitive sciences and trying to learn as much about them as possible, from a personal curiosity and a work related how do we behave and why do we behave this way. How do we build our habits and how do we change them and I definitely put some good practices to work internally.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]Instead of prescribing a solution, you need to lead people to understand the root of the problem and let them figure out the solution because it becomes their solution that we as leader’s can support them with.[/su_pullquote]
So how do you prefer to promote productivity and change within your teams?
When we talk about general productivity and new ideas, I’m a big believer in bringing change and innovation from within, rather than from outside the team. So, for example, you find the bright spots within the team that do something more creative or more productive that some of the others and then you try to replicate that success across the team enabling people to work and learn to think differently from their peers as opposed to directly from their boss.
Similarly, if there are limited innovators present in the office and you still want to do some change analysis to move forwards, then asking questions of your team as opposed to giving answers is always helpful. Instead of prescribing a solution, you need to lead people to understand the root of the problem and let them figure out the solution because it becomes their solution that we as leader’s can support them with.
What’s your strategy for continual improvement and pushing forwards?
I’m a massive fan of small wins. It’s not about that revolution, it’s not about trying to reorganise the company or change ingrained habits overnight, it’s about asking ‘hey what is the next step that we can take incrementally right now?’ At Wrike we take a lot of small steps quickly and frequently in a continually improving manner. Before you know it you have a transformed person, a transformed organisation. This innovative, continually improving approach is one that we definitely use across the whole company.
What is your process for innovation?
We test new concepts internally and some ideas flourish and some ideas fail. The ones that work internally we’ll then do a limited roll out to customers either in AB testing mode if it’s light enough, or if it’s a bigger idea we utilise our labs. Our more adventurous customers can opt in and test everything out and give us the feedback which we then rework into to the same continuous improvement method to apply in our daily builds and updates resulting in bigger launches with a wider release that make our customers happy.
Do you think that greater collaboration lessens the need for specific job roles?
I think there’s always a place in the world for world class experts, that is never going to change and it’s hard for anyone to be a world class expert at everything. Now what we’re seeing with shrinking work cycles, market pressure and market opportunities, the need to work so much faster in cross-team collaboration is utterly essential. To ensure that this process works effectively, instead of diluting specific job roles, I think that everybody needs to be curious and understand the processes and job roles around them in the company but then apply themselves to being amazing experts in their specific role to boost overall company productivity.
What can we crucially glean from the AI that is already embedded in our lives?
Google now, Siri, your website searches recommend things to purchase, AI is already part of our daily lives. For companies it is important to build their stories with data and work in a smart way and not just blindly rely on whatever data a specific tool gives you. If you don’t know a system’s methodology for generating data, the data could be as useless as random guesses, but at the same time the companies that can figure out the data and build truly predictive marketing packages with their AI will out-execute other companies.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]People will try new tools and when those tools reach their critical mass people will forget the old method and rely on the new one.[/su_pullquote]
Can you see email becoming obsolete over next ten years?
People will always use the most productive technology as long as it reaches critical mass within a pocket of people. We’ve seen people migrate into Facebook messaging, Whatsapp and Snapchat, nobody forced them to make the change, it’s just that those tools better suits their purposes with easier and richer interactions.
I think that potentially the use of emails could be likened to the fax machine in years to come, and because we’ve already been subjected to so many other methods of communication I don’t actually think that it will be such a massive revolution for people to change. People will try new tools and when those tools reach their critical mass people will forget the old method and rely on the new one.
Are emails banned in the Wrike office?
Believe it or not no. When I set out to build the product I looked around to see what people were using and email was one of the most heavily used tools. Whilst I definitely wanted to cut the use of email down, I didn’t want to drop a bomb on anybody. I sat down and set out a very interesting way to hijack the email experience and turn it from being a forty year old tool into modern technology. We filed some patents around it, so we have patents on the generic email integration and then we built very unique integration that’s builds live collaboration right into the software for our clients including outlook and mac and that’s actually one of the things that our customers love. We gradually take them to this new world where they get all the benefits of their live collaboration and rapid productivity but at the same time they don’t have to dramatically change their habits over night.
Where do you see the future of work heading?
It’s hard to look too far ahead. Short term I think we’ll definitely see a rise in mobile technologies, a more mobile workforce, more collaborative open spaces and culture. Data fluency within our workers – we’ll see information moving much faster within organisations due to our tools. Flow of data is crucial, I have a dream of a real time organisation that can respond in real time to changes or opportunities in marketing conditions very quickly.
I think businesses now aspire to three elements: openness, identity and reputation. Twenty years ago it would be unthinkable to put your social life online. Now that’s led to identity and rankings for reputation which drives companies like Airbnb to have completely disrupted the hotel industry. I think we’re going to see many more industries be shaken up and redefined.
What’s your long term vision for Wrike?
Predictive capabilities. Our base layer is to bring people together to collaborate and work together, because all of that work is captured in one place you have an immediate insight as to what is going on in a company and in real time. If we could take this data and provide users with actionable insights, a glimpse of the future that is predictable in its nature it would save users time in not simply looking at the past history.
Another pragmatic area is ‘search.’ We know that information workers spend a huge chunk of their day looking for the right files so it’s important to get smarter and smarter about how we can find things in order for the team to utilise their time better.