David MacLaren is the founder and CEO of Media Valet. Media Valet started as a travel repository for images and digital information.
ANDREW FILEV | WRIKE
Andrew shares his views of what a healthy organization will look like in 12 to 15 months from now. How Covid will fundamentally shift culture in organizations while opening up opportunities you may not have been ready to function within otherwise.
Andrew Filev is the founder and CEO of WRIKE, a work management platform created in 2003. Work management platforms assists in making remote work possible and effective. Along with his reasons for the importance of the collaboration and visibility in today’s remote, agile, digital work environment, Andrew offers 5 things that management teams in growing companies should be thinking about.
Doug Foulkes: Welcome to the future of work. This episode is all about work management integration produced by WNDYR for their blog, Chaos and Rocket Fuel. I’m Doug Foulkes, and today, something a little different. Sometimes you’ve got to roll with the punches. And that’s exactly what WNDYR CEO Claire Haidar did when she had the opportunity recently to literally grab a few minutes with busy Wrike CEO and Silicon Valley rising star Andrew Filev.
Doug Foulkes: Andrew started Wrike back in 2003. It’s a leading work management platform that helped establish the now very popular work management category, more relevant and important now in all COVID reality.This is their conversation (and apologies for the varying sound quality).
Claire Haidar: Andrew, the very first question I wanted to ask you was you set up Wrike as an organization a number of years ago. I don’t think anybody who was setting up a company in this space all those years ago envisioned a place where literally, in the space of seven days, the whole world would be working remote. Can you maybe share with me why your tool, Wrike, within the greater competitive space that it functions in, is critical to now and why you feel that it actually addresses one of the most critical needs that is not really obvious right now.
Andrew Filev: Let me start with a personal story and then talk about the bigger picture behind it. So, before I started Wrike, I was writing my own professional services company, which had offices in multiple countries. So, while we were in the office, we were working virtually all the time. People would be collaborating across cities, across countries, even across the oceans all the time while we came to the physical office, we mostly lived in the digital workplace. And that coupled with the fact that we were growing very fast as a startup, you have to be very agile and respond quickly. We created collaborative work management software, which brings together two things: One, collaboration. And it’s not a surprise that in this environment we are all required to collaborate day-in and day-out online. And to bring you that with what’s called work management, basically visibility to what’s actually going on. Because if you and I are messaging each other all day long and we’re doing that across a thousand people or a hundred thousand people in our company, that gives very little actual visibility. If we’re trying to run workflows across 15 teams or keep trying to run the program with 50 different projects. Even generally in calm times, you will not need, or you will need to be adaptive to try to guess where things are based on those little pieces that you get in this email or this random file. By the way, there’s also five other versions of that file, which one is the correct version and so on and so forth.
So, work management is supposed to solve that and give you full transparency, visibility, confidence in your ability to to get things done as an individual, as a manager, and as an executive—from all those levels. And our kind of know-how was in two areas.
Know how number one: we thought that one could not be without the other in this new digital world. Like, collaboration and work management have got to stay together; you cannot collaborate in one tool and then try to plan your work in a completely disconnected tool and copy/paste like a robot between the two. It might work if your project takes five years. It does not work when you need to iterate weekly or monthly. So one know-how was bringing those two together. And the other know-how was realizing that in this digital world things move very fast. So people started thinking about this huge monolithic project to break it down in a lot of moving pieces. And so it’s important to not just look at it as one project, but look at it as the ability to manage across multiple teams, multiple projects. Sometimes workflow, connect those different teams. So the power of technology is bringing us all together, which creates opportunities, but also creates a lot of chaos. And so even the software that can that is versatile enough to support all those teams, it to support the whole organization and workflows and projects that spans multiple teams.
Claire Haidar: Talk to me specifically about the future team, so Covid has pushed us into a reality, let’s fast forward this, you know, 12, 15 months from now.
What is the healthy organization look like?
Andrew Filev: In terms of their dramatic changes that are we’re seeing right now if they are to stay or not?
I personally believe that this event will fundamentally shift the culture in the organization. I do talk to CEOs were a lot of SMBs will launch their (…) new opportunities or the ones that will rebound. I think in right now, reducing their investment in physical spaces. Right. And increasing their investment in online workspaces and kind of like life throws you a lemon, try to make it into lemonade. You do have to adapt your processes today or to yesterday. Not tomorrow not a year from now. Right now you need to be ready and functioning in this new environment.
And so if you already figure out that playbook and some of the companies and some of the teams that I know, actually the ones that have done it right, report better productivity right now.
And so why would you go completely back to the old ways? I’m sure that almost every CEO, CIO, CHRO, will think about once they get that opportunity to get back to office, how can we get the best of both worlds. Like right now that we’ve proven to ourselves and to our bosses and to our employees that are part of your customers, that a lot of these things can be done a little bit differently? Is there an opportunity for for a balance where some key things we would still do in person and so on, but at the same time, we’ll get a little bit of that balance kind of relavance of balance back back in our lives.
Claire Haidar: What do you see as the benefits of having that that blended approach? So using online applications to create that transparency and visibility, but still having the in-person connections.
Andrew Filev: Even before kind of full switch to remote, we benefited from both. We did obviously rely heavily on Wrike in everything that we do. So that gives us visibility, transparency, say, for example, you and I reforecast process with a cross-functional team. You get clear visibility of the backlog, who’s supposed to do what, when they’re going to be due. And then you collaborate on all those things. They’re also, there was three (…) In the Covid environment, they’re obviously all in there that didn’t change their human component. Right now, we’re all using Zoom and other beta products as a substitute.
I still think where the large degree evolutionary prewired to when are you in person direction a little bit more. And there’s also some subtle components that we don’t think about. But like in zoom eye to eye contact is very different because where your eye is or my screen is not where the camera is, so on and so forth. So kind of that the high level looks like the same, it’s not necessarily the same.
And there’s some other things that are different in virtual versus physical. But again, before we had the luxury of doing things the old way, now we’ve been forced to adopt to this new world environment.
There is many teams and many successful companies who’ve been always completely purely virtual. And I think right now this will dramatically open up the eyes for a lot of companies where you could in a lot of individuals and managers, that you can actually be very productive in this pure online environment.
So I think we’ll cherish the in-person interactions even more.
Claire Haidar: If you could give advice to executive teams specifically right now, I would say of companies five hundred and greater, growing companies where there’s multiple geographies involved, masses of people. What are the top three to five things that you feel that they should be really thinking about right now.
Andrew Filev: As the leaders we have a responsibility to think ahead about the situation and do a forward looking model and do contingency planning. Right. For example, when it was clear that there were multiple cases of Covid virus registered in the United States, right. You don’t have to have a PhD to understand that that means that sooner or later there will be there will be shutdowns in place. Right. Because there is a two week lag. It’s important to trace. We don’t have the surveillance and things like that.
It’s impossible to trace. And if it’s impossible to trace, it’s impossible to control it. So sooner or later, it’s going to spread until we can go shelter in place. So with that knowledge you could already start build forward looking models would kind of be a little bit a step ahead of the situation as opposed to a step behind.
So I think for leaders it’s important to build those models as opposed to just hide our head in the sand.
Once you have that hypothesis of like hey, here is what could have happened, I think it’s important to activate your company, right. To kind of share that model with the employees and do it in a way that would activate their sense of urgency and creativity as opposed to panic. Right. So how do we communicate clearly and lead and inspire the kids to prepare and do their best in this tough times?
Third component is productivity. So as we were forced to work from home environment and most companies are not ready, how do we stay productive?
For example, when we switch to pure work from home environment, we we enabled the whole organization on quarterly OKRs to make sure that people plan their work properly.
We also re-enabled all the teams in agile. To give you an example of our cross-functional Covid reform replanned team. So kind of a combination of go to market and financial cross-functional team that needs to rapidly replan the rest of the year. And that’s best done in agile process. So we re-enable all of our business teams on scrum and agile. So our marketing teams who need to respond very quickly, all our operations teams can move at that daily cadence and weekly sprints as opposed to all the way cadence of annual plan with quarterly sub goals there, if you will, so that actually that reimplementation was key for us.
Fourth component is engagement. We had a very rich culture and that was a big chunk of it was was very personal, and included events. And so for us to think that we needed to cancel that, that created an obvious void. As leaders, I want us to be proactive, not not put it under the rug, but be open and say, hey, that’s part of the culture that’s no longer there. Let’s activate let’s figure out how do we step up to that challenge and come stronger out of it. Right. And then we’ve been surprised by creativity of the team.
And then the last piece, I borrowed the phrase from Nassim Taleb, the antifragile. Thinking about things in an antifragile way. Every business is going to get a curveball or different curve ball of different sizes, different curvature, if you will. But a lot of businesses are going to struggle and some of them will kind of collapse under that way and some of them will be resilient.
So I admire as an entrepreneur myself who went on a mission and started it right after the .com burst and then with Wrike I went through global financial crisis. So as the person who lived through at least a couple of those, I always feel people in the businesses suffer.
But I also feel the joy when I see other people being creative and kind of finding new ways to counteract. People and companies need to be antifragile. And I think we we need to have those, to all kind of observe and share the stories of those unsung heroes who do that.
And for resilient and as you know, in the past, there’s been a lot of companies that are iconic brands today, who were created in this very strange time. You know some of those brands were created in very tough times and there was like first business completely dried out and then they done something else.
And, you know, like companies like Lego or 3M or there are like tons of companies who use our products every day and you never know how they started.
So they have the opportunity to, for America to show its creative, entrepreneurial spirit and fight that challenge in sort of an American way.
Claire Haidar: Andrew, thank you so much for taking this time. I really do appreciate it.
Doug Foulkes: Well done Claire and thanks for getting those valuable insights. There you have it from the horse’s mouth. There’s much more industry insights in the pipeline. I can’t wait to bring them to you. We’ll catch you soon.
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