As a digital communication agency that mostly gains its value from an integrated approach between consumer psychology, marketing strategy, communication and technology, Wijs was looking for a tool to help facilitate that integration. Thanks to Yadera, it can now work beyond the traditional silos and offer extra additional value to both its customers and employees. CEO Bart De Waele explains to us where that need came from and how the process went.
Bart De Waele: “The most important reason to change was to remove a lot of complexity, which enabled us to think beyond the silos. Yadera made it happen.”
Can you tell us what Wijs does?
Wijs is a digital communication agency. Surely but slowly, we are putting ‘digital’ between brackets. We understand the decision process of the end customers of our clients really well, so our clients will know what action to take. Whether that’s in sales, marketing, loyalty or something else, it doesn’t really matter. We’re doing that with a digital perspective of the world, not limited to digital means. We are well aware that consumers are not passive, rather, they are users of services, products and therefore also our communication. In communication we regard the receiver not as a passive consumer, but as a user. A lot of technology is involved, which means that we’re in the middle of an intersection of the digital transformation that’s now taking place. So that’s the crossing of communication, marketing and advertising, but also technology, IT and business. Through our insight into the end customer and how technology can act as a lever, we sometimes think about how to adjust our client’s business model or even its internal structure.
What’s the required approach?
We divide our approach into four axes. The first is strategy, the second is story, the third is system and the fourth is scale. Strategy means getting to know the end consumer thoroughly. Our strategists are consumer psychologists, people who can make competition analyses as well as consumer analyses and stakeholder analyses. We do that in order to focus through customer journeys and to take decisions on the roadmap. Based on the strategy we build a story, a concept, a tone of voice, a brand experience that’s closer to the creative aspect of marketing.
We roll that out in two ways. At first, the system, knowing that digital platforms have to be created – websites, apps, social media, YouTube channels, and so on. So that’s mostly user experience people and developers. Secondly, scale: making sure that people come and watch. We do that through always-on marketing by means of SEO, SEA, social media – so everything that has to do with online marketing – but also traditional media campaigns such as television, outdoor, radio, print, etc. All of this is geared to one another.
In other words, it’s a wide range. We work for clients who see the added value of our integrated approach. Our customers do not want separate silos, because we don’t believe in silos. We believe that cross-fertilization provides better results.
How is that managed?
If you focus on the customer and adopt a multidisciplinary, integrated approach like we do, then the first step is the organizational structure. We are organized in multidisciplinary client teams. Instead of separate teams that only consist of strategists, developers and designers, we have five client teams that each work for their clients and which have all the required expertise. These teams work on the entire chain for their clients. That might sound like an atypical approach, but I believe it’s future proof and will be followed by other organizations.
How are those teams organized?
Each team is of equal value and contains both creative, executive account profiles as well as planning and project management and commercial account profiles, a total of 12 to 16 people. Each team handles four to ten clients, has its own management and is self-managing. The overarching management acts more like a coach. We invested a lot in that. Moreover, such teams don’t have a boss in the traditional sense or someone who bears responsibility in case something goes wrong. They operate as a team in everything they do and everyone has his/her role and responsibility, but without a hierarchy. A self-managing way of operating isn’t easy, it demands a lot from the people and the organization. It also requires mature employees and business insight, because the decisions about business are taken by the teams. Undoubtedly, you need good tools for that and we have found them with Yadera.
You started using Yadera in 2016. What did you do before that?
Before Yadera we used project management tool Clarizen, CRM tool Sales Force, an accounting tool and in addition many other things such as Google Drive, Trello, etc. Clarizen in particular was a matter of concern. It had become a kind of chubby monster, very unresponsive, not user-friendly. Unpleasant to work with. Also, by using a variety of tools we were almost forced to work in silos, sales and invoicing through a CRM tool, projects in Clarizen, accounting in yet another silo. All of this became too much of a burden and we wanted to get rid of those silos, so we began looking for a tool that would support our new way of operating in an integrated manner. A tool that’s comprehensive enough to support a variety of expertise – because online marketing is more than just a campaign, a website or a strategic route – and one that could simplify operations throughout the various silos. That’s how we ended up with Yadera.
What ultimately persuaded you to use Yadera?
User-friendliness, integration and responsiveness of the team. There were many different options and the ideal tool doesn’t exist. Those who are looking for that are fooling themselves. So you look for a tool that’s closest to your model and one that grows with your organization. Clearly, that’s Yadera for us. The most important reason to change was to remove a lot of complexity, which enabled us to think beyond the silos.
Which Yadera Features do you use?
It concerns sales offers, team planning, project management and time tracking. We insert all leads and quotations and from there all work statements, which go from a quotation to a tangible purchase order. Then, everything is coordinated; planning, reporting, time-sheets. We try to insert as much as possible in order to get everything centralized. After that, it goes to accounting, which is also connected with Yadera.
Did you get a lot of support with the transition towards Yadera?
Yes, absolutely. The moment we switched to Yadera we've put quite some efforts in change management and training. Once thet was coverd we immediately began using Yadera, so that went fas. We are incredibly pleased with the way Yadera supported us. Any exception or special case was rapidly implemented in the tool. The tool is very smooth in use.
How did the transition go for people who use the tool?
What are the most important results when using Yadera?
At management level, we gained a lot more insight into the progress of all projects. They are now even implementing that real time. We can actually see our work in progress and turnover in real time. One of the most important aspects in terms of finances in our sector is the ‘cut off’, which is the difference between invoicing and performed work. You’ll get an advance payment and at that point you haven’t performed anything. Then there’s the work performance, which is more than invoiced. Then you deliver, after which you can invoice. So, there’s a difference in speed between invoicing and the amount of performed work. In terms of accounting, you only follow the invoice, but that’s not the real financial situation of the company. If like us, you are very busy with expanding, growing, acquisitions and financing, then you must have a real time overview of invoicing and what has been performed percentage-wise, at any moment. We can now get that information real time from Yadera. That’s fantastic, because that used to be impossible. It’s specifically useful when growing, because it enables you to look ahead. If you can’t do that then you risk having a wrong view of the situation. Imagine that you have loads of advance invoices but have yet to begin with all of that work. In that case, you’ll be very rich but you won’t get any new sources of income the next six months. Without such a tool, you won’t see that.
To what extent does Yadera help manage growth?
Thanks to Yadera, we’ve been able to translate all leads into the type of profiles we need, and attach a weighting percentage of success to it. That way, planners can use that weighting and estimation to look ahead and know which profiles will be required in the next six to twelve months. Nothing is certain at that point, but it’s a probability. Naturally, that influences recruitment decisions. In other words, you get to see how many and what kind of people you need for how long. And which means you have to invest.
What’s the difference in use between 20 and 100 employees?
There’s a difference on two levels. Firstly, the tool is a work instrument for people on a daily basis. If anything doesn’t do what it should, then it will get on people’s nerves and cause a ripple effect. That ripple effect will obviously be many times bigger when you have 100 employees rather than 20. As a consequence, the total amount of negativity will be far greater. The tool’s ease of use is exponentially more important as you work with an increasing number of people.
Secondly, management level. In an organization of 20 people the manager is right in the middle and you’ll almost know by osmosis what the organization is going to be the next months. With 100 people you won’t know that and then you need something that extracts the predictive power from the daily use of the tool. If that isn’t right, you’ll inflict pain on the people who don’t see the benefit of it. Because then you’ll have to ask your people to deliver all sorts of extra things in order to get a prediction, without giving an immediate return for their own work and only for management to get a better view of the future. That’s why I argue that the tool should be as invisible as possible. The predictive power should be ingrained in the tool as much as possible, so you’ll automatically gain insight through its daily operation, without keeping separate lists to know where you’re heading. And that’s where Yadera does so well.
What did the use of Yadera provide?
A company’s profitability in our sector is made based on its planning. People on the bench means loss of profitability. And overbooking people means burning them up and thus losing them. Planning continues to be a challenge because you’re always confronted with the unexpected. However, with Yadera we are much more in control of our planning.
Can we talk figures?
It’s difficult to stick a quantitative figure to it. One of the things already is usability and ease of use. It’s a tool which all of our people work with on a daily basis. If you know that we are in a sector where the bottleneck isn’t the clients but our people, then you have to create an environment where you do things well as much as possible for your employees. Yadera fits right in. We would have lost a number of people with the previous tool. Now that isn’t an obstacle anymore. It’s one of the painful stings that we’ve taken out. Four years ago I heard how annoying and difficult that tool was, almost every day. I don’t hear that anymore and that’s a huge and important difference. Additionally, Yadera offers insight and predictability on management level. Instead of looking in the rear mirror all the time, we can now look forward. To express that in numbers is not so easy.
What has Yadera brought you personally?
Working with Yadera suits the way we look at the world, integrated and beyond silos. That’s the main difference with the past. Yadera enables us to work in an integrated manner, which suits our organizational structure and philosophy one-on-one. So it’s actually a tool that allows me to convert my philosophy into reality much more.
Would you recommend it to other people?
I would absolutely recommend it to anyone. I think Yadera was tailored for our sector. It really helps you out with the management of your company. Everyone’s looking for the ultimate management tool. For me, Yadera is closest to it.
As shareholder, the task I give the management team and everyone in the company is, ‘I want to build a worthy company.’ A company that I’m proud of, which is based on values and simultaneously creates value. As a company, we want to create value on four axes. At first, we want to create value for the client. That’s fundamental because if not, you don’t have a reason to exist as an agency. The client must be central and get value for its money. On the other hand, you also have to create value for the company, it has to bring in something. Value must also be created for employees. In addition to pay, there has to be a growth track, development potential, a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose. Finally, we also want to create value for society. We don’t do that with a back-to-nature approach where we tell everyone to travel by bicycle – even though we also do that – but rather in the things that we do. For example, when applying SEO, we won’t use spamming techniques. We focus on our users. Another way is by making our knowledge transparent and by giving it back, for example by providing a guest lecturer to college or university, by establishing our own postgraduate, by publishing articles, etc. That way we want to help our own sector progress.
The four value axes have to be in balance, because they pull each other. For example, you might create a large amount of value for your clients or the company, but at the same time squeeze out your employees. I would never want to do that. Or you could work at the cost of your environment and society, I wouldn’t want that either. So if you ask me, “What’s good management?” then my answer is, “Make sure that all four basic values are in balance and are geared to one another.”