Friends, just recently I talked with the local IT Dnipro Community (aimed at creating a comfortable environment for successful development of IT business in Dnipro) about changes that happened in Dinarys as the result of global pandemic, growing demand for ecommerce solutions and how quarantine strengthened the Dinarys team.
Originally the interview is in Ukrainian, but I’m excited to share it in English. Just before I start, I want to remind you that a strong, dedicated and reliable team is one of the greatest advantages, helping you to achieve the business goals and stand against any challenge.
So, welcome and hope you’ll enjoy reading.
Jane, what are the main activity priorities of Dinarys today?
Basically, we offer various web and mobile solutions for e-commerce — both on well-known platforms and individual (custom development). We build solutions based on innovative approaches to customer experience study. Our goal is to provide customers with profitable solutions. Based on reliable experience with our previous clients, we think about how to properly create the architecture, how to make a prototype, how to build a UX and what UI should be used — this is all about the project that will bring income.
Tell us about the main challenges that your company faced this year.
The same as many companies faced — reorganizing the team working processes aimed at staying effective even in terms of remote operation. Actually we switched to remote work in half an hour — we just moved home from the office. Further, it was important to organize everything in order not to lose HR-activity, communication with developers, so that project managers had everything under control. It was important to make our people feel care, and that we are aware of their problems. Usually, in the office you can easily identify that a person is dissatisfied with something and immediately conduct a one-to-one session. The opposite situation with remote activity — you need to invent specific tools to handle this.
In addition, the quarantine resulted in increased demand for our services. A big number of leads from customers is a rather inspiring moment, especially in such a difficult situation.
How to ensure comfortable distant work?
For every team member who needed, we’ve organized the equipment delivery and in some cases even furniture. In addition, we have strengthened communications. Almost every minute was scheduled for meetings. In the office, it is enough to enter the next room, and when you are working remotely you need to constantly book meetings — that’s the problem. All the processes slowed down. When we came back to the office, we were so happy having everything done much faster.
How to motivate employees remotely and encourage the corporate spirit?
We held one big meeting for the whole company every day. I will not tell details, but this meeting gave the chance to understand people’s condition and moods. It was difficult for many of us — there was a high level of uncertainty. Someone faced the situation, when friends, colleagues, acquaintances were fired, projects were closed. People worried: if something happens to my client, then what’s next?
Our sphere is in high demand in quarantine times, so we have not felt a drawdown at all. We are on the same route as it was planned at the beginning of the year. The potential customers interest has grown, and over time the team has realized that everything is stable, nothing will happen to us.
So, you did not feel that the crisis has hit your regular customers?
No. Even customers in the event industry have been upgrading their products during this difficult time in order to appear stronger and updated to their audiences after the crisis. We were able to persuade customers to invest in their product, not to pause the process.
Did you attract new customers during the quarantine? Have new approaches been used for this?
Yes, of course. Our Sales & Marketing department has worked twice harder, if not three times. I even joked with colleagues: why couldn’t we do so before? What prevented us from working in such a way before the quarantine to get the same results or more? I have a feeling that if we had worked in such an intensive mode during the previous two years, the result would have been much better.
The unity of all teams was very strong during this period, I am grateful to each team member. Each coped with quarantine in their own way, each contributed to the company development during this period, so that we do not stand and stagnate. Definitely, each started working harder.
Did you increase your marketing budget?
Yes, we increased our budget by about 30% on everything related to sales and marketing and got decent feedback from the market. Our traffic increased by 156% compared to the same period last year, and the number of calls increased by 300%.
The demand for e-commerce, for our expertise, for the processes we have built has increased. Of course, such results are not only related to the crisis, but also to the fact that we are actively working on it. We felt that many competitors were just sitting around and this is our chance for a successful maneuver. We became more visible among competitors, and we got the appropriate result. At least it is inspiring.
What important insights the crises brought to you?
As I said: why couldn’t it work so before? Why did we need quarantine to work so hard?
This situation has greatly strengthened us. It strengthened the team. We have people who understand the risks in other areas and put the maximum effort to achieve a team result. It reflected in all aspects: HR, development, expertise, marketing, and practical results.
We need to be flexible and react quickly. If I see that a client’s portrait is “bending”, and I have already invested a lot of resources to unroll it, I should not regret it, but switch. You have to pivot, change strategy, and do it very quickly.
We will definitely not stop working in the office — live communication is essential for my team. Some say I want to work from home every Thursday. It’s ok! Go forward! At the same time, you have to understand that you are here, you are working with the team inside a certain process — and this is important. It is the must to provide the team with the chance to switch and change the image.
During the quarantine, we realized that everyone has their own biorhythms, and this is very visible. There are people who are most productive in the morning — at this time they perform and over fulfill tasks. For me, for example, the activity is turned on at 4 pm. Until four, I can hold meetings, HR activities, brainstorm, etc., and do business only after 4 pm.
So, can you say that you are ready for the second quarantine wave which is widely discussed today?
Yes, and now I’m ready for it more than for the first one. I think we will be even better prepared by September.
Are you preparing based on your own quarantine experience or learning best practices of other companies?
Of course, we read about the best practices of colleagues to know who they coped with the challenge and what decisions they made for effective communication and tasks fulfillment — but there is no magic. These are the tools we use: additional HR activities, meetings with cameras scheduled for a certain time. However, all this online communication will never replace the offline environment. All these pseudo-parties with wine on Skype are nonsense. You do not feel communication, involvement in the process. The energy of presence is important.
Project management needs to be more structured, but we are pretty good at it. Customers love us for providing in-time practical results. Our strength is in deliverables. But there is a difference in the process — one thing when a developer approaches a PM, sets an eye contact and immediately understands the real situation, and another thing when it happens remotely.
On the other hand, all our clients work like this, everyone receives the service remotely. We find ourselves in the situation of our customers, and we must improve this service, be as transparent and clear as possible. Now we continue to strengthen all these processes with transparent and quality results.
Did you have a quarantine bench?
The bench was, but minimal, and we moderated it.
Let’s look at other companies’ experiences — many of them had to reduce the team. Why did you manage to cope with this situation while others did not?
Every company has its weak point be it delivery, or sales, or marketing. Recently, a big number of companies have begun to put additional resources into lead generation, hire expensive marketing specialists, develop a strategy and channels for finding customers, and so on. In our company, I am the chief marketer. I dealt with it myself, and it worked in quarantine.
We were not scared. We knew that a certain level of company security is having quite a high number of daily requests from the site sufficient to involve everyone in the company. Even if one client drops out due to certain circumstances and a crisis, others will come. Just generate enough and you will feel safe. We didn’t have the explosive growth that can be a result of so many leads, but we didn’t ask. We have a stable situation during this period.
Did your company deal with corporate social responsibility during quarantine?
Our social responsibility was to keep distance and follow all the necessary rules to prevent the spread of the virus.
I know that some companies forced employees to come to the office, which was explained by the high importance of projects. Of course, when a company works together, it is more efficient. But firstly, people are scared and demotivated by this approach, and secondly, it is not entirely correct in relation to the established prohibitions and restrictions. We are all equal.
Please, share your thoughts about the future of Dnipro IT market in particular and the global IT market in general?
Now, when we are all going out of quarantine, I see rapid growth. Customers want everything at once.
What comes next? Of course, it will continue to be more intensive. The cooperation with European clients will be more intensive as they have realized that it is too expensive to pay salaries. If you still work remotely — what’s the difference?
Again, we return to the processes: we build, structure and make an order. You have a choice either you change, adapt and start earning more, or you are staying behind. In our case, demand has increased and I think it will grow.
Dinarys is the member of IT Dnipro Community. Is it beneficial for you to be involved into the community?
First of all, it is advisory support on difficult issues when there is a lack of expertise. You can always share challenges, discuss certain metrics, find out different monitoring approaches, find support, discover other experiences and opinions. It is important.
Do you have time for reading now? Can you recommend some business literature that is relevant today?
I read everything related to the art of sales and high-quality service. For example, books on design thinking — it will be helpful during a new product forming that will be useful in the market, you take the position of a customer. These are the books: “Design Thinking in Business” by Tim Brown: From New Product Development to Business Model Design” (Tim Brown), “Think Slow… Decide Fast” by Daniel Kahneman,
“Subtle art to scoring on everything. An Unusual Approach to Problems” by Mark Manson is also a good book, quite useful. Saves the nervous system, helps to cope with life situations correctly.
What is Dinarys superpower?
We effectively work on our bugs. If something does not work, we always retrospectively analyze the issue and build the process so that the next time it works. We are constantly learning, improving, working on ourselves. Self-reflection, self-analysis, new processes building based on imperfect cases — such a purely female story.
What is your advice to IT companies that are currently in uncertainty?
Everyone has their own way — someone is strong in recruiting, someone — in deliverables, someone — in sales. It is difficult to be ideal in everything, you just need to sharpen your unique vision, your individual approach, so that the client knows that you are different.
Of course, it is important and necessary to work on attracting and retaining customers. Everything related to customer focus is the most important aspect at this time.