“The only way to ensure success is to reorient everything around the customer.”: Interview with Signavio’s founder Gero

Now more than ever are startups thinking about how to orient themselves and make decisions that respond to changing times.

Whether it’s to adjust to the requirements of the market, new technology, or regulations, companies have always needed to be checking all directions to ensure their long-term success. Signavio was created with this in mind – to serve as a signpost for workflows, processes, and decisions. Signavio’s cloud-based software for intersectional collaborative process and decision management, offers companies a way to orient themselves in times of constant change.

We spoke with Signavio’s co-founder and CEO, Gero Decker, to ask his advice for early-stage, discuss how big companies can keep up with startups, find out what startups they’re keeping a close eye on and his top learnings from Signavio.

To set the scene, can you tell us how you came to start Signavio?

Signavio was born out of an obvious need for a more collaborative and accessible approach to process management. Before establishing Signavio, I worked as a Business Process Management (‘BPM’) consultant. I was curious why certain BPM initiatives failed, while others became incredibly successful. My fellow founders and I saw that process management was held back within organizations because there was no way to share knowledge between employees or departments. We were privileged to launch from an academic Open Source project, and we introduced the first completely web-based collaborative BPM software into the marketplace.

What sets Signavio apart from its competitors?

We soon realized that our ‘BPM for Everyone’ ethos resonated with large organizations, as well as quickly capturing the attention of mid-sized companies investing in business transformation software for the first time. We are the only company that offers every tool you need for process management and optimization, as well as collaboration and process analysis, in a single integrated platform—the Signavio Business Transformation Suite. We back up our all-in-one solution by offering a customer experience that is second-to-none. For us—as it should be for all organizations—customer experience is not simply a project, it is the way we do business.

Personalisation and customer-centric tech are becoming hugely important to the success of today’s companies. How can you see this evolving in the future?

To date, most organizations transforming their customer experience strategies have done so in a vacuum. Customer excellence teams are set up, linked with chief digital officers, and strongly influenced by marketing and revenue teams, but operations are missing from the equation. In the future, successful companies will realize they cannot deliver impactful CX changes without closely tying it to their Operational Excellence efforts. Signavio sees this as an easily addressable problem. By viewing customer-centric imperatives through the lens of customer excellence (CEX), the connection between persona, journey, and process is always visible and traceable. This connection ensures a 360° view across the implications of any proposed change.

For early-stage startups, what top tip would you give to help them start personalising their services?

Remember that fundamentally, your products are a catalyst for customer success. Everything you do must amplify that message. For example, early in Signavio’s history, we were lucky enough to sign a large insurance company, and we re-wrote quite a bit of our existing code based purely on that customer’s requirements.

Today, the only way to ensure success is to reorient everything your business does around the customer. Make sure that all departments of the organization, and all staff, clearly understand that what they do and how they do it affects customers, and therefore the organization’s ability to deliver on its promises. In other words, organizations must build a reputation and a relationship with customers that is so much more than mere interactions; it is about trust.

You’ve worked with some major brands like Puma, Deloitte and DHL. What do you think is the biggest challenge they have when keeping up with today’s startups?

Incumbent organizations face all sorts of challenges in the face of disruption: too much legacy infrastructure, a focus on risk minimization, the desire to avoid impacting existing revenue streams, even a lack of internal innovation culture. But I would say the biggest challenge these businesses face today is the actual pace and complexity of change needed in order to stay relevant in the market.

Operational excellence is no longer the exception; it is the expectation from consumers. To remain competitive, businesses have to take a determined and strategic look at the way they actually work. Simply focusing on saving time and resources in order to become more efficient is outdated. Instead, companies need to align with customer experience by looking at their business processes through the eyes of the customer. The overriding question should be, “How do these processes help delight the customer?” Taking this approach means major brands can leverage their global recognition and existing market strength to keep up with disruptive startups.

Out of all the fast-growing startups in Europe, do you have any that you’re keeping a close eye on?

A software category that is directly adjacent to what we do is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Two of the hottest companies in that space are actually from Europe: BluePrism and UiPath. These companies have seen tremendous growth rates and continue to evolve rapidly. Two of our partner companies from Germany are also definitely ones to watch very closely: leanIX (a SaaS company for application portfolio management) and camunda (a low code automation provider), both with great products and a great future ahead of them.

You’re headquartered in Berlin – what is your opinion on growing a business from there?

Berlin has developed into an absolute epicenter for tech startups in Europe. It boasts a great international atmosphere, it is easy to attract people to move to the city and it is simply a great environment to live in.

What has been your biggest challenge and subsequent learning from growing Signavio?

The first years are always tough! The lesson we learned early on was to be persistent, and don’t give up too soon. For Signavio, I remember people were very interested in our product, but we could not understand why no one was buying. Only later did we discover that this was primarily due to IT budgets stagnating following the 2008/09 recession. Once companies were ready to invest in software again, we were ready to ride the wave. The important thing was, we were able to use the time in between to really understand customers’ needs, and build lasting customer-centric relationships that we could leverage when the market picked up again.

If you could give tech founders in Europe one piece of advice, what would it be?

Your continued growth as an organization relies on staying hungry. The key is to keep setting goals—not unrealistic goals, but ambitious goals achievable by working smart and hard. ‘Fail forward’ was a popular theme a couple of years ago, but believe me, getting it right the first time, for example by hiring and learning from experienced people, is even better!

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