CEO Q&A With Business & Finance

Source: Business & Finance

FlowForma CEO, Olivia Bushe, sat down for a one-to-one interview with Business & Finance for an in-depth interview covering a wide array of topics from industry challenges and trends, to challenges as CEO and where Olivia sees FlowForma in the future.

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

My driving goal is to make businesses more operationally efficient by providing affordable automation software that can be used by the process owners who know the process best. There is a misconception that IT departments should dictate what a business needs in terms of the tech stack. This can be a recipe for disaster if the key personnel who will use the software are not part and parcel of the decision to purchase.

Organizations often invest heavily in an expensive enterprise solution that no-one knows how to use and has a lengthy ROI and which won’t be replaced because of its price tag. The end result can often be ‘back to square one’ and zero budget to find a solution that actually serves the needs of all stakeholders.

What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

When I started in my role as CEO I thought I had a clear idea of the task in hand. While that excited me and I felt confident I could deliver on the specifics, what I had not envisioned was how challenging creating a culture that excites our team, and makes them want to jump out of bed each day ready for the next task/challenge to help grow the company. When a company switches from start-up to growth mode it is more challenging to hold onto, maintain, and enhance that.

How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

Our culture is the glue that keeps us together. We have a really talented, fun bunch of people who are the foundation of our success. For every new hire we assess the culture fit and I personally meet every new employee and am generally involved at the final interview stage for senior positions. We strive to motivate our staff as much as we can as our people are at the heart of everything we do. A happy team generally is a productive team and I have learnt that from experience. We have various initiatives in place that help keep things interesting and we regularly celebrate success.

We have monthly, quarterly and yearly targets for all employees with a good balance of incentives to keep teams motivated. We have a highly skilled group of people at FlowForma and our employees have lots of great experience. It’s important to recognize and reward that so we continually review our motivation initiatives and ask for feedback to measure employee satisfaction. Last year we introduced our wellness policy which has been greatly received with additional, innovative benefits and leave provisions for all employees.

What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

Businesses are under great pressure from external events and need to adapt to new challenges every day. Defining standardized processes, that are unique to your business, ensures that you stay in control and helps you to be resilient when facing that ever-changing environment.

But defining your processes is not enough, you need to put a system in place to ensure that they are followed and are visible to everyone so that they run most efficiently. This has always been time consuming and expensive in the past using traditional process automation systems and vendors. With FlowForma Process Automation, we take a different approach, empowering the people in the business to implement, monitor and manage change themselves. It’s your people who fight the fight at the end of the day. You give them the responsibility to hit their targets when facing external changes, give them the tools to help themselves.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

People are taking citizen development much more seriously than before as they see clear results. Typically, the measured improvements from citizen development initiatives far exceed the expected results. These statistics are helping organizations to make that first tentative step into citizen development. It is easy to build momentum once that snowball starts rolling!

Another trend is the lack of available IT resources. With so many external changes, the ‘get IT to fix it’ approach is falling short as resources are so constrained. Empowering your businesspeople to take up the challenge is a great solution, but talk to the experts first to ensure early success.

Finally, everybody wants data to make better-informed decisions. Access to strong analytics is expected by modern leadership teams, but very often relevant data is not available or not accurate. Digital Business Processes that are specifically aligned with the achievement of strategic objectives is a great way to capture accurate data that is directly relevant to leadership.

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

Unfortunately, despite modest progress, there is still a real gender imbalance in the tech sector. Quite frequently I find myself being the only female in the room, which is startling in this day and age. This often creates another problem in that I’m more open to higher rates of bias and more likely to have my judgement questioned. We need more female investors and leaders in tech.

Fortunately, at FlowForma 50% of our SLT team is female, and we continue to ensure that we foster inclusion across all departments of the organization and give females the same opportunities to advance their careers as their male counterparts. A recent McKinsey report cited that only 1 in 4 C-Suite leaders is a woman, and only 1 in 20 is a woman of colour. The worrying thing is that ambitious women are not afraid to leave positions if they feel that they have hit a ceiling and there is nowhere to progress. The result is losing great talent which no company can afford.

As an employer are you finding any skill gaps in the market?

We as a company regularly assess our teams’ skillset to ensure we have the right coverage. There are some gaps and particularly in the area of product marketing. That role requires someone who is commercially astute while also being product aware. The market is changing all the time and we have benefitted from redundancies in larger tech firms. This has had a positive impact on our recruitment process and we’re seeing lots of highly skilled candidates applying for openings across all of our departments. Fortunately, layoffs in any organization don’t tend to negatively impact our business as our product is about helping you do more with less.

How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?

COVID was the catalyst to business change and like any organization, our strategy had to switch gears. One of the many pluses of our solution is that it plays right into the hands of ‘doing more with less’ and generally makes organization operations more efficient. BPM software historically has been labelled as expensive, time-consuming to implement, and requires a skilled IT team to roll out, tweak, and maintain.

Our sweet spot is that we don’t fall into any of these categories. Our no code tool is designed by the people for the people making automation affordable to the masses rather than enterprise companies only. We help reduce the costs associated with expensive IT resources by empowering process owners. We regularly monitor the market and identify industries where our process automation tool can add significant value. We work extremely close with our customers to ensure that they are leveraging our tool and maximizing its agility to assist with operational efficiency across all departments. It’s a win-win formula.

How has Brexit affected you?

Initially, we did notice some impact and in the UK in particular, decision-making did tend to take longer within certain sectors. In saying that fortunately, due to the nature of our product, Brexit has had little/no effect. The fact that we are an all-Ireland company with employees in the north and south makes us pretty unique and luckily there are no borders in the cloud so the transition has been quite seamless for us as a SAAS company.

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your business/sector?

I think it’s fair to say that initially for a lot of companies, it was the fear of the unknown. I had just taken up my position as CEO of FlowForma a few months prior to the start of the pandemic so I quickly had to focus my attention on quite a different set of priority tasks than I had anticipated. Thankfully the new normal of remote working was not a huge adjustment and we were in a lucky position to be able to facilitate that. The biggest challenge initially was maintaining relationships with our customers and prospects with not being able to have that face-to-face relationship and with widespread uncertainty not to mention reduced budgets.

From my perspective, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Looking in my rear mirror I can see a real shift in mindsets, companies realizing that ‘working from home’ works too, and in some instances, employees are more productive and happier with this new norm. We have a hybrid model now which has been welcomed by a high percentage of our teams, offering more flexibility to all employees. From a business perspective, our growth trajectory reflects how digital process automation has gone from the fringes to the mainstream, and how FlowForma Process Automation is now recognized as a fix for process pain points, delivering cost savings, efficiencies, and a great end-user experience for every type of organization in challenging economic times.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

In life you need to be resilient. Everyone experiences setbacks in some shape or form but don’t let the knocks or low points dampen your desire to succeed. You don’t necessarily have to be the smartest kid in the class to be successful. If you have a hunger to succeed people tend to do whatever it takes to bring their dream to fruition. Hard work and determination do pay off. My mantra is if you don’t ask you don’t get and I have had countless experiences where peers have been skeptical about a certain idea thinking that it was completely out of reach. With grit and determination, it’s surprising what can be achieved. Nothing is impossible.

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

We secured a significant investment from existing and new investors back in June 2022. This validated what we knew already as a company, that there is a real market for process automation and more so than ever with a volatile marketplace. Investment has given us the possibility to grow our sales and marketing teams and fund a new product. Since then we have also opened a new office in the heart of New York to help serve our growing client base in North America and provide us with the necessary base to prosper in new exciting markets that we have identified. We are already starting to reap the fruits of our labour and have grown 50% YoY.

What’s next for your company?

In addition to expanding our north US presence and onboarding a new team on the ground to support that effort, we are also heavily invested in some significant product enhancements. In parallel, we have been laser-focused on developing and expanding our partner network, specifically in the APAC region. It goes without saying that it is a very exciting time to be part of the growing FlowForma team.

Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

Fast-forward to 2024 and FlowForma will have at least doubled in size. Our vision is to have accelerated seamlessly into new industry sectors and dominate in new market geos where we are already seeing traction with our first-class product. This will be supported by an expanded R&D team who will be delivering the next wave of innovation on our journey to becoming the easiest-to-use DPA tool on the market. All this while continually building on and strengthening our company culture.

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