Top 5 Take-Aways from 6 months as Swiss Web Agency
In January, realizing fair trade outsourcing is dead, we opened a Web Essentials office in Basel, Switzerland. In the first 180 days of running the Swiss office, I have gained a new perspective on our work in Switzerland and Cambodia.
Here are a few things I’ve learned:
- Local presence removes the complexities of international business. In Switzerland, in person meetings are very important. The country is small and transportation is good, so that business meetings often happen in person - not only in the capital Bern but also in Basel, Zurich, Lausanne, Geneva or in any other place. Given this nearness, there is a high degree of trust and better follow-through on committments. Better working relationships allow us to be even more agile, an important benefit for innovative software projects. And given our legal entity in Switzerland, we can now take care of the complexities of international business on behalf of our customers. This not only simplifies communication, it also simplifies contracts and administrative work. Last but not least, I get to spend more time with Open Source communities - not only for my mandate as T3A Expert Advisory Board member but also as a contributor to the Swiss web agencies think tank.
- Better conceptualization and requirements engineering. The Swiss office provides requirement engineering services to our customers. Digital processes are not easy to design because one needs to not only think of the ideal workflow but well enough understand and think through its exceptions. This is because humans can handle exceptions as they appear but machines need to be instructed in advance what to do with them (unless there is some sort of machine learning). Processes need to be thought-through before they are digitized which requires thorough analysis, suggestion of options, best practices knowledge and assistance with prioritization and desicion making. Being with our customers more regularly, I have the opportunity to better understand and guide them through this process. With this knowledge, I can better instruct the development team about the background and business value of each feature.
- Leveraging time zones for better customer service. Working from Cambodia has many benefits. But also some disadvantages. The time difference was an obstacle for an optimal customer experience. Being in Switzerland, we can now serve our partners during European office hours while continuing off-hours maintenance work by our Cambodian office. To make an example, an incident can be reported through our Swiss office later in the day and will ideally be fixed by the Cambodia team before our customer begins work the next day. The Swiss office supports the handover process from customer to support team, liaises with third parties and proposes measures to prevent incidents. One of our strategic priorities in 2016 is the elimination of high priority support incidents and the ability to coordinate actions between all stakeholders is critical to achieve this goal.
- Building a local network for faster innovation. Through our work with over 20 web agencies in Europe and by organizing various tech events in Asia, we have developed a wide-spread business network. However, our contacts in Europe have not been so close-knit due to a missing local presence and less regular contact. To address this situation, we opted to operate from a co-working space in Basel and we found a home at Kleinhafen. On an every day basis, we get to meet professionals from large corporates opting for one out-of-office day per week, small highly efficient expert teams in media, communication and design, innovative startups and serial enterpreneurs, not to forget the crowd at hosted events, such as a multi-day hackathon by a large insurance company. A co-working space is truly a great opportunity to build a local network which in turn helps to offer our customers more innovative services.
- Highlighting the advantages of fair trade software. At Web Essentials we understand fair trade as high quality service paired with social impact. I am proud of our team which consists of professionals from different countries who deliberately chose not to take the easiest path in life but to sign up for a company that is boldly pioneering fair trade software development. We have been able to bring technical and leadership opportunities to Cambodia to showcase the abilities of Cambodian talent in producing high quality software. And we now have success stories that proof that the model works. Through our presence as Swiss web agency we can better support our partners and interact with project sponsors and decision makers to help them generate authentic CSR value.
This is just a short round up of the first impressions but there is more to come.
As a team, we are dedicated to continuous learning and improvement and I am looking forward to what the future holds.
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