Some of you were not able to make it to our December Monthly Meeting, so I decided to write a summary of the year 2018 where you can see which recipes did we follow, how did we do, what were we thinking, and most of all, what happens next. And since this information may interest also the public, and one of our values in transparency, let’s simply post this online to be available for everyone interested.
VALA is all about people, so I’ll start with the essential. In our journey towards the happiest company, all decisions are made from the angle of people and their wellbeing. Among other things, in 2018
– We placed professional ambitions first, and everyone has now the possibility to tell which projects and trainings they wanted to join
– We merged with Siili to evolve and provide the best career development possibilities for VALA people
– We opened the Spain office to provide remote work opportunities for sun seeking colleagues
– We launched an option program to invite everyone working at VALA as company owners.
And the work continues. Great grades in employee satisfactions surveys are still analysed for further actions. For next year, our focus areas contain e.g. increasing cohesion, professional growth and meaningfulness. As the first concrete thing in our task list, we will be setting up another centre of excellence in January.
After almost 20 years in the market, I have never seen the IT market as hot as it is now.
From employee satisfaction to our second focus area, client satisfaction: From 2018, VALA people are encouraged to express which companies they would like to work with, and which companies they would like to see as company clients. Enhanced work motivation seems to show at our clients’ smiles, and as great grades in customer satisfactions surveys.
Simultaneously our superior clients got even better, more interesting and more aware. In 2019, to be able to deliver even more, we are aiming to coach our clients to become even better i.e. more tech savvy, and especially more aware of what and how are they buying, when buying professional software services. Look out global monster enterprises!
After almost 20 years in the market, I have never seen the IT market as hot as it is now. Different from the millennium boom, this time the uptrend seems to come from fundaments; it involves everyone, and does not origin just from overheated capital markets.
And many seem to wait for the downtrend. But will there be one? Many say that once the online services have been set up, software development will be more about life cycle management i.e. maintenance and updates. But will that decrease the software market? Once everyone is using the online services, economic downtrend will not take us 10 years back. I would say that digitals are here to stay, and despite of trends, modern software services will be needed even more.
Possible downtrend might hit the new apps, gizmos and other solutions, traditionally developed with external finance. Or is software development nowadays less capital intensive, or simply so essential, that new groundbreaking apps can be developed by micro companies not even requiring special financing? What I would say is sure, is that marketplace for digital services will keep changing, and competition will get hotter. Winners will be the providers with best business logic, best quality, best user experience and most of all, best people.
And many seem to wait for the downtrend. But will there be one?
Also software service market will change for sure. For example, as many R&D processes are in more mature phases, DevOps and included automation will increase their roles, which should keep companies like VALA busy. I can see good times ahead.
And will we fight with the competitors? No.
In 2018, also the competitors were doing well. These are great companies, with intelligent people, and they have our 100% respect, almost without exceptions. And I expect them to do well also in 2019.
And will we fight with the competitors? No. Because the offerings are also very similar between these companies, it is also natural to work in close co-operation with each other. As an example, in developing the leading test automation framework i.e. Robot framework, we work hand in hand. Therefore we actually rarely use the word “competitor”, but “partner”. In 2019, instead of fighting, we will continue like before, and try to get these partners even closer.
I have to admit that we keep receiving appraisals for our marketing. However, what really makes my day, is that people starting at VALA often say that “I am happy to see that the company is just like in pictures provided”.
So how to improve from here? To reveal next pages of the manuscript: Our marketing actually is based on our strategy, and tells precisely what we are doing and where we are going. If you want to guess our next steps, simply follow our posts about our strategy! No bullshit guarantee.
Now that the strategy was mentioned… to provide everyone a possibility to make an impact, also in 2018 everyone at VALA was welcomed to join the strategy process. In practice, we had a mutual strategy event to set up the basis for strategy update and to choose company direction.
In 2019, in addition to launching an updated strategy, we are taking new steps in setting up a completely transparent strategy process with possibilities for everyone to join.
And what will the new strategy say? The new strategy has not been formalized yet, most probably our upcoming strategy update will involve happiness, but also meaningfulness and responsibility in central roles.
However, what really makes my day, is that people starting at VALA often say that “I am happy to see that the company is just like in pictures provided”.
In 2018 we shocked the market by merging with Siili. And shocked it even more by explaining that VALA continue as an autonomous company. The move has been extremely successful, enabling VALA to continues like before, but with Siili’s strong support allowing us to focus on the essential. For example, VALA people have been provided career development opportunities with interesting new technologies, projects and colleagues. We hope to maintain the same warm and welcomed atmosphere in 2019!
There may be someone reading still interested in figures, so here we go: Also based on numbers, the year was successful. Our headcount grew by ten great people to current figure of 82. Estimated turnover will be around 7.2 MEUR (5.8 MEUR in 2017) while EBIT estimate is around 1.7 MEUR (1.4 MEUR in 2017). The relative profitability was slightly lower than in 2017, but this was due to planned long-term investments made to comprehensive wellbeing (see above).
The company has never been about growth or profit, but about people and clients. Therefore, for 2019, we expect some increase in turnover with good profitability, but most of all, ultimate happiness of VALA people and clients.
Thank you everybody. Together we have made the company what it is today. Let’s make next year even better!
Happy New Year!