About this episode
Andrew Filev was running a successful micro multinational company in 2000 and adopted an agile methodology to speed up the projects. Despite this, it was challenging to keep up with the pace of the workload. This inspired him to create a new software category, which is now a multi-billion-dollar industry. The pandemic has caused a drastic shift to remote working and has highlighted the need for better processes and tools to streamline work. Andrew now serves more than 3000 companies and encourages the use of specific, measurable goals to encourage the team to work together towards a common goal rather than using surveillance tools. He believes a hybrid environment where teams come together in person several times a week is the best way to re-energize culture and achieve the best productivity.
What you’ll learn
- How modern companies are utilizing work management software to become digital and increase productivity.
- The importance of building trust and visibility within hybrid and distributed teams.
- How generative technology is revolutionizing the way knowledge workers do their jobs.
Jo Meunier [00:00:33] Hello and welcome to the Future of Work podcast by Allwork.Space. I’m Joe Meunier and today I’m joined by Andrew Filev, the founder and CEO of Wrike, a leading collaborative work management platform. Andrew founded Wrike back in 2006 as a way to help people and companies work more productively, cut down on inefficient communication like email, and be more time efficient and cost efficient. And these things are probably the ultimate goal for every entrepreneur on the planet. So, we’ll dig more into those things and uncover Andrew’s insider secrets. In just a moment. We’ll also be hearing about how a system for better productivity and communication and time efficiency helps to improve workers’ wellbeing and create a more positive workplace culture overall. So, let’s jump into it. Welcome Andrew and thank you for joining us today.
Andrew Filev [00:01:22] Thank you for asking.
Jo Meunier [00:01:24] Well, that’s quite a resume. So, can you start by telling us a little bit about Wrike, how it all started and what was your why? Why did you want to start the company?
Andrew Filev [00:01:35] So, at the turn of 2000, I was running my own professional services company. We were doing quite well, growing fast. We were what at the time you would call micro multinational. So, we had offices in several countries across several continents. And so, while we all work from offices, we already got exposed to that hybrid work environment because all of our teams were essentially distributed. We’re also early proponents of agile methodologies, and so we moved really fast in this kind of weekly, biweekly Iterative cycles. And while it was a very fun and very rewarding experience, it was also hard to keep tabs on everything. And I was responsible for all software delivery. So, I oversaw about 20 projects, 20 customer engagements at the same time. I also oversaw different departments. So not just software delivery, but recruiting, for example, as well, and digital marketing, which all kind of move at a fast pace. And another important point is, back in the day we were fully digital already. So, we got an early preview for a lot of things that companies are experiencing right now, being fully digital, working on very fast cycles, hybrid teams. And as I was trying to manage all that information overload, I was trying to create better processes and better systems. And I realized that it’s an incredible opportunity, not just for my company, but for millions of companies out there. So became really passionate about this and started essentially not just a new company, but a new software category. So, what we did is we took their declared benefits of project management software and really made it available to actual business users. Because back in the day, people already knew that there’s project management software, but very rarely anybody actually used it. And in part, again, it didn’t fit that digital environment, didn’t fit the fast pace. And there was a fundamental issue with that as well, which is back then, collaboration was managed separately so you would collaborate in one tool and manage your work in another tool, which might work if you’re working on these annual cycles but doesn’t work when things change every day or every week. So, we brought together real time collaboration. We, with work management capabilities, created this new category called collaborative work management software. It is a multibillion-dollar software category. Right now, there are multiple companies that are providing various solutions and it’s becoming a staple in any digital company. It’s very rare to see right now top-class organizations that wouldn’t have at least something to manage their work and workflows and collaborate on those things.
Jo Meunier [00:04:34] So, it really started because your company and you yourself were struggling with the way that your team was communicating. So, you wanted to fix that and fix a lot of other companies’ pain points at the same time.
Andrew Filev [00:04:45] Yes.
Jo Meunier [00:04:46] And can you provide any examples of companies you work with at the moment or have worked with recently and how they’ve benefited from Wrike?
Andrew Filev [00:04:58] We’ve got 20,000 paying companies as customers and they range all the way from five-person very small business to the largest and most prominent companies in the world. On our website you can find some video case studies with some of them. I think the latest large one was published a case study with Walmart, but there are others like Nickelodeon, basically a lot of brands that you use on a daily basis. They actually have our software running in some of their departments today.
Jo Meunier [00:05:40] And is this because a lot of these companies are now working remotely, and they need better ways to communicate and work with each other? I’m just wondering if this has really taken off since the Pandemic. A lot more companies are working in hybrid and remote styles and they need to work better together, even if you can’t be physically together.
Andrew Filev [00:06:01] Indeed, remote work is for knowledge workers, is not that different from work in office, but at the same time it puts stress on a lot of processes and tools that the team uses, something that you can get by while you’re sitting next to each other, and you can just turn your head and ask. And there’s also this huge social trust and credit that runs in the team that’s cohesive and collocated. And that trust starts to get stressed when people are remote and never saw each other or haven’t seen each other for the last two years. And all they see is like the email handle or Slack avatar. So, while it’s kind of the same work, there are requirements for us to be communicating better and more organized and having that trust in our processes and systems, it’s much higher. And Pandemic did both good and bad things for that. So, when Pandemic hit the World heard these anecdotes of companies accelerating their digital transformation and doing three years’ work or three-year plans in three months, in some cases three weeks. So, there was that aspect of acceleration. The first tools that the companies deployed were actually communication tools, zoom and slacks and teams of the World, which communication is essential if you cannot communicate physically in person, you need to be able to communicate online. But then what happened after that is that originally the productivity actually boosted. And you see it both in economic numbers and in human perception. As people stopped commuting, stopped long travel, put more focus and effort into the work. We saw that productivity originally started to increase, but then we got into the territory of Zoom fatigue and then we also got into the territory of people being overwhelmed with the tools and information simultaneously with Zooms and teams of Saxo, the world company also deployed a lot of point solution. There was a huge boom in the tech industry. And what happens now is that a typical employee works on average with about 14 different tools a day. Not only that, but those tools are different from team to team and department to department. So, you might have the best tool in the world and then your colleague might have the best tool in the world in her department. But when you start collaborating on something, you go to the lowest common denominator because you use your own tools, which oftentimes becomes still same old email, or now instead of email it’s slack. And so instead of 100 emails a day, you’re receiving 1000 text messages a day, which essentially doesn’t make your life easier. So, people become overwhelmed, and we saw that in fatigue, both in anecdotal reports as well as official studies. Including last year, we saw the largest drop in productivity in the US economy since 1948. In Q two dropped by 4.8%. That’s official statistics. So, people were working more hours than ever, while at the same time producing less. And that’s that kind of delayed effect of information overload and tool overload. And so now the companies and employees are trying to find ways to streamline that. And economically that’s also supported by a lot of pressure that right now is put on the companies to achieve efficiency and productivity. So right now, it’s kind of sort of this Cambrian explosion of tools. We’re back to there, okay, let’s pick out the best and let’s figure out how to make them work together and let’s figure out how we can all work more efficiently and work better together.
Jo Meunier [00:10:00] Yes, and I think some of what you referenced there, you also released a report, I believe last year called The Dark Matter of Work and that explored how exactly as you said. It was this explosion of apps and different tools and shiny new things that companies thought they needed, and it just ended up overwhelming workers because there were so many different things that they were trying to work with and knit together and it actually caused more harm than good in some cases.
Andrew Filev [00:10:28] We serve more than 3000 companies, and those are the ranges from mid-sized to large enterprises. On average, we found that there is about $60 million in lost productivity that the companies can regain by streamlining some processes. And it also has its own people, where we found that on average, an employee spends four days of their personal time a year on their data inefficiencies that could have been streamlined. So, we’re not even talking about the work time. We start talking about kind of that spilling over into our personal time and lives. I got to pull the actual numbers and you can pull them from our website, but I think more than 70% reported that there were inefficiencies in the process. Meaning again, I can be working really hard, but then somehow the ball gets dropped in between. Or maybe you and I are not perfectly aligned in our goals and we’re both trying to do the best thing for the company, both trying to work hard. But if we’re codependent on each other and we’re working on different things, then essentially, we’re both moving slow or actually being stolen. Right. So, there are things like that that organizations can streamline to make both employees’ life easier, and the companies perform better.
Jo Meunier [00:11:55] Yeah, I think everyone, every listener will be nodding their heads in agreement at that. And this busy work, which really does kill productivity, this creates stress, for one thing. So, people, particularly if their personal time is being invaded, that’s a lot of stress on the employees. On the flip side, you’ve got managers who don’t necessarily see this work visibility. And I know this has led to toxic environments. Some companies have gone so far as to install surveillance software because they just can’t understand why the work isn’t getting done. It’s all snowballing, isn’t it?
Andrew Filev [00:12:38] Yeah. I have a very strong negative opinion about those tools. I actually saw them more than a decade ago when I saw the first exposure to the distributed work. And I saw those tools kind of deployed the first time and then people kind of forgot about them and now they’re being resurfaced. So, there are studies by many reputable firms, including Gartner, I think Gartner published that when the companies are introducing the surveillance tools, that actually increases, I think, twice their probability of people faking work and basically trying to game the system. And it essentially destroys trust. And trust is very important for efficient team operations. Now, I’m not saying people should be watching Netflix 40 hours a week instead of working. The right solution is to build clear goals. And you know, the acronym smart, specific, measurable achievable and so on. So, building specific goals that contribute and kind of cascade and contribute to the organizational goals, right? Starting from the top, like what is our mission, what is our annual plan, what are strategic programs? How do we then cascade it to different departments, break it down into projects, and then how do we break those projects into achievable steps? And all of this has to be then kind of adjusted on the flight because the world changes every day, right? So, you need to get those cascading goals, you need to give people ways to achieve those goals, and then you need to bring visibility into work. So, if you look, for example, in agile processes, which are much lighter than traditional, I’ll use software development as an example because it’s where it’s originated, but now it’s propagated into a lot of other different teams and departments. So instead of just having this rigid plan on a shelf, teams over prioritized visibility and communication, the work was broken down in weekly or biweekly or monthly sprints. There was daily visibility into what’s done, what’s blocked. And essentially team is running together towards that goal. It’s not a blame game. It’s like, hey, we have this goal, we’re here as a team to accomplish it. Here are the required steps, how are we doing on them? And everybody gets that visibility. So instead of surveillance software or managers being there, the bad guys, it’s just our inherent desire to not be the people who block the team, right? Because again, it’s all visible and transparent, but it’s not about how much minutes I spent in this tool versus that tool. It’s more about this is the goal, this is what I accomplished. And if I’m blocked, there could be multiple different reasons. There’s life and so it’s normal. But then what are those blockers? Can we all resolve that as a team? What does it mean for the schedule? Does it get pushed? And again, there’s less drama around those things, more transparency, more visibility and more trust. So that’s their culture that I believe in. And that culture revolutionized about 1020 years ago, the software industry, and turned it from very, very toxic one into much more productive one. And I see right now similar principles being applied in a lot of different marketing departments. Again, it’s not about specific process, it’s not even about specific tool. Just this idea of getting visibility across work, clearly aligning on the goals and adjusting in real time as you progress and collaborating and communicating in the context of that work to get that work done together as a team.
Jo Meunier [00:16:34] Sure. And as an example, Wrike certainly seems to have it right. Obviously, you use your own software as one way to resolve these issues and get everybody working together seamlessly. And you’ve won awards for best workplace, well-being and so on over the years. So just looking at Wrike’s hybrid work style you as a company, you work in a remote way, don’t you? You’ve got teams all over the world. Can you tell us a little bit about your work style?
Andrew Filev [00:17:07] Yeah, so we’re hybrid organization. We do have physical offices. We’ve got multiple offices in states, multiple offices in Europe, and multiple offices in Asia Pacific. Now some of those offices are very tight knit and where people live around the same metro area. And so, it’s very easy for them to get together to the office and they come there frequently. In United States, post pandemic teams became more distributed. So that makes it a little bit harder for people to get together in a team. Some teams are collocated, but some teams are distributed. We’re through hybrid environment right now where we have teams that come to office multiple times a week and we have teams that happen to be distributed over different states or different countries and they cannot come together to the same office every day. So just like many other companies, we’re still trying to tune the balance and kind of find the optimal solution. One thing that interesting story from us, so typically we run annual sales kickoff when we all meet in person in our customer facing organization. It’s not just sales, it’s called sales kickoff. But customer success organization is there and then multiple different representatives from different teams come together as well. And then when pandemic hit, we stopped those in person events because first they were impossible and then logistically very hard and risky and their health risks and whatnot and also, they’re not cheap to do. And this year we had our first post pandemic customer facing kickoff in person and it’s quite expensive. So, I was kind of on that thin line between approving it and supporting and then not approving it because again, it’s expensive and the budgets are very tight right now across the globe for all of the organizations. I ultimately approved it and when we came together, I was blown away by how incredibly valuable that event is. It’s one of those things where once you experience it, you’re like, oh my God, that’s a no brainer. I only wish we could get everybody together, not just these several hundred individuals, but the whole company. So, it was an incredibly positive event in part because there was this pent-up demand. Yes, we can work remotely very efficiently, we got the tools, we got the processes, we got the right culture, but still there’s spent up demand to meet together, to hear the vision, to collaborate on the same problems in the same physical environment. So was incredibly positive and kind of eye opening for me. And I use the same metaphor within office work for some of our teams because commuting to the office is an investment from an individual, right? Just like sales geek office, an investment not just from the individual but also from the company. It’s an expensive exercise. So, there is an investment and that investment before you make it, the value is hard to quantify. But if we all make that investment and it’s not just one of us because if I come on Monday and you come on Tuesday and somebody comes on Wednesday, that’s useless. Right? But if we come together as a team and do it in a thoughtful way, which we have to think upfront about what the goals are and how do we best organize it, there’s incredible value in that and I think some companies are missing that opportunity to re-energize their cultures by spending some time together. Again, I don’t mean you have to be in the office if you’re a knowledge worker like five days a week and you have to relocate your family and whatnot. But what I’m saying is that we do have to be thoughtful about how we build those moments to re-energize our culture and then kind of balance their cost. Like for example, again, if the employees are all located for that team close by together, they absolutely, in my opinion, should meet together several times a week versus if the employees are spread over multiple states or countries, then it’s costly from different perspectives. And so, then you have to be more thoughtful. Do you want to get them together once a quarter or once a year or how to best do that?
Jo Meunier [00:22:07] So do you think hybrid work is?
Andrew Filev [00:22:10] The future of work for knowledge workers for the next decade? I think it’s inevitable. I think people got a taste of it. But again, I think right now the very hard thing is to find that balance. And it’s psychological because people don’t like being forced if people got comfortable working from home, they don’t like being forced to get into the office. So, it can put them in the wrong mindset with the negative bias if you try to force it. But at the same time, again, if they all make that investment, if they approach it with a positive bias and done in the right way, they’ll be like, oh my God, I wish we’d done that sooner. So, it’s not an easy cultural thing to solve, but I think there is a right balance between in office and the remote that can achieve the best culture and the best personal productivity and best organizational productivity.
Jo Meunier [00:23:12] Yeah, okay. And we’re nearing the end of our episode. But one thing I wanted to ask you, given your years and years of tech experience where we see automation and AI creeping its way into the workplace and into the workforce, I’m interested in your thoughts on where that is going. Do you think we’re going to see a lot more automation finding its way in? And just one example is Chat GPT. It’s actually very clever from what I’ve seen. And this could potentially take up quite a large chunk of marketing resources. So, in your opinion, do you see these types of tools becoming more prevalent in the workplace in the future?
Andrew Filev [00:23:57] Absolutely, yes. Now, I don’t think it’s going to be revolution from the media perspective. Yes, it’s kind of overnight it wasn’t there, and then suddenly it’s everywhere. In reality. It’s not like that. Our own team has used generative tools before, CHATGTP and they’re using it in kind of a certain degree, limited degree, and now the degree kind of expands a little bit, but it’s still limited. So, it’s more of a journey. But it’s definitely a skill that in certain professions, you need to build. For example, I believe if you’re graphic designer in the next, say, three years, you’ll need to find a way to use generative to help you in your work without pledging your work or kind of downplaying the human and creativity aspect of it. Right. So, I don’t think of it, and I don’t think anybody should think of it as a replacement for human creativity and strategy and communication. I think it’s just as anything else, it’s a tool. So just with any new tool, you need to get used to it and find the right ways of using that tool. So, while it’s incredibly impressive and very kind of obviously picks everybody’s curiosity, we’re getting close to that Turing Test, and maybe somebody will have to redefine the Turing Test now that their Chat Gpd is out. But in terms of our daily work, yes, I would recommend anybody in certain professions. Again, it’s writers, it’s designers to look at generative technology and see how it can be your friend rather than the enemy. And again, as any new technology, we also as a society, have to find the right boundaries, kind of the legal boundaries, their ethical boundaries, of how to use those tools properly and kind of have to adjust to that. So that’s something that we do not as a world yet have kind of those standards developed. And that will we’re, from perspective of a company, we’re both deploying AI actively over the last, say, 5710 years. But at the same time, again, some of those new things, we might be holding back a little bit because we’re trying to better understand the legal frameworks and make sure that it’s all compliant with the privacy and other requirements and regulations. Again, the AI is such an overloaded term. It starts from very simple heuristics to this generative AI technology, and there is everything in between. So, a lot of those things are already out of the gray area. It’s very clear how to use them and when to use them. And a lot of those things, like Champion PT, it’s like, literally, just a couple of weeks ago, launched its first business license. Right. So those things are just coming out into there. We just start to understand how to best apply them as tools.
Jo Meunier [00:27:16] Yes, so they’re coming, but it’s worth to find out how they work and work with them rather than trying to fight against them.
Andrew Filev [00:27:24] Absolutely.
Jo Meunier [00:27:24] Fantastic. Well, just to wrap up, thinking about our conversation and what you were talking about productivity earlier, what would be your big takeaway for our listeners in terms of helping them think operate more productivity productively and help take their companies forward? You mentioned, for example, the smart goals earlier.
Andrew Filev [00:27:50] I think one important thing is right now a lot of companies have already tried a siloed work management solution like use a tool for this project or this team, this department. I think there’s a huge opportunity for organizations to have that system of record or single source of truth on the work across the organization. Ideally that’s a North Star, but again, you start somewhere, maybe you start in your own department. There are multiple different teams, you’re trying to put them on the same landscape. So, I think that’s the huge opportunity to unlock a lot of productivity and sometimes even economical savings because there are some legacy tools that people use for work management and workflows that you can actually substitute and get some savings and get one system across. Again, ideally the whole organization. And this is where we see the largest improvements in productivity starting to happen. Think of it, I used that metaphor earlier in the call of common denominator, right? If one team has this great tool, another team has another tool, but ultimately, they’re down to texting each other. When it comes to work, they can only be so productive, and everybody will continue to be overwhelmed. So, you do need the work management and workflow system to bring everybody together. And then in terms of processes, focus on smart goals, focus on cascading those goals and connecting them through the different levels of organization and aligning them across different teams. So still fundamental principles. They worked 100 years ago in very different environments; they still work today. It’s just that hybrid work puts it to the test and stresses them out in all sorts of new ways that we haven’t seen before.
Jo Meunier [00:29:43] Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Andrew. It’s been really insightful. Can you just tell us how people can find out more about Wrike and also your dark matter research?
Andrew Filev [00:29:55] Absolutely. Go to www.wrike.com. It’s spelled WRIKE. We also sometimes say Wrike. So go to Wrike.com and you’ll find both dark matter research there and some customer case studies and videos and hopefully learn something for yourself.
Jo Meunier [00:30:19] Fantastic. Well, thank you so much. We’ve appreciated your time today and we hope to see you on the podcast again soon.
Andrew Filev [00:30:26] Thank you. Have a great day.
Jo Meunier [00:30:28] Thank you.