It’s important to me that once a year I give myself the time to take stock and reflect on our past year’s performance. Whether we are running a retrospective on a client project or feedback sessions on internal processes, I value this exercise greatly in order to help GPMD continually improve.
2021 was no different, and as such I want to share my thoughts here with the valuable lessons that I learned.
I first revisited my 2020 Year in Review post, where we had set ourselves some ambitious targets in all areas of the business. We knew that we had to build solid foundations, revisit and optimise our current business practises, and put some dedicated time towards training.
Our objectives were:
- Overhaul our operating processes to
- Improve efficiency
- Increase autonomy
- Remove bottlenecks
- Define clear responsibilities
- Launch Apio, our first product
- Deliver our first four PWA projects
These were the most punchy objectives set by us so far. However, as a team we were determined to attack them with a vigour going into 2021. As part of my reflection and to explain how each objective performed, I have also created criteria which address the quantitative and qualitative measures that we took and I’ve also added some weighting to them:
- Profitability (45%): How does this impact our bottom line?
- Production Time (35%): How does this impact our scheduling?
- Innovation (20%): How does this impact our (business) development?
Overhauling our operational processes
For any business, operational efficiency is an important topic and we are always looking to improve. We prioritised this to focus on what really delivers value for our clients. This was a broad topic and to approach it, we decided to narrow it down to two main areas:
- Tighter control over projects
- Further analysis of time and resource allocation
What we’ve seen in the last two years across our industry, is the rise in remote working , which has led people to work longer hours. This concept in general was working well for GPMD prior to Covid, however, during the lockdowns, our people were naturally spending more time in front of their screens and productivity started to decline.
What I realised was that I had not set the right guidelines to support the team during this time. While this is a topic that has been on my mind for many years and I continually try to work on it, the aftermath of the pandemic was a new challenge to think about. With the help of my two close friends, who both work in service industries, I found a possible solution.
They suggested the following three metrics that they believe will help the team focus and give visibility on how each area of the business is performing:
- Utilisation: The number of billable hours worked expressed as a percentage with a target set for each person.
- Recovery: Of the billable hours our employees did, how many did we actually get paid for, expressed as a percentage.
- Realisation: This is essentially Utilisation * Recovery, which gives us a percentage to help understand how much billable work was completed.
I made a conscious effort to encourage our teams to start looking at their own schedules and try to remove any unnecessary meetings, which would help them battle conditions like Zoom fatigue. As a result, my hope was that the above three metrics would start coming into play a lot more in everyone’s day to day work lives. Additionally, I also encouraged everyone to spend time on their own personal development and continual training to sharpen and improve their skill set. We’re now concentrating as a team on helping each other to actively think about these topics and how we can further deliver value to our customers.
We’re still working on implementing this and it’s not perfect, but it’s already making a big difference. I scored myself a 8/10 as we are just at the beginning.
Launching our first product
I’m really excited to have launched our first product Apio. It’s fair to say that launching a product requires more work than Sam and I envisaged 4 years ago when we first embarked on this project. When reflecting on Apio last year, a few lessons stand out:
- Keep it simple and get the fundamentals right. We added too much functionality too quickly.
- There is a different methodology to building a product vs developing it over time.
- How we spent our time planning and building the product should have been evaluated a lot sooner than it was.
Despite these learnings, we were still able to launch a product commercially that I am very happy with. It was well-received at IRX when we presented it amongst our peers. Our final score is 7/10.
Our first PWA projects
In 2020, our business strategy was to shift our focus slightly and go after PWA and headless projects. We were then able to secure 4 projects with major brands in the UK and launched 2 projects (3 sites) in 2021; Rodial, Nip+Fab & David Shuttle.
After working within the Vue Storefront framework, we saw some benefits like faster frontend implementation overall, which was a clear win for our frontend team. PWA allowed us to work on innovative projects and technologies and we were able to help our customers embrace headless commerce and transition their frontend into a leaner, more efficient system. We were also able to start working on our first Shopware 6 projects and get to know the ins and outs of the new platform first hand.
The challenge, however, lay with the third party modules. As PWA was so new, not all the extensions were ready to go. This meant there was additional work needed on our side to make all the integrations work with Vue Storefront. The other option would have been to wait for our partners to develop their modules, but given our time to market plans, this was not viable for us. It did mean that the time required to deploy these services went from 3 to 4 days to 3 to 4 weeks.
To summarise, working with a new technology has its risks, but we learned a lot from these projects and I am giving us a 5/10.
Looking ahead to 2022
Overall 2021 was a milestone year for us, one in which we invested heavily in the business, and the lessons we learned have set the stage for 2022. Despite all this, there are some key highlights to share.
New Clients & Projects
I am very impressed with our team and how our business has been developing. We know there are a lot of areas we can continue to work on and we will do so. Our objectives from 2020 set up several long-term projects and process improvements that we are still shaping and implementing. We have also been developing new services as an agency and these will be launching in the coming months, so stay tuned…
Photo by Sean Toole