One of the most prevalent feelings that founders and CEOs experience during their company’s growth cycles is also a terrible one: loss of control.
This is particularly true during rapid growth stages, when teams expand, processes become less straightforward, and challenges more varied.
As these changes take place, it becomes clear that in disregard of how skilled the founders are, managing everything from a close distance is no longer possible.
More often than not, the key missing element at this point is a solid internal reporting structure that allows for fast, reliable data gathering for what goes on and around the company.
Given the fast-paced nature of growth cycles, it’s easy to make mistakes when deciding on an internal reporting structure, so we are here to share an interesting example of how it’s properly done.
In the following case study, we will show you how IMAP - a German consulting firm whose headcount ballooned to 50+ employees in 2020 - fashioned a handful of simple apps into an automated reporting system for astonishing results.
Curious? Let’s have a look!
Leading by example: How IMAP built its automated internal reporting system
It’s not rare for the consulting industry to face challenges that are familiar to many other industries as well.
For example, as growth takes place, time and personnel-intensive processes increase internal costs, and the need for KPI reporting systems becomes increasingly important.
At this point, many companies are forced to rethink internal structures and processes in order to master these challenges.
In order to stay competitive, resources must be used for activities that create real value, and there’s little room or time to waste.
With the help of business process automation agency Wemakefuture, this is a challenge that the organizational consultancy IMAP encountered, and ultimately mastered.
IMAP is a systemic consultancy firm for human resources and organizational development based out of Düsseldorf, Germany.
Focused on change and culture for organizational and professional development, IMAP has successfully led 500+ transformation processes in both the private and public sectors since being founded in 2002.
Its clientele includes public administration at federal, state and local levels, social security institutions, and private companies as well.
In 2020, the company experienced accelerated growth, and faced a number of newfound challenges touching upon team expansion and IT infrastructure.
Staying atop the growth challenges
The main obstacle IMAP faced during its latest growth stage was both blunt and urgent: the company’s IT infrastructure could not keep up with the velocity of team expansion.
An outdated local server structure caused discontent and restlessness among employees and management, and also limited the possibilities for remote working at the very onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although a VPN was supposed to ensure access to the server from anywhere, this did not work sufficiently.
As the team grew, the administrative scope of the projects could not be absorbed by the infrastructure, and calls for a new solution became louder in order to meet the company's internal needs.
What initially began as a cloud migration process quickly developed into ever newer opportunities for iterating the company’s internal reporting capabilities.
After switching from local to cloud servers, IMAP defined new KPIs to allow for a better overview of projects, performance and resource utilization.
With the goal of making decisions based on data, the company’s leadership made the visualization of these KPIs a top priority.
The app stack for automated internal reporting
At the heart of IMAP’s automated internal reporting system automation lies Podio, a cloud work management application that IMAP previously used.
Podio stands out as an integration-friendly app, which opened the door to a wide range of possibilities in terms of reporting.
Luckily, IMAP’s employees were already used to recording their working hours, project statuses, and updates in Podio; you could say that the right ingredients for building the automated reporting system around Podio were already there.
However, there was a catch: the data collected by Podio was being evaluated manually, which slowed the process down to a crawl and wasted otherwise valuable resources.
With this in mind, the first step was to structure and qualify the previously available data in:
- Current projects
- Past projects
Using Integromat, the corresponding data was then automatically transferred from Podio to Airtable and Google Sheets, which provided the necessary capabilities to further analysis and visualization.
The decision to use both Airtable and Google Sheets was based on a practical approach to cover different scenarios.
This is where the data is finally transferred for automatic report generation, enabling the management, executives and teams to gain a detailed insight into the state of the company.
On the start page of the intranet, all employees can currently see updated, data-rich KPIs. The data is then discussed across teams, and used for follow-ups and continuous improvement.
Results that speak for themselves
On top of automating the creation of internal reports, IMAP describes the benefits of their system in unequivocal terms:
"Automation saves an incredible amount of time and makes work much more attractive because we no longer have to process so many work steps manually.
In addition, the timeliness of data and transparency regarding the company's development have increased significantly, and thereby gained a noticeably higher status within the entire team.
We have grown incredibly fast in the last few years. Due to our company's growth, accompanied by a larger number of projects and consultants and an internal restructuring of our organization, complexity has also increased - especially in the administrative area. […]
In summary, the changes had a highly positive effect on collaborative work in projects and on internal processes. All in all, it is very, very positive to see that we can now concentrate more on the more important things, and fortunately we still have enough of those.“
Ute Sauerländer, Business Processes and Project Manager at IMAP
The automation of processes across IMAP is not over yet.
Along with the cloud infrastructure, the newly-deployed automations laid the foundation for more ideas and projects.
And most importantly, the results have been nothing short of phenomenal.
IMAP was able to record a 17% increase in efficiency across the entire organization right after the project was completed.
The time saved in the preparation of quotations was as much as 75%.
In total they were able to automate 84% of the remainder and communicative bridging tasks.
IMAP's success story also shows how versatile automation is, and how it can help a wide range of organizations and industries optimize their business processes for time and productivity gains.
Or, as the IMAP leadership states:
"We gained more time for real value creation instead of administrative meticulous detail work".
One thing stands clear: In the gist of fast, challenging growth processes, an automated internal reporting system that anyone can build out of everyday tools is a double-win in a much-needed moment.
Less costs, actionable data, and measurable results: that’s the core of an automated internal reporting system, but also the perfect recipe against that sinking feeling of losing control.