Interview with Björn Wahlberg, CTO of Quinyx
HTEC and Quinyx joined forces in September 2016 to work on complete Quinyx platform development and support. The long lasting partnership has resulted in many great achievements, connections, and friendships, with both sides very much looking forward to what the future may bring to our relationship. Established in 2005, Quinyx now has more than 500 clients around the world, among which are also McDonald’s, London City Airport, and Rituals Cosmetics, to name a few. Björn Wahlberg has recently joined Quinyx on the position of CTO, and this was a perfect occasion for us to meet and discuss his fresh impressions with the state of affairs he found there and his vision for the company seen through the lenses of technology.
Hi Björn and welcome to HTEC. In the beginning, could you share with us what prompted you to join Quinyx and how did your story there being?
One of the reasons why I decided to join Quinyx was because of their story, which I thought was really cool and impressive, but also a very long and consistent one. Throughout the good part of its history, the company aimed to grow while paying immense attention to keeping the existing customers, and to expand into new markets, as well as new countries and verticals.
Erik Fjellborg, who is the founder and the CEO, was 17 years old at the time and was working part-time at McDonald’s. He was awarded an entrepreneurship project at school and got a fantastic idea. Namely, he realized that the managers at McDonald’s were constantly preoccupied with printing Excel spreadsheets and juggling employees’ work shifts—pan and paper or over the phone—and if someone called in sick, trying to find a replacement for that person would usually turn into a nightmare. The whole thing was overly complicated, stressful for everyone and completely unreliable, and it asked for a lot of manual work.
So, Erik went home and created a web tool for his manager and presented it as something they could use to schedule the workforce and to help them book and count their shifts. The manager accepted, and since there were three McDonald’s restaurants in this town in Sweden, they all bought it. Soon afterwards, the whole McDonald’s started using it. From there on, the tool went to other restaurants and then it started moving onto other verticals, into retail and healthcare, and so on.
The product is continuously evolving, but what does the product provide to its users that makes it unique?
I think it is the flexibility of the product. You can adjust it by configuring it differently, so it is suitable for different kinds of companies. Moreover, it is user-friendly for varying levels of the company. So, you have upper management who can use Quinyx for forecasts and budgeting. Local managers can do the scheduling and shift roll out. And then there are the actual employees who can benefit from the mobile app produced here in Niš, for example.
You mentioned that the product is modular. So, through the product, you give the client a complete toolkit for managers which includes scheduling, time-reporting, communication, task management, budgeting, forecasting. How complicated was the development of such a system?
I wasn’t there during the development, but the way I understand it is that it has evolved over time, depending on customer needs. From the start, it was very much aimed towards McDonald’s and similar companies. But after that, we moved onto other verticals, as you naturally have to adapt. We also moved on from aiming function-specific customers because today we are too big to accommodate specific needs.
Basically, you have to look at market requirements instead. So, for healthcare, for example, what’s the common denominator? What is the most important thing for this sector? Also, when moving into a new geographical market, you have to see what kind of legal adaptations you have to make to be able to cater to the whole market there.
There are different challenges when working in different verticals and different countries. But what are the main challenges you are facing now from the technological and business point of view?
We are currently facing the biggest challenge in Quinyx history, so far. We need to move from our classic implementation platform, which most of our customers are currently using, onto the modern technologies and modern, even more user-friendly platforms. So, we are developing a mobile platform, as well as a new modernized platform that we call Neo. That’s the biggest challenge – transitioning functionality, and not just all of it, but the functionality that is actually being used, today and tomorrow.
Over the past decade, we developed this complex product. Now we have to make both the functionality and the customer transition as smooth and as quickly as possible. Otherwise, we would have to maintain two platforms at the same time. The second part of the challenge is the scalability part. We are growing at a rate of 45% per year in revenue, which means 45% more customers and uses. That puts a lot of load on our system and databases, so we have to work on scalability continually.
Quinyx mobile app is used by hundreds of thousand employees, which brings extra challenges to its development and implementation. What are the main technological challenges in delivering a great solution to such a high number of users?
Data protection is at the essence of everything we do. This goes for both the mobile platform and all other platforms we are working on. We need to think about how we handle personal data for customers and employees. We have to maintain the quality and have a sustainable product. As we develop at a sustainable pace, we strive to develop constant quality, because we want to keep the customers that we get on board. For the mobile, we want to make sure that the app works for all kinds of devices.
Quinyx vision is to become world leader in workforce management. How do you plan to achieve that?
We want to continue developing the most important features for our current and potential customers. We need to expand into new geographical markets. We have to be even better at focusing on the verticals that we are good at and be best at those. We need to find the right partners and retain the right staff to help us in building this company further.
What has made the product successful is partly its user-friendliness. The second is that it is a SAAS product, which makes it easier for us to maintain. Any improvement that we make is directly available to all our customers. This is a huge benefit and a competitive advantage.
In regards to your collaboration with HTEC, in these five months since you joined the team—what do you like most about working with people here at HTEC?
First of all, the hospitality of HTEC. Coming down here I felt very welcome, and the office has a very good vibe to it. I’ve been more in the Belgrade office than in Niš. Anyway, walking into the office feels like coming home, in a way. There are Quinyx signs around you, but the most important thing is that people talk about the same things here as they do in the Stockholm office. They are very much concerned with the product, and its success. The group here, which is a four-party gang, talks about the same things I do with my colleagues back home. And that makes me feel like we have a good kind of collaboration.
Can you tell us a bit more about the team work between Quinyx and HTEC? How do you manage to work remotely and stay well-integrated and motivated?
The common denominator is that we have the product owners in Stockholm since they need to be close to the business, the support, and the onboarding team. The rest differs from team to team. So, for the mobile, everyone is in Serbia. But we have the backend developer in Belgrade, and all the QA, and Android and iOS developers in Niš. In the Proto, the team responsible for the classic platform, we have most of the developers and QA in Stockholm, so it’s the other way around.
And then we have the Neo platform, where we have the most of the team in Belgrade, but we have the front-end lead, QAs and the product owner in Stockholm. We have a Scrum master, who just took the role in Belgrade, which is working out really well for us and bringing a lot of empowerment to the team in Belgrade, which is very important. I am really happy that we are working so closely together, and we don’t have any layers between the team and us.
Usually, you would have a product manager who you would speak to as an intermediary. However, there is too much information lost on the way, and you lose enough when you work through a TV. Therefore, you need tight communication–directly, person to person.
What is your strongest impression from these trips and visits and working onsite with HTEC developers?
I think it’s the confirmation of the importance of meeting face to face. You need to know the people you are working with. Not just the developer or the tester or the owner, but the person behind the work. And that has to be continuously refreshed and improved. So, you need to meet these people on a regular basis, or you would otherwise lose touch. That’s the most beneficial thing about teams meeting regularly, either in Serbia or Stockholm.