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Voice of Visma, Ep 03: The human side of enterprise with Yvette Hoogewerf

Segment Director Yvette Hoogewerf knows a thing or two about what it takes for software companies to succeed. So, what are the secret ingredients to transform good products into exceptional solutions? Read on to find out.

On the Voice of Visma podcast, we sit down with leaders and colleagues from around Visma to hear their stories, learn from their expertise, and share the best lessons they’ve learned throughout their careers. These are the stories that shape us… and the reason Visma is unlike anywhere else. New episodes are released Wednesdays on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and YouTube.

The text in this article is from Episode 03 and has been edited for length and clarity.

Welcome, Yvette! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

For those that don’t know me, I am living and working in Norway, but my roots are Dutch. I moved to the Nordics 20 years ago. And for most of my career, I’ve worked either in software or IT. 

Like many companies in Visma, I’m a result of an acquisition. In 2012, Øystein Moan came to the centre of Oslo to a company called Mamut, “Pilestredet 75c”. He was there with the official owner and welcomed us to the Visma family. So, I have been in the same seat as many of our colleagues or colleagues-to-be. 

Moving into the Skøyen office, I got the opportunity to work more internationally. I worked with many companies launching products in international companies and developing the best business pricing models for them. 

In 2018, I then joined the team of Steffen as he turned to be a Division Director. I had the opportunity to be a Strategy Director based on my formal activities with all the companies I had worked with. That was also a period when Visma was developing a more empowered strategy, where all the companies own their own strategy. So I ask Steffen, “If you want me to be the Strategy Director, what am I going to do?” He looked at me and said, “You need to make sure that they have a strategy”. And I thought, “Okay. Good start”. 

So, we developed a so-called playbook on how to create a strategy. And every autumn, I facilitated a process where we talked with all our companies about their strategy for the upcoming year. Because those strategy sessions went well, I got more opportunities to be Chair and that grew into a portfolio of companies and, right now, a whole segment. So, gradually, I’ve been stepping into this job, together with the knowledge that I had from the domain. It feels fun. 

Recently, you became the Director of MLE. What do you think are Visma’s most important assets in this specific segment? 

There are three things I would focus on: our products, our people, and our partner network.

Our products

If you look at the type of customer that we are serving, these customers have more complex needs. They’re actually really asking for specific functionality to manage a specific process in their company. Either they’re managing their business processes or they are managing their employee processes. It boils down to what we call ERP and HRM. So, our products are our key assets. 

Having said that, we see that our customers are using more than one product to manage their process because they have specific needs for, for example, managing all the incoming invoices. They have specific needs for managing their logistics. They have specific needs for managing onboarding their employees. I think we can offer this best-of-breed set of products where we focus on integrations, which is why API is high on our agenda. We call it “structured collaboration” with specific companies to offer a more extended proposition to our customers. And that is really exciting. 

Our people

Other assets, of course, are our people. I would highlight one thing about my colleagues: knowledge. If you look at the knowledge that our people have for offering, for implementing, for supporting these solutions for our customers, that is deep domain knowledge. Deep domain knowledge of logistics, deep domain knowledge of financial management. And that is an amazing value that we have within Visma. 

In specific companies, we have this knowledge. We also have structured our medium and large enterprise segment in three groups so that companies working with similar processes are gathered together to share this both knowledge and to create an even better product and to help each other.

Our partner network

Around 50% of our products in this segment are sold and implemented and supported through a partner network in several countries – both in Norway and Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands. We see that as additional “feet in the street” – additional people who are very close to Visma that are helping us to implement the software. 

“We are software developers. But if you look at a customer with a complex process, you need to know how they’re doing it, and you need to know how you need to implement it, how you need to configure it. This is not usually software you can click and go. You need somebody to help you and ask the right questions to make sure that you are using it in the same way and get satisfied.”

That’s why we are using a large partner network. We have done that before already for a long time, but now, while we are growing, we have even more opportunities to offer to this partner channel to distribute our software in that way. That is something that I see as a strong asset, as well.

Do you think human interaction will remain as important as we dive deeper into AI?

That’s a very good question. Of course, AI is here, and it is here to stay. But I also see that we, as humans, are adopting AI even more and are getting more digital, and AI is getting more human. So, we are meeting each other in the middle. In our playfield, there are a few areas where I see huge possibilities.

The first one is the added value within the product. If we can build added value for our customers to, for example, predict what you should have on stock, then that could save a lot of money. The money in logistic companies usually is stuck in stock, in the warehouse. So that is something that AI can help us with based on what we have sold, how long it takes to order something, etc.

Traditionally in ERP, we’re talking about the user. The user is punching in things and is really into the system. With AI, we will see possibilities to use our systems in a totally different way. Maybe we’ll be able to talk to the system like, “Can you give me our forecast for the next quarter?” instead of trying to create a report and punching it in. The customer behaviour will change, but the value is even higher for the customer.

We also see that our business models are changing accordingly. Because it is more about the value that we are delivering instead of how many users do you have.

Where do you think is the greatest opportunity for AI to add value?

I would say it’s in support – where chatbots help our customer success agents to answer questions. Several Visma companies have customer-facing chatbots, answering quite difficult questions about payroll, holiday laws, etc. An example from one of our companies here in Norway is Visma Software AS. They implemented their chatbot in February on their payroll product, which requires expertise to answer payroll questions. So far, the chatbot can already answer 49% of the questions they receive, which is really, really amazing. 

So, now, we see the workforce is changing from handling basic inquiries to focusing on more complex customer needs. They can really use their time on customers with harder questions and work more proactively with the customers.

Anywhere else AI is making a big difference?

In the development department, we see several initiatives with regards to Copilot tools to make coding more efficient. In the space with the products that we have, especially in ERP software, there will always be bugs or comments from customers that it’s not working the way they would like it to work. But it’s not always easy to find out how to solve that. So, a Copilot and ChatGPT can be really helpful for our developers to work more efficiently. And I do believe the quality of the product will increase.

Do you think that our customers’ expectations will change as AI gets bigger and better?

Yes I do, because it is the speed to market, the speed to solve things, but also the value that you can offer to a customer. If we are adding features like an AI assistant or a prediction for your warehouse, or looking at deviations in your general ledger, it is difficult sometimes to say, “Okay, then the software needs to be so much more expensive there”.

So, that is really what we are looking for, because it’s added value. It makes life easier for customers. It makes their business better. And that is something we have to work on. But we have some good thoughts there.

We are software developers, and we call ourselves “Champions of business”. So, a champion should be forward leaning and be a part of the latest technology.

As you mentioned, we want to be the “Champions of business software”. What does that mean to you?

For me, champions are usually related to teamwork – it’s more fun to win as a team. And I think that is one of the most important things, as well, in Visma to share experiences. We ask, and we motivate, and we engage people to share the good, the bad, and the ugly with each other because that’s when we are learning. It’s especially in these groups where we have similar types of companies in different countries, and maybe in a different stage of their company, of their maturity. They can learn tremendously from each other.

“If you create a culture where sharing is okay, people will share. Then we can get better, and then we can be champions.”

I was watching a documentary on television about Aksel Lund Svindal, who is an alpine skier that has won a lot of Olympic medals and World Champion medals. His biggest competitor was one of his teammates and best friends. They had a golden rule that the person who did the race first was immediately on the phone with the one that was standing on top to give feedback about how the slope is, how the snow is, and to give him the best information and the best advice to run his race. The danger, of course, is that, with that information, he can win. That didn’t happen that time, but they practised it constantly, and it made them both champions.

And this is a little bit related to what we are doing. We are sharing the good things and we are sharing our failures together. And I have the humble honour to lead a segment where I believe I can say that that’s where it all started. 

“We have been doing ERP for 25, 30 years. We have known how to build software for 25, 30 years. We have customers that are using our software already for a long time. We know how to invoice from a system. We had the leading software position in the past, we’re having it right now, and I do believe we have all the possibilities and cards to be that in the future, as well. So, I think it’s safe to say we know what we’re talking about.”

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