maxcluster 2021 - a review
According to the platform Gründerpilot, 80% of all start-ups fail in the first three years. maxcluster is not one of them. On 28.12.2011 the company was registered in the company register and celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
Time for a special review of the year with the management - founders Sebastian Ringel and Alex Wilhelm as well as Benno Lippert.
Has maxcluster grown in 2021 as well?
2021 was the strongest growth year for us so far: the number of employees increased by over 30% last year - 26 employment contracts were signed. And another number we're proud of: We received over 600 job applications in 2021! The high number of new hires has had a major impact on everyone's day-to-day professional life over the past few months. Well-established patterns had to change and new structures had to be created, because strong personnel growth naturally requires more managers to look after the employees. In addition, a large number of new roles were required so that employees could be relieved and given the opportunity to specialize. In addition to the structural changes, the large number of inductions has of course simply taken up time, but we are all happy to invest this time to ensure that our new colleagues feel quickly integrated.
Another important personnel development in this context is certainly the appointment of Benno Lippert as Managing Director. This is a step that we took consciously in order to further support the growth of the company. Benno's experience around the "ecosystem e-commerce" and his expertise to combine technology and people allow us an additional perspective to achieve even better results.
However, Benno's entry has not really changed anything about the cooperation in the management team, because after all, joint leadership has been part of maxcluster since its founding. However, we can now also focus more on individual areas in the management, which was not always possible before due to time constraints.
For example, Sebastian was able to focus on the company's move to a new building - and anyone who has ever moved into a new building knows how many challenges are involved. Decisions could be made more quickly, and with that came faster implementation.
Where was the focus in the area of " HR"?
" HR" was and is one of the most important topics for us at maxcluster. Of course, this was further intensified by the ongoing Corona situation.
Togetherness has become even more important to us, which, by the way, was also a reason why we invested in the new restaurant. We wanted to enable our employees to look forward to a healthy lunch and enjoy it together in a relaxed way in beautiful surroundings. Many people have little time after work to take care of meal preparation and with our offer we want to make their everyday life a little easier. To this end, we have also invested in ergonomic workstations at the new location: modern soundproofing, height-adjustable desks, ergonomic desk chairs and, in addition, mobile equipment to make the transition to the home office easier. These are, of course, just a few pieces of the puzzle in our HR strategy, which aims to promote growth by creating an optimal working environment.
For us, the phrase "We focus on people" is not just a platitude, but is firmly anchored in our corporate values. We "see" people, whether they work in the office or remotely from home. In view of the pandemic situation, this is certainly challenging at times, but we support cohesion and team spirit, for example, by actively supporting events that contribute to this. For example, we hold a monthly Lunch Roulette, where employees can meet (online) for lunch and chat away from work. We host virtual escape rooms and had started an online advent calendar. And we place even more emphasis on making successes visible and celebrating them together, such as the recent "Black Friday," which was more relaxed and enjoyable than usual thanks to good preparation as well as many motivating activities for everyone involved.
We also make sure that we communicate our values to our new colleagues. Employees who work predominantly remotely receive at least two weeks of in-depth onboarding on site. And every newcomer is assigned a buddy who acts as a point of contact for all questions and makes it easier to settle in. In this way, we hope that colleagues who are unable to participate directly in the day-to-day running of the office will also feel comfortable and commit to us in the long term.
What was the most important highlight for you in 2021?
The most tangible highlight is certainly the new restaurant. It took us less than six months from the decision, which was made in July, to the opening. Of course, that's all the more impressive because the current situation disrupted most of the supply chains. Now our chef can already do what he wants in his professional kitchen and we can enjoy his creations in a relaxed atmosphere.
The second highlight of the past year was certainly the introduction of Engine, with which we significantly modernized our middleware software in April. The technical change based on Laravel has given us a significant boost among developers as an attractive employer. It is easier for new developers to understand and of a higher quality than the software we used before. The standardization of processes gives employees additional security in their daily work, and we can also automate boring, because repetitive, work. This enables our colleagues to perform more exciting tasks that add more value for our customers, such as performance analyses, or to handle "customer special cases". Incidentally, standardization also guarantees a consistent quality of the measures, and the high level of measurability enables improvements to be made.
Despite all the advantages for employees, the plus points for our customers are even more extensive. Engine has enabled us to further expand functionalities in our Operation and Application Center, and so we have already implemented many customer requests during the introduction, from which large customers in particular also benefit. For example, there are now better billing processes, unified user management and far more modern security features, especially in access rights and authentication. The software also enables us to implement features for customers more quickly, because we have significantly shorter release cycles.
In the past, we sometimes maintained two versions of software - Engine and Core - but with the introduction of the new version of Engine, we can be much more agile. Of course, we are still constantly reviewing our processes, but we have already integrated many optimizations. For example, we've also been able to put an increased focus on front-end development, significantly improving the usability of the Managed Center for our customers.
We are also finding that the change has also given us a better understanding of our customers' user journeys, enabling us to respond even better to customer requirements or even anticipate them.
The third highlight is probably less visible to our customers: the development of our employees against the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic. Over the past few months, we have been working intensively on the topic of "error culture," have done workouts for this, and have begun to introduce retrospectives. A sometimes exhausting process for sure, but all our employees have followed suit and are now even more focused on the goal of becoming (or even remaining) Germany's best e-commerce hoster ;-)).
We have also identified the advantages of the home office as an opportunity and developed new working models. Our HR manager trained part-time to become a New Work Coach and, in parallel, developed a groundbreaking concept for hybrid working. In addition, we have placed a further focus on remote learning and, for example, offer extensive opportunities for further training - from the location of your choice - with our GoodHabitz learning platform. Why do we do all this? We are convinced that only satisfied employees can deliver good performance for our customers.
What are you particularly proud of this year?
We are particularly proud of the friendly way in which new employees are welcomed and accepted at our company, which enables them to settle in quickly and feel at home. The entire team has shown unprecedented cohesion over the past few months, working together again and again to meet the challenges.
As previously mentioned, such an immense increase in staff as we experienced in 2021 does not go entirely smoothly, but all of our colleagues have always ensured extremely high customer satisfaction despite the many changes and have grown from it.
What were the biggest challenges?
Even though it was one of the highlights of the past year, the immense growth in the past year was of course also one of the biggest challenges. The personnel development of maxcluster in the Corona environment is a mammoth task, but we have mastered it very well. It is great to see that despite all the restrictions and obstacles, all employees are pulling together to keep our goal of being "Germany's best e-commerce hoster" in mind.
Our service staff in particular had their work made more difficult by the general home office obligation. In some cases, customers could not be reached by phone or calls could not be assigned to the correct data because many callers were calling from the home office. As a company that places such a high value on personal communication and working in partnership with customers, this was sometimes a little frustrating.
Benno, as the head of the service department, was therefore naturally quickly challenged and this despite the fact that the change to maxcluster and thus also the conclusion of the previous position was definitely challenging. Getting accustomed, understanding processes and becoming effective in the company in the short term was a feat in itself, which was intensified by the pandemic-related circumstances.
One challenge that we have yet to master is certainly also that we need to react better and faster to unforeseeable events. The security threat "log4j" can be cited as an example here.
What were the biggest learnings in 2021?
Clearly, e-commerce continues to grow and apparently knows no boundaries. Corona is a catalyst that has accelerated the rapid changes in e-commerce.
However, we have also noticed that these unbelievable growth rates are now pushing agencies to their limits in terms of personnel. In some cases, new solutions cannot be implemented, or can only be implemented with a time delay. We try to support this with intelligent features so that projects can be run and completed even more efficiently.
We also try to find the right answers to the increasing uncertainty with regard to topics such as IT security and continuity, so that our customers can focus even more on their core business. In addition, in an increasingly complex e-commerce world, we reduce much of this complexity through user-friendly technologies.
As many of our customers rely on open source solutions and their sovereign data management, we feel vindicated to be even more active in our engagement with the open source ecosystem. Thanks to our many years of experience with the technologies, we can provide important impetus and add aspects here. We therefore support open source solutions not only with financial resources, but also increasingly with our know-how.
Which topics were in the focus of your customers?
We have noticed that Shopware 6 is becoming more and more established among developers in agencies. Magento 1, on the other hand, is, as predicted, increasingly on the retreat and is being replaced either by Magento 2 or also Shopware solutions. Of course, this trend also has some technical consequences, such as the use of Elasticsearch.
It is also clear that many customers are keeping an eye on Google Page Speed and the score of their site and are therefore paying even more attention to the performance of their online stores.
To our surprise, the topic of security is still rather subordinate. While we give this topic a very high priority, it is still rather unimportant for most customers. This makes it all the more difficult for us to provide support that goes beyond our capabilities, as many adjusting screws can only be tightened on the customer side. However, we assume that the increased number of "prominent" security threats such as log4j will make our customers more aware of protective measures.
Not surprisingly, of course, the pandemic has been particularly preoccupying for retailers. Dealing with constantly new Corona measures, but above all also disrupted logistics chains, uncertain demand, cost increases and consequently "incorrect" calculations, have complicated our customers' everyday lives.
What issues are on the agenda for the coming year?
As you would expect from us, we naturally have a number of technical topics on the list for 2022. We are currently in the process of modernizing our container technology. By modernizing, we want to increase not only performance, but also security.
Also, to support the latest server versions, we are preparing to deploy Ubuntu 22.04 LTS.
For the various projects and the new technologies, we will further strengthen our operational business with new employees. We will thus create capacity to implement even major changes in processes in an agile manner. In general, we want to significantly improve our innovation culture again this year. To this end, we have developed a technology radar and will appoint technology mentors who will focus intensively on specific topics.
As the number of employees increases, the corresponding structures and processes will naturally have to be further developed. We want to ensure that the induction process continues to run smoothly and that new colleagues quickly feel integrated and at ease. In addition, we will place greater emphasis on the development of specialist careers in personnel development and, if desired, give employees their own areas of responsibility.
And we say it every year, but it's simply in our corporate DNA: We want to deliver even better service to our customers. We want to understand even more what makes them tick, how we can support them, and how we can work together even more as partners. To do this, we rely on a 360 view of our customers to provide them with an optimal, high-quality service experience across all departments. The aim is to respond even more actively to customer needs, implement new consulting offerings and proactively address market changes.
Published 02.02.2022 | NM
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