maxcluster - the 2022 review
2022 was a special year for maxcluster. 10 years have passed since its foundation and the company has evolved from a university spin-off to an important player in the German hosting industry.
Managing directors Sebastian Ringel, Alexander Wilhelm and Benno Lippert have also in this anniversary year to review the past 12 months and a (now traditional) joint annual summary.
Has maxcluster grown in 2022?
Our anniversary year is also the year in which we hired more employees than ever before. With a 30% increase in new hires compared to the previous year, we have surpassed even the strong year of 2021. We have now cracked the 70-person mark, far, far exceeding the projections in our 2012 business plan.
We have made a particularly large number of new hires in the technical area and in customer service. This is not surprising, because the growth in the number of customers in 2021 and our claim to always deliver consistent service quality make it essential to hire more employees. And the required know-how in technologies is also increasing. With our wide range of technologies, this means that many people with specializations in different areas are needed. However, our desire for more employees also stems from the fact that we anticipated that there would be more cases of illness in families this year - and thus, of course, employees would be absent from day-to-day operations. Our aim was to be prepared for this in order to offer customers the good service they are used to.
We are very grateful that we receive more than 400 applications for the advertised positions - also due to increased regional awareness - so that we have the opportunity to find the employees who are right for us. In addition to professional competence, culture fit is a key recruitment criterion for us. We have found time and again that employees feel most at home and are most productive when their values are in line with our corporate values, such as a sense of responsibility and appreciation.
By the way, employee satisfaction is not a buzzword at our company, but a topic we are constantly working on. Of course, our benefits, such as sports courses and a job bike, increase satisfaction. However, we have noticed that professional perspectives, further development through internal measures, but also external training, are valued much more highly.
We would also like to mention our restaurant, which opened in January of this year and is something very special here at our site in Paderborn's Westend-Carré. We offer our employees here high-quality food made from organic products and support them in eating healthily.
Where was the focus in the "Human Resources" area?
We have already mentioned that employee satisfaction also goes hand in hand with the career prospects on offer. We have therefore introduced specialist careers in some departments, which allow employees to develop into specialists with greater responsibility and expanded know-how. The specialist careers thus offer employees concrete information on possible career paths at maxcluster and thus facilitate orientation.
Of course, orientation also occupies us in the onboarding of employees - a particular challenge given the high growth of the organization. But we simply want to make sure that each individual receives the right onboarding and the best possible training so that they can quickly take on their new tasks. (Not only) for this, processes had to - and still have to - be reconsidered again and again and adjusted where necessary.
These ongoing adjustments and, of course, the special challenges of working at a distance increasingly place new demands on our managers. Time and again, proven methods have to be adapted and new approaches taken. We naturally look to our managers for both professional competence and soft factors such as empathy, but we also try to support them through workshops and further training. Through team and department head meetings, we have formed a company-wide leadership coalition that offers support in everyday situations, but also in difficult decisions.
A few topics are rather personnel topics in the broadest sense, but their implementation has nevertheless been very important. For example, we have improved our project management and given our employees more training in these areas. Faster implementation, more efficient work and also higher motivation have been the positive consequences.
The formation of a Technology Advisory Board and the establishment of technology mentors is a personnel measure that can have a positive impact on the efficiency of our organization. Representatives from all technical departments constantly review (new) technologies, recognize risks and identify promising technologies. In this way, important new technologies could not only be implemented quickly, but the company-wide further development of existing technologies can also be driven forward.
What was the most important highlight for you in 2022?
There's no way we can name just one this year, there were simply too many special moments, projects and developments.
Let's start with the new products: We have expanded our product portfolio to include an e-commerce-related service and now offer our customers Akeneo hosting. Product management systems are now increasingly common in connection with online stores, and we wanted to increase reliable access to these applications through our hosting.
Reliability also plays an important role in the introduction of a new feature - available exclusively at maxcluster: ShopPerformance. Behind it are ten years of hosting experience and all the best practices that come with that experience. What makes this feature special? We enable our users to carry out a performance check of their online stores with just one click. Detailed recommendations for action help to make the necessary adjustments to guarantee faster loading times and a stable online store.
These innovations were made possible by the increase in the number of staff in our development department and the excellent interaction between the departments involved. As a result, we can adapt our e-commerce stack to user requirements more and more quickly and to integrate both external and internal ideas. After all, our goal has always been to make highly complicated technology easy and convenient to use.
But it's not just the product launches that we particularly remember. We also had some event highlights last year. Be it the first Deep Dive webinar we held or the first Shopware MeetUp we hosted. In addition to these new events, we were also able to sponsor the Shopware Unconf and the MageUnconf.
However, the event that probably left the biggest impression on everyone was the Shopware Community Day. Being one of the four main partners and therefore also an exhibitor motivated the whole maxcluster team to top performance. Within two months, we created an exhibition concept, with the first booth in maxcluster's history, and implemented it professionally - at least that's what the participants gave us as feedback ;-). In addition, we had to complete "ShopPerformance" and our new partner program much earlier than originally planned to be able to present interesting innovations to the visitors. But what was the real highlight for us in the end: We got the wonderful chance to get to know the Shopware community better and, above all, to get to know them personally.
The partner program that we presented for the first time at the SCD certainly also belongs in the "highlights" category. Of course, we have worked with partners before and have always appreciated this connection. However, our goal was to professionalize ourselves in this area, to enable a better exchange and to deepen the cooperation. We are obviously not alone in our desire for a sustainable partnership that includes added value for both parties: since the launch in the middle of the year, the number of partners who have opted for us has doubled.
And then there are highlight topics that customers are less aware of, but which are special to us. This year, for example, we hosted a maxcluster summer party at our new location for the first time and celebrated our 10th anniversary together with our families - from the afternoon until late at night :-).
Being together is always something special for us, which is why we value our restaurant so much, for example. Having lunch there always feels like a mini-team event because all kinds of people from the different departments sit at one table, eat and talk about private and professional matters. In our opinion, the intensive exchange in this closed, safe environment not only promotes health, but also the ability to innovate and the motivation of us and our employees.
What are you particularly proud of from 2022?
The list will probably be similarly long, as with the highlights, because it would be really hard to commit to just one topic there. By the way, we are also very proud of the highlights - but we won't repeat them here.
So what are we proud of? First and foremost - and we don't take this for granted - our employees. It was the high level of commitment and the naturalness with which they took on responsibility that made all the innovations in the past year possible in the first place. The entire team has shown unparalleled cohesion over the past months and has worked together again and again to meet challenges.
And sure, there have been some challenges, but we've been able to see how everyone is on fire for the business and the customer:s. And despite some adversity that sometimes comes with change, everyone has always ensured extremely high customer satisfaction.
And despite the sometimes heavy workload, new employees have been warmly welcomed and integrated immediately. We think that this "feel-good factor" also leads to the very good ratings on kununu - bearing the title "kununu Top Company" definitely makes us very, very proud. And while we're at it: Being voted one of the best employers for women by Brigitte? We had to put a few corks in it.
We are not only proud of our commitment to female employees, but also of the fact that we are now becoming interesting for experienced applicants and can offer them opportunities for development.
Our new corporate film and, of course, the recruiting film are virtually synonymous with these points: Many employees have stepped out of their comfort zone by going in front of a camera to represent maxcluster. This commitment to the company - as management, that can only make you proud. Not to mention, of course, that the film turned out great, and we are thrilled with how well it reflects the company.
What were the most enduring challenges?
Something that we are very proud of, but at the same time was one of our most enduring challenges in 2022, is the implementation of a CRM system. Anyone who has ever carried out such an implementation knows that you don't just install a piece of software and then everything is up and running. Processes had to be questioned and, if necessary, adapted, interfaces to existing systems programmed and employees trained. And all of this had to be done in parallel with day-to-day business, which depends on everything running smoothly. This was certainly an effort - and of course has not yet been completed - but it has brought us closer to our goal of gaining a better understanding of our customers and thus offering an even higher quality of service in the long term.
We've just gone over the requirements for the team around participation in Shopware Community Day. This was a fantastic opportunity and a great event, but also a big challenge in most departments. In the short preparation time, unplanned resources had to be freed up to work at full speed on this project. At the same time, however, ongoing projects could not be allowed to fall behind too much. We think what the team has achieved is really remarkable.
In this context, we should perhaps also mention that we, too, had to deal with an increasing number of absences due to illness. Under these conditions, providing consistently good customer service and completing projects on schedule has sometimes pushed our entire management team to the limits in terms of planning and organization.
Nor should we underestimate what we have already mentioned in the previous questions: the large number of new colleagues, the increased demands on our managers, new roles and also new responsibilities. All of these personnel issues placed enormous demands on our team and were therefore naturally a challenge for the entire company. However, we mastered them through improved organizational and process structures, a people-centric employee experience and transparent communication.
All in all, 2022 was an extraordinary year with many challenges, but we mastered them with the team and grew from them once again.
What were the biggest learnings in 2022?
Not really a new learning, but one that is confirmed again and again: Software implementations are always complex, run differently than planned, and pose unexpected challenges. Discarding learned behavior and thinking in terms of new processes is always demanding and requires everyone's commitment. After ten years of experience in this area, we can confirm this again.
Which topics were the focus of your customers?
Our customers are online stores and agencies that develop online stores. Of course, they have had to deal with the "typical" problems: disrupted or even dissolved supply chains, uncertain forecasting situations, price increases and, as a result, sometimes significant cost reductions, and so on. "How do I secure my inventory and how do I continue to remain viable?" was therefore the focus of business relationships for many customers. For this reason, we have deliberately refrained from raising prices so as not to be an additional burden.
Another important topic that was discussed again and again in customer meetings is the sovereign storage of data. This is probably one of the reasons why open source solutions are so successful in Germany. Many of our customers therefore rely on open source solutions, and we feel this confirms our commitment to expanding our involvement in this area even further. In our opinion, our many years of experience with these technologies - on which our business model is also based - enable us to provide important impetus and add many aspects. By the way, this is also a reason why we support the open source ecosystem not only with financial means, but also increasingly with our know-how.
Which topics are coming up in the coming year?
We want to take the feedback and requirements of our customers into account and position ourselves even more broadly in the area of e-commerce. Last year we already started with Akeneo hosting, because at first glance Akeneo is not necessarily part of the e-commerce landscape. We're probably not giving too much away when we already hold out the prospect that Pimcore users will also be able to access our performance hosting this year.
As we did last year, we will be taking a detailed look at important open source solutions, adding them to our product portfolio and thus expanding our range of services. Of course, our goal is always to increase performance, stability and availability and to support our customers in automating recurring online store tasks.
Of course, we will continue to modernize our e-commerce stack on an ongoing basis in order to operate even closer to the needs of our customers and the market. And speaking of modernity: As we already revealed in a small sneak peek in December, we will make our user interface in the Application Center - and successively in the other areas as well, of course - even more modern and, above all, even more user-friendly.
Published on 01.01.2023 | NM
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