What's it like starting a digital agency and managing multiple software products?
Dermot O'Shea (Founder) and Peter Delaney (Director pf Product) join me to talk about Wondr.io
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In this episode, I talked to Dermot and Peter of Wondr - WONDR.IO. They’re a digital agency. They believe they have a slightly different philosophy than most digital agencies. Dermot founded Wondr, I believe it was seven years ago. And Peter is the director of product. It was a really interesting discussion, seeing a number of challenges and successes that Dermot experienced from founding Wondr. And Peter has some interesting ideas on how he manages multiple products from different clients. I hope you enjoy.
Dave: Hello and welcome to the podcast. I’m your host, Dave Albert. In this show. I talk about technology, building a company as a CTO and co-founder and have guests to discuss their roles in technology and entrepreneurship.
Today we’re joined by Dermot O’Shea and Peter Delaney. Dermot is the founder of Wondr and Peter is the director of product. That’s wondr.io. Thanks for joining me, guys.
Dermot and Peter: No problem, Dave. Thanks.
Dave: Dermot could you tell us a little bit about yourself and starting wonder?
Dermot: Wondr, yeah. I supposed Wondr, we’re both into our a six-year in business. And I myself have walked in branding and digital design. I have been around since the days of flash. Maybe people listen to this if you’re old enough and as ugly enough, as I am. You might remember Macromedia director and a free end. I started to promote and come up with a design that was the thing we used. Flash kind of opened my eyes to the way to experience this could be done for the future and not everything had to be in print.
So I think I started out being inspired like everybody else using the FWA as inspirations for the future of web experiences getting inspired by people like the North-kingdom, Fantasy, and other companies that came off of that era. They are now the big guys that we still aspire to be I supposed. And I’ve been true good running agencies, I’d walked in global brand new, it’s called brand union specializes in kind of large rebrand, so maybe one Southern Irish people might be familiar with this. The GA would re-branded about eight or nine. And that would have been a project I’ve worked on ironically with our creative director who still works with me today here in Wondr, Arsene Hurst.
And we rebranded our organization from top to bottom, everything from sponsorship, true to the digital experience. Sorry, true to Stadium, packed indoor shebang, the kit, and caboodle. So I suppose even if you’re driving into clarity today, or you’re going up to Sligo, you’re going to see that war that wore embedded even on people’s skins as tattoos, everything so it’s completely mixed into the social fabric environment. And it’s very proud to able to maybe look back at that work and say, you were a small part of it.
From then on, went into, like bigger agencies wanted to specialize just in digital, I understood which way the world was turning. For me, once I enjoy the brand, digital is where it was after me. So I joined a larger company, walk through there, walk through lots of you know, e-commerce projects, lots of large launches, lots of tourism stuff. Some of the stuff people might recognize what for a file share, or for Google, all that kind of stuff, the usual stuff anybody that’s walked in a half-decent network agency can come out the other side, say, yeah, I’ve got projects I’m proud of, they’re cool.
But I realized that model was broken, or what I would describe, and it’s probably the languages still around here today that there’s digital transformation happening, or disruption. And I would say to anybody that’s lived through it. There’s no such thing as integration, there’s disintegration. So when two companies come together, particularly in advertising, where you have a culture of traditional meets digital, what you end up is a duplication of roles. And that leads to the source of tension that disintegrates the culture of the agency.
And that was pretty much my experience. So I decided there was no point being in a company that would like to pretend it’ll do everything from the court or boardroom strategy, true to your ad, true to Radio Ad, true to that thing called the digital thing the digitally-digitally. You know, the thing that goes on the internet, yeah. So I felt we needed to move from being places are treated digital, like an inventory fulfillment something that actually drove a whole organization forward.
Most people’s first experience of brands today is the digital one. It’s not a business carrot. So basically, that kind of, I suppose springboard, I mean, to take any sort out an organization that would be built from the ground up by creative people. And no departments, no Client Services, no focus on revenue, but focused on doing work that you’re proud of. And that’s how Wondr got started, basically. So Wondr’s, philosophy is to stay to his niche and it’ss niche, I would say, is understanding how organizations use digital to actually make their business improve.
So we can use all the fluffy language we like, okay, yeah, of course, we’re doing digital strategy. Of course, we’re doing UX design. Of course, we’re doing UI, we’re doing MVP definition. We’re doing development on car services, companies that contest that want to sell the partnership, a lot of our, if you will Dave, signature clients have been x agency, or have been around long enough in the industry. They’ve seen every circle of truth come back and around. Yeah, and what they’re looking for is people that know the stuff and there’s no layer of and I don’t know I swear on your podcast will keep this very PC. No layer of mystery.
I just read it shorter, probably gone on a very long roundabout here to explain was maybe previous iterations of agencies might have created complexity, because there’s money in creating complexity because you get to manage it. We take away complexity. And that’s why a whole proposition around clarity and bravery. So clarity is just making sure you actually understand what it is everybody wants. And depending what your skillset, if you’re a UX, UI or developer, that can mean a different thing.
In UX, it’s defining the KPIs personas, developers, defining the epics, the stories and all the details of the technology. And that’s like energy put into the editing is bravery. It’s interesting to see not many people would use those words and drove to Korea. I suppose leadership always comes from the top, I’ve always been brave and not frightened to say, this is the wrong way to go. So if a client wants to come to us in the morning, say, I want you to build this thing, 50,000 euro.
And I don’t think it’s the right thing for your business. I won’t take your 50 grand, I wish you the very best of luck. And I might send you off to someone that might like that work and wish you well, yeah. So we’re not frightened to make brave choices. Sometimes in the middle of projects, Hey, guys, you really need to trust us and go this way. Because if you do, we’re going to have a percentage uplift in sales are, I guarantee you this is gonna happen. So that’s pretty much I hope that kind of captures the philosophy maybe of Wondr. That was a long rant for me.
Peter: That’s a very long story, my friend,
Dermot: Yeah, we went in a very long way. Sorry we went all the way and we never come back with that one.
Peter: I suppose I’ll start off myself. I started off in believer enough video games doing graphical HUDs, user interfaces, coding, and UX and UI, as we call it now. Back in the day, we were just called developers. From there, one day, I was asked, going to do an actual project for the internet. And this was new, let’s just say, at the time for, especially for this kind of ours went in there, ended up loving it. Because it was so many different languages with so many different new tools I was learning.
From there, it kind of spanned out into being a full stack developer. And then from that, I learned the magical world of product, when product searches and start to be introduced into the natural environment. I just excelled in that kind of front, came in here. I basically came in here because of the clarity and bravery does, Dermot was talking about. Where basically we bring everything from the very start with clients all the way through to deployment and believe it or not continuous development.
With these our staff clarity, we share everything with them, we make them understand. And then the bravery is we don’t push it around things. We try to make sure that we don’t waste anything. And we always do it in the best manner for the actual clients as well.
Dermot: I’d say long shot with honesty really is a rare thing. I know people say the honesty doesn’t pay in business, but it does. If you do good work. More good work will follow and money will work itself out in the end. That’s kind of the philosophy that we have.
Dave: Yeah, absolutely. Just a reminder, try not to bang the table. I thought I’ll do this if it because it’s just I can hear it. That’s the reason. Okay. Thank you. Just make a note of the second cut to split out 8:40. Alright, great. That was interesting to hear how that got started. Peter, did you always want to start at sorry, Dermot? Did you always want to start your own place? Or did it just you had to solve that problem for yourself of it not existing?
Dermot: Yeah, I think anyone, I suppose everyone has their own paths and all the rest of it, but you have it in you, you either know how to lead or you want to follow. And some people like the idea that they can say they know the solution. It’s the noblest thing to be the person who steps forward and puts their whole life little down the line to say that actually, I know I can. And I’m going to show it I can. So I suppose I always had that built into me. Would I say that I would have expected it happened so quickly?
Yeah, who could have done it sooner in my career, for sure? Could I have just taken a nice cushy job in a big tech company for 200-250 grand a year? For sure. But I decided to go a different path. And I felt it’d be great to look back and a copy of time and be proud of the work that you’ve done. I think when we look back at the projects that we’ve done now, especially as we look back at five years in, and we’re incredibly proud of the quality, and the standards and actually how we’ve gone from maybe this using my Rolodex, the context that would, I would have built up true networks to getting a water mouse reputation.
Wondr doesn’t do advertising, Wondr doesn’t do promotion, we don’t enter into local awards, we only concentrate on everything looking outside of Ireland’s because we’re in a much bigger world. And our philosophy is if you do good work, people will naturally come to you. It’s what I call like a lighthouse identity. So people that understand, come to you and people you don’t it almost acts like a filter to say okay, so if you come into me asking me, don’t how do I get that PDF you sent me out of my browser? It’s in, it’s on the internet.
Yeah, that’s usually a good filter on the person going just talk me through again, how does the website work. Our identity kind of filters those people else do you get me so and it attracts the right level who’ve been there and done it. They don’t need an education. We’re not spending time explaining why mobile works or social media work. Yeah. What’s the importance of user research? They get it, yeah. So we’re at a more advanced stage with people saying, I have a much bigger question to solve here. I’m trying to reinvent insurance for the future or I have a particular sale, so how do we get there? And the kind of questions we’re trying to answer.
Peter: Like, it’s actually funny. Sometimes we forget, we’ve potential clients coming in and going, Oh, my God, I can’t believe you did that work, whenever it was, and so forth. And we’d be looking at them going, Oh, my God, we actually did that. But we actually totally forgot. We never publicize about the work that we actually do. We just get it out there, get it done. We think about it later, when it actually starts to slow down. We’re like, take a breather.
When clients come in, and from word of mouth that we’ve actually done this work. And they come to us because of the lighthouse factor. It’s amazing. And sometimes, as Dermot says, we filter out people based on like, for instance, not being able to join a comms call is a big no-no for me, boss. Unfortunately, sometimes that happens. Both when they come in, we can talk to him on a certain level. So we can talk at the desk, speak and talk about the marketing speak, we can talk about the empty speak, we can talk to see you speak as well
Dave: That’s interesting. Good. So but having that higher barrier of entry for clients, you spend less time educating them and less money, having people who can hold hands and have more time creating great quality. That’s, that’s really interesting.
Dermot: Yeah. And it’s not easy to get there either Dave and just to build on something Pete was saying. And I think I alluded to himself, sometimes the painter’s house is the last house be painted. And anyone listening here that has their own small agency, medium or large, will always tell you that you just never get time to look back at your own brand, and crafters. And a lot of the brands and agency networks that are really famous are the ones that have done that. And often you see people winning awards, or whatever.
And you might say actually, our work is even better. But the because you never spent the time to give the love it deserves to pause package it. So when we walk, you know, we’re trying to walk to a model now of like, how do we close the job down? There’s almost a checklist of all the tasks that you need to do. And one of those is okay, how do you prepare the case study? how that’s going to be distributed?
Who needs to read it? Why didn’t you need to read it? You need to read in, what’s the killer point that appeals to the CEO versus the head of the product or the head of e-commerce? So it gets all of our guys thinking about the job is never over. It’s always ongoing, yeah. So I would assume Dave, for yourselves. It’s the same. Working on your own reputation. Your own brand is never easy.
Dave: Oh, absolutely. It’s a, we’re never 100% happy with our own website. You know because
Peter: Yeah, that’s always true.
Dave: It’s you know, we’re just, it’s, we can either spend time on the product or the website. And we get so few new users directly from the website at the moment. Although if we’d spent more time maybe we would get more. But you know, making sure that that first experience in the product and the continued experience is is as good as possible. That’s the most important thing for us right now. But yeah, there’s always some area where you feel bad about wish we could spend more time over there.
Peter: Looks like, you need to review websites and good KPIs and see what happens. It’s one thing that we always try to validate as well, even before we go into discovery or inception phase of a natural product. KPIs have to be the most important thing we’ve got week sometimes get some people coming in and just going, I want to have this. And then you talk them talk to it, you end up writing things on walls and kind of going okay.
But this has no value whatsoever. So there’s no point doing this, but I still want it. But then later, after continuously talking about KPIs, making an MVP, and so forth, the end of realizing that, again, we’re here to make sure that particular product works, and can actually bring back value, especially on what you’re actually developing. And of course.
Dermot: And he said some of the ideas that go into the infamous Phase 2 that we never seem to get to.
Peter: The infamous Phase 2. Believe it or not, I even have the Phase 1.B this week, yeah. It can happen that way.
Dermot: There’s a story as we attending at the moment Dave, go in and maybe it’s not to sound cynical or old. But when you’re in a business speaking meeting, sometimes back in the day, someone said, that’s off-brand that’s called for I don’t like it. I’m jealous. My colleagues doing it, and I’m not. Are it’s gonna affect the SEO ranking, absolute nonsense, or that’s how it’s called.
Peter: I better talk to my GDPR or Officer.
Dermot: I think it’s a new one. Yeah, that’ll affect GDPR. And you’d be like, Okay great. So, like, Phase 2, GDPR, brands. Yeah, we’ve seen it all. As soon as you have Dave. Yeah. DO you need to add any differences in America?
Dave: Well, that’s I’ve been here 11 years. So yeah, I consider myself more Irish than American anymore. You know, it’s, we’ve had all our kids here that’s, started the company here. I haven’t been back to the States since my eight-year-old was under a year. So it’s been a long time.
Dermot: Well, I was kind of impressed. Because just before we started this, we were talking about what do we call runners and you agreed by the end that they’re not sneakers, they’re runners.
Dave: Or just shoes.
Dermot: Oh. Let me ask you a question. Like, with your particular products, the infamous backlog. Do you ever have things like, get deleted from the backlog? Do you actually make a decision not to go? Ah, this is not actually not needed? It’s only worth two story points. It’s only two-story parts, who cares, right? Does it actually gets removed? Do people actually realize that the backlog is not there as a being, it’s actually there for validation?
Dave: Yes, we do delete some tasks from JIRA. We don’t necessarily actively go back through and try to remove things. But as we get down through certain elements, like, that doesn’t make sense anymore. Let’s delete that. Or if we go in search of a specific thing because we’re working on it. And it’s obviously not even an element is in the app anymore. It’s time to remove that. But there’s, I would not say that our process for maintaining the backlog and the sprints, and the stories aren’t necessarily optimal. But part of that is trying to be a half PO, half Scrum Master, half tech lead, 80% of the ops team. On top all that.
Peter: And QA as well.
Dave: Yeah, and I read through pretty much every pull request that comes through. So I spend so much time on that, that it seems like just I kind of let the job work. And it probably shouldn’t. But also, we are making progress. I wonder if we might make faster progress if but PO is definitely something on the list, someone to make sure that we’re working on the right things. Obviously, our CEO would be a great person because she has all the knowledge of our customers and our users. But she’s very busy, very busy. So there’s no chance that we’re going to get her to be digging through our backlog, consistently. She may find a pocket time and dig through things. But then, yeah, what you think is a priority today is going to change somewhat in three weeks
Peter: To continuously evolve.
Dave: Yeah, and it has to otherwise, what are you doing?
Peter: It’ll be stale?
Dave: Yeah, exactly. So I’m always trying to create, not create but follow new processes, without adding bureaucracy, and it’s a weird balance that I can’t say that I have succeeded at so far.
Dermot: But that’s the issue with scaling, yeah? So you have an extremely talented lady in charge of your organization that knows the industry well, but she now has to be replicated. So until we’ve found a way to clone these people, you have to onboard new people, and boarding new people, it takes many people to onboard the one person so I often talk to people, they go, Oh, we need to add more people, instead of just one, you might want to add lots of people. And then to your point, you have to build a process. So you don’t dilute your offering and the quality doesn’t suffer.
So anyone listening just as large as it will recognize this as you scale. It’s maintaining the quality and the intention and the truth that you’ve always have tried to have in your company. And that’s something actually interesting in Wondr, we’ve had that challenge. And I don’t mind sharing with people that maybe we’ve had opportunities to scale many times our size. And we decided not to because I was worried about the implications for the culture of the business. And we spend a lot more time on our culture because we internalize it before we externalize it.
And we’re just reaching a point now where we feel our processes much more secure, we’re at least have the self-awareness to understand that they need to be in constant flux and change to evolve them as things adapt. And we’re looking forward. Now as we grow and expand over the next couple of months and adding additional team members, we’re confident now that we’re going to be growing with quantity, and not just adding people and then one of the wheels gonna come off. Yeah. So maybe you recognize that in your own scenario, yeah?
Dave: Is there anything specific you do to maintain culture as you add people? Is it just you keeping your eye on it? Or is it just integrating it within the rest of the day?
Dermot: Well, the truth is, and if you’ve got founders in your business, you know, they carry a lot of different skills that they’ve had to learn, they carry a lot of different ways. And what happens sometimes is they almost feel like they have to have too much ownership and everything. And the trick for businesses scale is for that particular founder to let go. And I don’t mean to lack or the quality or the intention, what the trends deliver, but to start to trust people more, and actually, understand that sometimes those people might fail, but they have to fail in order to grow.
And people are maybe founders at the moment is the biggest thing, are you willing to let go and trust the other people to step up? And that’s the big change that we made here in Wondr that we the centralized control of particular decision making, and that’s why people like Peter are incredibly important, or Emily are rushing to step up and say, Okay, well, I’ve got this, I own it, I understand the intention and the values you’ve set. And now I’m going to try around and make it better from here. And that’s basically how we’ve done it.
So it’s been a much slower process for us because we’ve done it organically by a project by project. And each project, taking the learnings after we do the post mortem on it to apply it to the next and evolve from there. And rather than just saying, Okay, let’s just take those 20 extra projects, and just will bring in a squad of people and roll with it. So it’s a bit lower to scale. But I’m happier with the quality of which we’re scaling. Does that make sense?
Dave: It does. Yeah, it’s good.
Peter: Oh, I was just going to add to that like, as he was saying, You can’t just add one person when you add one person, what are they gonna do? They can do, one person can’t do anything. So you have to have a squad on. So I keep on going back to the Agile stuff post. If you add another team, that’s six people, let’s just say, right? That six people that need our projects, which means to need to have a leader on top of that, which means they have to trust that leader to make sure that they can validate the project correctly, to bring everything true, and everything runs smoothly.
We do have the tasks in here done. Because we’re all here, we all talk to each other, we always have conversations, we always make sure that we can always give our information freely. To make sure each particular project works in the exact same manner, or methodologies have been nicely concrete now and patted down that we have to trust in the people that are leading to be able to go through each particular phase of product or development cycle. And in the end, it comes out with the same model. So it does build on a trust factor and adult build on the actual company itself.
Dermot: It’s funny when we’ve done. You just talked about doing agency websites from my sins. I have worked on 15 agency websites in my career, and anyone that’s worked on the internal agency project will know how incredibly painful those projects are. Right? And one of the things that we learned with our last site, which again, we’re not happy with, and people come to me go, geez, I love your website, and I go, it’s actually a banger. She’s good. Okay, lovely. Nice. Where you would see what’s coming next.
So every time you finish you like it’s not finished, and you keep going. But we’ve done a lot of user testing, it’s been interesting to get the feedback from clients and also get, you know, maybe positive reinforcement for some of the stuff that Peter’s talking about. And trust, trust comes back a lot with Wondr clients. And particularly, I think a statement, one of our key clients is a pain. We’re almost like the anti agency. And that’s been kind of a nice reinforcement of the stuff that we’re doing, which is when just chasing your money, we want to do good projects with you. And we only do well if you do well as our clients. So that’s kind of how the patches been based on, yeah.
Dave: So when you were talking back about adding people and how that can impact the speed of which things get done. It’s I remember back to when we added our first developers. And I’ve given some time estimates, which I’m notoriously bad at which I don’t think anybody’s going to affect. But at I guess I’d given time for some feature set to be developed. And then we added to people because we had two different guys working with this the time I trade a time that actually is all well. And Julie said, so it’ll be done in a third of the time. No, no, it’ll take three times longer now, because of the difference in the communication, the time that I would have had had to go into onboarding people. So those first hires will negatively impact your speed for at least a month. If not, longer.
Dermot: I’ll go longer. I do ofter people come into Wondr and I’ve seen this as an agency is having to deal with training people in and I don’t mean to speak ill of the bigger network ages, because some of them are amazing. But maybe some the lesser ones might expect me to join on a Monday morning and just pick it up and go. And then they just give them five, six projects and go walk it out yourself. And if you’re drowning, there’s a lifeboat over there or the exits there. Yeah. Throw like, in Wondr what we’ve tried to do is when people join, they go through an extensive onboarding process before they’re even allowed to touch a project.
And depending on the skill base, particularly UX, because that’s the area of interest, I have seen, anyone that comes into Wondr is made automatic to work in e-commerce projects. And the reason I make people work in e-commerce projects are that there is no room for messing around and e-commerce projects if you messed up you’re fired. Like, whereas maybe some of the corporate clients, you can just make a big brochure website, and it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t work or it doesn’t work. With e-commerce, you got to show results.
Get people working on projects because they learned the basics. And I often say to clients may be in insurance or energy or stuff that a lot of them are still playing catch up with stuff we’ve been doing e-commerce for over a decade now. And a lot of stuff that we end up doing what they consider advancements are just the basics of what we do in e-commerce. So that’s why we’re trying UX particularly get people into those areas to make it more how it knows that the understand that extreme. Yeah.
And on the other side, then when they joined, we tend to give them then what we call, laddie their web, which is my word for creating beautiful web experiences, right? Because in a lot of HD steam, mice pressure just to keep those projects coming in turning, we’re here in Wondr we try to get one or two things projects a year that we can be proud of that gets submitted to Awwwards, CSS Design Awards, all those platforms that inspire us. So that we’ll contribute and give me some back to the community.
So you probably would have seen this year day, we walked on the website of the Year awards in collaboration with the CSS Design Awards, which is kind of a global portal for the best class web work reviewed by designers themselves, okay? And to get on that jury, you have to actually have one. So it’s the standard is fairly high. Same way with Awwwards and FWA. And thoroughly enjoyable project. So if anyone’s has looked, if you go to CSS Design Awards and go to warty 2018, you’ll get to see an example of what I mean by just creating something beautiful that, again, tries to make the internet more of a fun place, because it’s very easy to be not so fun like Twitter.
Dave: No doubt. That’s why I haven’t been on Facebook in two months now.
Peter: Two months was, been about five years?
Dermot: We’re of a Bebo generation, we’ve been around. Just bought lads, it’s been bought.
Dave: So many of the people, you know, from my youth and family are way back in the States. So Facebook was the way I was able to keep up with them. But it just got to be where it wasn’t even worth that. So yeah, we’ll see what happens with political climate over the next few months, years, whatever.
Dermot: Yeah, I think it’s a good mandate of the book is describing Gary Vee and still saying I mean, I do like a particular statement, he always says that. It’s very easy to be negative. And actually, the more people that can be more upbeat and positive about what’s happening, can hopefully one day counterbalance the other extreme. So obviously, like, it’s very interesting, when people come to apply for jobs in Wondr’s, the first thing I check, I check your social profiles. Are you tweeting anything crazy about something? Because if you are, that doesn’t show much restraint to me.
And I’d rather people data, focusing on passion and interest, the same way as like, for, see for himself. For if you see when I tweeted about it’s always about technology particular moment, facial recognition technology does break-in Japan. It’s just absolutely amazing, and how insane it is. And again, like that’s the stuff that I meant to at least it’s not just ranting about something that happened on some TV show or like, making an opinion or a statement about people. It’s just, I think there’s a lot of what Gary Vee says, and in his own race, he probably gets a backlash now because he’s a guy who trying to, you know, change the way people think about stuff. But for me, I find him. Very interesting, very inspiring guy.
Dave: So, Peter, the KPIs you were talking about before? I’m sure there are definitely specifics for each instance. But are there any common ones that you, you often have to introduce to the clients?
Peter: So like, usually, I know sounds extremely strange. But usually, clients don’t come in with actual targets or anything got to with the actual product. So or let’s just say in this case, we end up having to sit them down to go, right. So how many people do you actually need to guess to make this product fails? They’re like, there’s no How much money do I have to spend to make it into a product. And then it kind of works around that way.
Sometimes, because we know so much about the funding system of e-commerce, we can straight out of the park, see what your targets should be. And we often pause ourselves on the line saying that, but we do validate in the end, because we were always true to our troops. That’s what the clarity and the bravery power tools. So sometimes that could be right you want 14% conversion rate, Grant will give you that, make it as a target put, make sure that everything that you’re trying to do for your first MVP is coherent to that particular KPI.
We’ve had an interesting one where a KPI came in where it could save 20 million for someone. And that’s a massive KPI that they didn’t even think about until they could see it written down and realized, like, okay, we have to do this straight away, everything gets validated because of that particular KPI. So like it can make or break an actual product.
Dermot: So like that. And just to give more context, what Pete saying is that sometimes clients just so busy, stuck in meetings all day, in fairness, like a lot of our clients not have time to do to work, plenty of time for meetings, no time to do the work from the meetings. So it’s a vicious cycle. And as Pete says, Come in, sometimes they help write their business case and help them see the world from the trees.
And that’s where we spend most of I’m of the staff trying to walk that out before we go anywhere near sketching, or getting into any sort of prototyping or concept or whatever. incredibly important phase because it helps set the focus and it moves it from the subjective sometimes into a more targeted approach. And again, it allows us to kind of flows what away any of the silly emotional stuff that my common projects sometimes with people, because you’re always bringing it back to what KPI was set.
Peter: That is one thing that I will always say there’s always emotions tied into the start for the project, especially with people who come in and say that they’re the product owner of their project, but they’re not actually an order of anything. They’re just there for a particular reason. So they’re a stakeholder. And the emotions can be tied down to the particular projects. So when you do it validated a KPI it becomes a target as it becomes more of businesses trying to take away the emotion from the business is one of the key factors for that particular I would like to call it so accelerator. I don’t know why people call it.
Dermot: Anyway diplomacy, true design.
Dermot: Exactly. So look we did everything, I suppose they help Pete’s as well sometimes in projects is we do a lot of user testing. Particularly anyone that’s a UX designer understands what we do sometimes in clients budget, the first thing they want to cut is user testing. Or they want to scale back and Gosh, I got this or should I spoke to my aunt or Johnny down the road is great. And should he’ll just test it for me. And it’s amazing how many times will even if that client has cut the budget on us, we’ll do the user testing ourselves in a way in order to help with the project.
Again, that comes back to because we’re a smaller business will make them choices, because it’s in the interest of everybody in the end that we do it. And it doesn’t necessarily mean we get paid one iota for it. But ba`sically, it makes us and gives us the confidence that yes, this works and should look, as you know, 89% of the time you do user testing in UX, it’s copy means some people try to UX copy means when it can just be written. So like anyone that’s been through that world might recognize what I’m talking about there. But yeah, so as Pete says, setting the business case, but also not being frightened to push actual real users feedback as the way to go. Yeah,
Peter: That is one thing I would say, yeah. Separating the user testing of UX, versus the marketing talk, or the name of the product is key as well. So you can always validate user testing and make sure that the funnel and the KPI will be met. For if your product is totally wrong in the first place, from a marketing perspective, it will fail. And we have to kind of separate those two things as well. So we do have testing of all sectors.
Dave: How many of the projects that you work on are more waterfall, where you know what’s going to be involved beforehand, and how many are where you can actually use some value judgments on.
Peter: So currently, at the moment, it’s about 70/30. So 70 in the Agile speed. Sometimes we have to work in Agile going from UX/UI dev all together. Sometimes we have to do UX and UI together and then go into Dev, which is kind of like a waterfall. And then sometimes we have to teardrop, which is a kind of a term, I’ve kind of put together where we have to do like maybe two or three days it is within their sprint to fit their model.
So we’re, I hate using the word agile, but we’re very flexible, in which way we can work for any particular client. Because again, we’re not intrusive, we’re not trying to change their processes, we’re trying to think in a way, to make them a little bit more educated on what they’re actually doing from a UXUI product-led environment. But we’re not trying to change your internal processes. Okay, so, again, sometimes clients go, or we have our own internal dev team, but we want you to do the front end development, we will, okay will change your model and fit that particular model. That’s fine, just as long as we can all come to an agreement of how the delivery will be given, and so forth. And we work with us.
Dermot: Yeah, I suppose Dave, like you have seen, especially in pharma sectors, maybe but a lot of internal teams sometimes come to us, because when we’re doing digital projects, it’s not actually about the project. It’s about HR and human issues. So a lot of times, particularly digital transformation, this word that’s a buzzword at the moment, really, it’s all about people management, and the end output of platforms or websites, or apps, or whatever it is, the HC panel does. That’s just the after time, really.
I think the role of fixing how people walk in turns is sometimes our biggest challenge, making sure that we have corresponding skill sets that can really interface with which I’m sure you recognize with taking everything with agile, as much as we love its methodology and maybe be safe, safe pizza, we borrow bits and bits from design thinking design, Sprint, have them mash them up. And that’s how we’ve evolved.
But how many businesses out there can really say that they said they’re doing agile, but it’s sometimes it’s just an excuse for they were never written anything down in the first place. And they’ve just ended up somewhere. But now they’re working, agile? Yeah. Or sometimes they’ve gone agile, but they actually don’t know how to finish point is, where they are. So like, I think there’s a lot of things yet to be I know agile sure will be hit with the next wave of terminology is what it is we’re doing next in what points at you next year.
Peter: God only knows. But let’s be honest
Dave: That’s I mean, that’s as a CTO, I find that to be the hardest part of everything, actually solving technical issues, take some time and some but you can always get there. But fixing the process is just, it’s something I can’t, I can’t seem to make it work, right.
Peter: It has to be built for your copier has to because it’s always changing. Like, again, if you expand and you have to get another team in, you have to change your model again, because you’re going to end up having two growing sessions, three growing sessions to be a new team and all this kind of stuff. It has to evolve to fit your particular product, regardless of your teams and your skill sets. It always has to be your own custom variant of it.
Dave: And then if you think about, if you take a two-week sprint, how many two weeks look like the previous two weeks? Where, did somebody get sick? Did somebody go on holidays? Did somebody get pulled into a meeting they weren’t expecting that you have so much I’ve lost the word?
Dave: Variance, yeah. The stuff that you don’t know what’s unpredictability, that was what I was looking.
Peter: Yeah like I always try on the second Wednesday of every sprint is my cooldown. I always try to have my cooldown on Wednesday because it never happens that way. There’s always some kind of QA that needs to be fixed or something has to come in to make sure works or to user acceptance test has been passed. And it expands out into Thursday, and sometimes into Friday morning and you’re like, oh God, we’re not going to finish. But you have to, it has to change.
Dave: Dermot, when you started obviously there’s a period where things go well, things going not too well. Has it stabilized? And if so, when? When did that happen?
Dermot: Yeah, you mean in terms of Wondr’s in business? I supposed Wondr is privately financed. So when we started Wondr, we were offered different mechanism, maybe people wanted Wondr to be part of their group environment. And the people want to just be silent investors as they stay. And I suppose when I was starting wondr, one of the first things is I went to speak to many men and women who’ve been there before because you think you’re special and you’re new, or you’re doing it differently no you’re not. This has been done before, it was just a different technology and different level of speaking.
So, I ended up talking to a lot of people that have been in the brand world and in architecture because they had gone through similar experiences where some of the business had scaled up to be quite large and in break back into specialisms. And if you will Wondr is more like niche, boutique offering than it will ever be a mass will do anything for your money type of thing. So, the first couple of years, we never borrowed a penny never had an overdraft. I’ve always made a profit. And the reason we’ve done that is always by not scaling too fast as you end up with pressure points that you end up then having to take projects that aren’t true, true to the spirit of what you’re trying to achieve.
And then that if you do that you can get into a vicious cycle, and then you end up like everywhere else. So, in short, how long did it take. I would say the first two years was to get to a particular point where we added a number of extra employees. For anyone that’s out there, that’s maybe four or five years in the fifth year tends to be that tipping point where all the hard work those 300 hours a month that you’ve been doing for three or four years started to pay dividends where you have such a bank of work.
And there’s so much organic composition happening around you that phone calls and I were trying to ring. So now I’ve got not just one bank, two banks ring me looking for the same project. How did you find out about me? I don’t know for sure. I don’t do promotion, don’t do anything. But it’s just organically happening. So, I’d say now we’re starting to feel the some of the benefits of the first couple years. Yeah.
Dave: What would you have done differently if you had the opportunity to go back in time?
Dermot: This thing that even in the advisory board meeting that I had on Friday, that was the number one topic, I will spend even more time on internal culture. I spent a massive amount of time on that. Regardless of the space that we’ve been in, I’ve always invested in trying to make the environment for people comfortable or at least seem something a bit different. Some of us have been in places where the reception looks nice to get past reception. And then there’s one with headphones on walking
Dave: Shoulder to shoulder
Dermot: Yeah, here we’ve tried to create an environment that feels like a nice space to walk in, is in a good location. They can just walk out get coffee, go for noodles, do whatever they interested in or even do shopping like Pete does every Friday. Shopping every Fridays, do you ever think that I would have done more of anything, I think I’ve probably said too many times already is invested even more in our brand. So, I would have gone at the start even harder on some of the things around how we package our story and our philosophy. And I’m only ramping that back up now. And but I would have probably not eased off the gas, so to speak on that work. Whereas you kind of get pulled back into the engine, you’re walking on UX flows, you’re in meetings, you work with piece and stuff and you forget that stuff, stuff to areas. So, I haven’t done it even more on internal culture. And I probably would have kept pedaling on full speed on my own brand promotion of Wondr. How’s that?
Dave: Yeah, that makes sense. Peter, what sorts of things have you learned, like, what’s the biggest thing you’ve learned as a director of product that you didn’t realize beforehand?
Peter: It’s taken a person out. It’s not me, I’m not me, as let just says I have to be each individual product, I have to be not a human if you want to put it in that sense. I’ve spent a lot of time comments as a factor does. Okay, I’m going to be this particular product and that’s it. I have to make sure that I am perfect. Not make sure that I’m perfect for me, I’m perfect for the product and I have to fit that. Then the next part after that, like you are saying, which are estimates and so forth, well it will be 10x faster for me to do it right personally. But
Dave: You can only do one of those
Peter: I can only do one of those. If I’ve got a project or products currently ongoing across many sectors, I can’t give a whole day stuck in development cycles or talking to UX people about that particular product. Because I have to separate myself two hours free to project and just work it that way. So that’s, that’s what took the longest time for me.
Dermot: Two very different answers here Dave.
Dave: Yeah. So what’s next for Wondr? I mean, now you’ve said you’ve said a bit about expanding the brand. But anything other than that?
Dermot: Yeah. Where are we at the moment, we have taken a lot of new interesting clients and some more international like, the first couple of years. Actually, ironically, 90% of our business was based in San Francisco working with tech companies. And then the more that we got started, the more became Irish companies, and less and less. So at the moment, we have about 30% UK, about 10/15, Netherlands, the rest is Ireland. And America is kind of far in away. So it would be great with some of the new projects that we’re starting to kind of change those percentages again, so we’re going to have a lot more international work, which is great. The other thing is we are adding more team members. So I’m not just trying to plug it.
Dave: Feel free, feel free.
Dermot: Like the types of people that work in wonder, aren’t just pure developers are pure UX, they’ve lived many lives and understands what bits they want to focus on. And particularly people who have maybe Irish and who’ve worked abroad, and you want to come home. And that tends to be a typical demographic that comes to Wondr, because a lot of the ways that work might be similar to what they’ve experienced work in New York, or San Francisco, or London, or Tokyo or wherever different people come from.
So, I think the next steps, were adding team members, and we will be concentrating on embedding them and making them feel like the family units that we’ve got here. And then bringing in the clients to kind of scale-up what we’re doing. So, there’s quite a number of large projects coming in. That means we will again, as I said, in a central place be never competed type of it will be very different in six months’ time again, because things even have added a bit more. But this time we’re scaling with confidence in our methodology system, people culture.
Dave: I’m sure you’ve touched on this in the other things that you’ve said. But what’s the biggest problem that you’ve currently got? `
Dermot: The biggest problem in Ireland?
Dave: Just Wondr, yeah.
Dermot: Yeah, like, well, rather than going into maybe my honor of us that I could probably go on a rant for about problems there. But I suppose the area in Ireland that we have is talent. And this market is full of digital wannabes, as I call them that, you know, think because they can hack stuff together on social that their consultant. And I think, particularly UX area, there’s a lot of people that have failed UI designers that they’ll pretend a UX designers, you’ve got lots of people call themselves UX designers and think they know how to do research well.
But like sitting in a room with a proper planner, or strategic person. And they start to realize that actually my little persona myself, am I happy or sad isn’t enough? There’s much more to this. And obviously, you know, I’m sure someone’s gonna pick up and go, Well, actually, I have a different view, Chris, no problem. Bring it on and talk to me about it. But I think what he has in his head is talent with every agency, studio, practice, whatever you call it, getting the right type of talent is the biggest challenge at the moment because there just isn’t the colleges here. Like we have in Paris, you know, a lot of the staff to come and join Wondr have come from hi-tech or these places are churning out generation after generation of excellent talent.
And I think Ireland certainly has some way to go yet as to revamping how the universities and colleges are preparing people for industry and having the right type of courses that connect with business and I’ve reached out to so many of the colleges, and amazing how incredibly poor and amateurish they are at even Linkedin with us, I’ve offered people paid internships, to get them started, the same way I was, you could walk on real projects, nothing beats that. And it’s incredibly hard to get anything with those. So talent is definitely the big thing. And with the arrival of all the bigger tech companies who control an extra 50 or 60 grand on top of the salary, you can offer all that together. That’s for me at the moment the issue.
So I look abroad now for talent and bringing them to Ireland in a housing crisis. Yeah. I have to work very hard outside of novel HR procedures to help them find houses to live if they’re bringing a family, you know, pay from in hotels and all the rest of it. So there are kind of maybe challenge that I see is that, and also having enough businesses willing to share, like, what you’re trying to do here today with this podcast is grace, you know, sharing those insights and not being frightened to sit behind a wall in case you give away any secret. No, we’re completely open. So I’d be more than happy to meet the founders and come together to help encourage the next generation of people joined the sector. So for those listening, get in touch with us
Dave: That’s great. Yeah. Because I mean, just because you tell somebody how you do something doesn’t mean that they’ve got the Hootspa to actually do it. From the product side, what do you think the biggest challenge currently that you’re facing?
Peter: It is the exact same thing. I’m sorry, but I have many people come up to me who is the scrum master qualified and are CPOs and have everything certified. But they’ve never worked in the sector. They’ve never, I think it’s extremely easy to go off and get a certain notice. This post a scrum master if it’s a scrum master in a dev cycle, has to come from a dev cycle. Yeah, they have to understand Yeah, and if they don’t, there’s no point in having somebody there, if they’re not technically oriented in the first place to fit into a technically oriented role. The same thing with product owners, I always believe that a product owner should be somebody within your company was an extinct understanding, for what they’re trying to reach basically the company, they need to understand the company and who they’re trying to target. It’s very hard to find those type of people currently at the moment. And it’s becoming increasingly difficult because America has now all changed to be product lead, an agile lead, exclamation mark but they’re not trained to do the actual work.
Dermot: Yeah. Everyone’s a product manager, but they’ve never actually called anything ever in their lives. And one of the interesting things is I get people approached me for those roles. And if I hear they’ve never actually been a developer or join, are been in the engine room themselves, I always wonder, really, you know, it makes me a bit more skeptical. So I think just to build on what Pete saying, I think a lot of people want to be at the star level without having put in the work. And I think, patience and perseverance and not being frightened to take, as we did walk for free or less money, and put into a graph, get experience and build up. It’s too easy in this town at the moment just to jump 10 grand salaries by moving from different brands, which we see a lot. But again, maybe that’s always been the case. And this is just a cycle. And that’s how it works. And we just need to get on with this. So that’s fine. We’ll get on with this.
Peter: I’ll put a note on that, right. I think nowadays people are jumping to get that extra 10 grand but their not actually thinking about their future. Like, okay, you can jumping your 20s all the way up until you’re 32 for 10 grand every year. Plus after that, you’re going to be on such a high scale. Your gonna be let go because obviously, you’re not doing any particular work. And you won’t be able to find a job on that scale. Again, you have to upscale yourself smartly. To be able to feel what you’re actually trying to do.
Dermot: What did you say, Dave an intrusion sorry for saying Dave, did you recognize it?
Dave: Definitely. the housing crisis is the biggest problem, which leads to all the other problems.
Peter: Yes, like talent. Yeah.
Dave: I didn’t realize the level of the educational problem, but like just for from pure dev stuff, that there are people who can’t afford to be here. Yeah, so they leave. And so that makes it makes everything harder, you have to pay everyone more so that they can live and nobody’s you know, getting rich and in in the first few years of a startup. So having the resources to bring in enough people to do all the things when it’s so ridiculously expensive to live here. And I don’t have the exact number in front of me. But I heard that Ireland’s like one of the 10th most expensive country in the world,
Peter: It will be that, something like that
Dave: I’m sure Dublin’s either number 1,2,3 or four or five of cities. So we may be in a good spot. But all these large tech companies coming in, are increasing the costs, you’ve got the number of people that are controlling the government who are already landlords, which does not help the issue because they have it’s against their interests to solve that problem.
Peter: Yes, correct.
Dave: So that’s the biggest thing and then timings, figuring out how to move faster. That’s the things that I find are the biggest issues. But they are what you were saying about the product owners who haven’t written code or Scrum masters, you haven’t worked in a tech team. Just like with starting a company, you may theoretically know how hard it is, or what’s involved. But just like that, quote from Mike Tyson, everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the face. Had no idea how hard it was.
Dave: Even knowing it was going to be hard.
Peter: You’re putting it on the line? It’s just your face is going to get punched?
Dave: Yeah, over and over. And over.
Dermot: It’s funny, David, tell you silly. So I’ve been meeting, I always meet just different people that have deliberately different backgrounds, just so I can mix it up and challenge where you’re thinking. And I was meeting a gentleman recently, we were talking about this very topic. And he was saying, you know, like, how hard was it to start and I said, I was doing 250 to 300 hours a month, guaranteed. Like, that’s what it took to scale a quality, quality, just calm, like anyone that’s watching a beautiful website knows you put in many, many, many, many, many, many more hours and it takes are paid for to do it.
And we have so anyone listening out there, there’s no quick road, there’s no easy money, there’s no think but it can be fun, as long as you’re into it. So you came at the start. And I think we’re nearly at the end now. And you said you know if we had advice people out there what it would be was, Be patient. Don’t worry about the money if you’re good enough, the money will sort itself out in the end. And just concentrate on your craft and stick to your niche. There’s too many people that are digital everything’s be digital something be something special and be good at this and concentrate on there and the rest will work itself out.
Dave: and that is so even though I’ve said and I’ve said before how hard it is. I wouldn’t trade it. It’s absolutely worth every moment of pain because I’ve grown so much from it. So
Peter: Yeah, its something you love
Dave: Absolutely. And hopefully, there’s a reward coming in there sometimes. Is there anything else?
Peter: No, That’s your table. Look thanks for coming to Wondr.
Dave: Thank you so much for joining me and any call to action for the listeners or just
Dermot: Well look yeah I mean if you want to be talked us more about any other topics you just reach out to some Twitter you know how it works?
Dermot: Yeah, you know our name Wonder, Wonder.
Dermot: Yeah. he just reached out to us and if you’re particularly interested maybe you’ve got a particular digital niche that you could get in touch. You never know if you don’t ask you don’t get.
Peter: Exactly were always open to meet new people. Yeah, talking work, talking business, even having a point.
Dave: Well, thank you so much. And thank you all for listening.
Until next time, remember any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.