CEO Q&A: Avinoam Nowogrodski, Clarizen, a project is any task done at work from something simple to building a bridge and the way it is managed is not working
CBR: How did the company come about?
AN: I’m an electronic engineer by education. I used to run a company that helped engineers to design collaboratively and I found that project management just didn’t work. So I decided to build a company that does it differently.
Project management typically doesn’t work because people don’t use it. It doesn’t work to have people reporting into the system because they typically don’t report into the system to create visibility for someone else. The whole idea was to empower visibility. The central idea behind Clarizen is collaborative project management, empowering users to deliver visibility. We built a system which has users at the centre not the project manager at the centre.
CBR: Do you mean IT project management or are you talking about project management in a broader sense, engineering, construction and so on?
AN: For me a project is anything you do at work. A project is each and every workflow in a company. It might be simple task, or a building a bridge, but it’s still a project. You need to look at a project as everything you do at work.
CBR: What have you tried to do differently in Clarizen?
AN: Clarizen is the only company that connects the unstructured conversations with the structured processes. There are two threads to a project, a thread for work like emails that you send to people, and then the execution thread where the work is getting done. So you might send emails because you want to promote work but they’re not part of work. In Clarizen, however, they are, and furthermore, we’re doing it from ideation to execution. Why did Microsoft acquire Yammer? To try to connect the structured and unstructured.
Clarizen is a work collaboration platform where you facilitate the ability of people to have a single view on everything that happens within the company. You include the conversations and the processes – Clarizen integrates with Salesforce, Intuit, Box and many other systems and we have an open API. It gives you the ability to build a work graph. The work graph is an extension of the social graph: the social graph is people, conversation and content, the work graph adds work elements – task, document, risk, people, content, project, customer, issue, request, these are all work elements. Each element is characterised by the fact that it has a life cycle.
For instance you might have 20 people in a company conversing around a customer – internal conversations are being held in different inboxes. You can ask to be shown all a company’s conversations being held around, Nike for example. But in a traditional network you can never find them all. In Clarizen you see Nike and you can see all the internal conversations about Nike, all the documents you send to Nike, all the conversations you have with Nike, all the projects you are doing for Nike. All the collaboration is shared so you can snap the conversations into the work elements.
CBR: How has Clarizen been built?
AN: We use Java scripts for the client, we have .NET in the back end and it runs on Oracle. We have our own hosting facilities – two in Europe and two in the US.
How do you deliver it?
AN: We are a cloud based company. For a subscription you get a user name and a password – nothing is installed in your location, it’s Software-as-a-Service.
We have hosting facilities in the US and Europe. We opened a hosting facility in Europe because of compliance and regulatory issues. We have about 25,000 customers, both huge and small companies among them – customers with thousands of seats and some customers with only tens of seats. It’s easy to start and very easy to grow, and it’s flexible because projects may have specific times when more people are needed. You can switch it on and switch it off.
CBR: Have you encountered any issues around data retrieval and data access? Do any big companies look for special access? Do any customers ask to take data into their private cloud because they don’t want it perpetually hosted in your environment?
AN: We’ve avoided this because we’re a pure cloud play. A lot of data is kept at company locations, for instance all the files could reside behind firewalls. We don’t face any big issues with data access and retrieval even though we have a lot of customers in financial services and about 40 customers who are banks.
CBR: Where is development done?
AN: We are about 200 people in total, with 60 or so developers based in Israel. Sales and marketing is mainly in the US, and we have about 70 people in San Francisco. Otherwise we have people in the UK, Australia and in Thailand. We’re a VC-backed company, we’ve raised $90 million, and in the latest round of funding we received $35 million from Goldman Sachs.
CBR: The London office opened this year. Why the UK?
AN: We have three main markets in the UK, one is professional services then there is IT projects and then marketing operations. But this is just where we start: the end goal is to be ubiquitous.
CBR: What’s the roadmap?
AN: The roadmap is to go public, and we’re about two years away from that. In the shorter team, we have very aggressive sales targets and expansion plans and we have a great team that is executing them. The market is huge and the opportunity is immense. We have tons of customers using Clarizen successfully and we need to spread the word.