in the future!
We catch up with founders Philip Dries, Gerwin Schuring and Pim Berger in the early weeks of the Covid-19 crisis. It feels like an odd time to be pondering the origins of the Schuberg Philis culture and its future. But the video conversation still gets off to an animated start.
The world is turned upside-down at the moment. How are things at Schuberg Philis?
Philip: “What I see is a wealth of new ideas emerging. Our people dare to think within this new reality, which they are also embracing. That’s where you see our strength.”
Pim: “I see worries, I see care, I see a lot of resilience. I also see humor, and very little panic. When the going gets tough is when we’re at our best—that’s part of the mental makeup of people who do our kind of work.”
Gerwin: “We’re great believers in being master of your own destiny. And we believe in getting things done. It’s always possible to contribute to a better world, but you do have to roll up your sleeves. People here immediately started asking: what new opportunities are we seeing? That’s good to see, it makes me proud.”
Pim: “What you see is that the people in our crew are prepared to take action. They want to make a difference. And the unknown doesn’t scare us, which also helps. In our line of work, that’s business as usual.”
Pim: “It’s also a matter of a deeply rooted sense of ownership. The people at Schuberg Philis feel a great responsibility to take ownership of the situation. And they’re comfortable with the people around them, which is a form of security that really matters when the chips are down.”
Gerwin: “We also say it to each other: ‘keep on thinking.’ If you have a strategy and there’s a change of circumstances, you have to come up with something new. We believe that thinking things through is always better than just following a process. That’s why we as Schuberg Philis are more robust than a group of people who are wondering what to do.”
Thinking and working from a kind of fundamental uncertainty, has that always been your starting point?
Gerwin: “Well, it’s something that has gotten stronger in the past few years. We got our start by offering customers a complete service package. At that time, we didn’t have the whole ‘100% mentality’ yet. But if I skip a few years: at some point we’d become so successful that as an organization, we were looking inward too much.”
Pim: “Maybe we were a bit too successful.”
Gerwin: “That’s when we organized that summit in 2012. With all our people, with all our customers. That’s what really triggered a mind shift. We started to experiment. We learned to dare to do new things with customers, even if we didn’t know where we would end up.”
Philip: “It’s taught us to innovate even harder. And it’s taught us to look for the question behind the customer’s question.”
Pim: “But the most important answer may be: if you work with people you can trust, you never start from something like ‘fundamental uncertainty.’ You look around and you see your colleagues, and you start with the feeling that with these people, you can get anything done. A rock-solid kind of trust that lets you hold on to each other when things get tough. It doesn’t matter what we get to work on, even in a period of crisis and change like now: we always start from the conviction that we can find a way if we work together—that as a team, we can always find a solution.”
What is happening in our customers’ worlds at the moment?
Pim: “We’re heading towards an economic crisis, that much is clear. But in addition to the effects of the crisis, companies are facing tremendous technological developments, adjustments to their business models, and new players in their markets. How do you deal with that? They can often visualize a new future, and they’re given clever advice, but how do you really make it work? That’s a big concern for many of them. Not only in terms of IT, but also in terms of corporate culture.”
Gerwin: “On many projects, in addition to adding value through the assignment itself, we are now also being appointed as ‘change agent’ tasked with bringing about a cultural shift. In the sense of: look, there is another way. That’s because when we commit to doing something, we always deliver. Which makes people stand up and take notice, because it certainly isn’t the norm in our industry.”
Pim: “So we can also help customers by being true to ourselves. We don’t tell customers what they want to hear. We’re principled. And because of the way we work, we always deliver. So if customers work with us, some of that culture can hopefully rub off on them.”
Philip: “What has been seen can’t be unseen. It’s something that was part of our plan from the beginning: changing this industry for the better. We’re passionate about showing that IT doesn’t have to be a limiting factor in your company. That it can be one of the keys to your success.”
As we set out on our boy-scout adventure, we wanted to shake things up. And we have.
Pim: “Another important aspect is that the way we work is contagious. You now see that our approach is being picked up in the market. It’s something we’re a little proud of. Don’t forget: back in early 2000 people thought we were crazy. They said, ‘You’ll never get that 100% thing to work.’ But we’ve been at the top of the list for customer satisfaction for more than ten years now, so the rest of the market can’t hide behind ‘it was the customer’s fault’ anymore. As we set out on our boy-scout adventure, we wanted to shake things up. And we have.”
And what does the way forward look like?
Philip: “Two years ago we passed on the leadership of the company. It was an important step. The three of us now have more of a coaching role, we work in the background. It’s not really up to us to decide the way forward anymore.”
Gerwin: “As a company, we’ve laid down our collective ambition. In a nutshell, it’s that we want to expand and deepen our operations, so that we can take on a bigger role for our customers. It means we will have to operate on a larger scale. To achieve that, the team has formulated a new vision that will guide us to considerable growth in the years to come.”
Pim: “Everyone at the company will have to work to make our methods and technical solutions ‘recognizably Schuberg Philis.’ That may sound a bit like an embedded process, which is against our nature, but we need it to achieve scalability.”
Gerwin: “What we also have to learn is to speed up the way we develop new propositions and take them to our customers. That’s a strategic capability we will need. We’ll have to bring new people on board to get that done.”
Pim: “But if you mean what the future looks like for us personally, we’ve always been committed long-term. We have been on this adventure for more than 17 years now, and we feel like we’re still at the beginning of the journey. We’re here to stay. Most of all, fortunately, we’re still as curious about the future as we’ve ever been. And we feel that the future of Schuberg Philis is in good hands with the MDs and the rest of the team.”
Philip: “Hear, hear!”
Gerwin: “Hear, hear!”