At the end of June, OTRS AG reported the figures for the past year. The provider of the Service Management Suite OTRS closes the 2019 financial year with a sales increase of a good 10 percent. The new home office trend and the increased need for digitization offer a good starting point for the future. The topics of new work and corporate social responsibility are essential components of the corporate culture. In an exclusive double interview with the 4investors.de editorial team, André Mindermann (CEO) and Sabine Riedel (Management Board) provide information about business development at OTRS and the new world of work.
Personal-Financial.com: With a sales increase of a good 10 percent to 9.2 million euros and an almost doubling of the EBIT to 1.1 million euros, should you be satisfied with the development in 2019?
Mindermann: The main reason we are satisfied is that we see the result as a confirmation of our strategy.
Personal-Financial.com: 85 percent of sales at OTRS are now recurring. How do you manage to keep your customers in the long term?
Mindermann: We are convinced of the quality of our software, which can be used flexibly and adapted to different industries, company sizes and application areas. In addition, we offer the highest security standards in accordance with the EU General Data Protection Regulation and now in OTRS 8 a personalized, innovative user interface. Not without reason we as the market leader for ticket systems called, because our software has been on the market for 19 years.
But what customers also value about us is the personal contact with the board, the insight into our corporate culture, our values and the focus that we also put on sustainability in our CSR program. In the meantime, not only the solution counts with regard to customer loyalty, but also the interpersonal relationships and company values.
Personal-Financial.com: The operating margin related to EBITDA increased significantly in 2019. Is this a direct result of the higher cloud share?
Mindermann: You could say that. Basically, it is a direct result of the changed product strategy: Since April 2018, we have focused on OTRS (cloud), a state-of-the-art solution with the latest features and full range of functions, so to speak. This includes advice, operation and maintenance as well as a reliable user help desk from the OTRS experts. This all-round package is well received by our customers.
Personal-Financial.com: How is the utilization of your consultants and the approach of new customers taking into account the contact restrictions?
Mindermann: Our consultants are currently busy. During the heyday of the corona crisis, we held the workshops with our customers via video conference, but in the meantime these are again taking place personally in small groups and with appropriate spacing rules. New customers are approached in many different ways – mostly initially digitally. That was the case even before Corona.
Personal-Financial.com: The topic of digitization has been a priority for many companies since the corona crisis at the latest. How does that affect OTRS, are the inquiries for your solutions now skyrocketing?
Mindermann: According to a study that we conducted among 500 employees, the vast majority of respondents (83 percent) believe that the corona crisis has opened a new corporate trend towards more digitization and home office. Due to the increased need for digitization, we see a lot of potential for OTRS, because it facilitates complex communication via a system and structures processes.
In some cases we also feel a caution in inquiries and potential customers due to Corona, but our business model, which is based on recurring sales, has proven itself here. The high loyalty rate of our customers of 90 percent is of great benefit to us here.
Personal-Financial.com: Ms. Riedel, how do you, as HR manager, deal with the different needs of your employees with regard to working hours in Corona times?
Riedel: We have committed ourselves to the topic of freedom and, in this context, individuality and the associated flexibility. It is a matter of course for us to work with our employees to find solutions that meet their needs, to achieve a high level of work-life balance, or simply to give people a personal and professional personality as much freedom as possible possible. Corona doesn’t really make a difference here. Only insofar as we were able to adapt to the changed circumstances much more easily because a large number of our colleagues, i.e. almost 70 percent, work from home as standard and therefore the availability of digital tools is also ensured.
In the past few months, it has been of greater importance to us to support those families with young children in particular by adapting processes and operating times in such a way that home schooling and support are made easier. This is particularly important to us because we are the Have prescribed equality and want to actively support them; this naturally includes such measures.
Personal-Financial.com: The term new work is well known and goes back to the social philosopher Frithjof Bergmann, who coined it in the 1970s. Although the basics are 50 years old, they are only now experiencing real hype. Is it just a fad or is there more to it?
Riedel: I think one should be careful when judging whether New Work is a fad or rather old wine in new bottles. Completely independent of what companies have to do nowadays to have the necessary influx of competent employees, especially in a time when there is a shortage of skilled workers, we have been thinking about new and future-proof models since the company was founded and have also tried them out to ensure a high level of employee satisfaction to reach. This is a causal concern for us and a question of ethical obligation, which we are fully committed to.
Personal-Financial.com: Studies show that employees in the home office work more efficiently because they feel they want to repay the trust of the employer. What experience has OTRS had with more home offices?
Riedel: This is a result that we can support with our own statistics: in ours survey Among 500 employees worldwide, 82 percent state that they work in the home office just as productively as in the office or even more productively. This statement also reflects the experience with our teams. Stressful and time-consuming journeys are eliminated, so there is more time available and the transition from private to professional time is more relaxed.
Cooperation at OTRS has always been characterized by great trust, so that the choice between home office or office plays a rather subordinate role. In the long term, however, the possibility of free decision is something that increases employee satisfaction considerably.
Personal-Financial.com: Critics argue that more home office jobs blur the boundaries between work and private life too much to the detriment of workers. Employees would increasingly feel that they must always be available. Psychologically, the home would become a place of work. How do you take away these concerns from your employees?
Riedel: Different generations work in our company and each generation has its own understanding of what the optimal framework conditions look like in the workplace. This is related, among other things, to (professional) socialization. While my generation strongly connects work with a “place of work” in companies, younger employees are more and more interested in being able to merge personal and professional life regardless of location. Offering all options here is part of our understanding of diversity. In addition, we also see it as our responsibility to ensure that the individual employee makes the right choice for himself and, if necessary, to offer appropriate assistance. We also offer our CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) program the possibility that employees can get involved socially during working hours.
Personal-Financial.com: In the headquarters, more and more companies rely on open-plan offices to promote team spirit and exchange and of course to save costs. What is your strategy in this regard?
Riedel: In principle, we are concerned with creating a pleasant working environment that releases creative potential, promotes an exchange and offers a suitable framework for different needs. When setting up our offices, we deliberately used glass partitions between the offices to promote transparency, but at the same time also ensured that there were low-impact retreats where you could work concentrated with little external influences. We have also created innovative workspaces for group work that offer a variety of modern tools for a wide variety of meeting types. In this way, we offer our employees, in addition to the home office, a kind of professional “home” that strengthens the bond with the company.
Personal-Financial.com: Mr. Mindermann, looking ahead to the current year there is uncertainty due to Corona. Can you foresee whether the current situation is more of an opportunity or a risk?
Mindermann: Basically it is both – but if I had to choose, then of course for the chance. The trend towards home office and increasing digitization open up a lot of potential for our software. We also have the right business model with a focus on OTRS (cloud) and therefore recurring sales. In principle I think that the “New normal” it can be an inspiration for everyone to redefine the meaning of work and life.
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