Organisation shift to cross functional teams drives further innovation at hipages: CEO

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Australia’s leading online platform for tradespeople, hipages, took a major organisational pivot over the last 18 months to protect and improve its capacity for tech-led product innovation as the business scaled.   

According to CEO and co-founder Roby Sharon-Zipser, the shift to a new cross functional team environment ensured the business, currently valued at $416 million, was able to execute on its strategy.  

He made the comments to iTnews Digital Nation during the filming of a mini documentary about digital fitness.

The company, which is two years into a five-year plan, listed on the ASX last year. 

According to Sharon-Zipser, the company’s transformation strategy has had two clear goals: efficiency and improving the core product. 

“We made some really key decisions in the business about 18 months ago, one of which was to become more efficient as an organisation,” says Sharon-Zipser. 

“Secondly, we made a decision to look at our core product that we're offering to our trade businesses, and see if we could improve and streamline that product, to give better outcomes for our customers, but also better commercial outcomes for the business.” 

That involved improving the company’s marketing and lifting the brand in the market.  

Sharon-Zipser said the leadership team also looked at the way they worked as an organisation, which led to organisational changes.   

He said the new cross functional teams typically involve about eight people from different business functions who have accountabilities for delivering on specific areas of strategy. The team is then overseen by a sponsor who reports directly to the CEO. 

“People are more engaged in a collaborative way to solve those costs, customer problems, and deliver on our goals that are in our strategy as a business,” he said. 

According to the hipages chief, as organisations grow, the separate functions of the business can sometimes slow down product and technology execution.  

“The cross functional teams now allow us to cut across the organisation, get the functional teams to work in a collaborative way, so that they can solve real problems with the customers and execute on the strategy of the business,” says Sharon-Zipser. 

“I'm sure when we get to 1000 people one day, it'll be a different structure as well.” 

He says the new approach has already had a massive impact by allowing the leadership to communicate what they were doing. 

“If you think as a CEO, you've communicated enough, you probably haven't, and you can never communicate enough.” 

Managing expectations 

Boards and CEOs have to make decisions in the business with their scarce resources. That means telling people their pet projects may have to wait. But the cross functional team model means speeding up the delivery of the business case for new ideas. 

“You say look, you know, I hear what you're saying, but when we stack it up against all the other things that we have to do and look at what we have available to deliver on the plan, we just can't do it," Sharon-Zipser says.

“If it sits in this cross functional team to deliver on, if they deliver on their things faster, we'll get onto those things quicker.” 

Evidence of success is starting to emerge – at a high level, the company recast its guidance upwards beyond the metrics in its IPO. 

“During COVID, hipages was one of the only companies in Australia that listed on the ASX with a forecast that subsequently came out with a revision to that forecast. So I think it's working. I 100 percent believe it's working because you can see in our results and obviously ultimately, our share price.” 

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