A tool for people-first companies

How Lola Tech Solved their Growing Pains with Runn

Lola Tech is a software development agency based in the UK and Romania that designs and builds digital solutions to help drive organizations forward. With a focus on delivering scalable and sustainable cloud-based products for clients across all industries and sectors, they build software for the future - tech that is flexible, strong, and built to last.

However, after losing a major client during the pandemic, Lola Tech had to diversify quickly. The drive to find new clients was successful - but it put a major strain on resource allocation and visibility. A months-long search for a platform that could handle the business’ new needs only ended when Director of Digital, Nick Boni, found Runn.

High standards have always been the foundation of Lola Tech’s intentions as a business. The core team of founders all started their careers on the buy-side of IT services. However, in these roles, they found that they all ended up asking the same questions: why was the quality of service generally so low, and what would it take to build a “dream team” - a web solutions service that they themselves would actually want to work with?

These questions became the driving force that spurred on their plans. And, in 2009, Lola Tech was born.

Lola Tech’s commitment to exacting standards from day one soon paid off. They bagged a large, high value client: a major US airline that had a lot of potential projects in the pipeline. This relationship became the bread-and-butter of their business. It gave them the momentum to scale. From an initial team of ten, the company grew to seventy people, working on diverse projects - from apps used by airline personnel, to hotel booking systems for customers.

But when the pandemic hit, the airline sector was in turmoil. Lola Tech’s client had to make some very tough decisions. In order to stay afloat, they had to cease all but the most basic operations. But this meant they were no longer pursuing aspirational digital projects. The work coming to Lola Tech dried up.

As Nick Boni, Lola Tech’s Director of Digital, reflects back on this period in the company’s journey, it’s clear that this was a make-or-break moment:

“We had built a lot of their customer-facing and internal systems. That’s really what Lola Tech grew around; we grew to be able to service that airline. But - almost overnight - it became essential for us to diversify.” 

Fortunately, the team Lola Tech had built during their growth was resilient, diligent, and talented. And before long, the project pipeline was looking healthy again.

“And we did win clients from a variety of industries - which ended up being very exciting.”

However, after years of working with one primary client, this was a significant shift in the way the business had to operate. 

“We were now working with multiple customers, in multiple time zones, charging different rates, handling complex contracts.”

More clients, more problems?

The focus of the business pivoted and the client roster grew. But keeping track of what everyone was working on, and whether they had capacity to take on new projects, was becoming increasingly difficult. This was a trend that, left unchecked, would only spell problems down the line.

As Nick identifies, understanding where time is being spent really is an existential necessity for a service business like Lola Tech:

“We are a pure time and materials business, so we do really depend on being able to track our time accurately. If we can’t do that, then we can’t accurately bill our clients.”

However, though the business model hadn’t changed, the operational demands of the business had. As a result, accurate time tracking and billing had suddenly become a lot more complicated. The team was used to living in spreadsheets from their time working with their airline client. But it became apparent that this wasn’t going to cut it now that their projects had changed so dramatically.

“We were just using spreadsheets for project planning, tracking resource availability, capacity planning…everything really. And with the influx of new clients, it all started to become a bit messy.”

Nick found that the manual admin burden of keeping several disparate spreadsheets updated was increasingly eating into his time. But the spreadsheets were not paying back the effort that went into maintaining them: they were becoming a source of frustration, leading to misunderstandings and a lack of transparency.

As Nick explains it: 

“Understanding all the different spreadsheets floating about becomes a problem after a while. It might be okay for the person who created the sheet. But for everyone else, it can be a total headache to look at the spreadsheet and try to answer even basic questions like, when's that project finishing? Is there a placeholder here? Who's it for? At the end of the day, we’d changed, and we felt we needed a system that was kind of reflective of where we were at. We needed to modernize our way of doing things.”

The quest to find the right solution

But it wasn’t just necessity that guided the decision to shake up operations. It was an aspirational goal, too. 

Lola Tech has always held the view that people should be enabled to do their best work - and enjoy the process. They wanted this to be reflected in every aspect of their working, including the software they used. However, this wasn’t always easy to achieve.

“We’re a people-first company,” says Nick, “But at that time the tools we were using didn’t really reflect it.” 

Before moving to Runn, the team was heavily dependent on a legacy work management tool for tracking their tasks and time. In Nick’s view, while this delivered functionality, it was at the detriment of the team’s workflow and creative process:

“There was a real disconnect between the Agile way we were working - talking about story points, and the effort required for a task - and the way work was presented in this tool. We felt that it enabled a really unhealthy relationship between work tasks and time.” 

Evolving their tech stack was an opportunity to halt that unhealthy relationship, and put in place something that better reflected the values of the team. As well as a tool that could help create a frictionless workflow and enable agility, Lola Tech wanted software that was a culture fit.

This seemed like a reasonable yardstick. After all, as many businesses face the same sorts of challenges, it stands to reason that elegant, well-designed solutions would abound - surely? This is what Nick thought. And so, when he discovered that the ideal solution was not forthcoming, he was taken aback.

“Honestly, we were pretty surprised by how poorly some of these tools had been built! We basically found that either they were far too complex and clunky, or too basic, like someone had just taken a spreadsheet and colored it in. We tried a couple of well-known tools, but they were a bit limited - they didn’t really hit the mark. 

“I mean, as a software development company, we do have pretty high standards. So after looking for a while and not finding a solution that was right for us, we even played around with the idea of building something ourselves.”

But, in the end, Lola Tech wouldn’t have to walk this extra mile - they discovered Runn.

After looking for months for a solution that met their needs, the Lola Tech team had finally found a tool that could take their complex data and make it accessible. And, ultimately, it was this ease-of-use factor that sold Nick on Runn: 

“In previous roles, I’ve used some platforms which are just so data-heavy. But I found that Runn visualized the information I needed so well. It made it very easy to follow.”

Runn to the rescue

When Lola Tech made the decision to go forward with Runn, the team was excited to get things underway. Everyone was bought-in to the change process, ready to try something new that better suited the maturity and values of the company.

“I know the team were very open to trying something new, because the old system was quite clumsy,” says Nick, “And they were definitely happier to see that we’d chosen a tool that is so well designed rather than some of the clunkier solutions out there. Runn is very clear for everyone to understand.”

A gradual, team-by-team rollout was implemented - a “super smooth” process, recalls Nick. And soon enough, the company’s enthusiasm for moving to a better system was rewarded: the benefits of making the switch were quickly apparent:

Runn definitely improved productivity. There’s much more transparency - the team has a much better idea of where their time sits. Runn very clearly shows the team their allocations, which means that they always know what I’m expecting of them. And having that in place has really cut down on a massive amount of to-and-fro communication.

Nick Boni
Nick Boni
Director of Digital

Time saved & billing accuracy increased

But it wasn’t just the project teams who were able to work more efficiently thanks to greater clarity. 

Hours of Nick’s week had previously been swallowed up by jumping between spreadsheets, cross-checking documentation, all to make sure that clients were being billed properly for the work they had received. 

But when Runn arrived on the scene, what had been an onerous task became something that Nick could complete incredibly quickly, with confidence that everything was correct:

One big thing Runn has done for us is to increase both the speed and accuracy of billing. It’s turned our invoicing into an hour-long task. But before, it would take at least four times longer than that.

Nick Boni
Nick Boni
Director of Digital

However, where streamlining billing was a big plus for Nick, one area where he was not anticipating change was in the ability to delegate and deputize tasks that had previously been seen as inaccessible to staff outside the operations function.

As a result, he has been able to find more time in his week to focus on higher-level goals and digital transformation projects.

We’ve been able to deputize a lot of the tasks that were held by quite a few different people in the company. But because Runn is so easy to use and accessible, we’ve found that we’re now able, for instance, to have the Head of Engineering interacting with capacity management.

Before, these tasks were looked at as a bit of a dark art. But with Runn, the information is presented so clearly that it’s really evident whether someone has availability. This has been a real perk - it’s freed up a lot of my time to focus on more strategic aims.

Nick Boni
Nick Boni
Director of Digital

Forecasting & capacity planning made simple

Runn was able to address many of the operational issues that came hand in hand with Lola Tech’s rapid growth. But how is Runn helping Lola Tech future-proof its processes - and, indeed, spot opportunities for growth?

Well, capacity planning is often the key to being able to grow an agency sustainably. But it’s a tough nut to crack: managing a portfolio of projects involves so many moving parts. Being able to forecast and get an accurate sense of future capacity to take on new work is a highly complex undertaking, with many variables to account for. However, this is another area that Runn was able to unlock for Lola Tech: accurate capacity forecasting and planning, which was simple to execute.

As Nick reflects, being able to forecast capacity with Runn has opened up opportunities for Lola Tech to keep expanding relationships with existing clients, and scope out when they will be able to say “yes” to new clients:

It's a massive plus-point for me…being able to accurately forecast and spot when we have capacity makes an enormous difference. We can really clearly anticipate if we have the availability to upsell to a client or initiate conversations about additional work, for instance.

Nick Boni
Nick Boni
Director of Digital

Into the future

Lola Tech envisions big changes and projects in the months and years to come, and further expansions to the team are on the horizon. But Nick is confident that, with Runn, he’ll have no issues building out the team and getting people set up and ready to work:

“As far as adding or removing users is concerned, it’s really simple,” he says, “And the UI is really nice and simple, very easy for people to get used to.”

Ultimately, we love nothing more than helping our customers succeed and smash their goals, and so we’re excited to see Lola Tech into this next chapter of its journey, and beyond!

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