Interview with CalyansInterview
Interview with Nizar Sefiani
“Hello, can you introduce yourself and Calyans?
I am Nizar Sefiani, I am the founder of Calyans which is a consulting and digital service company specializing in the digitalization of warehouses and the distribution, implementation and support of warehouse management tools that the it is commonly called WMS. We are present in two activities: a WMS expertise activity for major accounts, in which we will be involved in all project phases. From the expression of needs to post-startup support on projects for major accounts.
We have a second activity that is a little more SaaS and SME oriented, where since last June we have become the first integrator and distributor of Corax WMS solutions in France (company based in the Netherlands).
In the coming days, there will be a third innovation tour activity. You will surely see the news on our social networks. But for now, it's confidential!
Is this integrator activity something that you have developed recently?
We were rather present in expertise activities with major accounts, in the form of management. What changes is that we become a distributor. Before, we did not sell warehouse management tools, we just provided expertise on the tools. There we distribute the tool, we set it up and we create the support. It's SaaS mode and aimed at a target that we didn't have before: VSEs and SMEs.
Do you work regularly with the same major accounts, or does it vary?
We often work with the same ones, because they are projects that last over time, mainly in the retail, logistics service and industrial sectors.
We have been experiencing this crisis for a little over a year, how did you experience this at Calyans? How did it work for your customers? Have you, as a consulting company, noticed a strong evolution since this period? Where are you today?
At the start of the pandemic, we asked ourselves a lot of questions about our customers. In general, we work in management professions in which we are very present on site with our clients. So, we had to review our way of working. We were waiting to see how our customers reacted to this crisis. At the beginning we didn't really know, we waited, but very quickly there were decisions on projects on which we were involved.
We were very lucky in this part, because we were positioned on so-called essential activities, on digitalization, so we could do our work remotely. The entire team very quickly switched to full remote and we continued to work for our clients. We were lucky that our projects at home – on this aspect of the supply chain which was at the heart of the pandemic – were not de-prioritized. There was a need for investment unlike other projects with our same clients which had to stop.
How did you manage to have such an impact by no longer being on site but remotely? How did you go about it with your customers?
When we work for our clients, for security reasons, we use VPNs. We have means of communication like Teams, Google Meet. We have access to remote tools, databases, things we are used to working on. However, at a certain point, when things calmed down a little, we returned to the site. What is really important in our professions, where you have to be present, is really at the beginning to see the needs and do exchange workshops etc., it is important to be in physics. This is essential when the tool is launched, when it is necessary to provide on-site support to fully understand and visualize what is happening. Between the two, there are stages, configuration, testing, training, etc.
In the middle of a project, we tend to work remotely. Given that during the pandemic, we were more in deployment phases, we were therefore able to do this remotely. And when we were deconfined we were able to go to our customers two days a week.
How did you go about it with your colleagues? Has the culture of full-remote been further implemented? How have you changed your internal processes?
We had to work a lot on site for our clients, it was difficult to get together because we were all spread out on different sites so it was already a bit complicated. There, we switched to full remote and this is a subject that concerns me quite significantly. Everything related to recruitment, retention of skills within the team in a shortage market which continues to be so despite the pandemic, is a subject on which we would like to work and develop this mode of operation even if there, we are working remotely.
The idea would be to build a hybrid model on which we would have an ideal week: two days at the client's office, two days in the office and one day teleworking. This is an optimum model where everyone would be a winner. Traveling to our clients on site weighs on our recruitment; we lose people when we tell them that they will have to travel 80% of the time.
Have you noticed any changes in your customers' expectations? In their way of working?
I think they must have asked themselves the question if this was going to work well, because they faced teleworking en masse, whether at the level of their teams and their service providers, etc. I think we have found a good rhythm and everything is working very well. I hope that this will go in the direction that we will find a hybrid model, doing remote management. I don't believe in full remote, or full on-site, I think there is an in-between.
You know the logistics sector, there has been a favorable effect for e-commerce. How do you feel about the industry at the moment, especially the logistics market after this situation? How has it evolved since last year, what are the prospects for the coming years in your opinion?
In the logistics market, there are strong expectations linked to flexibility and digitalization – whether in warehouses or in logistics circuits that had to be reorganized when one country is confined and not another. We had to be very reactive. It is important to have a digitalized and flexible system. Increasingly, the expectation at the supply chain level will focus more and more on this flexibility and the possibility of reviewing logistics plans and digitalization. Increasingly, being able to use any logistics center, including stores transformed into warehouses, we must adapt to where we will be able to store goods in order to be as close as possible to consumers.
Have you had any requests to set up Click and Collect?
We haven't had any directly, because the large accounts we work with are more B2B oriented, stores, concessions, etc. But we saw in this brand new activity in June on the WMS SAAS Corax an explosion in demand for e-commerce.
Do you see a market emerging of smaller companies that manage their own logistics, or do they tend to use marketplaces?
They are using market places more and more, existing things, platforms, Prestashop, etc. that they try to connect with carriers, WMS to be able to work. But here, the requests we received did not concern market places, they were really SME type companies looking to equip themselves. Some of the determining factors are the slightly lower costs than what can be seen with large accounts and the speed of implementation.
Apart from the aspects of communication internally and with customers, are there other developments or other elements that you see happening in the near future on this aspect of digitalization of warehouses?
It is our observation that there is something interesting that seems to be happening, as I told you about our future third activity. We can talk about collaborative logistics which will take on its full meaning in the coming months and years, even if it has already started. We will move towards more flexibility, more collaboration. This is something very important.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their consulting business?
It is very important to spend time with your commercial target, with your customers to fully understand their needs. You don't want to spend too much time developing a complete offer only to realize at the end that it doesn't match. You very quickly have to have something minimal to present to customers in order to benefit from feedback, and gradually build something more efficient by drawing on customer feedback. This is something very important to be able to monetize your business and expertise.
Are you recruiting at the moment?
Our objective for 2021 is to recruit 6 people: project managers, senior consultants and consultants.
Thank you Nizar for your insights.”
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