Interview with Nizar Sefiani

By juillet 20, 2021 août 17th, 2021 No Comments

From Calyans, consulting firm.

N. Sefiani, founder of Calyans

Hello, can you present yourself, and Calyans?

I am Nizar Sefiani, I am the founder of Calyans which is a consulting and digital service company, specialised on the digitalisation of warehouses and on distribution, the implementation and support of warehouse management tools commonly known as WMS. We are present on two activities: one of WMS expertise destined to large accounts, on the which we will intervene on all the phases of a project. From the expression of the need to the post-startup support on projects for large accounts.

We have a second activity that is more SAAS and PME oriented, where we became the first integrator and distributor of WMS Corax solutions since last June. (based in the Netherlands)

In the next few days, there will be a third activity focused on innovation. You will probably see the news on our social media.

Is this activity of integrator something that you have developed recently?

Nous étions plutôt présents sur des activités d’expertise auprès des grands comptes, sous forme de régie. Ce qui change est que nous devenons un distributeur. Avant, nous ne vendions pas les outils de gestion d’entrepôt, on intervenait juste en expertise sur les outils. Là, nous distribuons l’outil, nous le mettons en place et nous créons le support. C’est du mode SaaS et à destination d’une cible que l’on n’avait pas avant : les TPE et PME.

We were more present on activities of expertise with large accounts. What’s changed is that we became a distributor. Before that, we didn’t sell warehouse managing tools, we used to intervene as experts on those tools only. Now, we distribute it, we implement it, and we create the support. It’s SaaS mode, and it’s destined to a target that we did not have before: small and very small companies.

Do you usually work with the same large accounts, or does this vary?

We usually work with the same ones, because the projects last in time, mainly in retail, logistic services and industry.

It’s been a little over a year since we’ve been in this crisis, how have you experienced it at Calyans? How has it been for your clients? Have you, as a consulting firm, seen a strong evolution since this period? Where are you today?

At the beginning of the pandemic, we were asking ourselves a lot of questions concerning our clients. In general, we are very present on site at our client’s premises. So, we had to reevaluate our way of working. We were waiting to see how our clients would react to this crisis. At the beginning, we didn’t really know, we waited, but very quickly there were arbitration on projects on which we were involved.

We were very lucky on this part, because we were positioned on so-called essential activities, on digitalization, so we could do our work remotely. The whole team quickly switched to full remote, and we continued to work for our clients. We were lucky that our projects for them – 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 that had to be stopped.

How did you manage to have that much impact while not on site but remotly? How did you deal with your clients?

When we work for our clients, for security reasons, we use VPNs. We have communication tools like Teams, Google Meet. We have access to remote tools, databases, things we are used to working on. However, at some point, when things calmed down a bit, we came back on site. What is really important in our business, where you have to be present, is really at the beginning to see the needs and to do exchange workshops etc. It is important to be in person. It’s essential when the tool is launched, when you have to do on-site support, to understand and visualize what’s going on. In between, there are steps, parameterization, testing, training, etc.

During an on-going project, we usually work remotly. Since during the pandemic we were more in the deployment phase, we were 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 manage your collaborators? Has the full-remote culture been implemented? how have you changed your internal process?

We had to work a lot on site at our clients’, and it was difficult to get together because we were all spread out over different sites, so it was already a bit complicated. Now we have switched to full remote, and this is a subject that concerns me a lot. Everything related to recruitment and retention of skills within the team in a market that is still very short of talent despite the pandemic, is a subject we would like to work on and develop this way of working, even though we are now working remotely.

L’idée serait de bâtir un modèle hybride sur lequel on aurait une semaine idéale : deux jours chez le client, deux jours au bureau et un jour en télétravail. C’est modèle optimum où tout le monde serait gagnant. Les déplacements chez nos clients sur site pèsent sur notre recrutement, on perd du monde lorsqu’on leur dit qu’ils auront à se déplacer 80% du temps.

The idea would be to build a hybrid model on which we would have an ideal week: two days at our clients’, two days in the office, and one day from home. It’s an optimum model where everybody would win. Traveling to our clients’ sites is something that heavily weighs in the recruitment process, we lose people when we tell them they will have to travel 80% of the time.

Have you felt some changes in your clients’ expectations? In their way of working?

I think they had to ask themselves if it was going to work well, because they were dealing with mass remote work, whether it was their teams and their contractors, etc. I think we’ve found a good rhythm, and it’s working very well. I hope it will go in the direction of finding a hybrid model, doing remote control. I don’t believe in full remote, or full on site, I think there is an in-between to be had.

You know the logistics sector, there has been a favorable effect for e-commerce. How do you feel about the industry right now, especially the logistics market, after this situation? How has it evolved since last year, what is the outlook for the next few years in your opinion?

In the logistics market, there are strong expectations linked to flexibility and digitalization – whether in the warehouses or in the logistics circuits that had to be reorganized when one country is in lockdown and not another. We had to be very reactive. It is important to have a digitalized and flexible system. More and more, the expectation in the supply chain is going to be more and more on this flexibility and the possibility to review the logistic schemes and the digitalization. More and more, being able to use any logistics center, including stores transformed into warehouses, we have to adapt where we can store goods to be closer to consumers.

Have you had Click and Collect implementation requests?

We did not have any directly, because the large accounts we work with are more B2B oriented. But we saw on this new activity in June, on the SAAS WMS Corax an explosion of e-commerce demand.

Do you see a growing market of smaller companies that manage their own logistics, or do they tend to use marketplaces instead?

They are using the marketplaces more and more, the existing things, platforms, prestashop etc. that they are trying to connect with the carriers, the WMS to be able to work. But here, the requests we had were not about marketplaces, they were really SME type companies looking to equip themselves. Some determining factors are the costs, which are a little lower than what we see with large accounts, and the speed of implementation.

Apart from the aspects of internal communication and communication with customers, are there any other developments or other elements that you see coming in the near future on this aspect of digitalization of warehouses?

It is our observation that there is something interesting that seems to happen, as I was telling you, concerning 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 are going to move towards more flexibility, more collaboration. This is something very important.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a consulting business?

Il est très important de passer du temps avec sa cible commerciale, avec ses clients pour bien comprendre leurs besoins. Il ne faut pas passer trop de temps à élaborer une offre complète pour s’apercevoir à la fin qu’elle ne correspond pas. Il faut très vite avoir quelque chose de minimum à présenter aux clients pour pouvoir bénéficier des retours, et au fur et à mesure construire quelque chose de plus performant en se nourrissant des feedbacks des clients. C’est quelque chose de très important pour pouvoir monétiser votre entreprise et expertise.

It is very important to spend time with your market target, with your customers, to understand their needs. You should not spend too much time developing a complete offer only to find out at the end that it does not correspond. You have to have something minimal to present to your customers very quickly in order to benefit from their feedback, and gradually build something more efficient by feeding on customer feedback. This is something very important to monetize your business and expertise.

Are you recruiting right now?

Our goal for 2021 is to hire 6 people: project managers, consultants, ans senior consultants.

Thank you Nizar for this exchange.

Our other interviews, in french Meja, and YouMeo.