It's time for another instalment of our Behind the Screens interviews at Avola. The past few months, we've gotten to know several of the Avola Decision team members. We've met Aster (software developer), Davy (software developer) and Steven (business development). In today's instalment, we're introducing you to Stefaan Lambrecht, managing partner at Avola Decision, and one of the partners of the Bizzotope group.
To start, tell us a bit about yourself!
With an academic background in languages and in political science at the end of the 80s I oddly found my way into the IT industry, mostly in bridging the gap or knocking down the Berlin wall between the business and IT planets. When at the beginning of the 90s Business Process Reengineering became the next best thing in business management, I jumped on that train and assisted dozens of organisations in analysing and improving their processes: customer orientation, quality management, efficiency and increased service levels were only a few achievements I helped my customers with.
If there is one common denominator in the things that really fascinate me, it is stepping into the unknown. For most people, that tends to be a frightening experience. For me, discovering and exploring how new methodologies and innovative technologies can help people and organisations achieve their goals and ambitions really is a passion.
But, as it is hard to convince existing organisations and companies to really start doing fundamentally innovative things, I quickly decided to do it my own way, by starting up my own ventures, together with like-minded partners in crime. And that’s what happened in 1995.
And ever since, I have continued to build on the road to nowhere (Talking Heads).
What is your role in the organisation?
In 2012 I founded the Bizzotope group of companies, together with my new business partner Marc Gelissen. I am a managing partner in several Bizzotope companies. Currently, my main role in the organisation is being the product owner of the Avola Decision platform, i.e. inventing the Avola Decision wheels and re-inventing some others.
What do you tell people when they ask what Avola Decision does?
Have a look at a road map of Europe. What you see is a multitude of cities and towns, connected through a network of motorways, regional and local streets. For a cartographer such a road map may be the equivalent of a nirvana.
But for most human beings a road map only is useful, if it leads to a destination taking into account a whole lot of criteria: type of transportation (vehicle, train, feet, bike), travel duration, road type (scenic roads versus motorways), economic footprint (minimisation of energy consumption), and so on.
In order to do so, you first need to be able to define your objectives and criteria. And then have a means to map out the most appropriate route.
If you transpose the example of the road map to a business organisation, Avola Decision assists organisations to map out the most appropriate journey for their customers and also to accompany their customers to reach their expectations.
How did Avola Decision come to be?
Since the very start of my process analysis and improvement projects with customers, I carefully watched out that my customers weren’t using process management to pave century-old cow paths. Because if you do that, you are not reaching genuine breakthroughs, you’re only sub-optimising.
But processes are not really the heart of a business organisation. They’re mainly the veins through which the blood is circulating, from the heart to the brains and to other vital parts of the body. So, there more about the HOW of a business.
The very heart of the business is about the WHY and the WHAT. More specifically, what does an organisation need to do to become or remain successful, and to meet the goals and objectives of its stakeholders. But there needs to be a clear link between these aspects and the processes through which the WHAT is realised.
This part of the enterprise architecture always was a tricky thing. And there was no appropriate method to fill it in.
Until a very ground-breaking book was published in 2009: The Decision Model – A Business Logic Framework Linking Business and Technology, by Barbare von Halle and Larry Goldberg.
This book was an eye-opener for me. And I started testing the methodology with some of our first customers: AZL, Van Ameyde and BAM. And based on the positive results of these first projects, I started looking for technologies to support Decisiom Modeling and Management. Only, I didn’t find any that would really do the trick.
And then, the idea started to mature to build such a technology solution ourselves. I started by designing a first data model prototype, and elaborated on that with on the one hand an extraordinary IT architect, Bart Dupon, and on the other hand one of the biggest believers in Decision Management (and Avola Decision), Henry Kraaijenbos.
And so, we started building the platform, somewhere at the end of the summer of 2013. And the official launch of the first version followed in the spring of 2014.
What is the most challenging and/or rewarding thing about working at Avola?
It is one the one hand to see how a small diverse team of dynamic and highly motivated people can invent, build and market a completely new product in a relatively short period of time. And on the other hand the “wow” of customers when they start discovering that “Beam me up, Scotty” is not that farfetched.
What can you tell us about the culture at Avola Decision?
Mutual respect, warm feelings and solidarity between all stakeholders of the organisation: co-workers, customers, business and corporate social responsibility partners, based on the principle that everyone is equal.
Each member of the Avola Decision team dedicates 10% of their time to corporate social responsibility. What have you decided to do with that time?
My corporate social responsibility project was at Ganspoel. Ganspoel supports children, youngsters and adults with visual disabilities with or without multiple impairments and their network. I assisted them in developing a totally new framework for their key values and how they are linked to their way of working.
2 years ago I started contributing to oKo (Overleg Kunstenorganisaties), a Flemish non-profit organisation that unites and assists more than 200 member organisations in different types of arts, and that represents these organisations in debates concerning the arts policies at different levels: regional, federal and European. My main focus at oKo is exploring and implementing various aspects of the digitalisation of arts organisations.