Women in Tech

Be the change you want to see

30th May 2023
Sheryl Miles

Suzy Dean, CEO and Founder of Addin365, and winner of the 2022 everywoman Athena award, has vision and ambition, as well as the drive and determination to be the best provider of internal communications technology.

This article originally appeared in the April'23 magazine issue of Electronic Specifier Design – see ES's Magazine Archives for more featured publications.

Joining the tech industry wasn’t on the agenda for Suzy, but it was a fortuitous moment that, whilst studying government at the LSE, she joined a Microsoft partner as a receptionist to earn some money to pay her way.

“It was at a time when Microsoft’s first WOMEN IN TECH WOMEN IN TECH Suzy Dean, CEO and Founder of Addin365, and winner of the 2022 everywoman Athena award, has vision and ambition, as well as the drive and determination to be the best provider of internal communications technology. Be the change you want to see partners were forming in the UK … I got some reception work there, and I ended up moving up through the ranks.”

In her early days a lot of the work was still being done by fax, and Suzy came to recognise that, at the time, there wasn’t an understanding of “what good internal communications or collaboration technology would look like. I feel like I came in at the birth of that and built my career from there.”

The birth of internal comms platforms

To have an internal communications platform, large corporate companies were commissioning intranet-built projects that would take months and months to create and cost upwards of half a million pounds. It was clear to the founder that not only were companies haemorrhaging time and money, but they were also missing opportunities to work with smaller companies with smaller budgets.

With Addin365, the founder saw the unique opportunity to build products that would help organisations to leverage Microsoft services like Yammer and Stream as part of their digital employee experiences and then improve on that with IP from Addin365. The combination of Microsoft and Addin365 products would give organisations complete internal communication and collaboration digital experiences.

“Setting up Addin365, I had a lot of ambition to take that idea of internal workplace communication and collaboration technology and to make something of it … and I spotted an opportunity to productise an internal communications platform and internal collaboration platforms. And that’s what I did, and I brought it to market.”

An introduction to Addin365

Addin365 develop its own product IP, so all of the products are demonstrable to internal communications stakeholders. This removes the possibility of any misunderstanding that stems from technical jargon for managers and those people who just need to know what a product can deliver in straight-talking terms.

It also saves the company money because what Addin365 is doing is building on what is already covered in a company’s Microsoft licencing agreement. But crucially, it is streamlining it and making it work for the client and their business.

“If you sat with [a manager] and said, ‘Okay, you want to improve internal communication, how do you want to do that?’ They’d probably say, ‘I don't know, you're the expert – you tell me’ … so, [Addin365] take all the pain out of [the process].

“I would open a demonstration, and say ‘you can have this, and it costs this amount, and it will deliver these benefits.’ It's built on the Microsoft 365 framework, but it's fast forwarding and showing the end result in the first meeting.

“We're not having a technology-led conversation. You're coming and asking how you can improve your internal comms. Within that there are community experiences driven by Yammer, or publishing pages driven by SharePoint, or approval flows for content [all of which are part of the Microsoft 365 offering], so that nobody can put anything live without you approving it – using our Addin365 products.

“We're driving ROI … but we're not making it a technology-led experience where there's a requirement for you to understand everything that's in the technology kitbag … we talk the language of business [not technical jargon].”

Self-funding a belief

The path to success isn’t an easy journey, and Suzy recalls the early years and the realisation that she had everything invested in this one endeavour.

“The way funding works is unless you’ve got a proven success on your hands, banks don’t give you loans any more to start a business. The first two years were hard because I put all my life savings into it with nothing to fall back on. I needed to pay someone to build the code of the first product I wanted to take to market and that was a really difficult time.”

But with Suzy’s sharp mind and good instincts, she saw the potential and future success of Addin365, and so she weathered those rocky early days. And two-years ago, the company was proud to report its first million pounds in profit. However, the ambitious founder has no plans to stop there.

“I want to get the business to £10 million turnover by the end of 2024. And then the next stage after that, we’re looking at £100,000 million. I’ve always dreamed big. There is no problem with having ambition at Addin365.”

Everyone deserves an opportunity

Suzy is a fan of bringing in people who are changing careers and offering them the opportunity to train and move up within Addin365. It is a mutually beneficial strategy because it ensures that staff members are trained to do the work in the way that Addin365 want it done. And the staff members themselves are rising through the ranks in a career that endeavours to support them and help them grow.

“Because we are teaching people to do things the way we want them done, we’ve got that high confidence that that high quality bar is being maintained.”

As well as being a switched-on businesswoman, Suzy is also a huge advocate of investing in people and understands that diversity in business takes many forms.

“We’re about 50% female and 50% BAME, but I’ve always just hired the best person for the job … I’m a passionate believer in being colourblind, you hire the best person for the role. But the best person can be a hire you make based on potential.

“We haven’t gone out to industry to hire people that already have the skillset we need. We’ve consciously hired on aptitude and potential and then trained those people.

“There’s a skills shortage in our sector … we bring people in that have the right aptitude, start them on a meaningful salary and have a clear growth plan that shows them the potential to earn more every year in a really transparent way.

“That’s why we have a diverse business that doesn’t look like any others.”

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