Technology allows us the time to be human
When working in a fast-growing company, there needs to be clear direction and structure. It’s not about dictatorship, but a network of equals, a conglomeration of adults. Technology is an enabler that affords users the time to focus on what’s important to their business – and that’s the people.
This article originally appeared in the Feb'23 magazine issue of Electronic Specifier Design – see ES's Magazine Archives for more featured publications.
Officially created in 2019, Maureen Robson Norman is the Co-Founder and The Why One (What’s the Why One? Read on!) of whyaye, a fun, vibrant and person-centric digital transformation company that run outcome-led service transformations for businesses in a transparent and positive way by “creating positive noise and spreading infectious energy.”
Maureen puts people front and centre of her business and is a strong champion for inclusiveness and transparency, allowing whyaye members to grow and the business to thrive. By putting employee health and wellbeing first, Maureen encourages open and honest conversations, and she has even spearheaded the adoption of a completely flat working structure – meaning there is no hierarchy. So much so, job titles are not only reimagined and fun, but they also hint at the person’s role and perhaps at their personality too. For example, you may encounter: The Machine, The Social One, The Curious One and The Educator.
The path to whyaye
Starting her professional career in HR, Maureen has worked for businesses big and small – from local councils to large corporations. It was whilst working for Siemens that she had the opportunity to travel, meet new people and gain a multitude of experiences of processes, policies and procedures, however, she realised that she wanted more.
“I’ve got a lot of experience [in HR but] I decided I wanted to move out of that world and into consultancy. I went on to work for Fujitsu, and then I became an independent contractor.
“It was whilst working independently I happened upon the platform, ServiceNow, and I built up a good network of people … I decided to set up whyaye with some of those individuals, and three and a half years later, here we are.”
The trio of co-founders which also includes Anna Bisset and Lisa Smith, realised that there was an opportunity to make a difference in the world of digital transformation without losing sight of the people being served or the ones doing the serving.
“Partners weren’t really giving clients the full range of services they were looking for, and clients were looking for someone to represent their best interests and to help them with that cultural change.
“A majority of the partners focus on implementing the technology, and not necessarily the people aspect … so we found a gap in the market.”
However, as whyaye opened its doors, the world was forced to close theirs, with Maureen affirming that the COVID-19 Pandemic “was a bit of a nervous time for us”.
But being a digital company, whyaye were able to weather the storm. And thanks to useful contracts and shrewd business, they were able to broker an agreement with Lloyds Banking Group, which meant they could pay staff wages and grow the company at a time when a lot of businesses were failing.
Not only were whyaye able to survive COVID, they went on to grow at an unprecedented rate. However, the business almost never started.
“The total addressable market for ServiceNow has grown year on year, [but] IR35 was looming at that point, and we thought [can we do this]. We decided to give it a go anyway, thinking we’d get to about 25 people and would be a good small business. And here we are, at nearly 135 people and turning over £14.8 million in revenue. It’s an incredible journey.”
Balance and inclusivity
Part of the popularity for whyaye is that there is no formal hierarchy.
“My title would be CEO, which in the formal world is Chief Executive Officer – with me it’s Chief Engagement Officer, because that is my primary role in leading the organisation.
“When people know we don’t have a hierarchy, they immediately think there’s no structure. To be clear, we do have a structure.”
The people are what make the business at whyaye, and as such they are given the freedom and encouragement to flourish. whyaye’s motto is: “putting the ‘yay’ back into your working day”, and they reflect this in everything they do. It is Maureen’s belief that you spend a lot of time at work to not enjoy what you are doing.
“We give people a lot of free rein over their development. We set goals and we support [our employees] with funding, courses, coaching and mentoring, but we very much place the emphasis on the individual to own their own development and progression. So, it’s very much, you join as an adult and we’re going to treat you like one. There are processes and procedures in place to make sure that we can run the business effectively and to make sure we can finance it, but aside from that, it can be a very different way of working.”
The sheer magnitude of whyaye’s growth and quality of service they deliver has seen them being nominated for two awards already.
In 2021 they won the ServiceNow’s EMEA Premier Segment Partner of the Year for achieving overall excellence in certification and ServiceNow pipeline growth.
In 2022 they were the runner up for the Everywoman Artemis award which recognises the most inspirational women running a business trading for 18 months to three years.
A platform for diversity
Maureen firmly believes an organisation is a diverse network of individuals who possess their own strengths and specialisms, but who also learn and grow together whilst supporting one and another.
As a passionate advocate for equality and diversity within the tech space, and in light of digital skills becoming a critical requirement for employment within an industry whose skills gap continues to grow, whyaye have joined forces with ServiceNow’s Next Generation programme, designed in partnership with the Refugee Council, who support refugees into employment.
The 8-week training programme equips participants with in-demand ServiceNow skills and whyaye has already had the benefit of employing new team members from this programme.
More recently, whyaye have also partnered with Neurodiversity in Business, an industry forum that seeks to improve the inclusion of neurodivergent people in the workforce.
“Each and every individual is diverse. We’re all wired differently, even if you’re an identical twin you are still different in terms of how your neuroscience works. We don’t have [people] targets; it’s not how we operate. Every individual is different and has different needs [whether they are visible or not].”
Being a role model in the industry and inspiring younger and older generations are something Maureen feels strongly about.
“It’s about challenging the norm of society, and it’s not necessarily doing it in a combative way, but doing it in a constructive way.
“COVID led people to question ‘What am I doing, life is too short’. One of our next-gen ladies came to us as a 55-year old refugee. Her husband run a restaurant in London for a while, and she looked after the family. Now the family have grown up and moved away, she decided, post-COVID, she wanted to do something different and enrolled on the next-gen programme. She joined us and is an absolute standout. She’s a 55-year old woman who decided to change what she wanted to do [and she did]. That’s epic.”