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Sergej Derzap CEO of Amasty – How to deliver the best extensions in COVID-19 times

Today we have selected Sergej Derzap to take his interviewHe is the CEO Of Amasty – leading Magento extensions development company.

First of all, how are you and your team doing in these COVID-19 times?

A crisis is the best time for great opportunities, as they say. A year ago, it was not clear at all how things would evolve. We were preparing for a protracted crisis and agreed to focus on supporting our employee health, current clients’ success, and managing COVID-19 effects.

We switched to remote work in a couple of weeks and compiled a list of products that would help our customers adapt their businesses to the new reality.

As our mission is to save customers’ resources on developing the required functionality for their online shops, we agreed that the best thing we could do was to help those who were offering medical and essential goods get their offline businesses online faster. Therefore, we offered up to 100% discounts on our solutions to make sure they could supply people with the needed goods regardless of the budget that they could invest in creating an online store.

Tell us about you, your career?

I started my career as a software developer for a large international service company. I left it 10 years later as Head of Lotus Notes Department and Manager of the multi-million dollar worth international project.

My next journey was a product company Juno, Uber’s rival in New York; Gett later acquired that. When I quit Juno to join Amasty, I was responsible for Service Operations.

How does your company innovate?

We have several sources of inspiration. Adobe drives Adobe Commerce (Magento) forward technology-wise. We believe that headless commerce is our future, so we invest in PWA and GraphQL. Google, Apple, and Facebook give us the reason for moving towards website optimization and data collection. We constantly review the e-commerce field, such as Amazon, competition platforms like Shopify, and a vast portfolio of SaaS companies providing e-commerce services. We have several direct competitors. So, considering this unending stream of information, we need our customers’ feedback to understand what plays the most important role for them and focus on it.

How the Coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

We had to understand if it didn’t adversely affect our processes as we switched to remote work. The main challenge of any product company is to deliver solutions that bring value to their customers. When communication channels are limited to chats and video calls, maintaining context within departments to remain focused on customers’ needs poses difficulties. We have adopted SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) to keep growing and meet this goal.

Another challenge was maintaining a work-life balance for our employees, especially when their kitchens or bedrooms turned into actual workspaces. Our HR department works hard in this direction, holding different online events, launching Instagram photo quests, opening hobby clubs, and maintaining health checking activities, like Amasty voice or old-fashioned 1 on 1 meeting.

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

Considering that Amasty has 250+ extensions in its catalog, we had to make a lot of difficult choices. We were asking ourselves if we needed to deliver a new product, add features, or redesign an existing extension if needed to speed up PWA development and keep supporting M1 products, or maybe we needed to develop products for other platforms. Every day I had to say “No” to one idea to have an option to say “Yes” to another one. The main lesson learned is that I wish I said “No” to more things.

What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?

When the first wave of COVID-19 was over, and we started to plan our go-back-to-the-office program, we realized that we stopped considering the office as the only place for effective work. As some employees wanted to go back to the office and some were fine to work from home, we decided to make the office an option. This is how we came to the desk-sharing approach. I was very pleased to find out that there were many solutions for that, so we opted for Skedda. As for the management approach, as I’ve mentioned before, we introduced several practices from SAFe, like value streams and value teams. The value team is like a small company with all required roles and skills to grow its product portfolio and satisfy customers’ needs. It works as an independent company during the quarter and synchronizes on the level of the entire company with other value streams every quarter. Also, we use OKRs for high-level synchronization. Our processes are powered by Atlassian and Google toolboxes, and we are pretty happy with the results.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

There are many players on the market for Magento extensions. If you open Magento Marketplace, you will see products from more than 1000 companies. As CEO of Amasty, my goal is to make the company a one-stop-shop for our clients. The merchant should have an easy way to buy and maintain all required extensions to run their business.

Earlier this year, we introduced the A-store project. When shopping at amasty.com, our customers can buy extensions developed by other vendors tested for compatibility with Amasty products. For our clients, it is a single place to buy and get support for all their products; for us, it’s the way to develop the best solutions and make sure our clients get everything they need for their businesses.

Your Final Thoughts

Try to focus on opportunities even when it seems that your feet don’t touch the ground. In the long run, all your efforts will return in double. As a result, As a company, I can say that Amasty is now in better shape than it was in pre-COVID-19 times.

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