2020 in review
Happy new year, everyone! Last year was really something totally new for all of us, definitely nothing like we imagined it when we were making our yearly plans and strategies back in 2019. So, I’ll first address the elephant in the room before going into specifics.
The impact of COVID-19 on our business
One of our main goals for 2020 was to attend more conferences - it became obvious very early on, however, that this wouldn’t be possible for the entire year, and likely not for the foreseeable future. We did manage to attend 2 live conferences before the lockdowns hit, but all the rest were virtual.
The pandemic also prevented us from being able to visit our clients, which to us is a very important element of building a strong relationship. Moreover, certain projects and budgets were cancelled due to companies losing business, and the general nervousness in the first few months forced businesses to focus only on the essentials.
Still, there’s some silver lining. Being a development company, we did not really experience a dip in business as there’s an increasing need for digital products and services, and with that an increase in digital transformation investments.
Another plus is that it’s become easier to attract clients that were previously reluctant to have remote development partners, since the lockdowns necessitated everybody who could do so to work remotely - with the result often being increased rather than decreased productivity.
Goals and numbers
While Covid prevented us from achieving the goals we set ourselves at the end of 2019, we did still grow in pretty much all the areas we wanted to - which, all things considered, is a huge success in and of itself!
The exponential growth of our team slowed down a bit, and we finished 2020 with 68 full-time employees, 8 more than at the end of last year, with 2 new members in the sales team to compensate for the lack of events. We were planning on opening up a new office last year as well - instead, we ended up opening about 50 or 60 of them, so to speak.
Revenue-wise, we only saw some minor growth - but, again, considering everything going on and with us even having to write off some debt, any growth at all was actually a major success for such a time of uncertainty.
We didn’t have to lay off any employees due to the lockdown and we entered 2021 debt-free, with new clients and prospects on the horizon. We still work both long and short term, with agencies and end clients, and we don’t depend on a single market or a big client.
Revamp of our website, content and tools
Since we weren’t able to grow our business via physical channels, we took the opportunity and invested more into expanding and optimizing our digital services, in particular our website and our internal digital tools.
We saw the opportunity to start a podcast about various topics in the digital industry and we started working extensively on that to be able to release the first three episodes in September, with 12 episodes live right now.
The major undertaking was the redesign and update of our website. This included a new look and feel, more client-centric content and an update to the latest 9th version of Drupal, as well as optimizations to accessibility and privacy.
But things were even more interesting in our internal services. With fewer developers working on client projects, we were able to significantly streamline our internal tools with powerful front-end technologies like Angular which we’ve been adopting more and more.
We had an old dashboard app for our project managers which we’ve been revamping to serve as a powerful tool for all employees. The new and improved dashboard now includes:
- Personal dashboard
- Time log overview and overtime tracking
- Home office (relevant again when the lockdowns are over)
- Holidays request management
- Tracking of skill development of our engineers
In addition to the efficient dashboard, we’ve also streamlined our onboarding tools and processes, with a broader selection of tasks and a broader range of technologies for both front- and back-end developers. We now have optimized onboarding workflows for the three big front-end technologies - React, Vue and Angular, with more frameworks being added.
A final thing which we’ve recently implemented and really helps boost the remote employee experience is the Slack integration of a tool for giving praise to teammates, which we call “AgileKarma”.
Employees can give each other a ++ for help with a task, or a completely personal issue, and every 3 months the highest ranking employees are given a small reward. This promotes collaboration in a healthy way while also providing an easy way to give others recognition, something that’s become invaluable in times of Covid.
Technologies & communities
Due to the disruption caused by Covid, we weren’t able to completely reach our goal of broadly expanding into several different open-source technologies. However, that doesn’t mean there was no expansion at all.
We kept doing more Angular and started being more active in that community through interviews and blog posts. Over time, we also started focusing more on React and Vue, with the latter especially relevant for Laravel, with which we’ve enjoyed working more and more lately. We even recently released our first Laravel package!
We became a partner to Spryker, the enterprise cloud commerce platform, and we’re planning on focusing even more on Spryker-based solutions this year.
As for our Drupal contribution, we sadly were not able to organize our frequent Drupal courses, as we’ve seen that they’re much more effective if done in-person. We were able to hold one Drupal course and one WordPress meetup before the start of the pandemic, and then another Drupal course in the summer before the second wave (with proper protection, of course).
We were, however, very active in our code contribution to Drupal, partly due to the release of Drupal 9 in June, and partly due to our capable and prolific developers sharing their projects with the community. In 2020, our team received altogether 270 issue credits on drupal.org, and we released 4 new Drupal modules. We are now maintainers of 10 modules on drupal.org.
One of the things we missed the most this year were all the events and activities that we’ve grown so fond of over the years. As conferences went virtual, our internal events likewise had to adapt to the new remote nature of our work.
Luckily, AgileTalks are something that we were able to transfer seamlessly to the virtual format, and we had a total of 10 last year (and already one to kick off 2021). As for AgileFood and AgileSport, we were able to do a few smaller events in the summer months after arranging everything with the authorities and taking proper precaution.
A nice compensation for the lack of in-person interactions was the set up of online coffee breaks for the team, as well as several Slack channels dedicated, for example, to gaming and sharing pet photos. We also formed a group of Among Us players who get together regularly, as a kind of new parallel to a Friday afternoon drink with colleagues.
Lucky for us, Santa Claus was apparently allowed to move about freely despite the Covid restrictions, as members of our team still received innovative and personal gifts as part of Secret Santa. And even the children of all employees received presents, so it was really nice to keep some of the true holiday and Agiledrop team spirit in these weird times.
I guess that’s the main question on everybody’s minds right now, and this year it’s likely much more difficult to answer than any previous one.
While 2020 was a strange and difficult year in both business and our personal lives, we definitely managed to come out stronger and more resilient to future challenges and disruption.
So, as for our goals and plans for 2021, we’re staying optimistic - but realistic. We hope to attend at least some live conferences, but we’ll also keep looking at additional digital ways for meeting with new potential clients and partners, and for fostering a strong local development community.
We plan on providing more services with technologies such as Laravel, which also means being more involved in those communities and publishing interesting relevant content. With that, we also plan on streamlining our internal learning with more practical workshops and the already mentioned further improvements to our onboarding programs.
In addition to growing our development team, we’re also looking to expand our sales and marketing teams, as well as hire more project managers and find opportunities for new development managers. If all goes well, we even plan on opening that one new office that we thought about in late 2019 - this time hopefully not a home office!
So, in closing, I’d like to give a big thank you to all our employees and our clients for sticking with us through these tough and uncertain times. I truly believe you’ve all made it easier to get by and that the relationships forged this year will continue to stand strong long after the Covid pandemic is over.
Here’s to a great 2021!