How Twill embraced agile

Since our launch in 2017, the team at Twill have embraced an agile methodology – which is a process of working that encourages collaboration, adaptation, and efficiency. It is formed around key roles and events within teams and the company as a whole. These include daily Huddles, Sprints, Scrum Masters and more. If you’re not familiar, take a look at this handy guide on the terminology.

This year we wanted to see how we could improve our agile mindset, so we introduced Minke de Haan, an Agile Coach, to the team. In this week’s blog we spoke to her about how she’s been working with Twill, her experiences and why an agile culture could be beneficial for other businesses:

What have you been working on with the team at Twill in your time here?
“I began my work at Twill with a vision workshop – this was to help me understand what they wanted to do, where they wanted to go with Twill and why. In my opinion, having this understanding of the wider vision and strategy is crucial to ensuring everyone is aligned from the beginning.

“After this, I spent a few weeks observing and understanding the Product team and Tech team – where I spent my time discovering ways they could improve their agile processes. In this time I started to see how they could work better together and better utilise agile processes to get over obstacles and achieve their goals.

“I believe that it’s important not to just optimise little things here and there – but to really prepare, understand and then implement. So all of this preparation culminated in two workshops that laid out what agile could do for these teams alongside the vision of leadership over the next 6, 9, 12 months. Then it was about finding out what the teams needed from each other if they were to further implement an agile methodology – and what did they need from agile.”

Why is an agile culture important to a company like Twill?
“For a start-up like Twill you need to deliver fast, while maintaining great quality, and as a start-up, you feel a desire to prove yourself to the world and prove that you’re here to stay. You want to get to a point where you not only have a strong platform, as Twill does, but you are an established company that delivers new products or features at the right time and in the right way.

“On top of this, Twill thrives on delivering added value for their customers, that’s the end goal for them and many companies. You might have a great idea, with great market research, but if you as a company aren’t able to deliver it to the market and get real feedback from customers – then it stays an idea.

You say you’ve been working with the leadership team at Twill – how important is leadership to an agile company?
“Leadership is very important. When you look at a traditional company, the leadership tends to demand results and then micro-manage. In an agile company, leadership understands that they can coach people and support them by helping move barriers or obstacles that might be stopping growth or progress.

“What’s good about the leadership team at Twill is that they are passionate and ambitious, which is rare in many companies. For example, in a roadmap session where in most companies you will get 15 – 20 ideas out of a workshop, at Twill you get 150 – 170! So then it becomes a case of structuring this ambition. We developed a roadmap for the next 12 months – with a focus on the first three months and then the next 6 months. The later 9 – 12 month periods were more vague because there a lot of potential things that can change in that time – so you want to be able to adapt to those changes.

“At Twill the leadership team is also working in two-week sprints. So when every sprint finishes they look back and review – then plan ahead for the next sprint. This allows the leadership team to, alongside their normal job roles, achieve some goals that are really important for Twill++ (Agile as the heartbeat of the organisation).

What are the tangible benefits of an agile culture?
“I think there are two strong tangible benefits of an agile culture. Firstly, it allows everyone to do what they do best. When everyone is aligned, working together and helping each other achieve their goals and remove obstacles, nobody is having to work out problems on their own – which can not only be difficult but also time-consuming.

“Secondly, I’d say a great benefit is transparency. A strong roadmap shows where we are and when we need to deliver things. This means, for example, that we now have more conversations with stakeholders and teams about what and how we need to deliver value to our customers.”

Finally, what would be your reflections on working with Twill so far – and what advice would you give to other companies thinking of embracing agile?
“From the moment I arrived at Twill it’s been a great journey – the teams here are really willing to change, learn and grow. For me that made the transitions we needed to make, so much easier – because everyone was open to change, even when there were obstacles.

“For me, it is important with embracing Agile that we are all in this together or we don’t do it at all. I really feel and see at Twill that we are all in this together – there is no hierarchy.

“To other companies looking at going agile, I’d reiterate some of the things I’ve said here – prepare, understand and then implement. There’s no one-day, one-job fix – it is a process and everyone has to be involved and aligned in that process for it to really work and be sustainable.”

Business Development & Twill: A Thriving Partnership

Start-ups (like Twill) face many challenges as they establish themselves in the world. One of the biggest is having to build a reputation from the ground-up, as well as growing and expanding as you go. There are a lot of challenges this can present, especially in terms of maintaining quality and sustainability for customers.

This makes the role of business development at Twill really important. In this week’s blog, Paul Iles, Business Development Manager at Twill, spoke about the relationship between Business Development and our digital platform:

“My job is very much customer-facing. It’s my job to promote our platform and the service we provide – this involves researching and developing new business, as well as cultivating existing business. It’s important, as a member of the business development team, that I’m aware of the market we work in and know how we can be more competitive each day, month and year.

“An innovative digital platform like Twill presents its challenges – it is disruptive after all! When I first started working at Twill I felt like I knew the structure of a sales call/meeting inside and out – I have been working in the freight forwarding and logistics industry for 30 years. But Twill really pushed me onto a new level – there was now a platform to demonstrate to clients and get immediate feedback on; it has changed the whole dynamic of sales meetings for the better.

“One of the ways it’s done this is that when I’m in a sales meeting and talking with a potential customer, I can actually take a step back and let the platform do the talking through a demonstration. With the spotlight off me, I can gauge how the customer is reacting to Twill and that lets me know how the meeting is going. It can also help in gaining information more naturally from the customer – rather than feeling like I’m conducting an interview.

“Overall it has generally breathed new life into sales meetings and existing relationships with customers that may have been approached via our relationship with Damco. We build relationships with customers in order to get business; but when you meet with the same people each time it can become a stalemate and everyone gets comfortable. Twill has disrupted that and in that way it is moving us ahead of the competition from a business development perspective – as well as its digital innovation.

“I think there is a strong relationship between what Twill has brought to our business development and what our business development is bringing to Twill. There will always be a need for some human element in our industry and in the business development team we can help make the transition to a digital future smooth for our customers. On the other side, Twill is breaking new ground – it has made freight forwarding exciting again.

“I’ve been involved in freight forwarding for many years, in almost every aspect of the industry, and I can see that Twill is legitimising freight forwarding and making it more sophisticated. People are realising now that it is not just a non-essential part of their business – but a key fixture. Twill has been crucial in that realisation and I’m proud to be a part of the team!”

Behind the scenes: Designing ‘the Twill experience’

How is service design different from product design?
Twill is in the business of freight-forwarding, which is, in essence, a service. Although we spend much of our energy on our digital platform, at the same time we are aware that this is only part of the experience we provide.

We want to offer our customers ‘the Twill experience’, which is influenced by many touchpoints — both digital and analogue.

A customer might come across our website, be in touch with our sales team, use the platform, receive emails and get support from our customer care team. Service design is in its core holistic and considers the entire customer journey, from beginning to end.

Product design typically solves problems that are confined to an individual product. Although designers at Twill are in fact part of the ‘product team’, we spend a lot of time thinking about how we can serve every part of the journey. We want to empower our customer care team to reach out to customers proactively — and they need a platform for that. Our pricing managers need to be able to handle the complexity of quotation, in order for customers to see quotes instantly. The right emails need to go out to our customers at the right times. And all of these systems need to tie together.

This, essentially, is service design.

‘The Twill experience’ is a daily topic of discussion around the office. We know that we still need to put in a lot of hard work to reach our ideal customer journey— but the service design approach is helping us to focus our efforts in the right places.

Where does ‘design thinking’ come into place?
The term ‘design thinking’ was coined a few years ago and helped get rid of a persistent idea: that design is about color or decoration. Instead, adding the word thinking to the word design has put attention on the process designers use to get to a more intentional outcome. That’s when other business areas began seeing the value of design and applying it in their jobs, too.

At Twill, we like to learn from each other across our different disciplines. It is understood that design thinking is a way of approaching problems. It is not design itself, no more than agile is engineering (as a matter of fact — our leadership team works agile, too).

And most teams have already adopted some form of design thinking into their daily work. A good example of this is our operations team. They have set up a structured process to come up with ideas to improve their way of working (most of the time informed by user feedback).

Every week members of the customer care team dial in, discuss their pain points and come up with solutions together. They will then run experiments in one or two offices and if successful, the solution is then implemented on a larger scale. This is design thinking in a nutshell – and it will be revolutionary in the logistics industry.

How would you define your contribution to Twill?
I recently read an article that said that ‘companies used to compete on business models, then technology, and now design’. This especially true in tech — and with the logistics industry moving into the digital sphere, it will inevitably be true for Twill.

Our goal is to create a platform that can be used by anyone who needs their cargo shipped, with or without prior knowledge of logistics. This is really a design question: how can we direct users’ attention to the right places and make sure they get the right information at the right time?

It also needs to be comprehensive for users from different age groups and self-explanatory rather than using complicated, technical jargon. Everything needs to be intentional and I think that’s where good design can really make the difference.

What makes the Twill design team different from others?
We are currently still a pretty small team, each with their unique skills and capabilities. The one most important thing that sets us up for success is collaboration: knowing each other’s strengths, continually asking for critique, openness, and trust. This is key to delivering quality and at the same time helps us to grow as designers. Plus, it makes Twill a really fun place to work!

Digital freight forwarder enters Thailand and Malaysia

The Hague, NL – 25 June 2018 – Twill, a digital freight forwarder designed to make shipping simple, has today launched into Thailand and Malaysia, the latest import countries to be added to the online platform.

Driven by customer demand, Twill is now present in 17 countries after just 14 months of operation under partner company Damco. Instant quotations are available 24/7 and it takes just 30 seconds to place a cargo booking on the platform – which can all be done using the intuitive online dashboard.

Erry Hardianto, Thailand, Malaysia & Singapore Area CEO at Damco commented: “The market here is very much ready to accept this new way of freight forwarding. We’re seeing more and more companies willing to try this kind of technology every day and our customers have made it clear that they want to see greater innovation from Damco – Twill provides that in abundance and we’re excited to take our customers on the digital journey.”

Troels Stovring, CEO of Twill added: “The beauty of Twill is that it takes the complexity of shipping away from our customers. We’re one of the first to be serving these countries and our large global network means that we can deliver on what our customers – and shippers – are asking for. Both countries are growing very quickly and it’s impossible to ignore them. The time is now for us to make shipping simple.”

Customers can now place a booking from Thailand and Malaysia by visiting the company’s website: www.twill.net/sign-up

 

Notes to editor:

For more information:
Claire Grant, Athene Communications
T: +44(0)1733 207344 | E: claire.grant@athene-communications.co.uk

About Twill
Born out of a desire to simplify shipping for its customers, Twill is a digital freight forwarder. Launched in April 2017, Twill enables you to book, manage and monitor your shipments at the click of a button – from quotation and documentation right through to delivery.

Building on the expertise of its partner company Damco, Twill’s agile approach to the development of freight forwarding means that it can be responsive as the market continues to evolve. Dedicated Twill customer care teams at origin and destination countries make the process as simple as possible.

Twill currently serves full container load, ocean services from port to door, importing from China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan territories), India, Vietnam or Indonesia to the UK, US, Mexico, France, Spain, Slovakia, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Thailand, Malaysia, Poland or the Czech Republic.

With Twill, shipping has never been simpler.

The Life of a Twill Marketer

At Twill we believe in giving customers a look behind the curtains of what makes a start-up tick – in past blogs we’ve looked at a day in the life of our customer care team and our sales representatives. Now it’s time to talk to Twill’s marketing team, specifically Kasia Kuchnowska, our Marketing Coordinator, about her role at Twill:

What does a normal day look like for you?
“Normally, I come to the office and scan my emails to see what will be on my to-do list for the day. Then I join our ‘huddle’ – this is like a team meeting where we update each other on our priorities and I outline all the marketing activities happening on a daily basis. After this I check on all the social media activities, social channels, number of updates, followers, publications etc. From there I jump to localised marketing and catch up with a few countries about events, press releases, email marketing and other campaigns around new launches or expansions.

“Then after a delicious lunch at Twill, I will jump to different meetings with designers and the product or growth teams on everything from when we plan to go to a new country, to the wider growth of the company. At the end of the day, we will work on optimisation of certain things within our marketing activities based on the data that we gather. This could be tweaking our website to showcase Twill more from a customer perspective, and we also have a calendar of blog content (like this one!) which we feed all of this work into. There’s a lot of coffee and tea in between all of this of course!”

What is your favorite part of the day?
“Aside of having our office dog Roxy around and playing with her, it’s when I get to talk to new countries as we continue to expand. On those calls and in those meetings I see the spark of opportunities when we talk about Twill and the opportunities that the new offices have to transform their country in terms of freight forwarding and transforming logistics.”

How is your day different from other Twillers?
“I think in a lot of ways my day is very similar to other Twillers – because we are all ultimately working to make the experience of our customers better; we just have different ways of doing it. In my case, our marketing work is often the first thing our customers see of Twill. We present the external face of the company – the brand language and communications.”

Who do you interact with most within Twill on a daily basis?
“I collaborate a lot with our product team, including the designers, as we want to provide an end-to-end journey for our customers – from the moment they see our campaigns until they see the invoice in our platform. Having synergy with the various tech Twillers really helps me figure out the best solution in updating and aspect of our platform or process. I work closely with our Customer Care team too because they talk to our customers every day and can provide really valuable input into our marketing. Of course working in the role that I do, I will usually talk to people from across the business at some point.”

How is Twill different from other places that you have worked at?
“Twill is really great at utilising the data we have available to help understand customer behavior and then use it to improve our platform. This process is continuous whereas in other places this might be a ‘once a month’ activity.

“I also believe that Troels, our CEO, brings very high standards. He always questions you every week: what is happening, what results have we gotten, which pushes us to innovate a lot. The openness for innovation is always there, you can come up with the craziest ideas and there will be two follow up questions to check if your logic works, and if it does work you have an opportunity in front of you – and it’s safe to say that you very rarely hear no as an answer.”

How do you interact with customers in your role?
“I am lucky enough to be able to meet our customers regularly through customer interviews that we often carry out in order to get feedback and create new content. I also sit in and observe sales meetings sometimes. It’s always a good way to see the reactions of customers, their stories and how our Twill platform has really impacted and improved their way of working.”

What do you think makes a Twiller?
“I think Twillers have a willingness to innovate and push the boundaries. Life is about taking opportunities when they arise and making something out of them – Twill is a place where opportunities are presented every day. The most important thing is that Twillers think simple and search for the simplest, most straight-forward solutions to any problem. Our motto, after all, is ‘shipping made simple’.”

‘Paws for thought’ – Introducing Roxy, Twill’s Chief Entertainer!

Meet Roxy, possibly the friendliest member of the Twill team…a four-year-old American Staffordshire:

 

Very much one of us Twillers, here’s her perspective on what it’s like to work at Twill!

So my friends at Twill asked me to get my thinking cap on for once and give you some behind the scenes info on the Twillers.

I generally come into the office four days a week with my owner, Barbara – she’s the Head of Operations (I’m very proud!). Initially, I wasn’t sure when she mentioned coming into work with her at Twill.

“It’s all about logistics,” she said. For a dog like me, isn’t that really complicated?

“You’ll spend lots of time with other humans,” she said. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but humans at work – they’re just all stressed out and ‘I don’t have time for that’; aren’t they? What chance do I have with corporate folk? They’ll all be stiff suits, anagrams and ‘meetings about meetings’ – no thank you!

Well, on my first day in the office I realized just how wrong I was. The Twillers weren’t any of those things. Not a stiff suit, bored face or frown in sight!

These people laugh at my tricks. They don’t take themselves too seriously or make things complicated; and they can’t pass me without giving me a stroke.

If I’m not with my coworkers, then I can be found lounging in my bed, playing with toys or with a fellow Twiller – everyone has their strengths, right? I get stopped around the office for a hug and people just can’t pass me by without pulling a funny face or cracking out a big smile!

I chill in the meeting rooms on the puff chairs (so comfy) to keep the mood light. If somebody ever starts to look puzzled or stressed out then I’ve got the distraction technique down. There was one meeting where I caught up on some much-needed sleep, and when I started to snore really loudly everybody cracked up. That was a win-win situation where the humans remembered to not be so serious – success!

I’ve now been here for over a year and I’ve done such a good job that I’ve been given a very important role at Twill. I’m Roxy – Chief Entertainer. I’m four years old, so I have A LOT of energy, and I’m not your typical colleague…

The humans say I’m an extrovert. All I know is I love playing and being around people – and I love it when the whole Twill team is together!

Barbara also tells me that the Twillers are much calmer and happier when I’m around. Regardless if you’re a ‘dog person’ or not, I get on with the people in my office in different ways. I think I remind them that it’s good to take a break to laugh with each other, catch up and remember to have fun. It’s certainly a super fun place to spend my days!

One thing that is serious at Twill though is simplicity. This logistics business that Barbara talks about might be complicated for a dog like me to understand, but hey, we’re all working to make shipping simple, right?