How 9x helped Circula build automation-first operations
A new way to operate
But just as important: we have developed our colleagues further and not only equipped them with new skills. We have fostered their competences to solve complex problems and think a little bit more like builders!
Circula is a B2B SaaS company based in Berlin, developing apps to manage expenses and employee benefits that save about 70% process costs in accounting. Founded in 2017, the company now counts more than 120 employees, operates in 3 markets and has raised more than €20M funding to date.
In 2022, Circula set out to grow by launching new markets in Spain and Netherlands, adding employee benefits and credit cards to their core expenses product, increasing their team from 40 to 120 people within a year, while maintaining triple digit annual revenue growth. In order to reach its objectives, the company had to stay capital efficient.
With traction comes more workload for everyone
As revenue and customers increased, the workload outpaced the growth of the team. This affected all departments - Sales, Finance, Customer Success, Marketing or Operations alike - and forced them to look for more efficient ways of working.
Processes start to outgrow internal SaaS tools
As Circula expanded, its operations became more complex. The number of processes and their complexity grew as the company started offering multiple products, targeting multiple customer segments and rolling out additional markets.
The SaaS apps used to power internal processes started to show some limitations. Teams were only able to cover about 80% of their needs with them, with emails and spreadsheets as fallback solutions for the remaining 20%. These uncovered areas began to accumulate, leading to decreased productivity.
These uncovered areas could be optimized through automation and custom tooling. But tech had limited availability to work on these topics.
Internal tech resources are limited
With a core product to improve and localize for two new markets and two product lines to launch in one year, tech needed to focus as much as possible on delivering its product roadmap.
This left little to no time for building scalable internal tooling and automating internal processes. At the same time, the number of requests and ideas for internal processes to automate continued to increase, growing the tech backlog.
9x helped Circula adopt an automation-first approach and overcome its dependence on the technical team for internal operations.
We did this by reviewing the company’s operating system to map automation opportunities, identifying potential builders in each team, and giving them the tools and techniques to automate.
Identifying automation opportunities
We started with reviewing Circula’s operational processes, internal tools and the associated challenges each team was facing. An internal automation roadmap was created, that would help all parties prioritize automation projects based on strategic relevance and impact for the company.
Implementing the tools that enable automation
The right tools to complement Circula’s internal tools stack were introduced:
- Airtable lets Circulators build custom internal tools to manage uncovered processes such as lead management, manual dunning, or website traffic monitoring.
- Make lets them create and maintain the integrations missing between their SaaS tools without the help of their technical team.
- Other solutions were selected and implemented to address specific use cases, such as ParseHub (scraping), Hunter (enrichment), or Expandi (outreach), to name a few.
Identifying potential builders in each team…
We set out to identify at least one team member per department to take part in our training programs and be trained to no-code operations. Team members selected were operators in charge of running the processes, willing to invest time to acquiring automation skills and with vetted potential to build no-code solutions.
The underlying goal: get each team in a position to build solutions to their problems on their own in the future.
…train them in no-code and automation…
Selected Circula employees went out to complete one of our bootcamps. In these programs, they learned how to automate processes by leveraging no-code and low-code platforms such as Airtable, Bubble or Make. They were also introduced to technical concepts such as databases, APIs, and frontend.
To connect the dots between what they learned and their work, learners were also guided into building a concrete use case addressing a specific challenge their team was facing at Circula.
…and ensure continuous delivery of projects
9x now continues to help identify valuable automation opportunities, trains more Circulators to no-code operations and provides them with technical support on bigger projects or whenever external expertise is needed. This continuous support ensures that the projects that are built match professional quality standards and contribute to the objectives of the company.
- 17 operators can now build
… they work in Operations, Finance, Customer Success, Business Development or Marketing and have learned automation by completing one of our training programs
- 40 no-code ops use cases built to date
… to supercharge Revenue Operations, Marketing, Finance Operations or People Operations processes
- 600 hours saved per month
… spent doing higher level tasks instead of manual steps that can be given to robots.
- 2x to 10x productivity on automated processes
… up to 10x productivity increase achieved in some of the processes that were automated by builders.
- 90% reduction of internal requests to tech
… with builders in each team now building on their own, the amount of internal requests to the product and tech team dropped by 90%.