Holition is an innovation studio in the UK that delivers exceptional bespoke solutions for luxury, beauty, and fashion brands, and works with researchers and artists, to understand and strengthen their digital and physical presence. Being a tech agnostic company since the outset and an ‘innovation chameleon who seamlessly adapts’, Holition hardly has any agencies in the UK that can compete with their unique ‘holistic’ approach.
Their portfolio is constantly filled with projects for luxury brands, like Louis Vuitton, Tom Ford, Burberry, BMW and Rolls Royce, to name a few. But there’s one pitfall. With another great project and a hybrid business model like Holition’s often comes risk. To avoid the outcome of a very thin line between cost and profit and manage peaks and troughs of resource availability, Holition’s leadership team had to reimagine their processes.
We spoke to Matt Nelson, Head of Operations at Holition, to learn more about the company’s approach to growing the business and managing risk. It’s been three years since Matt started using Forecast to support their strategy, optimize processes, and take in more complex projects.
Wearing many hats
The blend of physical and digital, coupled with bespoke storytelling, is what differentiates Holition from the competition. “We hold ourselves to a very high standard,” explains Matt.
“Particularly with COVID, brands are trying to connect with users through storytelling, but not many do it really well. We merge marketing strategy, content creation, and creative software development into one to make sure clients are making the most of all areas rather than creating something that’s often unusable and unoriginal.”
As a Head of Operations, Matt has to wear many different hats every day. Not only does he oversee projects, he’s also responsible for planning, quality control, reporting, facilitation, and team success.
“Besides the actual project management,” he points out, “what I also look at in particular is our process of onboarding work, as we go from pitching to scoping, to project planning, to project running, to final deployment and testing, to post-project upkeep.”
When Matt started at Holition, there were about 15-20 people in the studio at that time. He describes their work process as “a bit ad hoc,” mainly due to the lack of an end-to-end perspective on their projects and a single project mindset. The desire to professionalize Holition’s workflow prompted him to rethink their processes, starting with the tool stack they could use to rally everyone around the same goals.
“When I arrived at Holition there were no PMs. We were a much smaller company in terms of personnel. I came in halfway through our first really serious project, which was a mobile app, just to realize we were lacking on execution in terms of pure project management, risk management, quality management, and helping our client make judgement calls in terms of cost versus value.”
Despite the challenges, Holition has grown their services, doubled headcount, and become more professional. Matt pulled the curtain back for us on what went into reimagining their processes and strengthening their core business operations.
Exploring the options
First brought in to help their software developers, the Management Team was quickly convinced that the processes he was about to implement should apply company-wide. On his journey to improving professionalism and business delivery, Matt tried different tools.
He explains, “We previously used JIRA and Confluence, and I found that the adoption rate was very poor, and it wasn’t usable for non-development teams. It didn’t offer many features we were seeking out, which became invaluable for our business in terms of holidays, expense management, high-level planning, roadmap making, timeline planning, resource management, and budgeting.”
After a year and a half of using Jira, Matt decided to scrap it and use something completely different. He thought they should try Trello because it had a lot of cross-platform integrations and, in his opinion, it was “dead simple to use.”
Even though the adoption rate increased dramatically, Matt found that his time was taken up with mostly managing how different teams used Trello, as it was too open-ended. He tried to show and prove how Trello could be implemented for each specific project but because it didn’t cater to the complexities that they needed, Matt was stuck in the middle of two extremes.
“Trello didn’t have the different levels of insights that JIRA offered like user stories and cross-project management. In addition, we were missing a timeline view of all of our projects and product roadmap,” says Matt.