Today is Entrepreneur’s Day. Along with winning the prestigious Enabling Technologies Award at The Smart City World Expo this week, this seems like the perfect opportunity to look back on our company’s journey and the road ahead. And who better to give us an insight into ten years of Sirus than Sirus’ CEO Gert himself?
Hello Gert, you’ve successfully been behind the steering wheel of Sirus for over a decade now. How does that make you feel?
Well, it feels exciting to say the least. A lot has happened in these past ten years. When I look back at the beginning now, it’s extra special to see how much we’ve grown, yet stayed true to our core values and philosophy over all these years.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in these ten years?
In the beginning, we were just a small team and I was responsible for everything from administration to sales. It took me a lot of time and effort to let go of certain things, certain responsibilities. But slowly I began learning an invaluable lesson, that you have to trust people and entrust them with real responsibilities. As we’ve grown quite a lot over these ten years, it was no longer possible for me to firmly hold on to all of Sirus’ different important domains like sales, recruitment and administration.
So, I think the most important lesson I’ve learned is to give things away, to trust people with big responsibilities and even specifically hire people to take over certain responsibilities. When Sofie and Jochen joined our company and took the administration and recruitment out of my hands, it was clear that this evolution was necessary to be able to grow as a company. They are both doing a great job. As are Sales Responsible Justien and Competence Leaders Tim, Kristof, Stieven and Ben. This gives me the opportunity to refocus on what I love doing most, what I am most passionate about and what made me start this company in the first place.
Even though I gave certain responsibilities away, I am still in close contact with all of my employees and I will continue to do so. I am always aware of every Sirus project and still share my architectural expertise with the developers on the project. I might leave the recruitment screenings in Jochen’s capable hands, but I do still meet with every new colleague who wants to come work at Sirus.
How did Sirus evolve during the years?
In the beginning, we were just a small company and it was sometimes difficult to find challenging opportunities. Now, we are seen as experts and thought leaders in many different fields. We have expertise in the market and it is widely known that we are a company able to make a difference. Customers know us and know our name, which is an incredible evolution.
I dare say administration is not my strong suit, so the structure Jochen en Sofie brought into the company represented a very great change for Sirus. In addition to these structural changes our marketing story is now stronger than ever, we are present on social media and are able to spread a coherent story on many different and important channels, thanks to Justien and our communication agency Graviteit. And we’ve made the necessary investments in project leadership. We’ve specifically recruited project leaders in order to manage and not just execute client assignments. We can fully take charge of a project and assist our clients the best way possible, not only in their development needs, but also on a more structural level.
Apart from the growth we’ve known on a structural and marketing level, we’ve also expanded our offerings. We used to specialize mainly in SharePoint and .NET technology, now we’ve included Cloud services, Office 365, IoT and data, without losing interest and further delving into our primary focus areas. We’ve further successfully enriched our client portfolio with clients such as public companies Fluvius and Aquafin, cities and governments and large private clients such as ArcelorMittal, Mediahuis and everything in between. This shows once again that we’re a jack of all trades and our expertise expands over the mere boundaries of the core software we’re working with.
What has stuck with Sirus over these years, what has never changed?
We’ve always strived to make a difference by finding challenging opportunities and delivering quality above all else. As a small player, it’s not easy to make an impact, but I believe that by choosing the challenge and always applying the necessary quality and high-level expertise, you can – even as a small company – realize great things.
At every project and software assignment, we’ve always paid close attention to a detailed architecture and the right approach. We don’t just apply the solution the client asks for, we also consider whether this is the best solution for the problem or inform the client when we think another route might be better. We’ve developed our own quality checklist to make sure each and every project reaches the quality bar. We aim for long-term relationships with our clients, where we’ll continue to deliver qualitative work for them and help look for new opportunities.
But apart from our eye for quality, we are dedicated to our team and we’ve always continued investing in their skills. We invest in their growth by offering them training courses and we try to really listen to their needs. We’ll accompany them towards their dream position. A Junior developer who dreams of one day becoming a Solution Architect? We’ll guide him/her on the right path to get him/her there. A team member is not happy at his/her assignment? We’ll take action to solve the problem and if necessary, we’ll deploy him/her somewhere else. Our team members take center stage.
Team effort gets the job done and by knowing and continuing to know each other, we grow as a company. Our bond defines us and makes us stronger. With each project our developers don’t just use their own knowledge, they can count on the knowledge of the entire team. And that’s our true power.
What are some of the most important milestones in the history of Sirus?
The start of our company in 2011, for sure, and the gigantic leap forwards when we traded our attic room in Dendermonde for our first real office near Guldensporenpark to finally end up in our new offices in Merelbeke.
Another important moment is when our team grew from a few people to 10-15 people. Right now, we are solid team of more than 40 employees, requiring proper follow-up and administrative concerns.
The moment we became Sirus and the start of our first Smart City Project for the City of Antwerp is another major milestone on our journey. This project really opened a lot of doors for us in 2015-2016. Since then, we’ve worked for many more cities, all leading to one big moment in particular in 2020, when we won the BLR project together with our partner company Cegeka. And of course, right now winning the Enabling Technologies Award at the Smart City World Expo in Barcelona, which I already know now will open even more doors.
What does Sirus’ future look like according to you?
Sirus’ growth lies in the growth of our various domains. We can still grow on many levels; data and IoT – for example – offer many challenging new opportunities. We also hope to acquire new city cases and onboard new use cases for our existing cities onto their shared data platform. And we want to continue to pursue more industrial projects, and specialize more in data analysis and digital twins, cloud domains, .NET, cloud, Azure and Office365. Microsoft technology will remain our core business, but we will include more Microsoft areas in our offerings in the future.
We want to help our clients even further by setting up a support service so they can count on us throughout their entire project. Furthermore, we are currently delving into governance so we can assist our clients on an even more structural level. Companies may have Office365, but they don’t really have set processes about when to create a new Teams environment, where to put documents or how to manage the different types of accesses that customers and employees can have. The same doubts apply to security and how to effectively manage, retain and delete data.
By specializing in governance, we can assist companies in how to keep or delete sensitive documents, set up an efficient work structure in their Office365 environment and how to analyze and govern the different data streams a company possesses.
How would you explain the success of Sirus?
I think the success of Sirus lies in all of the above, but also in the fact that we’ve always helped other people and organizations. I, myself, put a lot of time and effort into helping other organizations with their architecture, offering them advice about standards and being present in different task forces about data standards and interoperability in Flanders and Europe. By putting a lot of time and effort into consulting, advising, working in open source and sharing knowledge, I think we were slowly considered experts in the field.
Any last recommendations for fellow entrepreneurs?
Well, I think that’s just it. Invest in sharing knowledge with others and gain knowledge from others while doing so. I think that’s the best piece of advice I can give.
Thank you Gert!