An Auckland-based expense reporting software provider which counts the Canadian Government among its biggest clients has taken the somewhat unusual step of dismantling its management hierarchy.
Fraedom, which was founded 16 years ago as a startup incubated in Deloitte, has since achieved huge growth and now counts 134,000 organisations using its platform in 178 countries.
The company's co-founder and chief information officer Simon Raymer said it started out as myPcard - named after purchasing cards - but later changed their name to Spendvision, and then again to Fraedom last year.
However, as the product was often white-labelled by its customers, many of the end-users were unaware they were using the product, he said.
"A lot of our customers here in New Zealand know us as FlexiPurchase and also, around the world, a lot of the big banking partners that we've got relabel it to their own product and sell it as a card-based solution, powered by Spendvision."
Raymer said they had also begun to partner with card issuers directly, who on-sell the product to banks, who in turn on-sell it to their customers.
"We have some very impressive relationships we've built over time and some very healthy relationships and partnerships where we're their technology wing.
"We're a small, nimble New Zealand company powering these giants, especially in the States, which is a fun place to be."
Raymer said they tended not to heavily market Fraedom, instead relying on the relationships they had formed with banks and card issuers. The Canadian Government was their highest profile new customer.
"Something we've always struggled with is there's 1000 things we could do with our technology [so] trying to make sure you only do 10 of them.
"The good thing about being around for so long ... is we've learned a lot over the years and we've worked out how to be very successful and sustainable, and very profitable."
The company is now wholly owned by UK-based corporate services provider Hogg Robinson Group, which reported in its latest annual report that under Fraedom's previous moniker Spendvision, revenue increased 13.7 per cent in the past financial year to £22.4 million ($53 million). Underlying operating profit also increased, by 6.7 per cent, to £3.2 million.
After starting as a team of two, Fraedom now has more than 400 employees - 120 in Auckland, the rest scattered across its Melbourne, Sydney, San Francisco and London offices. However, after growing for 16 years, Raymer said the company's organisational structure had become too hierarchical, with a management system that harked back to the 1980s.
"We actually did a review about a year ago and looked at one part of our development wing and there were seven tiers of management all the way up to myself - it was crazy. A developer would report to a team lead, the team lead would report to a manager, that manager would report to a senior manager."
The review led to them discarding the old way of doing things and starting anew with what they dubbed their new "practice model".
They implemented a matrix HR management structure, hiring three HR specialists - each responsible for 40 people.
The remaining staff were then organised into self-organising "scrum teams" with naturally selected "scrum masters".
"The practice model's about completely flattening and removing that management structure and changing it," he said.
"It's like a book club, some people are really interested in drama books, some people want romance, some people want horror books - same with development." The practice lead, or scrum master, was akin to the chairman of the book club, Raymer said.
"They're the ones who help organise it, they do a lot of the work, but they're not the manager, they don't manage the team."
The internal scrum management came down to "a lot of self-organisation", Raymer said.
"No one reports to anyone ... so you no longer have this stepping on toes when you're trying to merge two departments," he said.
"I have fortnightly meetings with our HR advisers, where we sit down and talk through the staff and I get true feedback now.
"Because the structure's so flat, I get information direct from the HR advisers [and] the scrum masters, who can tell you what's really happening, so you can really make change."
• Cloud-based expense management software company.
• Often sold as a 'white-label' product, allowing different companies to re-brand the product to suit them.
• Started 16 years ago within Deloitte, now in 178 countries.
• Used by more than 134,000 organisations.
• Processes more than 400,000 transactions daily.