HR Vision Podcast #02 – Genesis Part 2 ft. Bert Stegeman

By FourVision
Jun 23 • 1 min read
HR Vision Podcast Episode 2 ft. Bert Stegeman

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Bert Stegeman closes the Genesis chapter we started on the first episode with Peter. As the other co-owner at FourVision we talked about why he fell in love with HR technology, his drive, the first days of the company, the Microsoft connection and more.

Ivo:
Hey everyone and welcome to the HR Vision podcast. I'm your host Ivo and every week I'm going to have a conversation that matters about HR.
In the second episode I have with me Bert Stegeman. Welcome, Bert. How are you?

Bert:
I'm good, thank you. Everything OK and how are you?

Ivo:
I'm good, I'm doing good. So welcome, Bert is the co-owner of FourVision. The company that features this podcast and where I personally work as a content manager, so full disclosure here. We're going to talk about HR of course, but first, let's start with an introduction about our guest today about Bert, so maybe you can give us an introduction about you and your professional background Bert. So the floor is yours.

Bert:
Thank you very much, Ivo. Personally married, three children. The first one finally got a job, or finally, just graduated an 25 years old and the other two are having their bachelor this summer and after their graduation they ought to do some extra work and then also go outside. We live together, and so no children home anymore.So this new part of our life. And I live in Arnhem. It's compared to who yu talk with a city in the east side of the Netherlands, but from Americans it's a it's one hour drive from Amsterdam, so it's technically I live in the Amsterdam area.

Ivo:
Exactly, yeah.

Bert:
I worked in four different types of companies, some of them in the HR business, some of them in the financial business, but always in software. So I when I start working I thought IT is not my cup of tea. But it was never ever something different than only IT companies on that. So that was in the Netherlands. Internationally, I'm also global sales manager for larger team in EMEA and on a certain moment in time, I took over a company and called it FourVision. That was in 2003.

Ivo:
Awesome OK.

Bert:
I could tell you much more, but this is a little spin...

Ivo:
In a nutshell. OK, so always related to IT. And my question after that is like HR. When HR came to play, did you ever have, you know, an interest about the area itself. IT in HR, HR technology? Did it find you or did you find it? You know what I mean?

Bert:
Yeah, it's well. My second job was already a company active in HR solutions in the Netherlands. So that that caught my attention. The types of persons in the HR department they differ compared to the rest of the organization. It's a different type of job because with one foot they are representing the employer and with the other foot they're representing employees. So they are always in a kind of a split. And what I figured out, I found out that the automation level of an HR department is not that high. Mostly and you see a lot of women works in the HR department, and they're not directly IT oriented. So when you come in there and you can help them to make their business lives easier and you see how they like it because they finally have someone who's looking after them, because most of the time they've been forgotten. And that's reason why HR has a soft spot for me.

Ivo:
OK, it's about helping actually the humans in HR because they're helping other humans. Something like that.

Yeah, and what you also seen is that the role of the of an employee is becoming more central in an organization. Well, if you look at nowadays as we all see with the pandemic what it will do with an employee on its own, and how you can get an employee linked to your organization. But the employee self is becoming more the center of an organization. let's say then, maybe even 20 years ago, it was just someone who's come, joined and left the organization. And "who cares", certainly on the manufacturing side. But nowadays this is much more caring about the asset of the organization there for you.

Ivo:
Yeah, I believe it grew. In that sense that that employees are actually an investment and a big part of the company's success, right?
OK, moving on to the next question that I have for you is basically about FourVision. What was the process to that led to the creation of the company where you already finding something you know they are trying to find something for yourself? You wanted to initiate a company. It came by chance, how did it happen?

Bert:
Well, it's an and-and-and situation. There's not a big master plan behind it on that, but by chance I had the opportunity, I saw the opportunity to take over a company which was actually bankrupt. But that ompany was at that time delivering HR solutions under the name of Microsoft product from Microsoft. Microsoft sold it very quickly but then I got involved in, at the time a product named Dynamics AX, which is an ERP solution which also has an HR solution or an HR module. An I saw what happened a lot with these international solutions. Looking at the Netherlands at the time, it was missing a lot generic; it was missing a lot of essential functionality on that. Looking at that and with the HR department in the back of my mind as well. "We can do that much better on that" So our mission is to improve the business life of the HR department and employees and managers. So that was the basic idea of "Hey, how can we do that better?".

So we bumped into AX. And we start with the first implementations with at the same time, because the product allowed to, extending the functionality so it is more aligned to the end-customer. And that was the start of the company with Peter, and we found each other. We knew each other a long time but since 2008, we were doing this together from scratch. And that means at the level of, the server was at the attic and and we were working both from home and we had a very small office on there. But we had some basic principles on that.

So first of all the functionality was already pretty wide. We also start to try educating all the other ones who are delivering the Microsoft solutions including Microsoft itself; what HR is and can do. And the other hand is looking at what is essential or necessary to help the HR department on that. So we also made some principles like, it can be extended to solutions specific for HR, (which was absolutely necessary) so let's make a product out of it so we can deliver it globally. So we already had the dot on horizon becoming a global organization, that's one. And secondly, is that we have some principles like. "Alright, let's not be common and develop outside our own organization or department, let's call it that way, so we were forced to write things down. Why is the change and how does it look like.

And some other principles were: "if we make any money, it's not going to the family of Peter of Bert, but we invest in the company". That's the reason and the the way we followed the journey to extend the organization. So every time we had a new customer on board. We invest immediately in new staff and that new in that: Axapta (AX) was the flagship of Microsoft and is now known under the name Dynamics 365. And it's not only about HR. It's so much more other functionality on board which is also directly affecting you or you need to have that kind of knowledge on board to continue on that. So although the focus was only an HR. Even then we needed to have other skills in other knowledge on board to support and serve all our customers.

Ivo:
Of course, very interesting. Now about the Microsoft connection. Did you ever did you guys you were working with Microsoft products? I believe I had this conversation with Peter before. Did you guys ever looked into other solutions and extend functionality's or from any other solution? Or Microsoft was the way to go from the start because you were already working with AX like you said, that tool from Microsoft. So you basically didn't look at any other solution and just invested full on Microsoft.

Bert:
It's again, an and-and-and situation. Yes, we looked at other solutions, yes within Microsoft you had multiple flavors. "Oh, shall we also do something with, at that time, Navision, which is now called Business Central. We had requests from other end-customers; partners. "Please extend it like the way you did for AX". But we also learned from Americans: Focus, focus, focus. So we made the decision, we hear the the request from other environments, no we only focus on AX. Assuming that this will be for Microsoft 'the' solution for the future, known now as Dynamics 365 and Finance & Operations etc. So that so that was the basic idea of the HR module.

Microsoft Netherlands was never in sight for us. It was always the development team in Seattle or Bellevue where they were based in Fargo. So we focus much more on that team and get aligned with them. So the first time we saw them on an exhibition so we were there and our goal was to know who are the persons behind the product over there" and finally we found them. And one of them is now working for us: Darin Kramer. But it was a group with a dedicated focus on an HR team. So we were actually 'soulmates'. So every time when we saw each other, so it was 1 to 2 times a year, we had a top ten of nasty questions. Why is this? How is that? Who designed this? Why, and do you know in real life that it doesn't work? Or how can we improve it? So every time we had asked them, we always got the time and they took the time for us 'cause we were those crazy ones who were one of the few in the world. Who were focusing on HR. The rest was always focusing on finance or logistics and CRM.

Ivo:
Yeah.

Bert:
Yeah, and HR was, I always called it "the last wagon on the train". We were all together in the last wagon of the train. Even the people from Microsoft 'cause they had the same position inside too.

Ivo:
Very interesting. OK so I think we got that. So now regarding FourVision. How's the business going? Most importantly, I think, what are you most proud of for all these years since you and Peter started the company?

Bert:
First of all we we don't look back that much. Sometimes Peter and I... I always call ourself a Lennon and McCartney so we keep each other sharp. Maybe I'm more an emotional person and so I'll say "Well, now we need to stop and celebrate or look back" and if you look back it was a long journey. But we still have our same goal for the dot; as I mentioned the dot on the horizon on that.

Ivo:
"Focus, focus, focus" you said before.

Bert:
Indeed. It's always the, what we called the invisible competition we don't know somewhere. So someone is chasing us but it's actually us who's spinning on the wheel. But coming back on what I'm most proud of is: FourVision is HR. If everybody knows that and understands that , then I'm very happy with that. And that's now no more becoming more clear from Australia, New Zealand. When I receive a phone call from a Microsoft person or a partner or an end customer saying "Hey, I was referred by person AB or C saying that you are the specialist for HR." That really makes us proud because that's what we're trying to do. And we try to give an answer to all the questions we got. Sometimes resulting in products, sometimes in helping them to the next step. That's a big achievement, but we're not even half way on that.

If you look at nowadays, the number of organizations who are coming to us for extra help, or invite us for a selection procedure, or as part of the Dynamics 365 platform where we help the Microsoft sales team to to win against the competition. Well that's the kind of achievement we want to reach; what we're focusing on.

Ivo:
Very good, very good answer.

Bert:
Now, one thing more...

Ivo:
Please go ahead!

Bert:
Because it's not Peter and Bert, it's about the staff who are doing it. So that you know we can say, well, you know it's not about us, the two of us. It's about the company, what we achieve. So if things are going well, it's a company effort. If things are not going well, can be approved that from a company site. But then we we take the blame because we're the first ones who determine direction. But it's always to group the team an who said make the achievements on that. So that's important to tell you that.

Ivo:
Very well said. So the last kind of the last couple of questions before asking you about plans for the future, the vision, what where do you see it's going? I would like to have your vision on HR technology. You know how, of course, you are in this business for a lot of years now. You've seen a lot of things. Where do you see it's going? How do you see like it's important? Because I myself see a lot of things changing. This pandemic is changing things, making people working at home, making software tools and connection more important than automation. More important now because people are not close to each other in these couple of years. So what is your vision on on that?

Bert:
Yes, the pandemic is maybe an accelerator in how we work together on that. So let software, or let IT support your work; your day to day work, and it's one thing we try to achieve. And secondly to make sure to avoid mistakes or turned around and so make sure that you do the right thing on that. So if you're new on board, make sure that people feel welcome and let IT support that process. So you as an individual can focus on that new employee. The newbie needs to learn a couple of things or need to be informed couple of things so. Let the system do that for you so you can only focus on. "Hey, how are you doing" and have a one-on-one conversation and keep one-on-one aligned with that person. So IT can support even much more than your day to day work as it is right now. And maybe that's already the step to the next thing. In that if you do something for example: you want to hire someone. There's a whole world behind it. So first of all. Do you have a an approval for that? Do we have the job or do we need to drop description? Do we need to create a position for that to put a person on that. But also the the recruitment solution that you're using, could be anything, should be informed or updated on that. But also all kind of websites where you are promoting. So at the end there's always that happy person who's allowed to work for you, so this coming in. But then you have to roll back anything that's outside there. So that's all the tracks and traces behind you. What you've done or initiated should be rolled back or it's not relevant anymore because you already have that person on it. So without thinking that, that system should do this these things automatically. So because you do think 'this' and 'this', you make 'this' step or 'that' activity automatically. The system works for you. So it'll say "OK, if you do this, then you probably also need to do that to make sure that it's all aligned." So there's so much more to win that the system can think for you instead of "Oh, I need to follow in my checklist." so you first you have to think about "What should I put on a checklist?" and then tick tick, tick, tick... Tick all the boxes and then you have to send an email to that person called that person etc. But even that the system works for you and that's the next step. The next thing that we foresee on that too. To make your life, and that vision and mission is still the same, to make your business life easier.

Ivo:
Yeah, so it's basically having the system think for you, so you can focus on what's most important, which is creating that relationship with the new employee or within play, within their life, within the company. So the system will do, will automate the tasks and basically think for you, so that's the most important thing.

Bert:
Indeed, and we'll come with suggestions on that without becoming annoying. Because nothing is more annoying that, if you buy something and you have Facebook and you see an ad: "Hey, I saw you just bought a pillow. I've got great pillows here." No, I don't want to see those pillows because I just bought a pillow. So yeah, so that's not what you want in your system. So if you hire someone with certain skills then you want to have recommendation of the skills based on that person. And nothing else. So the moment you have filled in that recommendation, or you will have made your own choices on that. That person has that certain level. You don't want to have this kind of message again. Maybe it's more like "Hey, that person works now a half year and is still not moving at all, what do you think?" Or should we inform the person, or so we have a meeting with the manager. You know, that kind of system is thinking for you. And then if you can configure that in a way that it's not becoming an annoyingsystem - "Yeah, I know that I know that because I don't have time." Or maybe that's a time saver for you.

Ivo:
Absolutely OK. So last question. I don't think you will retire anytime soon, I guess. So what are the plans for the future? Keeping that focus and improving the solutions? What do you see for coming?

Bert:
Well, it will be HR. It will be more on automation of HR but also on and that's what we we started at already a couple of years ago. It's very focussed on what we call the happy customer, so anyone who will be working with should be, sometimes you know, the system can be your limitation on that, but we are also here to expand on that. But make sure that the customer is a happy customer and happy it's a very wide word. But that should be in the mindset of everyone, but if a customer is responding things are not going well, can be improved, so pick it up and step in there.

I always say embrace any comment on that and that will be the main focus. Because we will grow, we are hiring, we will emphasize on implementations and in some ways we try to automate it. But the other hand it needs to have it's the human touch because we are with you and software. So you need to interact and get in line with the individuals and make sure there are lines; and not see them as just a subject who is using your your solutions. We are very proud of what we are creating an and we hope that our customers are using that. Whether it's a Microsoft organization, a partner or it's an end-customer, we we all see them as happy customers to make them a very positive and optimistic organization who likes to work with us.

Ivo:
Awesome. Alright, that's that's all from my side. There's any final notes, which is something that you like to mention. That you're thinking of and not for now. With the pandemic, it was a challenge. Personally, we never had any set back but do not forget your staff. Give them all the attention they deserve and I know it's hard. Personally it's you know how many times you have in a week an even if you want to speak everyone. It's physically sometimes not even possible. But do not forget to think about your own assets, your own employees on that. And that's important. Even now we got vaccines but still the need of attention. Great message to end this. I think it's a great note to end. Bert, thank you so much for your time and I'll see you soon.

Bert:
Thank you very much and see you soon. Alright thanks bye!


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