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Mykhailo Horobtsov

YouControl Chief Product Officer

"At the height of hostilities, we reformatted the company's work in such a way that an employee left the bomb shelter, worked, if possible, for 10-20 minutes and that was enough."

My name is Mykhailo Horobtsov, I work as a CPO (Chief Product Officer) at YouControl. YouControl company is a leader on the Ukrainian market in the development of tools for the analysis of counterparties and individuals. YouControl is a platform that allows you to find the necessary information about a company from more than 180 state registers. On the basis of these registers/data sources, we issue analytics within the system and, before that, derive so-called shortcuts, such as express analysis, risks, etc.

YouControl is Ukrainian IT company that more than 8 years has been creating services based on open data. The analytical online system contains data from more than 180 sources and allows you to check information on any company or individual entrepreneur. Contains data for checking foreign companies.

The technology of the service allows you to obtain information about any person from official and opensources databases which are available at the moment. In a few seconds, you can identify risks related to court decisions, sanctions, property, invalid documents, is person official or not, missing persons, wanted persons, debtors, corrupt persons, and the wanted. The monitoring function reports changes daily according to data from official registers.

The situation with the company before the war. How would you describe the state of the industry and the company before the war?

Before the war, everything was great in the company. We had a plan, we understood what markets we were entering and what was happening with the Ukrainian market, we planned where we would expand, we were aware of the problems we had. The YouControl company was a leader in Ukraine in its field. Registers were not closed, but on the contrary, access to information had to become more transparent and understandable. Let's put it this way, everything was stable, clear, predictable. Including in the team. Development planning took 3-6 months.

Was the company preparing for a possible war? How exactly?

Of course. As a team, we developed an action plan in the event of a full-scale war. They chose a backup messenger, access to which was purchased for all company employees. It was supposed to become a secure communication channel, an alternative to Slack.

We managed to close all issues with physical data carriers by the end of 2021. The data was stored in the cloud, so we only needed uninterrupted network access to work.

The main issue for us was the plan to evacuate the team from Kyiv, because most of our colleagues were from there. We understood that it would be a move to the west of the country, so we selected accommodation options for those who were alone, who were with their family, with animals, etc. Our plan wasn't perfect, but it was there.

What business and team (personnel) decisions did the company make in the first hours and first weeks of the war?

With the start of a full-scale war, the company's team tried to evacuate people three times. Some of the employees left on their own, others stayed outside the city. There were also those who did not have time to return to Kyiv even before the start of the war. In the end, 3 weeks after the start of active hostilities, we managed to get people to a safe place.

In the first days of the war, there was no actual work in the company. We had a team that ensured the vital activity of the system, because among our users were state bodies, law enforcement officers.

Also, the company immediately took care of the financial support of employees and paid salaries so that at such a critical moment for each of us, people would not be without money.

How did the company's product change or adapt because of the war?

Everything has changed for us. Even before the war, we chose a scaling format for YouControl as a platform, an extension to the ecosystem, we agreed on the decomposition of the product from the inside. After the start of the war, we realized that the product has value, because in Ukraine at that time all the registers were closed, and we still have this information. We started providing free access to state bodies, volunteers, city councils, and security forces. The YouControl service allows you to verify an individual.

In the first month of the war, we did not deal with business processes. A maximum of 12-15 people worked from a team consisting of more than 100 people. In March, it became a little calmer here, it was no longer as difficult as at the beginning, it was not so unexpected. People had a need to switch their heads to something else, so we returned to active work.

We quickly reconfigured everything for volunteer projects, including projects from the Ministry of Defense, SBU, etc. The team ensured smooth operation of the YouControl system, trained and organized mass distribution of access to the resource (up to 3-5 thousand). For example, we showed how volunteers can search for suppliers of medical drugs. For this, a product called "Market Analysis" was used. With its help, we downloaded lists of pharmacies and then handed this list over to volunteers. They, in turn, called pharmacies and agreed on bookings, supplies, etc.

What has changed in approaches to company management because of the war? (e.g. planning horizon, planning approaches, management methods and tools, etc.)

At the height of hostilities, we reformatted the company's work in such a way that an employee left the bomb shelter, worked, if possible, for 10-20 minutes and that was enough.

At YouControl, there have always been several product teams, each with its own tasks, shaped by processes. There were significantly fewer developers at that time, because not all of them could work. From those who could perform tasks, we gathered one team and analyzed in detail how and what works in the new LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum) concept. Its specificity consists in the transition to a single backlog for optimization and improvement of work. This format of task performance did not suit us, but we were glad to have the opportunity to test it, because before the war the processes went on non-stop and it was extremely difficult to check this method of work.

Planning came back to us only later, when we started to introduce a work plan for 5 days, then 2 weeks, and eventually moved to monthly planning. Now the team is working according to the plan for 3 months.

What is the state of the company after half a year of war. What are your plans for the future?

Assessing the state of affairs, I must note that everything has its pros and cons.

The downside of the situation is that we lost not a few, but a significant number of interesting people who went abroad and found other work there.

The plus is that people have opened up on the other side. The internal culture of the company has changed a lot. The YouControl team worked remotely for a long time. Some people did not even see each other and this period significantly changed the process of communication and interaction.

We decided to enter the European market, and the speed of product development for it increased by 3-4 times. During the war, we had a product called RuAssets, which helps to identify the presence of a Russian trace in a company, in a counterparty. Many companies in the world do not want to cooperate with Russians. There are also those who want to know whether there is a risk of being sanctioned due to cooperation with hidden counterparties. We clearly understood the value of this product and reformatted it for Europe. This is a plus.

Currently, we understand well where we have prospects, what we can do, and how we can combine these products with products in Ukraine, with Ukrainian users. The war forced us out of our comfort zone, deprived us of a sense of stability and an understanding of scaling.

What are the main lessons you learned as a manager through the war?

I realized that absolutely everything can not happen as you planned. It is very important to have a plan B, B, etc. in addition to the main one. Our team had a contingency plan, but it in no way took into account what ultimately happened.

The second story is about diversifying how we work as a team. Before the war, everything was clear, stable, standard. Now it is important to be more flexible. During this period, we tried 4 methodologies in development and some of them worked. If it was a different period, we would not have done it, we would have been afraid to take risks.

The third is that our team communication has changed in a good way. We were able to adjust the work in such a way that the search for specialists continued even during the period of remote work.

Some people discovered their negative personal qualities and left the company, showing themselves as they are. This is very cool, because such situations would definitely have an impact on the work of the team now or in the future.


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