Saturday, 27 March 2021 00:26

An interview with Dmitriy Valyanov, President and Co-founder of Bitrix24, an incredible all-in-one business workspace


INTERVIEW: Bitrix24 is an impressive all-in-one business workspace that delivers 35+ intergrated tools, challenging just about every major online player with an offering that does just about everything, and keeps on growing.

Earlier this month, I wrote about Bitrix24, which you can read about here, and I wanted to know more about the history behind the company and where it is headed.

So, I reached out to Bitrix24 to see if I could interview one of its executives, and Dmitriy Valyanov, the President and Co-founder of Bitrix Inc, the company behind Bitrix24 kindly answered my questions, with the interview in full below - please read on!

Dmitriy, can you please encapsulate what Bitrix24 offers to its customers worldwide in 2021?

Bitrix24 offers an all in one online solution for your business. Comprehensive, scalable, but at the same time easy to use. We've tried to design a modern & intuitive environment each team member can live in & find proper tools to execute various tasks.

Bitrix24 is a common workspace where you start your work day, say hello to your coworkers, go plan your week, track your tasks progress, close deals, analyse marketing efforts, and so on. Bitrix24 pretty much does everything. We as a team use it everyday. It is a good way to practice feeling comfortable in our own skin.

There is no an ultimate guide on how to stop having 100 browser tabs open at once (what a mess!). That is where Bitrix is trying to help. Just imagine having collaboration, project management, CRM, HR tools in one place.

The idea behind that is that you don't need to waste your time & money on numerous solutions. Bitrix24 has all the tools inside for you to successfully build and mange your business.

That's a lot of features and functionality in the one package! I can see that Bitrix24 started in 1998, when Software as a Service was in its infancy, and the features you have now must have been but a twinkle in your eye as to what could be achieved in the future. What did Bitrix24 offer way back then, and what has the journey of evolution been like since?

First, Bitrix24, as you know it today, is the final evolutionary stage of Bitrix Intranet and Extranet solutions (Bitrix, Inc. products) and was launched as a beta cloud-based service in April, 2012. But Bitrix appeared even before that, back in 1998.

Our first commercial product was a CMS of the same name (Bitrix) released in 2003, and by 2007 the company had established a network of over 1,000 partners.
As the industry started shifting from old school proprietary to cloud-based SaaS, we developed a new product called Bitrix24 - an online collaboration platform with CRM.

The goal was to combine dozens of distinct functions – like individual and group calendars, CRM, reporting, instant messaging and project management – and built a comprehensive toolkit in a single work zone employees can access from anywhere.

If you have a look at Bitrix24 evolution you’ll probably notice that we haven’t chosen one mono product as a strategy, but opposite to that, we’ve decided to develop Bitrix24 as a set of business tools. We’ve been featured in various online ratings as one of the top free CRM, project management & collaboration solution ever since then.

COVID-19 and 2020 saw an incredible acceleration in the uptake of cloud services, online working, video conferencing and more. What was 2020 like for Bitrix24, and how did you cope with what must have been a massive surge in usage and new customers?

Actually it went pretty well. Our first challenge was to send all Bitrix24 employees home for remote work. In a single day. Though it seemed scary back then, everyone was in place & happily online at the end of the day. Surprisingly our team efficiency has increased during that period.

As for our main infrastructure & clients, it went pretty well too. We knew what was coming, so we were prepared. Both technically & in terms of new clients onboarding.

We had to rethink the process of onboarding for new users when they step inside Bitrix24 & what we could do to make it more intuitive & easier for them to adapt faster & find all necessary tools in minutes.

What lessons did you learn from COVID-19, and what new features were introduced to help customers cope, and due to customer demand?

With many businesses affected by the pandemic, first thing we’ve decided to do is to allow free unlimited users. It was a big step for us since most of Bitrix24 features were free already, but at the time it seemed like the right thing to do knowing that it may help many businesses worldwide to survive the hard times. That is what we did and made it free for unlimited users.

To be honest, Bitrix24 was already jam-packed with online tools that are needed to work remotely. That was our advantage. But, of course, we’ve come across several challenges, like video calls. before-covid we didn’t see such a demand for big group video calls. So what we did was extend video conferencing capability, now you can have a video call with up to 24 users.

We have also found out that about 70% of the workforce don’t use computers, they use mobile phones only. That is why we’ve released a big Bitrix24 mobile app update in June 2020.

Your question was also about customer demand, and since the decision making in Bitrix24 is tightly connected with processing clients requests, there were a list of updates based on that.

For example, we have one feature requested about 400 times. It was to add permissions to tasks, which means you can restrict who can\cannot view or edit tasks. So we decided to add that as well.

Zoom recently released its Q4 2020 and financial year 2021 results, where it reported a 326% YoY boost to its revenue in Q4, and a full fiscal year operating cash flow boost of an incredible 869% YoY, which means massive Zoom usage and lots of people buying Zoom subscriptions, with Zoom also reporting a 54x times increase in usage in Australia alone.

Given Bitrix24 offers free videoconferencing for up to 24 users with no time limits, what kind of boom have you seen in video conferencing usage alone?

We've seen the use of our videoconferencing is up 18 times what it normally was, when compared to pre-Covid levels. And this has happened very rapidly within two short months - March and April of last year.

Personally, I spend about 4 hours a day on video calls alone, so good online meeting tools are critical to management. Unlike Zoom, our video calls are free and unlimited in nature, so our sales didn't increase 18 fold, but like all other online collaboration tools we have seen significant increase in demand and sales in 2020.

How many customers are you supporting, and what can you tell us about the infrastructure that supports Bitrix24, along with the security and backups needed to run Bitrix24 smoothly?

Bitrix24 supports over 8 million teams worldwide. And I must say we take security issues very seriously, with 7 layers of protection provided. We can ensure our clients that their data is protected accordingly.

All data is hosted in Amazon data centres. We use 2-step authorisation. Bitrix24 is accessed exclusively through an SSL connection, from initial authorisation to the downloading and uploading of company data.

Bitrix has over 10 years of experience in providing the highest level of security for web projects.

Bitrix24 benefits from all of this experience and technology, including Bitrix' own proactive Web Application Firewall, which categorically blocks the vast majority of attacks on web applications.

We use two independent data centres and redundant clustering technology to make sure the service is maximally available.

Also, all clients data is backed up daily.

Are there any customers in Australia that you can talk about?

Bitrix is popular among various businesses worldwide, non-profit organizations, schools & institutions, even government structures. Quite interesting that big share of Bitrix24 clients are from IT sector, like web studios. I think it speaks volumes.

As For Australia I can say that we have prominent customers from insurance, real estate & education sectors.

Bitrix24 already supports 35+ integrated tools, what else is on the roadmap this year, and what is the no.1 most requested feature you will implement next?

We generally don't reveal new tools until our Spring of Fall release presentations. We are ready to show new Bitrix24 in late May of 2021. But broadly speaking, the number one focus of this upcoming release is fully in line with our customer demands.

People understand that the nature of work has changed forever but business objectives have largely stayed the same. Our customers worldwide want to make sure that employees working from home are as efficient or even more efficient when compared to the 'office era'. We have the answer.

What's a bit about your personal history in the world of tech, leading up to Bitrix24? What was the spark that set aflame the desire in you and your co-founders to bring Bitrix24 to life, what pain point were you solving at the time?

Almost all Bitrix24 cofounders have worked in the same IT department of a bank that no longer exists. Working for the banking industry in the 1990s seemed like dream career for many.

But then there was this idea that a group of like minded individuals can strike on their own and change both the world and their own lives. It actually came true. And it's as true in 2021 as it was 20 years ago.

The idea of Bitrix24 came much later when we discovered that there are actually a lot of problems out there and they are very rewarding to solve. Like changing the way we work and collaborate.

How do you think the Internet, IT and cloud industries will evolve over the next few years through to 2030?

It's pretty safe to assume that cloud services will consolidate. There won't be single use tools and they are simply inefficient for growing organizations. This is why Salesforce have purchased Slack and will continue buying other SaaS platforms.

This is why Microsoft Teams is a raging success among Office 365 crowd. This is why Google is doing what it's doing.

It's safe to assume that 80% of independent SaaS companies that everyone recognises (say Dropbox or Asana) will no longer exist in their current state by 2030. They will all be bought out or they will die out

What's your final message to iTWire viewers and readers, and to your current and future customers and partners?

Thank you for your time & thank you for choosing Bitrix24

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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