Work hard, document harder: How Omnisend stays aligned through rapid growth

Fast growth is a great problem for a startup to have, but that doesn't mean its challenges aren't significant.

When Omnisend was founded in 2014, its goal was to fill a gap in the market — email marketing for small businesses.

Originally called Soundest, the company soon expanded into different types of messaging, from SMS and MMS to WhatsApp and push notifications.

Once they found product-market fit, they had to accelerate growth. They expanded from their original office in Vilnius, Lithuania to another office in the country, and a U.S. headquarters in Charleston, South Carolina. They started hiring globally, and their 200-person team can now be found in a mix of remote and in-office teams across Europe and the Americas.

At Omnisend, employees work fast, and they work hard. They needed a source of truth that could keep up with their dynamic product and team culture.

We talked to Tomas Kazragis, VP Engineering at Omnisend, to see how Slite met that need and more.

Their challenge: high growth at high velocity

Omnisend's customers are e-commerce entrepreneurs running their own businesses. For small online stores, every sale counts – which is why Omnisend needs to deliver value quickly.

They offer their customers monthly pricing plans, with the flexibility to cancel at any time. These short term contracts put pressure on Omnisend to be fast and flexible. Even the two-week sprints in traditional Agile workflows are not fast enough.

They are constantly striving to innovate and improve their product. "Sometimes even 7 days is too long of a period for experimentation," Tomas told us.

To add to that pressure, Omnisend's business is growing, and their global team is expanding all the time. They really started to feel the pain when they began hiring people into management positions.

"I joined at the moment where, within Engineering, there were around 15 employees. At the moment, we have around 80 or 90. And that growth happened in three to six months. So there was a lot of pain. A lot of things were being made, but no one — or at least the new engineers and product managers — knew how things were built, and what the logic was behind how our product operates."

Their documentation journey: the birth of Omnipedia

Documentation started early at Omnisend, but like at many startups, it was a scattered series of Google Docs created ad-hoc.

Tomas's Engineering org started using Confluence, which integrated well with JIRA, which they already used. However, it was not easy for other teams to access.

Leaders needed planning docs; new hires needed templates and guidelines for how to execute standard processes. Old hands needed to explain to new joiners how things were done, without having to repeat themselves.

Basically, they needed a single tool that everyone could use.

Tomas said that the decision to find a knowledge management solution came organically. "We're not trying to solve problems with a top-down approach. Usually we have symbiosis. People start to mention: 'We don't have this. We don't know that. It would be great to have a more structured presentation.'"

Once everyone was aware of the problem, they still had the challenge of getting employees at all levels to agree on how to solve it.

"The process wasn’t fast. We tried a bunch of different tools," Tomas said.

They experimented with knowledge management tools that organize data with complex linking systems and classifications, but ultimately went with the system that made sense on first glance.

With Slite, Tomas said, "The entry point was the easiest."

He explained that it was a matter of finding the right tool at Omnisend's specific point of maturity. While certain structures or systems make sense to technical teams, they're not going to be useful for the company as a whole.  "Slite was easiest to start using for an older organization, not specifically just for Engineering or Product," he added.

"Eventually we understood that we needed to gather everything into one place."

Once they had buy-in from the entire team, their internal knowledge base was born. They called it Omnipedia.

How Slite helps Omnisend stay aligned across a large team and quick work cycles

Now, Omnipedia is populated with channels, collections, and docs that the whole team can use.

A quick overview of how they organize Omnipedia:

  • General channel: Includes Admin, People and Culture, Social impact, Employee benefits, Internal processes and guidelines
  • Departmental channels: Including Engineering, Product, Customer Success, Information Security, and Marketing
  • Private channels: Where the leadership team keeps its weekly meeting minutes, as well as actions and goals they aim to accomplish

This simple structure allows the team to keep documentation alive and accessible to all. Anyone can add content and organize it so that their colleagues will be able to see it, instantly

They've also seen benefits more specific to their business model, working with e-commerce retailers.

Omnisend's advice for teams getting started with documentation

Despite being a growing team with an increasingly complex product. Omnisend benefits from a (mostly) minimalist approach to internal documentation. Tomas offers these tips to other teams who may be in their shoes:

Ready to start your own company knowledge base? Try Slite for free.

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