ClickUp's viral strategy to connect and manage work across the enterprise

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ClickUp's viral strategy to connect and manage work across the enterprise

By Phil Wainewright

November 23, 2022

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(© Arpad Nagy-Bagoly - Adobe Stock)

Enterprise applications used to be handed down from on high — business leaders would approve a budget, IT would prepare the technology, and finally the actual users of the new system would discover the impact on their daily routine. The advent of cloud computing changed all that. Now anyone with a corporate credit card can try out new departmental tools for themselves. Those they like spread virally by word-of-mouth, and their impact has changed forever how companies do sales, marketing, data analysis, and team collaboration.

One notable proponent of this viral model of enterprise adoption is ClickUp. Founded just five years ago, the Collaborative Work Management (CWM) vendor is rapidly gaining ground against more established competitors, achieving more than 8,000% growth in the past three years, according to the latest Deloitte technology Fast 500 ranking. Adoption typically starts with one team finding value and then spreading the word to colleagues elsewhere in the organization. Angela Bunner, VP of Solutions at ClickUp, says:

We're finding that, even in our larger enterprise customers, when they come in and hit the button, 'contact sales', they're already using ClickUp. They've found it on their own and started with a team of five, and then they're like, 'This is really cool, let's use it with my extended team.' Then they come to us, 'Help me sell it to my collaborative teams in marketing, design, software, product, that could also use ClickUp.'

The product is very deliberately designed to be easy and fun to use, in order to support that virality. However good the technology, if it's not able to engage users right from the start, it risks falling at the first hurdle. Bunner elaborates:

Any tool can basically do the job more or less — there's features gaps here and there — but it's really about end user engagement ...

With ClickUp, from your CEO, to your VP, to your manager, to your individual contributor, everybody needs to be and wants to be in the tool. That's what makes it successful. The adoption and the end user engagement is really key.

Making the case to IT

That virality helps ClickUp make the case to IT leaders for adopting it enterprise-wide, says Richard McGuinness, VP of Sales, EMEA, at ClickUp. He explains:

I think what more and more CIOs have realized, and we are experiencing as we engage with them, is they've landed up with this Spaghetti Junction of systems. They have, either through the shadow IT budgets that sit on a lot of people's credit cards, or the decisions that might have been taken historically that just didn't quite pan out because it didn't have the user adoption that they needed, they have a lot of inherited systems and tools that are perhaps not performing at the level that they had originally hoped.

So by being able to bring them great advocates from the business teams to the IT leaders and show that this adoption is a very strong pull-through for ClickUp, because the users enjoy it ... they know that there's an appetite from the user base to use this product.

That argument is helped by a growing recognition that digital teamwork needs to be connected across the enterprise, and therefore the enterprise needs a single platform that can provide that connective thread. McGuinness elaborates:

I believe that how CRM was reinvented by Salesforce 10 years ago, ClickUp is reinventing what CWM is. We're lifting it into a place that it's not just about [each] department works well, but the entire team and the entire company are able to work in a non-siloed, deeply collaborative way. I think that same lightbulb moment is happening, certainly with the conversations that we've been involved in.

One customer example is a bus manufacturer that has deployed ClickUp to manage work across its production lines and now has improved visibility across the entire process. McGuinness says:

They're using ClickUp to lift their entire production line so that they're able to quickly identify bottlenecks, quickly be able to resolve any of the issues that would stall the production date that they're committed to with their customers, and be able to get a bird's-eye view of all of the different pieces of that workflow that would otherwise have been siloed in three or four different systems.

ClickUp enterprise adoption

The primary landing points for ClickUp in an enterprise include marketing departments, product and project management teams, and various types of services teams, ranging from internally focused shared services teams to many different types of externally focused professional services teams — from professional services organizations within technology companies to engineering consultancies and marketing agencies.

Often, the solution is replacing more manual prcoesses based on emails, spreadsheets and ad-hoc database systems. It also displaces older work management tools such as Clarizen or Workfront, more modern tools that perhaps haven't gained traction, such as Monday, Asana and Smartsheet, or on-premise Jira instances, says Bunner. At many customers, it also integrates with other applications, including Jira, as well as enterprise apps such as NetSuite, Oracle, SAP, Workday, Salesforce and Zendesk, or picks up tasks initiated in Teams and Slack conversations. The most recent addition, announced last week, is a deepened integration to popular CRM tool HubSpot, designed to streamline handoffs between sales and customer fulfilment and success teams.

The flipside of viral adoption is the need for the vendor to keep pace with the rapid growth in use cases and integration needs, along with the increasing complexity of large-scale enterprise deployments. The company has been racing to better support adoption in various ways, from rapidly expanding the pool of ready-to-use templates, to adding more online learning resources to ClickUp University, through building out the ecosystem of third-party consultants with industry-specific expertise.

Meanwhile, a new release due early next year aims to deal with some of the rising complexity as customers expand their use of the platform. V3.0 will have various UI enhancements, including new ways to manage and intelligently filter notifications, such as an upgraded home page where users will be able to create separate hubs for different sets of priorities. Admins will be able to set up onboarding processes to help new team members get up to speed faster. Pulse analytics will have more visibility into usage and engagement, so that managers can help team members prioritize their work. Bunner sums up;

It's all about trying to improve productivity and prioritization. More visibility as well, like being able to move and manage work for yourself but also for your team.

Knowing that your work is visible to others on the team is particularly important now that people are often working from different locations. The tool is not only letting you check off your own progress, but also sharing it with others. That in turn provides a further reason for tracking your work in ClickUp, explains Bunner:

I think when you're on the shop floor or you're working remote across the world, whatever it is, now not only are you checking off your work, but other people see it. I think seeing and showing and sharing that value and impact as an individual person is another reason why you want to update your stuff.

My take

Cloud applications are easy to buy and deploy, but having colleagues adopt and like using them is another matter. Particularly in the digital teamwork space, winning user engagement is often a huge challenge, and so making these tools easy and fun to use is just as important as showing that they save time and help people work smarter.

ClickUp's focus on virality is helping it carve out a strong position amongst the many other vendors that are vying for an enterprise-wide role at the heart of what diginomica calls the Collaborative Canvas of digital teamwork, including Asana, Atlassian, and Wrike, and under the watchful eye of larger players including Google, Microsoft and Salesforce. As the vendor's Head of Product Management, Brian Shen, told me earlier this year:

We don't think that there's a single dominant player in this crowded space yet. But if one can emerge and bring all of these tools together — for teams that are only a few people to teams that are hundreds or even thousands of people — that company, that player, can really transform the way productivity works, and really transform enterprises in what the traditional kind of structure might look like. That's exactly what we're trying to do.

The long-awaited V3.0 will be an important milestone on that journey and we'll look forward to giving our verdict once it arrives.

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