Building the Innovation Engine

Great ideas can come from anywhere. We’re building a process to harness that power and propel Pliancy forward.

Patricio Pace

VP of Business Operations

Imagine this: The year is 2028. Los Angeles has just hosted the Olympics. There are 14 Fast & Furious movies. All Sweetgreens are staffed entirely by robots. And Pliancy is seen as one of the top 10 most innovative companies in the United States.

It’s an ambitious goal, and it might feel a little outlandish to suggest, but we’d be foolish not to pursue it.

Taking the Leap

I’m no stranger to taking chances—though not entirely on purpose. I started my career at a credit union. With no prior experience in retail banking, I prepared thoroughly, did my research, aced the panel interview, and was thrilled to get an offer for an entry-level position. On my first day on the job as I’m going through orientation, the executive vice president pulled me aside and said to me, “You know, Patricio, this is the first time in our 30-year history we’ve skipped over the teller role and hired someone directly as a member service rep without previous experience. We have very high expectations, so don’t let us down.”

It turns out the position wasn’t entry-level after all. I played it cool and just focused on getting up to speed quickly. No pressure!

I’m proud (and a little relieved) to say that I was able to live up to their expectations, eventually working my way up to branch manager before moving on. Now, what does this have to do with making Pliancy a leader in innovation?

Diving headfirst into this challenge taught me the value of ambition—even if it was blind ambition at the time. From the credit union to starting my own consulting business to leading Pliancy’s operations from a single-digit headcount to over 100, the challenges have often seemed insurmountable… until they weren’t.

Why Innovation Matters (for Pliancy)

When I say I want the Pliancy name to be synonymous with trailblazing innovation, it’s not merely for the sake of it. Instead, I’m focused on three primary benefits of an embedded culture of innovation:

– Improved unit economics and efficiency
– Game-changing breakthroughs in product, service delivery, process, and more
– Increased talent density

Unit Economics

Innovation means innovation at every level and at varying scales. Small tweaks to our processes can help us increase the value each item, or “unit,” generates for the business. We can do this by reducing costs, increasing production or delivery speed, or by improving the quality of our products. Regardless of how we improve our efficiency, becoming more efficient means we can devote more of our resources and energy to developing novel solutions.


Companies are more likely to achieve breakthroughs across their organizations by innovating rapidly and regularly. This can involve changing who they target (audience, business model), what they do (product, service delivery) or how they do it (process, tooling). Many companies have the potential to innovate; it’s only by doing so quickly and consistently that the results can snowball into changes that are greater than the sum of their parts. At this magnitude, breakthroughs can help companies beat out the competition to dominate, or even redefine, their industries.

Talent Density

Think about the companies that eventually transformed into the tech behemoths we know today. Before they ousted industry incumbents or created brand-new market categories, they were scrappy start-ups with far-fetched ideas, powered by ambitious, imaginative teams. These trail-blazing companies developed reputations for creating environments that embraced inventiveness and experimentation. Like attracts like: innovative companies attract high-performing, creative minds that topple boundaries and push one another to dream even bigger.

What We Talk About When We Talk About “Innovation”

What do you picture when you hear the word “innovation”? Most people think of huge product launches, revolutionary business models, or groundbreaking discoveries made in secretive R&D labs. Innovation on a grand scale is important, and those kinds of moonshot ideas propel us forward.

Iterative innovation, though some may consider it unglamorous, is equally vital. Small tweaks to a feature, a workflow, or a client communication can make tremendous cumulative impacts. What some see as “minor” updates help us move faster; improve quality (and therefore perceived value); automate workflows; and turn experiences from impersonal to inspiring for both our team members and our clients.

Innovation in Practice: Our Recruiting Process

I want to share an example from when I first joined Pliancy. Things were starting to take off and we were growing fast. Client referrals were coming in hot and it was starting to get challenging to find more talented folks to join our team because our networks were tapped. It was time to make the leap!

I created a quick and dirty recruiting process MVP (minimum viable product) so we could hit the ground running and learn along the way. I threw up a Craigslist ad, set up a mailbox for incoming applications, and created a spreadsheet to track the pipeline.

It was not glamorous but it allowed us to swiftly test ideas and iterate. Who needed to be informed about the process? What pain points did candidates experience? How long was everything taking? As we considered questions like these, we began evolving our recruiting stack to include an applicant tracking system, self-scheduling links, Slack alerts, interview templates, and workflow automations.

Incremental Innovation

Our secret to rapid iteration was a powerful feedback loop that we instituted early on. From the start, we did a post-onboarding interview with every new member of Pliancy to learn what worked and what didn’t, tapping into their wisdom and creativity to improve our system. We were crowdsourcing ideas from the very people experiencing the process.

Each time we made a small tweak, it improved the experience by an incremental amount. We made the experience 5% better. Over time, those 5% improvements compounded upon one another. Our Associate Director of Talent, Jenny Kerdphoca, now leads this process and she continues to source ways to make the experience even better for our candidates and for our hiring managers.

I started us off with something very modest, but thanks to our belief in small-scale innovations (and a lot of hard work from our team members), today we have a world-class recruiting program that is strategic and data-driven. Even in just the past two years, under the People team’s leadership we have reduced time to fill (a key efficiency metric) by 6 business days, a 14% improvement. Iterative innovations like these set the bar ever higher, driving employee satisfaction and retention.

Why Ideas Fail

Great ideas are everywhere, but there’s a reason they say ideas are cheap and execution is everything: most fresh ideas die on the vine because people aren’t sure what to do next. This execution gap may be caused by a lack of information, motivation, resourcing, buy-in, or any of a thousand other constraints.

Think back to a time when you had an idea you wished would be implemented. You don’t have to think that far back, do you? Lightbulb moments, large or small, happen all the time.

Here’s one idea I had: about 20 years ago, I was trying to be healthier by cooking more frequently, but keeping the fridge well-stocked was a hassle. Vegetables and dairy went bad before I could use them; I would run out of eggs and not realize it until I was in the middle of a recipe. These frustrating situations made cooking and meal planning exponentially more difficult for me.

Then I was struck by a thunderbolt of inspiration. What if there was a smart fridge that would track its contents for you? When you brought groceries in, you could scan a barcode or RFID tag on the product and your fridge would then automatically know what items it held and how long they would be fresh for. No more running out of butter without an alert. Better make a salad with that tomato before it goes bad on Friday, you’d be reminded. Automagically, my cooking journey would be so much easier.

The Execution Gap

There were a few not-so-small problems with my idea. To start, I don’t have a background in industrial design, consumer appliance manufacturing, or setting up global supply chains. I also didn’t know how to develop a prototype nor did I have access to millions in capital to spend on R&D. Unfortunately my idea turned into an all-too-common “I wish someone would build that” scenario.

Today, smart refrigerators come with large touch displays and voice-controlled assistants. They’re Wi-Fi connected, and you can even view the contents inside remotely from your phone via embedded cameras. They may not be in every home yet, but both adoption and features are trending up and include things I couldn’t have even imagined when I first conceived the idea.

Sometimes I wonder what could have been. Twenty years ago, if I’d been able to connect my vision with the right skill sets and the right resources, would I be helming a smart fridge empire today?

Okay, maybe a smart fridge empire is a bit lofty, but the point stands. What if we closed the execution gap for folks who had exceptional ideas but didn’t know where to start? Didn’t know how to get traction? And what if we did that at scale?

From Idea to Reality

As Pliancy’s VP of Business Operations, I don’t expect my team to innovate in isolation. We’re inviting the whole company to participate in the innovation process and to contribute their ideas, their perspectives, and their expertise. My goal is to build a frictionless path that will help our colleagues move from ideation to implementation, unlocking the power of their creativity. By anticipating execution gaps and finding ways to bridge them, we will build a pathway to innovation that gets faster and smoother with time.

We’ve already identified some key ways to close the execution gap for our team members:

– Idea evaluation
– Implementation support
– Continuous feedback

Idea Evaluation

Evaluating an idea includes determining what success would look like, projecting the costs and benefits, aligning the idea to Pliancy’s strategic roadmap, and generating a proposal. But because most people don’t have training in these areas, they aren’t set up for success when seeking buy-in—no matter how good the idea is. We can help by creating proposal templates, conducting feasibility studies and analysis, building reporting metrics, or even modeling the performance and impact of an idea before it gets built.

Implementation Support

Making an idea into reality requires the right support at the right time, the same way a mechanic needs the right tools for any given job. Instead of sockets and wrenches, our tools are SMEs in project management, analysis, change management, communications, documentation, and more.

With a project management approach that values people over process, our team can develop project plans, define scope, identify contributors, manage timelines, and hold contributors accountable. Plus, no project exists in a vacuum. We must consider change management and clear documentation strategies, even if the shifts seem minor, to make sure the updates are adopted widely and operationalized for the long term.

Continuous Feedback

Improvement is a never-ending process. Whether you’re launching a new product or a new workflow, considering any innovation “one-and-done” is a dangerous trap.

From the evolution of our recruitment pipeline, we know big things happen when we harness the power of feedback loops. Crowdsourcing suggestions allows us to consider a broad spectrum of experiences and opinions in order to improve processes one step at a time.

But feedback loops don’t happen on accident. Organic responses are great, though few may take the initiative to reach out unprompted. It’s critical to embed the feedback process into every project, providing structured opportunities to solicit users’ thoughts. Combined with objective quantitative data, comprehensive feedback loops ensure that we get the full picture of what’s working, what isn’t, and what could be.

What Comes Next

“Okay,” you might be thinking, “so what now?”

The honest answer is: we’re working on it. We know evaluation guidance, robust implementation support, and consistent, iterative improvement are key to closing the execution gap. With this knowledge in hand, we will find a way to make our idea (a self-propelling innovation engine) a reality and then use it to help others bring their concepts to life.

It won’t be an easy process or an overnight transformation, but we don’t expect it to be. More important than ease, and more important than speed, is the power of potential. Just like an internal combustion engine, we intend to harness the raw power of explosive ideas, converting that energy into motion and propelling Pliancy toward the future we dream of.

Purpose as an Evolving Target

Finding your purpose is not a one-and-done process. It evolves as you change—so here’s how we’re evolving.

Anibal Cabral


People Over Process: A Project Management Office (PMO) for Sustainable Growth

Project management is often shrouded in mystery. We pull back the curtain on what it is and how PMOs can help teams succeed.

Dillon Head

Knowledge Lead

Automating Away the Mundane in Onboarding

How was your first day of work? You can tell a lot from an onboarding experience.

Nicholas Thomas

Infrastructure Projects Manager

Ask Me Anything: The Benefits of Asking Questions in the Workplace

There’s no telling where a simple question could take you. Here’s why and how you should take the leap.

Mark Wagner

Escalations Manager

This is the first installment of a 2-part series. Read Part II, “Moving Past Fear.”

Have you ever had a moment where you really took initiative, went for the brass ring, and felt on top of the world when you finally grabbed it? A few weeks ago, I did just that—only to look down at my hands afterward and realize they were covered in spray paint. That brass ring wasn’t brass after all.

After a flash of embarrassment, I shook it off. I was able to move on quickly because of two things: Pliancy’s remarkable openness and a learned ability to move past fear.

*Record Scratch* *Freeze Frame* Yep, that’s Me

First, I have to set the stage for my accidental transgression. As a remote-first company, Pliancy uses Slack to communicate. We have a ton of Slack channels to organize our discussions, including the AMA channel.

If you aren’t aware, “AMA” stands for “Ask Me Anything,” originating from the Reddit community of the same name. The original AMA subreddit offers anyone the chance to pepper people of note (celebrities, experts, individuals with unusual professions or life experiences) with questions about anything and everything.

Based on that description, Pliancy’s AMA channel seemed like a great place for me, a technical operations engineer who helps consultants tackle more complex problems, to kick off a “dumb questions only” thread. My intention was to offer a safe and friendly cocoon where people could open up about things they didn’t know but were too afraid to ask. Great concept, right? I thought so too… until, after I posted, I realized that the description of the channel specified that the “Me” in “Ask Me Anything” was meant for leadership team members only.


Open Source Information: Every Question is the Right Question

Luckily, I’m in a unique environment where I’m not made to feel less-than because of an honest mistake. My coworkers understood and embraced my intention, and I was able to answer a number of questions that they had never had an opportunity to ask.

Questions are always welcome at Pliancy because openness is an important element of our culture. (And I do mean all types of questions; dumb questions, good questions, important questions, and everything in between—though I don’t always agree with those labels.) This is a far cry from other IT companies and teams I’ve been part of in my 18-year career. To put it plainly, it’s an extremely punk rock way of doing things when you treat each question as the right question.

I have had the freedom to talk to anyone from day one: every consultant, developer, and manager, all the way up. I was never told, “Don’t ask X person about Y topic.” Instead, it was impressed upon me that if I had a question, I could and should go directly to the person I felt would answer it best.

The Advantage of Asking “But Why?”

A serial question-asker like me thrives in this environment. I revel in being the person with the most questions in the room. In my view, it means I have the most to learn from others and therefore the most to gain. It also means I have the power to create change. By asking “Why?” I can challenge the way things have always been done in a single syllable.

Asking questions—no matter how stupid we may feel they are—is the best thing you can do in almost every situation. They say that curiosity killed the cat; most people forget that satisfaction brought it back.

Look, I get it: this is easy for me to say. Asking questions is hard and potentially embarrassing. When I’m new, I bet some people assume I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed because I’m a constant loop of who, what, when, where, why, and how. Exposing the gaps in your knowledge is an inherently vulnerable act, yes, but that’s only half of the story. We also have to concede that, in many work environments, asking questions can be a gamble.

Obstacles to Openness

In my experience, there are two separate but related workplace behaviors that discourage openness: gatekeeping and information hoarding.

Gatekeeping: I’m the Captain Now

Gatekeeping has become incredibly normalized, especially in larger and more traditional workplaces where it can be spun as due diligence and adherence to process. Gatekeepers often have bureaucratic mindsets. They leave you hanging for hours on end over a task that takes five minutes because they believe they know what’s best. To them, “what’s best” means wielding power through arbitrary waiting periods and hoops to jump through.

Working with a gatekeeper means being beholden to their schedule, their mood, and their attitude. You have to stay on their “good side” by whatever means necessary, lest the gatekeeper cut you off from the resources you need or the opportunities you want.

Information Hoarding: No Follow-Up Questions Allowed

Information hoarders limit access in a different way. Instead of obstructing access to a process or conversation, information hoarders protect their own knowledge. They’re dragons sitting atop knowledge for no reason other than to have it, and no, you cannot take a quick peek.

“Make yourself indispensable” is common career advice. Many (misguidedly) interpret it to mean that a monopoly on specific knowledge will make a person’s job more secure. If you’re the only one who understands how a process works or the only one with a certain skill, how could the company function without you? I hate to break it to you lifers out there, but graveyards are full of supposedly indispensable people—and still the world keeps turning.

Both gatekeeping and hoarding information reek with the stench of “the way we’ve always done things.” They are a means of preserving the status quo and discourage equity in the workplace. How can we fight against behaviors like this? I’m glad you asked.

“Automating” Solutions By Sharing Skills

Like many technologically inclined people, I love automation. There’s something remarkable about being able to program a machine to detect an issue and solve it on its own.

When we openly share skills with others, a similar magic takes place. I spend most of my day fixing problems, and they can fall into two categories: common or weird. As you might guess, the weird ones take a lot longer to fix. So what’s the easiest way to free up time to tackle the weird stuff? Teaching others how to quickly identify and resolve common issues.

When a consultant files a ticket, often I will make sure to connect directly with them over a Zoom call and explain what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. This creates a situation where a consultant can likely resolve the issue themselves the next time or at least know exactly what to ask for. I may not be programming my colleagues like I’d program a machine, but I am giving them the instructions they need to fix a problem themselves. You could say that teaching is the human version of automation.

Because I don’t need to use access or information as currency at Pliancy, there’s no benefit to preserving the mystery of my solution. I offer it up freely, and the result is a win-win-win. The consultant can move on to other issues, the client gets billed for less time, and I bounce right back to solving those weird problems. The more power I can pass on to others provides me more time to deal with new (often more interesting) problem sets.

Paying It Forward

I’m lucky to have had managers who have shared knowledge liberally, taught generously, and given me space to ask anything I needed. It wouldn’t be fair for me to not do the same for others. Some days I marvel at how lucky I am to have landed at an organization filled with people who feel the same way.

I’m aware that my experience is the exception, not the rule. Even if you’re swimming against the tide at your place of work, there are still ways to encourage openness in yourself and the colleagues around you. Challenge yourself to reflect on these questions:

Who can you be open with at your workplace, and why? How can you add more people to this circle?
How transparent are you about your work and projects? Can you open up your process to your team or other team members?
– If you are a supervisor, how can you foster an environment of transparency with your direct reports? Do you provide opportunities for them to ask questions? Do you model openness and vulnerability, publicly and privately
How can you challenge your leaders to be open and honest?

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It

If you don’t agree with me, try it. Try being open, genuine, and transparent with your coworkers, supervisors, and leaders, and press them to do the same. Open your locked doors, take down the walls of privileged access to others, and let people ask questions: simple questions, open-ended questions, challenging questions, you name it. Prove me wrong. Show me that efficiency, happiness, and retention don’t increase.

What I’ve found is that I exist and mesh here at Pliancy in ways I’ve never been able to do at other companies. I’ve flourished because I can be open with my co-workers. There are no hidden rooms, no one is out of reach, and you won’t get your hand slapped for asking questions. If that’s not the most punk rock thing you can do, I don’t know what is.

Keep Reading

The Power of You: Amplifying Voices Through Storytelling

We all have a story to tell. It’s time to discover yours.

Kristine Fuangtharnthip

Brand Communications Manager

When you read our blog posts, you may notice something different. Instead of gimmicky listicles, bone-dry company updates, and content for the sake of content, we make a concerted effort to spotlight the thing that sets us apart from other managed services providers or IT companies: our people.

What better way for us to celebrate our team members than by letting them speak for themselves? As Pliancy’s brand writer, I am an interviewer/editor/doula/sherpa, here to help my colleagues find and polish the one-of-a-kind stories that only they can tell.

Today, I’m stepping out from behind the curtain to share why amplifying individual voices is central to our ethos—and why you should look for the stories hidden around you.

What’s the Big Idea?

Each of our blog posts is focused on a Big Idea™, like valuing people over process, the utility of failure, or how to stretch your tools to their limits. Big ideas can seem untouchable, and many people claim they don’t have any. (Spoiler alert: we all do!)

Big ideas are intimidating because we typically only see them after they’re fully formed. And even when we know, intellectually, how much effort must have gone into refining them, it doesn’t quite click. We only see the seamless TED Talk with the perfect, clever title and think, ‘I could never do that.’ The scrapped concepts, the hours of rehearsal, the flubbed lines, the crises of confidence—all of it lurks just barely out of frame.

I’ll let you in on an important secret: despite their name, big ideas come in all shapes and sizes. They aren’t always immediately obvious, either. With the right help, seemingly unassuming statements can eventually reveal themselves to be bigger, brighter stars.

An Outside Perspective

“No, I really don’t think I have a big idea,” you might insist. I get where you’re coming from, and yet I must respectfully disagree.

The things you do every day—the knowledge you have, the tasks you accomplish, the instincts you’ve cultivated—may seem like old hat to you, but to an outsider? That’s magic. It’s easy for us to write ourselves off because we see how the sausage is made. We become desensitized to our own expertise, but it only feels commonplace to us because we wield it 24/7/365.

This is where I come in. My primary advantage in helping you find your big idea is painfully simple: my strength is that I’m not you.

That throwaway comment you made? It’s quietly revolutionary. Your extended metaphor for a technical solution? It’s the perfect encapsulation of your values. This anecdote about a client experience? It clearly parallels Pliancy’s mission.

With a healthy dose of objectivity, I can zero in on the methods and experiences and philosophical musings that are so imbued with your DNA, they could only ever bear your fingerprints. (We all know our fingerprints are unique, but how often do we actually think about that? We’re more concerned with how they smudge our glasses or blur our camera lenses than with the miracle of their uniqueness.)

Why Individual Voices Matter

When Marcus Olson founded Pliancy, his vision was to provide IT consulting services rooted in relationships, not revenue generation. Seven years and 130-odd employees later, we haven’t lost sight of that priority. The relationships we build—whether with clients or with one another—are all founded on compassion and empathy.

Deep relationships couldn’t exist at this scale without the folks who put the work in every day. Our blog honors the individuals who make Pliancy great, and our posts go deeper than any “Meet the Team” Q&A ever could. Those tend to give you fun facts and nothing else, and we each contain so much more than that. We have so many grander passions to share.

This blog lets you discover what drives us as people and professionals, and it is, by design, an egalitarian space. It’s not just for leadership, it’s not just for certain seniority levels, and it’s not just for technical staff. No matter the role, there is room for us all.

To me, this is the Pliancy way: letting people be exactly who they are and loudly celebrating what they bring to the table.

Inspiration In Situ

So here’s my big idea: in a world where authenticity is often performative or over-engineered, just let go.

There is so much around us just waiting to be uncovered. Why waste time constructing something that seems authentic when you could discover what already exists? True observation can mean the difference between sounding contrived and being a conduit for the voices of your company, organization, group, or community. Let them reveal their stories to you—even if they don’t know they’re doing it, and especially if they’ve convinced themselves they don’t have stories to share.

Keep Reading

Empathy at Work: The Power of Connecting with Others

When we root our actions and our reactions in empathy, something magical happens.

Chris Fernandez

Managing Consultant

We all have our own, everyday superpower. It could be remembering the name of everyone you meet; knowing where to go without a map; or choosing a perfectly ripe avocado every single time. My superpower is connecting with others.

I’m not just talking about chatting with the barista during the morning coffee run or getting a smile out of a TSA agent (though those moments are nice too). I’m talking about moments of genuine human connection—the kinds of connections that can transform a relationship.

Acting (and Reacting) with Empathy

When we root our actions and our reactions in empathy, something magical happens. Here’s an example: a client once reached out to me in a panic, sheepishly admitting that she had dropped a bottle of water onto her laptop. She felt stupid and was embarrassed to be asking for my help. I knew why she was flustered; who wouldn’t be? She was worried that I would be judgmental or shame her for being careless.

Sensing her distress, I instead told her it was just a laptop and that the most important thing was that she was safe. I then launched into a story about my first day working at the Apple Store. Being hired at Apple was my first interview experience, and I had made it through six grueling rounds before getting the offer. I was eager to be there and wanted to make a great impression.

That morning, before work, I treated myself to a large iced coffee with caramel to celebrate my first day. And wouldn’t you know it: moments after walking in the door at my brand-new job, I managed to spill the entire sugary, milky, icy thing on a display table, destroying two iPads and two iPhones in the process.

Shared Experiences Create a Sense of Belonging

When I shared this story with the client, you could feel her anxiety dissipate. Her energy shifted, and the tone of the conversation shifted. Instead of the stereotype of a troubled user speaking with a finger-wagging technician, it became a safe zone. We were just two people bonding over an embarrassing moment—and a shared background, as it turned out she’d also worked at an Apple store. We quickly arranged for a new laptop so she could get back up and running as soon as possible.

The most important thing for me is that my client walked away from the interaction feeling like she could approach me with any problem or issue in the future: without shame, without judgment, without worrying about asking a “dumb” question. I gained her trust and, in turn, Pliancy gained an advocate who encourages her colleagues to be proactive in reaching out to consultants.

From Transactional to Transformative

Whether at managed service providers or consultancies, many interactions in the IT industry feel strictly transactional. A ticket is opened, a problem is resolved, and a ticket is closed.

Pliancy, on the other hand, was built on the idea that good relationships are the strongest foundation for any partnership. When it comes to company culture, saying “people-first” means acknowledging that we are all people, first and foremost, before we are technologists, consultants, clients, or users.

Relating to others on an individual level is the keystone in our consulting philosophy. Being a great IT consultancy isn’t only about doing the right thing; it’s not only about investing in our people. It’s about doing all that and infusing humanity, warmth, and joy into the work we do every day.

Being Human Is Superhuman

Imagine if we were all robots, living exactly according to our programming. If we never let conversations wander, if we never pursued the unexpected, if we never made exceptions to the rules… the world would be a boring place.

There are times for strictness and precision, of course. And there are times for being human, too. We rely on one another for novelty, kinship, and all the unplanned moments that keep life interesting.

Life is what happens in between the moments of precision: it’s a water bottle emptying itself onto your computer. It’s someone telling you that it’s going to be okay. It’s knowing that no matter what else happens, you have someone you can go to for help. After all, helping others is what people with superpowers do.

Keep Reading

Unlimited PTO in the Modern Workplace

An unlimited PTO policy requires trust, respect, and an appreciation for the transformative power of rest.



Unlimited paid time off is an increasingly popular perk to offer employees, especially at startups and tech companies. Fans of flexible PTO policies cite improved work-life balance and reduced financial liability for unused PTO payouts. Critics point to downsides like potential for abuse and implementation difficulties.

While this type of policy isn’t for everyone, Pliancy has embraced the benefits of unlimited PTO since our founding. We trust all our employees to be responsible for their own time from day one, and we encourage colleagues to take a generous amount of time away from work to recharge.

This post spotlights three Pliancy perspectives on why we believe that an unlimited PTO policy is the best choice for our team members and for our business.

Why Paid Time Off Is Good for Business

Rachel Noiseux, People Programs Manager

In July 1910, President William Howard Taft told a crowd that “two or three months’ vacation […] are necessary in order to enable one to continue [their] work.” Though he never formally proposed legislation to make this a reality, it’s clear that President Taft recognized the transformative power of rest.

It appears Taft was ahead of his time. Today there is a growing movement to offer employees the flexibility and independence to make decisions about when, where, and how they work. This also involves granting employees the flexibility to make decisions about when they don’t work.

The messaging behind hustle culture is that if you’re not working, you’re being lazy; that the only way to get ahead is through the relentless, all-consuming pursuit of success. As a result, even when people do take vacation or sick days, there is often still an expectation to remain available and connected to the workplace.

The Business Case for Unlimited PTO

It’s time for the modern workplace to champion rest. There are plentiful reasons, many rooted in empathy, why a robust PTO plan is good for employees. But there are plenty of business reasons to champion rest, too.


I’m sure we’re all familiar with the feeling of running on fumes on a Friday after a tough week. On days like that, your routine work could take you twice as long because you’re unable to focus, or you may lack the mental energy to start a new task. If you have a scarcity mindset, you may think this feeling isn’t a good enough reason to take time off.

Many studies have shown that productivity increases when workers are given the space to disconnect from work. Even people who love what they do can benefit from taking time away to recover from everyday stressors. The logic here is simple: when we are rested, we can accomplish more.


Closely tied to productivity, creativity is also shown to increase when returning to the office. Time off allows the brain to recharge, and new stimuli seen and experienced during PTO may also inspire unexpected solutions.

This principle even applies on a smaller scale. Taking a few hours to clear your head or go to your kid’s soccer game can help you return, clear-eyed, to the issue at hand. We do not exist solely in the silo of our work: stepping away provides space to ideate and inspire new approaches.

Loyalty & Retention

Employment trends have shown that workers are looking for flexible work arrangements and, by extension, for companies that value autonomy over a strict 9-to-5 mentality. These arrangements require mutual trust. Employees must trust that their employers are sincere in their policy design (e.g. unlimited PTO will not be restricted due to unspoken rules). Employers must trust their employees to build their schedules responsibly and thoughtfully.

This flexibility pays dividends in loyalty, and our retention rate is higher than our competitors’. Fostering a community of loyal employees reduces turnover costs and provides the opportunity to invest in upskilling and long-term success.

Empowerment Through Autonomy

When all is said and done, flexible work arrangements and PTO are not about keeping a balance sheet where every single minute of the 8-hour day needs to be accounted for. That’s just micromanagement, and we know we have better things to do than watch each other like hawks. Instead, we believe in giving power back to the people so everyone can create the work-life integration that suits them best.

Employees are the ones who have relationships with clients, make the products, balance the finances, hire staff, and much more. They are the ones who truly create impact within an organization. As long as employers show staff the respect they deserve, people’s individual work will thrive, our personal lives will thrive, and the business will thrive, too.

Unlimited PTO at Pliancy

Tiffany Kress, People Experience Partner

I know what it’s like to have to structure your personal life around the constraints dictated by your employer. I’ve experienced the full spectrum of PTO: making do with 10 days annually; accrual that scales with tenure; and unlimited PTO here at Pliancy.

Is unlimited PTO a scam? Unfortunately, the answer depends on where you work. A successful unlimited PTO policy is rooted in a company’s culture. Unspoken rules can have a huge impact on employee behavior.

The Limits of “Unlimited” PTO

In an organization where any time off (not just vacation) is treated as an inconvenience, “unlimited” is hardly an accurate descriptor. If people are afraid they’ll be judged or penalized for being out of the office, they’ll take less time off—regardless of what the company’s official vacation policy says.

A 2018 survey by HR company Namely found that employees at companies with unlimited PTO policies took an average of 13 days off per year. (That’s two fewer days than employees with traditional PTO plans!) Imagine having only one day per month to deal with illness, family obligations, caretaking responsibilities, medical appointments, weddings, graduations, and to recharge personally and professionally. It’s simply not enough.

On my first day, it was clearly stated to me that Pliancy employees are encouraged and expected to take four to six weeks of time off each year. I now have the pleasure of being the person who gets to share this guideline with our new hires. There’s always a look of disbelief, and it’s a joy to confirm that yes, we really mean four to six weeks each year.

In early 2022, we took things one step further: we created a Slack channel called “Wish You Were Here” where team members can share photos and videos from their time off. Whether it’s a beachfront dinner in Hawaii, a staycation in the neighborhood, a backpacking trip with coworkers, or a European honeymoon, it shows that disconnecting is not something we need to do in private. Instead, rest is a necessary part of life. Making space to celebrate these memories reinforces our time off policy in a concrete way, especially when leadership and managers lead by example.

Unlimited Vacation vs. Unlimited PTO

Some use “unlimited vacation” interchangeably with “unlimited PTO,” which in itself shows that people often forget there are many reasons someone may need to be out of the office. Bereavement leave is accompanied by its own stressors. Religious holidays are not always celebrations. Sick time, whether for illness or for preventative appointments, is not a vacation.

In recognition of this, I suggested creating new categories for time-off requests. Employees can now select from these options:

– Vacation
– Bereavement
– Celebration/Observance
– Jury Duty
– Parental Leave
– Self-Care/Personal
– Sick Leave
– Volunteering

  • Vacation
  • Bereavement
  • Celebration/Observance
  • Jury Duty
  • Parental Leave
  • Self-Care/Personal
  • Sick Leave
  • Volunteering

We respect that each team member leads a full life outside of Pliancy. We also believe that disconnecting is integral to doing good work. We celebrate rest and its power to improve our physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

Using Time-Off Data to Avoid Burnout

Zach Brak, Lead Analytics Engineer

US employers are not required to provide any paid vacation time, and I think we’re all familiar with how this stark contrast has impacted American work culture. According to a 2017 study commissioned by Glassdoor, the average US employee with access to paid time off reported using only about half (54%) of their available time. With a “rise and grind” mindset, time off seems like an indulgence: a luxury, rather than a right.

What happens when hustle culture pushes us too hard? A recent American Psychological Association survey found that 79% of participants had experienced work-related stress within the past month, and almost 3 in 5 participants reported symptoms of burnout such as emotional exhaustion, cognitive weariness, and physical fatigue.

The Importance of Restful Time Off

If burnout is the disease, then time off is the medicine. But how do we get better at diagnosing burnout? How do we know when to prescribe PTO, and how do we find the right dosage?

We have one part of the equation, which is that not all PTO is created equal. And not all vacation is created equal, either: a trip to visit family isn’t necessarily the same as relaxing on a beach alone. Analyzing PTO usage by category can help us keep tabs on how much restful time off our team members are getting, which is critical to alleviating work-related stress.

Pliancy offers 13 paid holidays throughout the year and we encourage four to six weeks of time off annually. Even at our minimum suggestion of four weeks (20 days), this is about 12.6% of the working year. Put more simply, it’s approximately one vacation day per 10 working days, or the equivalent of taking every other Friday off.

Imagine how taking every other Friday off could impact your mental health. You could run errands and save the weekend for relaxing. You could take a short trip away to recharge. No matter what you use the time for, breaks like these can help all of us bounce back from the pressures of everyday life.

Leveraging Data to Protect Our Teammates

Our goal is to track PTO utilization through rolling 3-, 6-, and 12-month periods. We can identify when employees fall below this ~10% PTO rate, check in with regard to wellness, and encourage them to take time for themselves.

As Pliancy improves its data collection and builds larger data sets with reliable correlation values, we hope to catch warning signs as early as possible. We continue to brainstorm additional ways we can gauge employee burnout risk through surveys, manager check-ins, workload monitoring, and more. Our aim is to encourage team members to take time to recharge before they reach a breaking point.

This may help with retention, sure—and loyalty, and productivity, and any number of other intangibles. But at the end of the day, it’s not strictly a business pursuit. If public policies and social programs are not going to support individuals in the way they need to be supported, it’s our responsibility to come together as a collective and do it for ourselves.

Keep Reading

People Over Process: A Project Management Office (PMO) for Sustainable Growth

Project management is often shrouded in mystery. We pull back the curtain on what it is and how PMOs can help teams succeed.

Katherine Ruckstuhl

Manager, Strategic Initiatives

Project management is often shrouded in mystery. It’s a process that people are vaguely aware exists, yet the details are foggy. As a project manager, I’m pulling back the curtain to explain what a project management office is, how they help teams succeed, and how we imbue our people-first approach into project management.

What Is a Project Management Office?

I am the founding member of Pliancy’s project management office (PMO), the team that executes project management work. PMOs are responsible for improving project management by improving efficiencies. They create and maintain documents, track progress, and provide guidance for moving projects forward. Depending on their size, these teams employ project managers, support staff (schedulers, planners, controllers), project coordinators, and project analysts.

Project management offices are often stereotyped as siloed departments cut off from reality. You may imagine prescriptive sticklers who care more about rigid project management methodologies and charging towards success metrics rather than the process that gets us there.

But even among the most prescriptive of us, one thing remains true: PMOs exist to help you achieve success.

How Can a PMO Help You?

Let’s use a simple example to show just how much a PMO can help you. Imagine you’re in charge of a project to replace every light bulb in an office. Seems pretty straightforward, right? I bet the person who assigned the task thought so.

However, like any project, there are a ton of little (and not-so-little) things that many people don’t think about until the project is already well underway. Things like:

How many bulbs do we need? Are they all the same size, shape, and type?

Are any bulbs being changed from one size, shape, or type to another? Do we need cross-functional feedback to decide what kind of replacement bulbs to select?

Who is our light bulb supplier? Do we need or want to collect quotes from multiple suppliers? If so, how long will that process take, and what stakeholders will be involved?

What is our bulb budget? Will we need to purchase any equipment or pay any contractors to execute the project?

Who is responsible for physically replacing the bulbs? Are there liability issues that would require certificates of insurance or other documentation?

Do the bulbs need to be replaced outside of regular business hours? If so, do we need to request special weekend or evening access to the building? Will installation involve non-exempt employees who must be paid overtime?

How should we get rid of the old bulbs? Can or should they be recycled? Are there city, county, or state requirements regarding safe and environmentally friendly disposal?

It’s clear this project is much more complex than screwing in a light bulb, tossing the old one out the window, and calling it a day. A project manager helps with:

– Project plan development
– Risk assessment
– Timeline management and accountability
– Definition of scope
– Success metrics
– Celebrating your wins

A PMO Centered on People, Not Process

It’s easy to get overwhelmed without the support of a PMO—especially while your other responsibilities compete for your time and attention. A project management tool like Asana, Monday, or Trello may even be hurting more than helping. You might feel scattered, disorganized, and just plain stressed.

As your project manager, my first concern wouldn’t be how messy (or blank) your Asana boards are or how many RFP emails you’ve sent. My first question during check-in meetings is often “How are you feeling?”

I really want to know. If you’re stressed, let’s talk about why. Is it related to your team dynamic? Does it have to do with your workload? Is it something in your personal life? As long as you feel comfortable discussing it, I’m here to listen.

Made-to-Measure Project Management

Here’s the thing: there are a number of project management methodologies designed to fit different project types, but ultimately it is a deeply personal endeavor.

To set a project up for success, you have to understand the brain of the person leading it and the team members involved. You must take into account their thought processes, their collaboration styles, what overwhelms them, what else they’re working on, and even the time of day when they prefer to work. All of these qualities can impact project roles, workflow, deadlines, decision-making, project performance, and more.

As a project manager, I don’t want to be known as a person who only pokes their head in when something is wrong. No matter the stage of the project, my colleagues should know that I’m right there in the trenches with them, celebrating every win and overcoming every obstacle together.

Flexibility Over Frustration

Deadlines are a perfect example of how a person-centric approach to project management breaks away from PMO stereotypes.

Popular belief is that missing a deadline is the end-all-be-all worst thing that can happen, and that project success becomes impossible if this happens. Yes, there are times when a due date is absolutely not moveable. In those cases, I’ll give you all the tools I can to help you meet it.

But missing a deadline is not, in and of itself, a failure. No matter how well-managed a project is, life will always throw a wrench in the gears somewhere, somehow. Being a good project manager means accepting that fact and knowing how to recover.

A Holistic View of Success

In short: I make a plan to break a plan.

In the grand scheme of things, we can almost always make adjustments so that duties feel balanced, goals are attainable, and deadlines are manageable.

I believe that a successful PMO should not be evaluated solely by the volume of projects taken across the finish line. Instead, we should give the team’s welfare equal weight. Is completing as many projects as possible truly a victory if it costs your colleagues their mental health and emotional well-being?

For me, the answer is no. I would much rather complete fewer projects in a way that is healthy for my colleagues in the long run. This is the type of PMO I would want to build at any company, but at Pliancy, I have the added support of an organization that believes compassion is a vital part of everything we do.

When we say we put people first, we mean it. By making decisions that protect the long-term interests of our teammates (and ourselves), we build a stronger foundation for our organization’s future.

Project Management at Pliancy

For many companies, employing a dedicated project manager wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. Creating an entire project management office, however, is not the norm. Pliancy’s growth shows no signs of slowing, and establishing a PMO has been identified as a strategic necessity for the company’s success.

A scrappy, start-up mentality can take you far; that’s a huge part of Pliancy’s history and our DNA. But as any company grows, there is a fundamental need for process. That doesn’t mean restrictions and guardrails purely for the sake of it. Instead, it means supporting our colleagues so they can focus on the core technologies and client relationships that drive our business forward.

Building Toward Something Greater

The project management team will pave the path toward sustainable growth with accessible guidelines, clear documentation, and a bird’s-eye view of everything our colleagues create. (We’ll make sure they have the right light bulbs, too.) Building this mission-critical infrastructure will allow us to accomplish bigger, better, and more ambitious things.

Pliancy has never been satisfied with the status quo, whether in our approach to IT or the way we value our employees. With the support of a PMO, who knows what we’ll revolutionize next?

Keep Reading

Finding My Way from Communications to IT

I never expected my path would lead me to IT—but every step on the journey has prepared me for my career in a unique way.

Ricki Laird


Did you always know what you wanted to be when you grew up? There are dancers who started training at 3 years old; lawyers who dedicated hours to mock trial in high school. For many of us, though, our careers are not the product of a lifelong dream. That doesn’t mean they’re any less meaningful.

My path took me from studying Communications to customer service to a media services internship before getting my start in the IT industry. As unrelated as they might seem, each of these waypoints has shaped me into the IT professional I am today.

The Right Audience & the Right Message

After high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I chose to major in Communications because I knew that skill set could be applied almost anywhere.

My studies explored reaching the right audience with the right message. This can seem divorced from daily life, but it’s something we do naturally. Think about how you would adjust your tone in these situations:

– Asking your partner to take out the trash
– Answering an interview question from a hiring manager
– Teaching someone how to use a tool

In each scenario, you need to take into account who you’re speaking to, what your message is, why they should care, and what you want them to do about it. It’s a two-way street: knowing how to craft messages teaches you how to deconstruct and interpret messages too.

My major offered a deep dive into this practice, demonstrating how it can be applied to fields like business, advertising, journalism, and government in nuanced ways. As an IT consultant, these skills help ensure my clients and I are on the same page, no matter the issue.

360-Degree Empathy

As I grew more confident in my communication skills, my part-time job in customer service gave me a place to put them into action. Working with customers helped me hone my soft skills, develop patience, and lead with empathy.

Understanding a customer or client is a great starting point. But what then?

Especially at Pliancy, being an IT consultant isn’t about just giving people whatever they want, no questions asked. It’s about understanding their needs to make sure they have the proper solution.

Imagine that someone asks for a flash drive. To recommend the right storage capacity, you’ll need to find out what they plan to use it for. They may reveal they’re backing up files, and you could recommend they use an external hard drive or a cloud-based solution instead.

This 360-degree mindset acknowledges that no request and no experience exists in a vacuum. People in customer-facing roles need to know the full story, and then use that information to act.

Breaking Stereotypes in the IT Field

I’ve always been interested in technology. I’m an avid gamer, I build PCs, and working with technology comes easily to me. But I never imagined those interests would turn into a full-time career in tech. It felt even less accessible because it was, and is, a male-dominated field. So when I started working at Harvard Law School, first as a part-time media services coordinator and then in an entry-level IT position, it was eye-opening to see so many women who were technicians. They showed me that an IT career wasn’t out of reach.

Encouraged by the community around me, I gained more work experience and moved up the ranks from tier 1 to tier 3 support, solving more advanced issues. What started as my next step turned into my next stage and set the tone for my career path.

My communication skills and ability to problem-solve with empathy proved a perfect match for my technical know-how.

I provide clients with a person-centric experience that focuses on trust and partnership.

I want to break the stereotype of IT professionals as socially awkward tinkerers with rigid ideas about technology—and I’d like to think I’m doing that, one personable conversation at a time.

Forging My Own Path to an IT Career

There are times when I’m self-conscious about not having the same background as many peers. I don’t have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, and I didn’t have any certifications or credentials before my first IT job.

However, no certification program could have shaped my approach to consulting as much or as well as my varied experience has.

The Ricki Laird in another universe who grew up dreaming about information technology, majored in computer science, and studied cybersecurity for fun would have her own distinct consulting philosophy. Her background would shape the way she solves problems and interacts with clients, just as mine does.

We are the sum of everything we’ve done and everything we’ve been through. With that mindset, a detour is never really a detour.

Keep Reading

How to Empower the Digital Workspace at Any Level

Learning to stretch a tool to its limits can transform your digital workspace from good to great. Here’s how we do it.

Richard Friedland

Technical Content Producer

It’s been said that a person is only as good as their tools. While there’s no denying that good tools are important, using their minimum functionality means missing out.

Yes, you could drive a V8 engine in stop-and-go traffic—but you need open road to see what it can really do.

Pliancy uses Google Workspace to connect, collaborate, and share information. Most people are familiar with individual tools like Gmail or Google Docs. But before all of this was known as Google Workspace, even before it was G Suite, it was Google Apps. In the past 13 years, I’ve attended and hosted many Google Apps meetups, tracked down bugs, and beta-tested new features. I’ve seen it evolve from a fringe platform to a suite of tools that many of us use daily.

I rarely encountered others with comparable knowledge of Google Workspace before I joined Pliancy in early 2020. When I came on board, I was genuinely impressed by how Pliancy leveraged existing apps in clever ways to streamline the way we support clients.

Questioning the Status Quo for Digital Workspaces

When a consultant is enjoying vacation time or otherwise unavailable, fellow consultants seamlessly step in to monitor service and respond to requests. At other companies, this kind of coverage would require an administrator to manually change who has access to information and who receives alerts. While the task is small on its own, time adds up quickly when coverage can change almost daily.

Why not leave off-duty consultants in these groups? The stream of tickets and notifications from multiple clients can quickly overwhelm a mailbox—to the point that it becomes noise. Every minute spent weeding through outdated alerts is one less minute spent resolving actual issues.

Stretching Google Workspace to Its Limits

To manage the flow of information, Pliancy maintains hundreds of client-specific Google Groups. This lesser-known service can message out to all members (similar to a LISTSERV), which we use to alert consultants to outstanding requests. Without requiring the oversight of an administrator, individuals can quickly join and leave groups, receive automated calendar invites, and access shared files.

This self-service approach makes it easy for consultants to provide client coverage on the fly without tedious handover meetings.

Google Workspace excels at allowing users to tailor when, where, and how they receive information. This will come as no surprise to the casual Gmail user who is used to starring important messages, tagging conversations, or using preset tabs like “Promotions” or “Social.” But with our team’s deep knowledge, we can stretch these features to their limits and improve our employee experience. Gmail’s powerful filtering and UI features make managing high-volume email traffic from multiple clients a breeze.

Here are a few ways our consultants create order from chaos:

– Creating mini-inboxes with “skip the inbox” and “show if unread” features
– Nesting relevant labels to quickly group messages
– Color-coding messages to identify clients at a glance
– Viewing multiple inboxes side by side

It’s important to emphasize that this flexibility does not come at the cost of security. First and foremost, we enforce MFA (multi-factor authentication) on all Workspace connections to reduce the risk of unauthorized access. We also apply a security baseline to all of our Google Workspace tenants, ensuring that clients have the same level of protection. Finally, we use a cloud-based third-party backup solution that maintains copies of Workspace data in a secondary location. This protects us against losing data in the unlikely event that the originals are compromised or corrupted. Bolstering our workspace with these security measures offers the best of both worlds, allowing us to have peace of mind while leveraging a powerful, user-friendly tool.

Making Tools Work for You

Maximizing features isn’t limited to your workspace. You can apply this approach to maximize the features of any given tool:

Identify pain points. What are you or other end users wasting time on? What would make your lives easier?
Find the boundaries. What is possible within the tool—and what’s not? Answering these questions will show you how much room you have to explore. If you need more guidance, then…
Consult an expert. Find someone who knows more about the tool than you do. This might be a colleague with deep knowledge or a representative from the tool’s developer. Find out what features they feel are underused, or ask about the most creative use they’ve seen.
Test the fences. Now that you know the confines, build with the goal of failure. It seems counterintuitive, but you may be surprised by how far you can go.

At Pliancy, we’re not satisfied with “good.” Whether we’re enabling autonomy or customizing the flow of information, innovating toward simplicity is the name of the game. For ourselves and for our clients, we are thoughtful and intentional about testing boundaries to discover what’s possible through automation and more. It’s by exploring a tool’s full potential that we can use commonplace resources in extraordinary ways.

Keep Reading

Doing Right By Clients: Honoring the Consultant-Client Relationship

In any consultant-client relationship, you should be confident that your consultant has your best interests in mind.

Nicholas Thomas

Infrastructure Projects Manager

By swearing the Hippocratic Oath, doctors pledge to first do no harm. This means prioritizing the well-being of their patients above all else. An old boss told me that every person should try to live by the same principle, no matter their vocation. That’s how doing what is right became my guiding light as an IT consultant.

Problem Solving and Consultant-Client Relationships

The consultant-client relationship mirrors that of a doctor and their patient. Lives may not hang in the balance for IT, but both relationships involve deep subject-matter experience and shared decision-making. Most importantly, these types of relationships require a high degree of trust to be successful.

Few patients can say that they fully understand their doctors’ every decree. Still, we trust that our physicians and other healthcare professionals use their years of education and training to inform each recommendation.

A similar thing can be said for a successful consultant. As their friendly, neighborhood IT strategist, our clients trust me to bring specific knowledge and experience to the table. Just as doctors have continuing education requirements, I stay up to date on the latest technologies and best practices—so clients can focus on other aspects of their business.

Prioritizing Client Needs for Effective Consulting

Now, it would be naive to say that every IT consultant prioritizes each client’s needs. While working at another managed service provider (MSP), I worked with a client organization whose business model was to purchase and resell overstock and secondhand technology. Selling hardware at a markup is a huge revenue stream for traditional MSPs. The previous provider attempted to force the client’s hand by refusing to complete new projects on hardware they did not sell. The provider was frustrated by their lost revenue; the client was frustrated by the MSP’s lack of flexibility.

I inherited an unstable infrastructure that had been pieced together by many different hands. I knew the client deserved better, and they were willing to trust me to build it for them.

My vision was a streamlined system that could scale and provide a repeatable support experience.

There was no direct monetary gain: they didn’t buy any new hardware, and improving the system meant fewer future support tickets (and fewer billable hours). But I could rest easy knowing that I, as an engineer, delivered the best solution possible.

When I finished implementing the new system, the client took one look and said, “All it took was one conversation about making this work?” Not quite. Yes, it took one conversation, but it required the right mindset to bridge the gap.

Consultant-Client Relationships and the Pliancy Ethos

That was the last time I was allowed to honor a client’s needs over profitability in that job. I eventually left that MSP; in fact, I stopped working at MSPs altogether. When I met Marcus, Pliancy’s founder, I realized that he was building a team whose approach to IT consulting aligned with mine.

It’s about more than just a business model or a paycheck. It’s an ethos, a constant search for better understanding, and I can confidently say I’m empowered to prioritize excellent service over the bottom line.

If I can leave you with one piece of advice, it’s to expect more from your IT consultant and the consultancy process. They shouldn’t have to supplement their services with hardware sales. Instead, you should feel confident that they are a trusted advisor and a steward of your systems. Your consulting team should commit to doing no harm—or, even better, they should commit to doing what’s right.

Keep Reading

Purpose as an Evolving Target

Finding your purpose is not a one-and-done process. It evolves as you change—so here’s how we’re evolving.

Marcus Olson

Founder & CEO

What drives you as a person? It’s a scary question, and exploring it requires introspection, vulnerability, and honesty. No number of lists or charts or graphs will lead you to a final, definite answer. Purpose is a moving target: one that evolves as you change.

When Pliancy launched (then called TSG) in 2008, it was a tiny operation. This meant that at its most basic level, Pliancy’s purpose could be what drove me as an individual. However, no person, and no company, is static forever.

We now have over 120 team members solving the question of how technology can help companies work better, faster, and smarter. Pliancy was built around this endeavor, and it will always be part of our identity.

To make sure we stay on course, we need to ensure that the force driving us forward reflects our shared values and our capabilities. Evolving Pliancy’s purpose has been a foundational step toward sustainable growth.

Shifting the IT Mentality

Before we can talk about where we’re going, we need to talk about where we’ve been. From day one, I wanted to shift the mentality around IT from low-level problem solvers to innovators who could create long-term value.

Pliancy was formed because I was tired of wasting time on the same old issues when I could tackle bigger—and more interesting—questions instead:

What is the company trying to accomplish? How can I add value through technology?

What kinds of tools could I introduce to help them get more done? To work more efficiently? To make technology seem easy and accessible to any user?

Answering these bigger questions has remained at the core of Pliancy even as we’ve experienced immense growth. When I wrote my last post in March 2021, we had just hit 60 people. A year later, we are now 120 team members strong and anticipate having close to 200 employees by the end of the year.

But growth, like most things in life, is complex. What gets you from A to B won’t necessarily get you from B to C. My individual vision was no longer enough. As much as we still operate like a scrappy startup, I understood how important it was to hone and mature our sense of purpose so Pliancy could move forward with clarity and intention.

Pliancy’s Purpose & Mission Statements


Pliancy empowers tomorrow’s technology leaders to revolutionize how organizations value technology.


Pliancy invests in the long-term success of our team with a culture of mentorship. We develop leaders who accelerate the missions of emerging companies with well-architected technology.

Creating a new purpose statement required balance. It was important that it feel bigger than any one person, while still being rooted in our people-first approach. It needed to be simple enough to resonate without requiring too much explanation—yet grand enough to honor the talent and ambition of our team.

With this in mind, there were expansive discussions among leadership and with long-time team members about why we’re here and what we’re trying to do. Many of us had an internalized sense of Pliancy’s purpose, each one informed by our roles, our experiences, and our personal histories.

Reflecting upon these ideas as a group allowed us to find common threads and weave them into something that felt like a natural progression of why Pliancy was founded in the first place.

Communicating Purpose to Guide Action

Our next hurdle was to communicate these principles to our growing team. We’ve seen firsthand that communication is one of the most difficult things to scale.

A quick chat by the water cooler used to be the most effective way to distribute knowledge. With seven offices and a mostly remote workforce, it was clear that was no longer true. A lot of people think you can fix a communication problem by communicating more. But overcommunication leads to fatigue; it becomes noise, messages get distorted, and suddenly people are even less informed than before.

The real solution is not about frequency, but quality. With that in mind, we first had to solidify what we wanted to accomplish. What do we want team members to do with these guiding principles?

Ultimately, our goal is to empower them to make decisions that move us all toward a shared vision.

We want each person’s individual, day-to-day choices to reflect the same thought process that underpins our identity as a company.

From that moment, we realized we shouldn’t jump ahead to the what or the how. Instead, we should start with why.

We rolled out our revised purpose statement and core values in September 2021. The purpose statement and core values acted as the foundation for a set of key initiatives shared in January 2022. These initiatives will guide our work throughout the year and help Pliancy build sustainable processes to support our continued evolution.

Spacing out this information allowed people time to digest everything being shared. Instead of dumping everything from abstract concepts to brass tacks all at once, a staggered release provided space to understand how each element functions within the whole.

A Foundational Thought Process

In isolation, saying we want our team to make decisions that move us toward a shared vision sounds like hot air. So, what does it look like in practice?

We want consultants to push the way they think about solutions. How can they solve a problem in a way that makes the client rethink what technology can do for them? This could be as simple as automating a repetitive and tiresome task, saving the client time and energy in aggregate. It could also mean architecting an ambitious technical solution that takes many months and multiple teams to implement—one that may radically change and improve how the client does business.

Fundamentally, it’s never about just solving the issue at hand. That’s reactive thinking.

It’s about giving people the context and information they need to think in a particular way, to do the kind of work we value, and to trust them to work through that thought process independently.

Where We Go From Here

I’ll be the first to admit that this is a grand experiment, and it’s real. It’s not a fabrication for a marketing campaign. It’s not meant to feel calculated: we’re ready to be vulnerable with you.

Maybe our plan will work, or maybe we’ll realize we’ve been misguided. No matter the result, we see the Pliancy blog as an opportunity to be transparent about our goals, strategies, successes, and failures.

It’s easy to craft a narrative when you already know the ending. With every piece in front of you, you can mold events into clean story arcs and tie them off with tidy bows. In contrast, we’re a work in progress.

So if our purpose-driven community interests you, stay tuned as we share updates about our journey. I look forward to having you along for the ride.

Keep Reading