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Expert story

Power to the teams: How being decentrally organized helps our people grow

At AE, we’re very proud to be among the Best Workplaces in Belgium and to be one of the recipients of a Great Place to Work award. To celebrate us winning this award for the sixth straight year, we want to present you with some background on the makeup of our organization, as it is a key facilitator of our people’s happiness at work.

*The following content is based on an article in Dutch that appeared recently in Mark Magazine.

AE is a Belgian IT service provider specializing in projects that unite business and ICT. “Our customers come to us expecting a strong expertise. Our offer to the market is quite broad, from analysis to delivery,” says AE Director of Knowledge & Innovation Pieter Laroy. The key enabler here is the autonomy of its employees.

“In my previous job, I had to do almost everything myself. Here at AE, I can further develop my area of expertise while being supported by colleagues that each have their own responsibilities within our organization,” says Wim Paredis, one of AE’s principal consultants and owner of the company’s Integration solution.

Wim Paredis’ dual role in large part explains AE’s operations. The company’s go-to-market strategy is based on several topics that are topical in the business world at large. Examples include analytics, digital transformation, information management and the aforementioned integration solution.

“As an expert, I help our customers with their integration challenges,” he adds. “Now more than ever, integration plays a critical role in the unlocking of applications and services, both towards the internal organization and towards external partners or customers.”

There’s a great amount of synergy between the colleagues at AE who’re part of the Integration solution and beyond. Paredis continues, “I’m also involved in some of our other solutions and the same goes for many of my co-workers. It allows us to apply our skills wherever they’re needed and it ensures we grow our individual and collective areas of expertise at a much higher pace.

That’s a huge benefit of not having any truly separate business units.”

Oil slick

Next to the market-based solution approach, AE has many employees with specific areas of expertise or, as the organization calls them, ‘capabilities’. These include functional analysis, project management and technical architecture. “Our ‘solutions’ and ‘capabilities’ support and cross-pollinate one another and allow us to align the challenges of our customers with the expertise of the people in our organization,” says Pieter Laroy.

Laroy stresses that AE is not a matrix organization, but a network organization. “Our people are not elements in a matrix, they’re more like oil slicks that constantly evolve.”

Box mentality? Not at AE.


gptw_decentral_2 Wim Paredis (left) and Pieter Laroy (right).

Job crafting

As a fast growing and ambitious company, AE is a decentral organization where over 200 employees have a big say in what their job comprises. Autonomy is a real staple, for every individual and for the team(s) he or she is part of. “That is indeed the case,” Paredis affirms.

“We’re not a purely hierarchical organization. Our Integration team works quite autonomously, but at the same time I also work with Pieter and he in turn is a sounding board of mine. And in my team, there are also people that deal with aspects such as people management, business development and sales.

“I’m a real proponent of the concept of job crafting,” says Laroy. “It allows people to shape their jobs and for teams to formulate their own responsibilities and goals, with the various team members dividing tasks among themselves and adapting to one another. Of vital importance is that our people think in terms of solutions instead of problems.

“There’s a credo that says ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ and that’s definitely the case at AE. People work very autonomously, but we do keep an eye on their track record and offer coaching wherever and whenever needed.”

In Belgium, Great Place to Work is an initiative of Vlerick Management School. You can read more about it on the GPTW website.