Updated: Frank Roche and Sarah Chambers are not married as previously reported.
In 2004, Frank Roche and Sarah Chambers left a hum drum human resources consulting company to start iFractal, their own consulting gig chasing the same industry.
They thought they could do it better, company lore goes. They also thought they could have a lot more fun doing it.
Seven years later, the company’s team of 15 employees creates custom software for human resources departments, often writing internal systems for large-scale companies — like Comcast, Miller Coors, Motorola, Dupont, Sears, Campbell’s and others — to deal with day-to-day HR duties as well as with big changes happening to companies. iFractal calls itself an HR “SWAT team,” creating custom solutions that range from communications to software development.
Success achieved, they haven’t forgotten the fun.
Located just north of Market on Third Street, the entire company sits down together weekly for meals in a loft office full of dozens of live plants.
It’s not strange for Roche and Chambers to ask everyone to stop working—to go get ice cream.
It’s this workplace culture that makes for a quick and effective team, says Jennifer Cohen, a project manager at the firm. “Our family size has left us with this nimbleness to attack the crisises that companies are experiencing. It gives us an advantage being small because you can have all hands on deck if you need it,” she says.
These advantages are typical of a growing trend in enterprise software: that smaller, nimbler companies are becoming disruptive forces that are helping big companies solve long-standing problems.
After all, the company’s name, iFractal, translates to “interrupt the pattern.”
For example, by creating custom front-end interfaces for large enterprise software solutions, iFractal makes software easier to use and an all-around better experience, says Chief Information Officer Charlie Chambers.
“It’s not as though we think enterprise is doing things wrong. We’re not in a place to say that a big vendor isn’t right for people,” Chambers says. “But we broaden the user base to people who can’t get used to all of [a vendor]’s functionality and need someone to build something much more user-focused in order to handle a particular process.”
It’s with that philosophy in mind that this week, the company is set to release RapidFire, a SaaS platform for companies looking to address large lay-off strategies, a customer-focused product which is a step away from its traditional consulting gigs.
Using a web-based platform, RapidFire allows high-level management to collaboratively set cross-company budget restraints and issue department-based cuts, forcing lower managers to make productivity and compensation decisions about their employees. Once a manager evaluates his or her staff, she is able to issue approval for specific lay-offs to her manager, and so on. The whole process can be shortened to weeks or even days, depending on the size of a company. iFractal says that companies as small as 15 and as large as Fortune 500 could take advantage of the software.
“When it comes to the recent economic downturn, we recognize that lay-offs are becoming a much more frequent event. Prolonged layoff processes are horrible in many ways, but they also kill productivity in an organization. Speed is absolutely essential,” Chambers says.
“RapidFire” is a cheeky name, for sure. But its blunt branding is meant to make the software easily searchable by and attractive to executives who will be making lay-off decisions. The software service offers white label branding so employees who are getting the axe will never see iFractal’s crass product name.
Why else is the company looking at products as a new path? It’s a chance to show off.
“Client work has to remain confidential throughout the entire process. You can’t flood the market for that idea,” Chambers says.
“Like any other company, it’s important to have a steady base and products on top of that are a bonus. We’re no different.”
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