Inertia is not an option. Organizations need to move faster and better

Inertia is not an option. Organizations need to move faster and better

Interview with Costin Avram, General Manager, CRYSTAL System Group

Q: What has been your company’s dynamic for 2020? What are the prospects during this corona-crisis?

C.A. At the end of 2019 we have invested a lot into our Sales  and  Marketing  department  aiming  to  grow  our  business  in  2020.  The  delivery  organization  was  and  still  is  stable,  mature  and  very  scalable  thanks  to  our  geographical  distribution.  So  we  were  ready  for  a  stronger,  wider  presence  on  the  European  market  and  attracted  about  building  a  global   presence,   extending   our   operations   in   ASPAC   and   US.   Of   course   2020   was   not   an   accelerator but we did not change the strategy. We figured  out  that  while  the  active  customers  are  slowing  down  we  needed  to  focus  a  lot  more  on  prospecting  and  adding  new  customers  to  our  portfolio.    We    had    more    time    so    we    have    strengthened  our  delivery  capabilities,  upskilling,  reskilling,  getting  certifications.  We  have  become  Google  Cloud  certified  partner  and  SAP  Partner  Edge.   We   have   also   improved   our   internal   IT   systems,  improving  our  CRM  environment,  our  Reporting  and  Analytics  platforms  and  our  core  system for planning, service execution and quality assurance.       I would say that the corona crisis determined us to act faster on implementing our programs and act more motivated in exploring further the market. The prospects are showing exactly this, a revenue reduction with our current, active customers and a market growth in terms of new, strategic customers.

Q: Your company has a very strong presence in Europe, with large corporates as clients. What was their behavior until now?

C.A. Most  of  our  current  customers  across  Europe  have   reduced   their   IT   activities   with   us,   as   a   consequence  of  a  general  reduction  which  had  an  impact  on  our  teams  as  well.  The  reduction  was  variable  depending  on  the  industry.  For  instance,  we have experienced more than 50% reduction in the  aviation  sector,  approximately  25%  reduction  in  the  automotive,  10%  to  15%  reduction  in  the  financial   sector.   Instead   we   have   registered   a   revenue  increase  in  the  FMCG,  Retail,  Tobacco, Food and Beverage. We have not lost any customer, or at least none significant and this is thanks to our product/ service strategy based on high quality at competitive  costs.  When  you  have  a  high  quality  product/ service, which in our case is based on our Talent Management, it is difficult to be left out. But we  need  to  gain  more  market  and  become  more  global    because    the    competition    is    becoming    extremely  aggressive.  In  the  past  ten  years  there  was  a  stable  distribution  of  the  outsourced  IT  services   by   IT   service   provider,   depending   on   dimension,  markets,  and  skills.  The  playground  was set and the general rules were clear. I feel that in the next two to three years the playground will change  again,  our  proven  areas  of  collaboration  will  be  challenged  and  in  the  same  time  we  will  challenge   the   other   players.   This   means   more   competition, which generally is a good thing, since a    strong    model    based    on    high-quality    and    competitive  costs  is  a  successful  one.  In  any  case  inertia  is  not  an  option  and  companies  need  to  move better and faster on the market, to defend the current business and gain new one.

Q: How the new economic reality, will look for the software industry? Which  are  the  top  5  priorities  on  your  CEO  agenda  today? 

C.A. The  new  economic  reality  is  a  very complex discussion, but in terms of software industry,    in    relationship    with    the    business    environment, now more than ever the IT shall act in   perfect   synergy   with   the   strategy   of   the   organization   and   even   behave   as   a   proactive   business  partner.  Many  of  the  organizations  are  doing two things in terms of IT:a) They are reducing as much as possible the cost of RUN IT leveraging on competitive and skilled IT service providers.b)  They  are  investing  in  IT  areas  with  added  value  for  their  business.  Added  value  is  not  only  money, it can be optimization and simplification of processes, it can be collaboration platforms, digital channels  for  customer  engagement,  better  data  insight  and  better  data  foresight,  usage  of  hybrid  cloud  platforms,  strong  partnerships  that  provide  commitment and engagement etc. With  this  in  mind,  I  think  a  software  industry  CEO    needs    to    focus    on    talent    management,    optimization of its capabilities, consolidation of the relationship   with   both   customers   as   well   as   industry  partners,  increase  market  presence  and  let’s not forget the health and safety of all personnel.

Q: The crisis accelerated digital technology usage.  What  are  the  sectors  you  think  would  accelerate  the  most  out  of  the  digital transformation?

C.A. For    sure    the    collaboration    platforms    are    becoming  and  will  remain  a  hot  topic.  In  many  cases this is the only way of working. Insights and analytics is another sector moving very fast in this period  and  this  opens  the  room  for  at  least  two  more  digital  areas  of  transformations  which  are  internet of things and cloud based data platforms. And  the  domino  continues  since  once  you  have  solved   the   issues   of   data   capture   and   data   processing you need to focus on building patterns, predictive  models,  forecasts  and  this  has  to  be  done fast and accurate, so artificial intelligence will be  very  present  around  us.  Digital  archiving  and  digital signature will also be accelerated.Most  of  the  industries  will  find  business  cases  where the digital transformation will be present.

Q: There  are  endless  possibilities  opened  by     Big     Data,     Analytics,     Artificial     Intelligence,  Internet  of  things,  Sensors  and  Robots.  Which  are  the  first  solutions  that  you would recommend in the actual context?

C.A. Actually,  this  has  already  happened  in  the  past  two-three  years  and  what  will  happen  next  is  an  accelerated adoption. The first solution, in general terms,  is  the  Data  Environment.  By  now  we  all  should  be  familiarized  with  the  concept  of  ERP  (Enterprise  Resources  Planning)  meaning  end-to-end process driven and integrated IT management systems.  But  the  reality  of  an  organization  is  not  being managed, from an IT perspective, by a single ERP   system.   This   has   many   reasons   like,   for   instance, the merger and acquisitions which opens the reality of more than one ERP system, business Now, more than ever, the IT shall act in perfect synergy with the strategy of the organization and even behave as a proactive business partner.evolution,  and  variety  of  software  vendors,  each  specialized  in  a  certain  area  (either  management  areas   or   industrial   areas).   These   systems   are   generating  a  lot  of  data  and  until  recently  the  data  management had a silos approach. At the same time, IoT  came  along  generating  even  more  data.  So  now  we  are  talking  about  big  data,  travelling  at  high  speed,  at  high  volumes  and  from  different  sources.  All this data volume carries within it insights and can generate  foresights  and  creates  the  foundation  of  a  Data  Driven  Organization.  Of  course,  processes  are  extremely important and there is a continuous focus on      process      integration,      simplification      and      optimization.  But  processes  are  more  related  to  IT  transactional  systems,  a  process  starts,  ends  and  serves  a  function  or  more  functions.  A  Data  Driven  Organization needs to produce added value from its data  and  the  data  around  it.  And  this  is  why  the  mythical    “E”    standing    for    Enterprise,    is    now    delivering   the   right   importance   to   data   and   to   Enterprise Data Platforms. Data needs to be managed at  enterprise  level,  in  a  common  environment  and  most likely a cloud environment.

Q: How do you prepare for a permanent shift in the working relationships? How do you think it will affect your company culture?

C.A. Home  working  is  the  solution  for  us.  But  we  are  lucky  from  this  point  of  view  since  we  are  an  IT  Engineering and IT Consulting company which from day one has delivered its services remotely. In a way we were prepared for a permanent shift, not because we  were  planning  for  it,  but  because  our  business  and    delivery    models    were    designed    from    the    beginning in this way.

Q:  What’s  your  „Focus  on  ...“  advice  for  the  managers  of  the  large  local  companies  after the sanitary crisis will end?

C.A. Focus  on  innovation  and  added  value.  I  strongly  believe   our   local   IT   sector   needs   to   pay   more   attention  to  added  value  IT  services  and  products.  There  are  two  main  reasons  why  I  give  this  advice.  The first one is because we can, because we are very talented.  And  the  second  one  is  because  we  are  becoming  expensive  in  terms  of  costs  and  since  no  one is willing to gain less money, we need to delivery more value to the market.

Q:  Your  company  is  investing  in  nurturing  Romanian  software  talents.  What  would  be  the  3  things  you  would  like  to  tell  people  who  want  to  start  a  successful  software  business in Romania?

C.A. If my message should reach young talents, willing to  start  a  successful  software  business  in  Romania,  the  key  element  is  definitely  innovation.  Do  not  repeat  what  has  already  been  done  since  from  this  point  of  view  the  market  is  in  any  case  saturated.  Instead find your identity in a modern and innovative segment, build your proposal around data scientists, artificial      intelligence      and      machine      learning      capabilities. Do not fear to contact large organizations since  many  of  them  suffer  from  a  lack  of  innovative  ideas and they are willing to listen to start-ups, work together  with  them  and  create  together  with  them.  Be authentic and courageous.

You can also consult the interview in the document below: