Results of a Peculiar Year
STEP LOGIC's CEO talks about what is to come in 2021 and what was achieved in 2020.
– 2020 was very peculiar. What is it remembered for by you and your company?
– COVID-19 pandemic probably affected every person on the planet in this or that way. Our company will remember 2020 as the year of the deep internal transformation and personnel changes. Those alterations were caused, in particular, by the cease of regular social relations and the coronavirus-related idle period. Thus, it is fair to say that the company was affected by the pandemic too.
– Were customers and vendors ready to face to shifts in life and business triggered by the coronavirus pandemic?
– To my eye, vendors managed to adapt to new conditions much quicker. As far as customers are concerned, organisations related to IT in this or that way (communication, telecommunication, finance) proved to be the most flexible. Sadly, «physical» production demands more of an effort to adapt to changes.
– In what way were the company's projects affected? Did you have to shut down or bump any of those?
The overall number of projects did not go down. If anything, over 11 months in 2020, it was up on 2019 by 15%. However, there were negative trends too which were implementation delays and the deferral of deadlines both often caused by external factors. Many industries (for example, construction) failed to align with the new realities and what's more, these are the ones we often have to work with. Apart from that, the quarantine restrictions deeply affected the supply times. Mainly during the first wave.
– What challenges did your company face and how did you overcome them?
– The most critical one was to maintain corporate culture when there was no chatting during a lunch or a cigarette break. Otherwise, it would result in social atomisation and encapsulation and impact the team adversely. The HR department, as well as all the company's managers, had to do much extra work to avoid personnel involvement problems.
– What did you learn about managing projects, organising remote work and other things in 2020?
– In terms of technical and organisational questions, it was not that hard for us to shift to remote work. Part of STEP LOGIC's employees had already been working from home for a long time. So, the shift did not take much effort.
– How did the pandemic affect the digital transformation of your customers?
– During the first wave, I heard a joke from our customers and partners many times. «Who led the digital transformation of your company? a) CDO b) CEO c) COVID-19». And as you know, many a true word is spoken in jest. Due to the unavoidable COVID-19-related restrictions, most companies focused on digital transformation. It should be noted that its major fields (big data analytics, the Internet of things, AI) functioned before the pandemic. Of course, the crisis boosted the pace.
– A strong fall of the crude oil price and the dollar rate increase. How did those affect the IT market, the customers and the company itself?
– The IT industry has faced those numerous times and, thus, has already formed the antibody. It is more about the secondary impacts of the pandemic: the substantial shift of funds between industries (cancelled air transportations, frozen budgets of airlines and airports, the financial distress in tourism, reallocations of federal and municipal funds in order to fight COVID-19), tax manoeuvres (raising severance taxes). It is obvious that different customers have different priorities: air carriers boost the cost reduction trying to survive, while the increasing demand for online retailers is only constrained by the pace of the logistics infrastructure deployment. The latter tend to focus on effective management strategies of supply chains and automated warehouse management systems.
– Did the competition increase or decrease?
– There may be opposite trends at the same time. Recently, many major system integrators have left the market for various reasons or at least reduced their activities in it. At the same time, «non-traditional» businesses rushed to fill the space. Small niche companies, telecom operators, and even customers themselves began to compete with us, opening their own in-house high-tech departments.
– The pandemic will not last forever. Due to the introduction of the mass vaccination, sooner or later it will decline. How do you plan to build your work in 2021? What areas, technologies and solutions will you focus on? And why?
– Sadly, my prediction is quite discouraging. We prepare to face the second year of crisis rather than the first year of recovery. The task of a system integrator is to help transform the customer's business based on products created by vendors and their own expertise. In compliance with the latest trends, we develop our competencies in industries, change our paradigm. We dig deeply in the business of our customers and offer them not only hardware, but also software, services and solutions for better tomorrow. And the day after tomorrow.
Fragments of the interview have been included in the article Results of a Peculiar Year for the IT Manager magazine (issue No.12/2020).