Founder and Chairman of the Board
Like its predecessor, 2021 was a challenging year. We all witnessed the complex interplay between the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its massive impact on the global economy, public health and the world of work. Today, with a war on European soil, we are possibly facing an era of geopolitical turbulence. My thoughts are with every single person who is directly or indirectly impacted by this brutal invasion.
These are volatile and uncertain times. Times that force us to be quick off the mark, quick to adapt, quick to change course. In short: times that force us to be ready. This is our line of business: helping our customers be ready. We do so with technology, with people who are experts in their field and with a pragmatic take on digitization, automation and innovation. And, of course, ‘in close cooperation’, our way of doing business since I established Cegeka 30 years ago.
This agility, this elasticity, this ability to reinvent ourselves: it’s in our DNA. The Cegeka group has gone through a metamorphosis. Today, we are organized like a digital holding, a fleet of vessels that all sail under the same flag and navigate by the same compass. In this fleet, our captains have a lot of leeway in how they organize and run their ship. This is exactly where Cegeka’s strength comes from: our identity as a very close-knit group and the unique nature of each entity in our fleet.
Our core offering consists of closely cooperating business lines for data solutions, infrastructure and applications, offering end-to-end solutions for a growing range of customers. The other vessels in our fleet – nexuzhealth, SmartSchool, Cegeka Business Solutions, NSI Group and Citymesh – each have a distinct focus and area of expertise. All together we share the same goal: help customers become quick, supple, digitally relevant and ultimately resilient.
Cegeka did very well in 2021, realizing 744 million euros in revenue, a growth of 16% compared to 2020. We intend to keep growing, organically and through acquisitions. We also keep improving on our portfolio and IP. The trinity of innovation - with 5G, AI and cloud as game-changers for the next decade – is a focal point. Cyber resilience is another. Now is the time for businesses – large and small – to seriously step up their cyber game. In 2022, we aim to be a top 3 security player in the Benelux.
In 2021, we have made important steps in our CSR program and we have set ourselves ambitious goals for the years to come. Corporate Social Responsibility at Cegeka revolves around three pillars: to reduce our environmental footprint, to promote diversity and inclusion on the workfloor and to contribute to projects that have social impact. CSR at Cegeka is ingrained in our values and our culture, and it ties in with our drive to contribute to a better, safer, cleaner and inclusive world.
This year, Cegeka blows out 30 birthday candles. From our beginnings in 1992, Cegeka has grown to a large but independent IT player with more than 5500 dedicated employees in 11 European countries. I am extraordinarily proud of everyone who has contributed to this success: our customers, employees, stakeholders, investors and business partners. I am confident even greater things are ahead of us, if we keep working together in close cooperation.
These are challenging times, with unforeseeable events unfolding in unexpected ways. People, communities and organizations: we’re all coming to terms with the erosion of predictability, at least as we have known it. The playing field is shifting shape every day. The trick is to be able to survive and thrive in a world where constant change, seismic shifts, unpredictability and risk are part of how we live and do business.
From a technological point of view, these times are extremely interesting and yes, exciting. Technology today is perfectly capable of reconciling two seemingly opposing needs: the need for stability and speed. This is not an either-or situation: agile organizations, paradoxically, manage to be both stable and resilient but also fast and adaptive. Helping our customers balance this tension is the work we are setting ourselves.
The trinity of innovation: game-changer for the next decade
At Cegeka, we firmly believe in what we call ‘the trinity of innovation’: 5G, Artificial Intelligence and hybrid cloud. These are all breakthrough technologies in and by themselves, but the real potential lies in the synergy they create. Companies with a strategy that taps into that synergy, get a multiplier effect in terms of actionable intelligence, productivity gains and automation. I am convinced that, like the internet 30 years ago, this trio is the game-changer for this decade.
5G is the real catalyst here. Why? We all know that 5G stands for ultra-reliable low-latency communication at breakneck speed. The 5G protocol is cloud-native, which means that a 5G Mobile Private Network (MPN) can run at software level. In the future, everything will be software-defined. 5G MPNs are deployed in all industries, and no wonder: they create cost-efficient, highly secure and ultra-reliable workplaces where the real power of AI and the cloud can be unleashed.
5G networks provide the bandwidth and computing power to collect and process the ever-increasing volume of data on the shopfloor, and that includes the explosive number of IoT devices and sensors. This is the fuel that Artificial Intelligence needs to perform its magic. And while data can be moved, stored and processed in the cloud, we also see that compute is moving closer to where the data is generated – to the edge – especially for business-critical or mission-critical processes.
At Cegeka, we are in pole position to implement any ‘trinity’ scenario, with a connectivity offering that ranges from 0G to 5G, top-notch AI-experts and 30 years’ worth of experience in application development and cloud computing. Businesses, cities and organizations that want to explore these technologies in their quest for innovation, will find in us a pragmatic, no-nonsense and business outcome-driven partner.
It’s all about the architecture
Innovation cannot be built on quicksand: it needs a foundation. A foundation that is both solid and supple, and that allows organizations to pivot and accommodate unforeseen and unforeseeable demands without disrupting operations. A foundation that prompts decision makers to look at ‘change’ differently: as an opportunity - not a burden - and a risk to be taken - not avoided. In such an organization, stasis and non-changeable entities are the burden and the risk.
Enter composability. The concept and the phrase are not new from a technical point of view: application architects and software engineers have been familiar with it for decades. The core characteristic of composability is extreme modularity. A much exhausted analogy is that of a structure built with standardized bricks that have similar studs – or integration points – so they can be easily assembled, disassembled, reassembled or discarded, infinitely.
When you apply composability to software engineering, and by extention, application architecture, it is hard to avoid containerization. Just like containerization triggered a paradigm shift in shipping logistics, it did so in IT as well, although this has been underexposed. Containerizing applications does not only come with huge benefits – portability, scaleability, just to name two - it also gives CIOs the building blocks they need to be able to pivot, change, take risks, and yes, to innovate.
Composability is not only about architecture and technical tooling. It is also about a mindset, one where the walls between IT and the business are dismantled. Since composability means a shift from technical capabilities to technology-enabled business capabilities, it is only logical that technology and business experts work together in multidisciplinary teams. Teams that understand and share the same goal: to move the business needle forward.
‘In close cooperation’ remains our North Star
2022 marks the 30th birthday of Cegeka. A lot has changed since the early days, but one thing has not: ‘in close cooperation’. Our modus operandi and the credo of our founder André Knaepen is and remains rock solid and non-negotiable. It is not a secret that we are a growth company wity sky-high ambitions. But however fast and large we grow, we are and always will remain close by, easy to get in touch with, easy to talk to and easy to do business with.
I want to conclude by expressing how proud I am of the more than 5500 people who work for Cegeka today. They are Cegeka, and without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today. I also would like to thank our customers: for their support, for their trust, and for allowing us to embark with them on their journey towards change and success. Thank you also to our shareholders, investors and business partners.
At Cegeka, we firmly believe in what we call ‘the Trinity of Innovation’: 5G, Artificial Intelligence and hybrid cloud. This trio is going to be the game-changer for the next decade.