Digital client experiences are more crucial than ever before. According to Ovidiu Pinghioiu, Applications Director at Cegeka Romania, companies must provide digital platforms that are as simple to use as possible. He discussed the company's business strategy, the challenge of attracting new employees, as well as the needs and trends in the corporate software development sector in an interview with Economica.net.
2022 was a year marked by war, inflation, and rising energy prices. What was Cegeka Romania's year like? How much do you expect to have at the end of the year?
The last decade has been marked by repeated crises, forcing businesses to quickly modify their operations and strategies in order to stay competitive. Moreover, in the previous year, there have been significant changes and uncertainties in the business environment, leading organizations to reconsider their approach to both short-term and long-term planning. We were able to overcome the economic instability via adaptability, agility, tenacity, and continual development so 2022 was a fortunate year for Cegeka Romania, defined by growth on many levels.
We expanded our client portfolio by forming strategic partnerships with clients in finance and banking, energy and retail, and starting collaborations with foreign start-ups. We added eight new clients to our portfolio in the last year, including five local companies and three international businesses.
Cegeka Romania's focus in 2022 was to consolidate projects begun in 2020, during the pandemic, when we secured numerous key clients, to ensure company continuity. At the same time, we concentrated on broadening the range of services and requirements available to our customers. The pandemic has been a catalyst for onboarding new clients from outside Romania, leading to a diversification of the solutions we offer and a broader approach in terms of the markets we serve. And at the moment, our focus remains on strengthening relationships with existing clients.
Cegeka Romania is expected to have a turnover of 48 million euros at the end of 2022. We were recording a 28% increase in turnover by the middle of 2022 compared to the same period last year, and we have reasons to believe that by the end of the year, we would have topped this figure. As a result, we anticipate that growth in 2022 will exceed the estimates set at the start of the year.
Which division performed best in 2022 and why?
Cegeka Romania's local division recorded a turnover of €7.2 million in mid-2022, which represents one third of Cegeka's total business. The other division serving Cegeka Group's customers (Cegeka European Delivery Center) has a turnover of around €14 million, reported at mid-2022. As we mentioned earlier, we estimate that, in total, Cegeka Romania ended 2022 with a turnover of 48 million euros, of which approximately 16 million from local customers and 32 million for the other division.
The strategy in the last period has been an expansion in many cities in Romania as well as in Moldova. What's next for Cegeka in 2023 in these two countries?
Before the pandemic, at national level, Cegeka Romania had offices in Bucharest and Iași, which we will continue to maintain. Moreover, in December 2022, we opened our second office in the capital, located in the north of Bucharest, in the Miro office building developed by Speedwell. Opening a second office in Bucharest was a very important decision, which will greatly contribute to the well-being of our employees.
The building has received a BREEAM Excellent certification, as well as a WELL PLATINUM certification, the highest level achieved so far in Romania, which will provide a working environment with exceptional facilities to all colleagues who come to work here (especially those living in the north of Bucharest), but also to clients, partners, and colleagues from abroad who visit us - being located near the airport.
We will continue to work in a hybrid way, and with the two offices we currently have in Bucharest, one in the center of Bucharest and the second at Miro, we want to offer our employees an even better work-life balance when they want to go to the office, reducing as much as possible the time spent in traffic. So everyone chooses when they want to come to the office and where.
In addition, with the new space in Miro, we are also solving one of our most pressing problems, which is the optimization of parking spaces. In the central area, we have a limited number, which becomes problematic for colleagues who can only get to the office by car. This issue has been solved with the rental of the new office in Miro, and our colleagues benefit not only from parking spaces but also from charging stations for electric cars.
The opening of the new office is a result of the continuous growth and development over the last 10 years in Romania and also a space where we aim to encourage knowledge sharing for young graduates, as well as a space for brainstorming and fun. When we made this decision to expand, one of our goals was to also create a conducive and modern environment for Cegeka Academy students. Thus, we were able to provide a generous space for our students to better understand our organizational culture, as well as to better discover how to work and interact in a corporate environment. Therefore, the 4th edition of the Academy will take place entirely within Miro.
The pandemic has somehow "forced" companies to accelerate the process of digital business transformation, especially in 2020-2021. How was 2022 from this point of view? Were companies as open to technology adoption?
While at the beginning of the pandemic, many companies accelerated their digitization in order to cope with that period, to be able to run their operations further, to have efficient and secure communication with their employees, and to provide very good customer service, two years later we still see a growing trend in the area of digitization. Clients continue to develop new applications, add modules to existing applications, and optimize current processes, but also decide to upgrade old IT solutions they had.
In our view, more and more companies will allocate budgets to digital transformation to accelerate automation, AI implementation, and other technologies, understanding that digital transformation can help substantially reduce costs and improve efficiency. By adopting new technologies, companies can streamline their processes, automate routine tasks and gain insights into customer behavior.
For example, the banking sector, due to the pandemic, has significantly increased the adoption of custom software solutions, leading to improved digital customer experiences, increased operational efficiency, development of new products and services, better data management and analysis, etc.
Digital customer experiences are becoming more important than ever. Companies need to offer digital platforms that are as easy to use as possible. Especially for industries under pressure, customized software solutions can make a difference, significantly addressing challenges and helping them become stronger and more prosperous.
What trends did you see in the market in 2022 and which do you think will continue into 2023?
As a result of the economic and social 'weather,' many organizations have adopted agility and adaptability as fundamental components of their business model. Companies are exploring new technologies and taking advantage of the context of digital transformation to become more competitive in an ever-changing market. Companies are also developing more flexible operating models that can respond quickly to changes required by the market or customer needs. In addition, many companies are developing strategies to manage risk and seize opportunities in uncertain times.
Also, let’s not forget about the need to foster employee and team engagement in a hybrid working model. Companies need to create an environment that fosters productivity, collaboration, and people's well-being, through recognition schemes, flexible packages, or other initiatives that make people feel valued.
The pandemic was a major turbulence, followed by geopolitical and economic crises, but let's look at the positive side: companies that have managed to cope with the context and adapt are stronger, and more prepared to face the challenges of the future.
In terms of trending technologies, if we refer to the backend, Cegeka Romania is and will be a supporter of .Net technology. Most of our projects use this technology. Of course, let's not forget Java, where we boast a lot of ongoing projects. On the Frontend side, one technology that is gaining more and more ground is React.js, but also Angular.js. We are also currently focusing on the Microsoft Azure area as we want to grow in this segment and develop our capabilities.
In 2022, low-code technology has taken off. To us, it seemed only natural that it should become one of the options we offer our customers, having strategic partnerships with several low-code and no-code platform providers. We want to offer the best IT solutions, so that the customer ultimately chooses what suits them, taking into account value for money.
So when we receive a request to develop a project or an application from scratch, we come back to the client with two options: the first option is the classic software development method, and the second option is the use of low-code platforms so that they can see the differences both in terms of cost and delivery. In our experience so far, low-code technology reduces the cost of a project by more than 60%, as well as the delivery time.
How did the recruitment process go this year? How many new people have you hired in Romania and Moldova, which specializations do you find most difficult and why? Do you work exclusively from the office? Is the process continuing in 2023?
Although initially our expectations to grow the team were much more ambitious, the market did not allow us to find enough people. But we are extremely pleased with the quality and results achieved in the area of recruitment and employer engagement.
As for the local division, which serves clients in Romania and beyond, we have around 250 employees, up to 15% more than the previous year. Together with colleagues in the other development divisions, and structures that serve the services for the group, we reach almost 850 employees at the moment. An increase of 17% people in the last year compared to 2021.
We also have around 50 positions open in roles such as .Net Developer, Java Developer, Ruby Developer, System Analyst, Business Analyst, System Administrator, React Developer, Android &iOS Developer, Data Engineer and Manual QA Tester.
What has Cegeka Academy achieved this year and how will it develop in the coming year?
This year, Cegeka Academy has gone extremely well. We hired 19 students, who were immediately co-opted into our clients' projects.
The Academy is designed for final-year or master's students from Romanian technical faculties, and it successfully blends theory and practice. On a weekly basis, mentors present students with technical concepts, followed by problems or exercises to help them understand the theory. The difficulty gradually increases as students progress through the program. Then, in the last month of the Academy, they are divided into teams, each team tasked with completing a project. This project aims both to apply and deepen the concepts learned so far in the academy and to develop social skills (peer interaction, team communication, prioritization and problem-solving). Cegeka Academy is the best place to build your career in IT. We offer a highly accelerated learning and working environment for younger generations, and access to diverse local and international technologies, industries and projects.
In all three years of the Academy's existence (since 2019), out of 100 enrolled students, we currently have 35 employees. Therefore, 15% of active employees in the local division come from Cegeka Academy.
In 2023, we aim to have 100 students enrolled in the Academy. We are already interviewing all the students, and by the end of January, we aim to have the final list of those who will enter the Academy. We estimate the start somewhere around March, depending also on the students' calendars, as it is a period of exams and intense study for them. In 2023 we will have Java, .Net, DevOps, QA, and Frontend as streams in the Cegeka Academy. We aim to hire at least 30 students after the Academy is completed and they will start working immediately.