"In 2024, we want to grow the Applications division - which has become an important part of both Romania and the group. We are also open to and looking for investment opportunities, acquisitions of companies in the local market, which will help us achieve our growth goals."
The demand for IT&C services on the Romanian market continues to grow, and the challenge for industry players remains in 2024 to find experienced people that can meet customer needs, Lucian Popovici, the new Director of Applications at Cegeka Romania, said in an interview with Ziarul Financiar.
"We are facing a problem: there are not enough specialists on the market. The number of graduates leaving university remains constant from year to year, but the IT industry needs many more people. We need graduates who also have practical experience (hands-on), but unfortunately, few have projects or internships that exposed them to real business needs. Therefore, I believe that the private sector should be more involved in what it means to educate new generations and create more internship programs," said Lucian.
Growth plans for 2024
Last year, Cegeka Romania recruited 50 software engineers for their Applications division. This year, they're raising the bar, seeking 80 specialists.
"In 2024, we have set a goal to expand the team with 80 people who will cover the entire delivery process: from business analysts to UX/UI specialists, software engineers and cloud engineers, scrum masters and project managers. Percentage-wise, this would mean a net 30% increase,"
He mentioned that the company is already in advanced discussions with partners in the local market who have approved the digitalization budgets for 2024 and are looking for ways to help them achieve their goals.
"If 2023 was a year of realignment in the IT market, with customers more cautious about investing large sums in digitization, 2024 is showing signs of revival. Although this year will be a year with strong political and geopolitical weight, we see a strong desire from customers to invest in new products and gain ground on the competition through digital transformations."
In addition, Cegeka also hires students who go through the Cegeka Academy program annually.
"Through Cegeka Academy, for three months, alongside mentors from the company, students develop their technical and soft skills to be as prepared as possible when they enter different projects. Therefore, the integration of those recruited after these three months is a smooth one, as they are already familiar with our way of working. At the moment, 20% of the colleagues in the Applications division are former graduates of the program."
The shifting landscape of IT&C competition
Another challenge currently facing the IT&C industry is the competition that the local tech sector has with countries such as Spain, Italy, Greece and Poland - countries that before the national wage increases and before the elimination of tax breaks for IT were much more expensive than Romania.
"Unfortunately, Romania is becoming a competitor on the IT services market with these countries. Thus, we will see projects that will no longer come to Romania, but will go to such countries, due to cost and proximity. Then we ask ourselves what differentiates Romania from other countries, given that the technical skills and costs are similar.
The IT industry in Romania is based for the most part on outsourcing - the execution and implementation of projects designed by businesses from abroad. There are few consulting firms that bring added value to clients. And the solution is to identify and leverage the added value that the Romanian IT industry can bring to clients, both local and external, through soft skills and consulting."
Asked about his expectations for salaries in the IT&C industry, Lucian Popovici believes that this year there will be stability in terms of salaries and a decrease in the number of people who will change jobs frequently.
"Given that the countries of western and central Europe have become comparable in terms of cost with IT specialists, it will be difficult for companies in Romania to continue wage increases and, at the same time, remain competitive in an increasingly crowded market."
Romania has a lot of very good technical IT specialists, but they are not as well prepared in terms of soft skills, which is another challenge, said Lucian.
"Efficient communication with clients is extremely important in any collaboration, but especially in the software field, where we constantly encounter technical complexities that need to be understood by the client. Therefore, communication skills should become a must-have in IT, because they are also the foundation of the project, along with the technical skills. The industry demands skills such as effective communication, teamwork, negotiation skills, presentation skills, more than ever, especially now that we work in a hybrid mode, with distributed teams."
For 2024, Cegeka Romania representatives plan to continue developing the company's Applications division and to exceed everything they achieved in 2023 in terms of sales, profit and customer relations, Lucian added. He mentioned that in 2023, seven new companies were added to Cegeka Romania's client portfolio.
"The plan is to grow the Applications division, which has become an important part for both Romania and the group. Therefore, we are always open and looking for investment opportunities, for acquisitions of local companies that will help us achieve our growth targets. In 2024, we will focus both on consolidating relationships with existing clients and looking for opportunities to collaborate with strategic clients."