Avenga: Digital transformations that focus on quality will succeed

Małgorzata Wiśniewska, Avenga Poland Country Director

The interview was originally published by ITWiz.pl

“During the pandemic, the digital transformation of businesses has sped up, accompanied by a growing volatility of the business environment. To address these changes, Avenga has worked out a transformation quality improvement model that increases the odds for business success.” says Małgorzata Wiśniewska, Avenga Poland’s Country Director.

The years 2020 and 2021 have presented new challenges for digital transformation programs. It is quite fair to say that the last two years have forced a reality check upon us and have weeded out most of the half-baked, inconsistent, and ill-conceived ideas. What’s the balance? Has there been a net increase in the number of digitalization projects and initiatives that Avenga has been involved in?

Definitely. And, in many interesting areas on top of that. The first of these three areas focuses on building services centers in Poland. There has actually been a great resurgence of these projects. And, I still vividly remember the question asked some 2 years ago: “Is outsourcing still a good idea?” We’re dealing with a situation I haven’t experienced in the 25 years of my professional life. Now, we have clients knocking on our door, and it’s not uncommon for them to ask for a team of 300, available right here and right now, and to have the first 200 people in Poland to start working within 12 months.

The second area is about the many different types of digitalization projects we carry out for our clients. The nature of these projects is changing. Nowadays, clients would like to have these projects delivered faster in order to be able to commercialize their results and minimize the risk of a change in circumstances. A project set to last 9 or 12 months carries a very high risk of priorities changing during its course. The current economic situation has also led to a growing expectation of us, that we fragment larger projects into smaller agile initiatives, the parts of a greater whole, so that we can help our clients obtain project outcomes quicker so that they can earn money to invest in further project stages.

And the third area?

It’s really interesting too. The credit for the advancements made in this area should especially go to Jacek Chmiel, Director of Avenga Labs. This area is developing thanks to the scale of the ongoing technological changes, and because of it we have many products, solutions, and ideas to offer. Processing such a huge amount of information is a great challenge and burden posed to a company focusing on making a profit in a different business area. That’s why, at Avenga Labs, we offer research into the trends, technologies, and solutions that suit the needs and profile of a given company. We dive into the long- and short-term effects of their adoption and application, into the benefits they bring, and – a very important aspect – into what to avoid and how not to make mistakes. All this is based upon the Proof of Concept methodology, which doesn’t require significant expenditures to find out if the path being followed is right. We have many skilled consultants who are experienced in this niche and are therefore able to provide our clients with such boutique services.

How many businesses currently make use of a holistic and advanced model of collaboration?

Right now, it’s still below 10%. These are mostly global companies who also happen to operate in Poland. The barrier to the quicker development of this model is the need for the client to assemble an R&D team. But, the need to tailor and test the different IT solutions before they are deployed makes the interest in research services grow.

Looking from the perspective of the demand for ICT competencies, which areas and processes offered nowadays give a business the chance to gain a competitive advantage through digitalization?

There is a great and stable demand for cybersecurity, where specialization plays an increasingly important role. While our clients have asked us about “security specialists” and jacks of all trades just two years ago, today they tend to look more and more often for very specific skill sets. Anything that has to do with robotization – with the potential to help clients become independent of the challenging job market and standardize, accelerate, and automate their processes – has become highly sought-after. And finally, all competencies relevant to the domain of Data Science and analytics.

Małgorzata Wiśniewska, Avenga Poland’s Country Director

Avenga has been successfully developing and managing an ecosystem of specialists, those people with significant skills. But, the trend of digitalization seems to be engaging them more and more. How do we keep this ecosystem alive and make it grow bigger?

A good salary or additional benefits are a must. That’s why we put a lot of emphasis on the aspect of the attractiveness of a job. We do our best to offer projects which are innovative. What makes them special is that they offer opportunities to self-develop, learn, and work for interesting clients. Upskilling is easier nowadays and it does require additional effort, but you still get to work at your current rate on a daily basis. A career change and learning new skills, in turn, may involve a temporary lowering of your job market value. If a senior technology specialist decides to make such a change, we have to accept the fact that we’re losing him for some time because he’s going to be busy learning new things. But, the change is advantageous to both parties. We need to invest in people and in their growth because if we don’t, a different employer will.

→ More about Avenga staffing services

Could you illustrate it with numbers?

As many as 80% of our consultants, including regular employees of our Delivery Center as well as contractors, take advantage of the opportunity to improve their skills and competencies. Meanwhile, as little as 5% of the specialists from the Avenga ecosystem have decided to change their field of specialization.

How is the demand changing in terms of experience? Is it more about senior or junior professionals?

The market slump of Q2 in 2020, when many projects were suspended, brought about a big increase in the demand for more experienced consultants. At the same time, the demand for less experienced professionals declined. We can see that this trend will remain on the rise. I think it’s partly because of the increased switch to the remote work model. It’s much easier to manage an experienced specialist in such a model. Maybe, the idea that it’s better to pay more to have seasoned commandos instead of regular infantrymen will catch on and stay with us after the pandemic.

I’ve come across an opinion that states that the market will see an emergence of entities that will attract and aggregate highly-specialized and sought-after skills, competencies, and senior talents, like Data Scientists.

Such entities are already here. What will make them attractive will be the offered opportunity to utilize knowledge and the experience acquired by dealing with many interesting cases. Paradoxically, they may also become ‘home’ for junior professionals, who will gain experience by being mentored by ‘gurus’ and then put their skills to use when there are project peaks.

Another example of an area where business specialization will play a key role will be cloud services provided by a specific supplier; e.g., support in the area of SAP.

Avenga is building a meta strategic competency which supports the quality of digital programs. Does the pressure under which these programs are currently run pose some risk?

Digital transformation is not an IT project. It’s a major business change which requires management, maturity, and a mindset shift. And, it is not only about the stage of selecting and adopting the right technology. It’s mainly about the right human resources. And, I’m not talking only about programmers. I mean also project business sponsors and people managing the company as a whole. The important thing is whether they feel and understand the impact of digitalization on their business.

So can we say that the challenge is the shortage of technological talent in the market? And, that the shortage of organization-internal competencies required to manage change in a mature way is an even greater challenge?

A far greater challenge is to make sure that the key decision-makers take part in the process of change, so that the digital transformation does not become the job of the IT/accounting/marketing department and they are expected to merely “build a system”. It is a process that needs to involve a major change of the business’ mindset. That’s why teams need to go through it together.

Małgorzata Wiśniewska, Avenga Poland’s Country Director

Since we’ve been talking about trends and forecasts, which of them should be on the radar of our readers, especially for 2022?

First thing is the approach to project planning and technology selection, and we’ve covered it in much detail. I think that in 2022 there will already be good practices, a sort of standard among the best.

Second thing is decision-making. Today, we can see that decision-making on the client’s end leaves much to be desired, such as you can’t postpone your decision for 2 weeks. A good applicant is usually not available anymore after 2-3 days. And, it’s no use looking for a perfect match because an applicant who meets 80% of our requirements – and is available right away – is a bird in the hand, which is worth two in the bush. The transformation will only gain momentum when the critical mass from the projects and businesses who run this transformation successfully (more or less) has already increased. The number of decisions to launch a transformation project is growing stepwise.

We should also be paying close attention to what’s going on in Asia. In 5-7 years’ time, salaries, which are growing faster than the inflation rate in Poland, will become a barrier for Polish IT services and products. The world will then turn to Asia. And while we, in Poland, are still on a roll in the IT services sector, we can use these favorable circumstances as a driving force to propel our economy. However, the boom won’t last forever. At present, we’re gaining experience, acquiring skills, and accumulating capital for the times in which the profile of our tech market will have to change.

 Processing this huge amount of information is a great challenge and burden posed to a company focusing on making a profit in a different business area. That’s why, at Avenga Labs, we offer research into the trends, technologies, and solutions that suit the needs and profile of a given company. We dive into the long- and short-term effects of their adoption and application, into the benefits they bring, and – a very important aspect – into what to avoid and how not to make mistakes. All this is based on the Proof of Concept methodology, which doesn’t require significant expenditures to find out if the path followed is right.

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