Interview by João Moreira, CEO of Ábaco Consulting for ComputerWorld [PT Only]: https://www.computerworld.com.pt/2021/01/05/as-expectativas-para-2021-sao-positivas-esperamos-que-o-proximo-ano-seja-globalmente-positivo-para-o-mercado-das-tecnologias-de-informacao/
The 2020 annus horribilis ended, leaving hope at the end of the tunnel. Clearly marked by the effects of the pandemic, this year’s exercise was characterized by the entry into the scene of a new way of operating by companies and institutions, which were forced to take the last leap into the digital world. João Moreira, CEO of Abaco Consulting, spoke with Computerworld about the year that ended, but essentially analyzed what to expect in 2021.
In terms of business, what is your assessment of 2020? How has the pandemic influenced Abaco’s business and what are the consequences?
The year 2020 was undoubtedly the most challenging, above all, due to the constant uncertainty that we faced, but, despite this situation, Abaco Consulting had a positive evolution in its turnover in 2020, largely due to the consolidated growth in addition to the international projects in which the company is involved, there are also the launch of several business initiatives that aim to strengthen the company’s operations in the verticals of the markets in which it operates directly, or in those to which it exports services.
We have always lived with change and flexibility and, for this reason, Abaco is a company that adapts quickly. As a result of the services it provides, it has always had Teams working in the office remotely connected to some of its Clients, as well as some Employees already working from home, in support activities in a nearshore model. For this reason, we already had some software tools, systems and communication infrastructures to support remote work, which allowed us to face this situation in a faster and more proactive way, immediately placing our Employees in the home office. However, applying this model to the entire organization, quickly, and without preparation, although we are used to living with change processes, it was necessary to overcome some difficulties created by this emergency situation.
What are the expectations for 2021? Will the business grow? What are the most relevant areas?
Expectations for 2021 are positive. We hope that next year will be globally positive for the information technology market, and also for management systems, which will have to adapt to respond to the new business challenges of companies, which are more flexible, mobile and immediate. In this context, we hope to maintain the positive evolution registered in recent years and consolidate our international presence. Increasing turnover in 2021 is one of the company’s business priorities. However, Abaco does not focus only on its activity due to the increase in turnover, in which we intend to continue to grow at double digits in the global volume of business and, in pursuit of this objective, we have the support of Brazil and Switzerland, very large and interesting markets for the company. In the case of the United Kingdom, there is still some uncertainty about the consequences of Brexit and the market’s reaction to this new scenario. However, there is now at least one decision that is better than the uncertainty that accompanied this whole process.
On the other hand, we feel that the market is accelerating the digital transformation processes in organizations, which represents an opportunity for growth. During this year of 2020, despite the context of the pandemic and the economic impact in some sectors, we won new Customers, which allows us to face the future with optimism.
Taking into account the need for job creation in Portugal, does Abaco plan to hire in 2021? How many employees do they close in 2020, and how many do they think they have at the end of 2021?
Currently, Abaco Consulting, employs around 230 employees, spread over several offices. In 2021, Abaco will maintain the growing trend of recruitment processes in order to reinforce the development of vertical solutions by business area. This year, we aim to incorporate 40 new talents, throughout the year, for the different geographies in which we operate. However, we know that it will be difficult as we continue to lack qualified professionals in the information technology sector, both in Portugal and in the European market. In this sense, we will continue to reinforce our investment in Abaco Academy with the aim of training new Consultants both to integrate our staff and for the market in general.
What are the main difficulties that you find, in the Portuguese market, at this moment, with regard to the approach to digitalization of companies?
The biggest challenge we are witnessing is related to this “new beginning” that is now rising and that will undoubtedly be more digital, both in the way we do business and in the organizational processes, and technology will play an even more important role. most prevalent in the life of organizations. Nevertheless, despite the technological momentum that occurred this year and which, in a normal situation, would have been slower, there are still many obstacles that limit our action and, in fact, have always been part of our daily lives, but we never stopped to think about them. On the other hand, investment in digitization was still not a priority for many companies. And only now, with the limitations that we all had because of the pandemic, do we really realize how important digital is. So it is urgent to eliminate everything that is not agile, so that it allows us to have a fast business model to react to.
The challenge now is to be able to define and implement measures in order to adapt to this new reality, evolving their business models and building solutions that not only survive, but that also thrive in the new business scenario that will come. It is therefore essential that companies prepare themselves to be digital from the sales process to the start of the expedition, from the purchase of raw materials to production planning, from recruitment to compensation and career development models.
What advice do you give companies to overcome the difficult times we are going through?
All business leaders now face difficult and uncertain choices in responding to this new “normal”. If, at first, they focused on putting in place all the necessary mechanisms for organizations to adapt to the situation and make the most of everything we were experiencing, initially limited by confinement, now, it is essential to focus on this new reality, in which the digital and the remote are the watchwords.
It is natural that, in times of crisis, the Leaders of Organizations focus essentially on the here and now, as well as providing answers to the most urgent problems. But we must never lose sight of looking to the future and envisioning the path we want our organization to take from now on. Knowing how to foresee new changes, problems, be flexible, transparent and be prepared for possible unforeseen events is, without a doubt, essential to prepare for the coming year. Even more because there are changes that are not circumstantial, they are here to stay.
Surviving a crisis with good leadership is not just about supporting results or minimizing the economic impact on business. I believe that what makes a good leadership is the transparent and true way we communicate, in any circumstance. At this stage in particular it is important to remain calm and confident in the future. It is equally important to point out a path, mobilize, motivate and materialize in actions every step we take to follow that path.
At this stage, more than reinventing ourselves, we have to rediscover ourselves and find new ways to create value for our Clients, Partners and Employees. I believe that the most important thing remains communication with them. At this time, it is important to continue to give primacy to internal communication and to send messages that encourage tranquility and respect for the imposed rules. Now, more than ever, it is important to demonstrate to our Employees that, for us, the most important thing is people and their well-being. It is equally important that between Customer and Supplier, Partner and Competitor, bonds of solidarity are established instead of each looking for individual survival strategies. Success in overcoming this crisis can only be collective.
It is a fact that times of crisis always end up decreasing and life returns to normal – even if that “normal” seems a little different. And, therefore, at some point, as we have seen throughout history, a new crisis will probably arise in an unexpected way, just as it has now. In this context, the challenge for CEOs as business leaders is to remain prepared for the next crisis, which can inevitably arise.