More effective platforms and banal online interactions: “the changes are here to stay, let us have no illusions.”
Launched in May 2019, the askblue technology center is spread over three different locations – Lisbon, Pedro Nunes Institute in Coimbra and Terceira island, in Azores. It is presented as a support center focused on evolutionary and corrective maintenance, as well as support for applications, mostly in OutSystems and / or .NET / SQL technologies.
It exists to “support askblue ‘s clients in the application evolution of their technological solutions, making them more free to concentrate on the business”, said Miguel Freire, askblue ‘s partner, in an interview with SAPO TEK.
As a remote principle, this support center has been gaining customers, due to the procedures and methodologies developed that provide for remote management and monitoring at a time when face-to-face contact is avoided, but also benefiting from the geographical location of Portugal, which “can easily provide services to any country in Europe, with small time differences and easier management of (small) time differences”.
There is also the “excellence of technical skills”, but not everything is rosy there, since the scarcity of resources is foreseen as a problem, hindering the ability to attract and retain talent. Miguel Freire points out some advice in this chapter and foresees challenges in others, while thinking about solutions.
SAPO TEK: Which goals did you set when creating the askblue technology center? Are they being met?
Miguel Freire: ATC is integrated in the Operations unit, which is a strategic bid of the company and which integrates two distinct areas – Application Management (resources dedicated to a Client) and the askblue technology center (ATC), with resources shared amongst several customers. The distinguishing characteristics of this unit are, in addition to the focus on the technologies most used by customers, the specific methodology developed for the appropriation of the development carried out by other organizations for customers, and the underlying technology, to ensure the evolutionary and corrective maintenance of the implemented systems , which allows to ensure the operation and extend the useful life of the applications, reducing the need for significant investments in their replacement. ATC also supports capacity building, led by one of its Team Leaders.
The objective underlying the creation of ATC is being fully accomplished, with a focus on OutSystems’ low-code platform and .NET / SQL technologies. The provision of nearshore services has continued to register remarkable demand, which led to the expansion of this operation to Terceira Island, in the Azores. In total, ATC already employs fifteen highly specialized professionals who serve customers in different geographies, and we expect it to increase its weight in the company’s total operation throughout 2021, as more companies will need to update their application park to respond to the challenges of digital transformation.
SAPO TEK: Did the pandemic bring changes to what you had planned? Were there any changes in strategy and / or functional changes?
Miguel Freire: The nearshore model adopted for this center of excellence is ideal for a situation like the one we are currently experiencing, given that all procedures and methodologies developed provide for remote management and monitoring, for the provision of an excellent service in maintenance and application developments.
“SOME OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE CURRENT SITUATION, AND THAT WILL LAST, WILL BENEFIT COMPANIES LIKE ASKBLUE, THAT HAVE CREATED PRESENTIAL / REMOTE HYBRID MANAGEMENT PROCEDURES AND MONITORING AND APPLICATION MAINTENANCE”
SAPO TEK: Since you have a remote service delivery model, did you bring more customers? Or did it bring more competition?
Miguel Freire: At the moment, ATC has been growing in response to requests from more customers from the most diverse geographies. The fact that Portugal has been able to attract more and more talent and prestige with projects and technological companies of reference in the most diverse areas has allowed to place the country in an increasing way on the map for companies from all over the world that look for excellent services for their companies. technological platforms.
askblue is also recognized for its ability to implement projects in technologies within the scope of ATC, as well as in dedicated application management (AM), so the challenges and requests have grown, in a synergy of opportunities for collaboration.
SAPO TEK: What arguments can a company have in Portugal in relation to the rest of the global offer of services of the same kind?
Miguel Freire: There are several advantages that national companies can have over traditional global service providers. First, the proximity factor is important, Portugal can easily provide services to any country in Europe, with small time differences and easier management of (small) time differences. Second, the excellence of technical skills, whether from askblue which is Elite Partner of OutSystems and which manages critical and large-scale applications in .NET (and, for example, JAVA), but also from other national reference players, already recognized in international markets. Then, we have an excellent level of English in our professionals in the area, who can easily integrate into any projects, since English is surely the language of choice in this area. And there is also a competitiveness factor via price / quality in Portugal, which is not the main one, but it is still a relevant factor in the choice.
SAPO TEK: Do you feel that the “resistance” that was felt by some companies regarding the contracting of remote service provision decreased with the pandemic? Could it be something temporary, in the face of contingencies, or is it a “feeling” that is here to stay?
Miguel Freire: The changes are here to stay, let us not be under any illusions.
“PLATFORMS WILL BECOME MORE EFFECTIVE, ONLINE INTERACTIONS WILL BANALIZE, AND THE PROCEDURES AND METHODOLOGIES CREATED TO ENSURE THE WORKFLOW OF PROJECTS IN A REMOTE MODEL WILL STAY AND SHOW MORE EFFICIENT”
They will not replace all physical interaction, which of course is still the preferred one, but we can reserve these interactions for specific situations that require it, as is the case with different services, where we reserve face-to-face contact whenever justified and when the current situation allows it again.
SAPO TEK: How do you look at the issue of lack of resources with technological skills? Are you worried? What do you foresee? Is there a solution? How can Portugal stay?
Miguel Freire: This is clearly a problem that we anticipate, and that will hinder the growth of the sector in our country. The requalification of professionals from other areas, lifelong learning for those already in the sector, and showing young people the job opportunities that exist for those who want to develop a career in information technology, are some of the initiatives that can be done to mitigate this gap, which will not disappear easily. askblue invests heavily in training, namely initial training, which allows for a rapid and sustained evolution of its employees and, therefore, providing services with internal resources. We will be as competitive as our ability to attract and retain excellent talent in Portugal.
SAPO TEK: What other challenges does your sector face at the moment?
Miguel Freire: The technological consultancy area has the challenge of ensuring its ability to bring the best professionals to serve its customers and to create the necessary skills in the latest technologies and solutions, such as low-code, analytics, Service Design / UX / UI, electronic voting, among others that will gain predominance in the near future.
SAPO TEK: What assessment do you have of your activity at this time?
Miguel Freire: We are deeply satisfied with the results that we have achieved. We hope to end the year within the forecasts, which were already ambitious growth. Our ability to transform business challenges into advanced technological solutions has been recognized by customers, who place their trust in our services and professionals.
SAPO TEK: How do you think it will evolve? What do you foresee for the next year?
Miguel Freire: We believe that next year will be a challenging year, and we are preparing our teams to respond quickly and sustainably to the challenges presented by our customers. Companies that can do this will accelerate digital transformation processes, there will be more competition in the digital space, and companies that manage to create more sophisticated and interactive user experiences for their customers will benefit. At askblue we believe that we have the skills and knowledge to play a decisive role in creating these solutions in the most appropriate way for each Client.