The pandemic has shown that a higher level of digitization creates more economic resilience in the face of a crisis. Digitization, process automation, chatbots and software robots are starting to become necessities for the survival of a business. About how a company benefits from RPA technology, which workflows can be automated and how the Government can increase the degree of digitization of the country, we talked with Bogdan Ciubotaru, Managing Partner Aliant, Romanian IT integrator and provider of managed services, with 30 years of experience.
Aliant's main business is digital business transformation services, using, among others, automation/RPA solutions, virtual assistants, augmented reality, data security, document management and printing.
The company, with offices in Bucharest, Iași and Bacău, ended the year with a turnover of 9.6 million euros, up 16% compared to last year. It has more than 400 clients in its portfolio, both large and smaller companies, as well as partners in the distribution area. This year, it turns 30 years of activity.
1. A higher level of digitization creates more economic resilience in the face of a crisis. How does the new economic crisis change the market in which you operate? How has Aliant Tech impacted business?
We are in the middle of a perfect storm, a vortex of different crises, from the economic, logistical or production ones generated by the pandemic to the food, energy and financial crises arising as a result of the conflict in Ukraine, the effects of which hit on different levels generating complex implications, some visible and others difficult to anticipate. It is almost impossible for a business to operate in a perfect storm if it is not digitized.
Communication with customers, suppliers, partners would be cumbersome, critical information in decision-making would be almost non-existent, not to mention the significant costs it would have compared to competitors. The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of companies, and with the war in Ukraine it is becoming clear that "business as usual" is a term we will not be seeing again anytime soon. Businesses need to anticipate and quickly adapt to the changes around them and have a high degree of agility. These capabilities should emerge from a digital transformation strategy, customized to the specifics of each company.
2. How do you see the evolution of the digitalization of businesses in Romania 2 years after the start of the pandemic? From which business verticals do the most requests for automation come?
If a few years ago we explained from scratch what RPA automation means and how software bots work, today we meet more and more often with clients who are aware from the start of the cost optimizations and efficiency that RPA brings to standardized and repetitive processes, and the discussion start from another level. The same happens when we talk about the automation of interactions with customers or employees through chatbots. We clearly feel an increase in interest to adopt hyper-automation solutions in most of the customers we interact with.
Automation, be it RPA or Chabots, is agnostic when it comes to business verticals. There are opportunities for automation and process improvement in each of the companies, and we always start with an analysis to understand where to start, what are the areas where the greatest benefits can be reaped, quickly. In general, most requests come from production, manufacturing and services.
3. Romania's ambition is to become the largest regional digital hub. Which are the economic sectors that most require the implementation of digitization solutions and what concrete measures should the Government take to accelerate digitization?
Romania's ambition to become the largest regional digital hub is well founded as we are already present on this important map. We have a strong IT industry, at still competitive costs, our workforce is valued and recognized internationally, and our broadband infrastructure is number 1 in Europe. These elements are vectors of growth and empower us very well. But it would help enormously if these performances were also reflected outside the IT sector, towards the rest of the digital infrastructure and skills that Romania has and where, unfortunately, we are in last place in the European Union.
We see the growing interest in digitalization from private companies, but this trend could have a greater scope if the public sector and administration implemented digital solutions on a generalized level, anchored in real needs. In other words, if the public sphere were led by the power of positive example, the impact in digitization would be felt in the entire national ecosystem.
4. Why would a customer choose Aliant's digitization solutions? How long does it take to develop a robot, how much does it cost and what can it do?
Aliant has a portfolio of digital transformation solutions focused on hyper-automation, which allows us to offer RPA (Robotic Process Automation) solutions using software robots to automate specific business processes in the Finance, Logistics and HR departments and Virtual Assistants solutions or Chatbots that automate and improve the interaction with the company's employees or customers, being able to emulate a close-to-human experience through a conversational AI. We also complete digitization needs by developing specific low code applications, thus offering solutions in significantly less time, at a fraction of typical costs.
Our digital transformation offering is aimed at medium and small companies, and as such, both RPA solutions and Chatbots or low-code application developments aim for agile, fast implementation practices with a measurable ROI. For example, for a process of medium difficulty, the development of an RPA robot can take a few days, and the total cost involves an annual license and related development services, which are recovered from cost reductions in a few months.
5. The personnel policy of companies around the world is increasingly based on technology to fill the labor shortage, an increase in the use of artificial intelligence, robots or chatbots is estimated. And in Romania we are facing a labor shortage, do you have requests from companies for the implementation of digital solutions, in this context? What kind of companies are these?
When discussing automation strategy with our clients, the topic of overcrowding of tasks and processes always comes up, which leads to errors, delays, and generally problems that impact the business because there is simply no one to handle it. them accordingly. This is exactly where automation solutions come in. With the help of RPA, Chatbots or other low code applications, depending on the situation, we can relieve the company and implicitly the employees of this operational load, which ultimately affects the efficiency at the business level. This type of situation exists for the vast majority of companies and business sectors. The availability of time and effort gained in this way can be used in key areas of the business, generating value.
6. Currently, which are the most requested categories of services from the Aliant portfolio and how do you estimate that the demand will evolve?
Automation solutions through Chatbots and RPA are generating interest from companies that want to increase competitiveness through operational efficiency, cost reduction and quality improvement. The discussions then become concrete from the moment of the live demo, because we can already work on a scenario where the business is automated and analyze the impact on each process or activity. We see an increase in interest in automation on the local market, as more companies realize that such an investment is not only a key factor for increasing business competitiveness and scalability, but also a "must-have" in a context market that increasingly incorporates high-tech.
7. How is the partnership with CareAR going, do you have requests from telcos/utilities?
CareAR's augmented reality solution is well suited to field technical teams, where real-time, visually assisted communication increases service quality, decreases resolution time and reduces costs. In Romania, there are already companies that successfully use such solutions, and we are trying to bring these advantages to other customers as well. At the same time, Aliant developed internal competences in the area of AR development, using Google technology.
There are customers from retail, services, the building materials industry, interior design, furniture production, etc. for which augmented reality can be both a distinct sales channel and an accelerator in the customer's purchase decision. We have very good reactions and interest in our augmented reality services, especially due to the fact that we have the ability to explore and analyze together with our customers what is the best AR implementation, taking into account their business particularities.
8. What are the main business goals for your company this year and how will you achieve them? What businesses did you have last year and how much are you betting on this year?
For Aliant, last year was one of growth and consolidation of our position as an IT integrator, with a focus on digital transformation technologies. The company ended the year with a turnover of 9.6 million euros, up 16% compared to last year. Although 2022 is at the intersection of multiple crises with a number of possible challenging scenarios, we aim to surpass this growth rate and increase the revenue share of hyper-automation solutions based on RPA, Chatbots and low-code applications . In the face of the unforeseen, uncertainties and threats that are expected on the horizon, digitization offers precisely those elements of resilience and adaptability, which are so necessary.