Zeman: Comminus Continues Export Growth Trend
Croatian IT market is continuing its upward trend, a fact that is apparent from the ICTbusiness.info analysis we conducted with Bisnode and its online portal Poslovna.hr. This trend has been driven mainly by strong growth in export, and Matija Zeman, director of Comminus, sees this as both a great opportunity and a great challenge. While he emphasizes that this will be yet another strong year, he believes things can be even better, and claims that the speed of growth is limited by a lack of government strategy and real incentives for investments in IT and for the IT sector in general.
Various different models, technologies, and knowledge that enable growth are used on the market today. Considering that even changes as small as the colour of a button on a web shop can increase customer conversion, using elements of behavioural economy in synergy with data analytics can generate new and interesting results, particularly in the marketing and retail sectors, where there is a great deal of digital interaction with end-users.
How do you see the current situation on the Croatian market?
The ICT sector in Croatia has grown over the last couple of years. The forecasts for 2017 are also promising, but unfortunately, everything is happening at a slower pace considering both the potential and the benefits IT solutions can bring to the table. This is largely due to a lack of government strategy and real incentives for IT investments, as well as a lack of incentives for the IT sector in general. I believe that, in one segment, pressure from the GDPR will boost investments at the end of this year and early next year, despite the obvious lack of understanding and readiness for the challenges the GDPR will bring.
How strongly are you oriented towards exports, and why?
In the past few years, Comminus has generated 80 percent of its revenues from exporting solutions and services, predominantly to Western Europe. The company was also built on these foundations – our first project was to design the architecture of a global data hub for DWS, Deutsche Bank. Our largest export markets are Germany and the United Kingdom. We are orientated towards foreign markets because they are much larger than Croatia and thus have greater potential, but also because informatisation, automation, digital transformation, and all kinds of technological innovations are accepted and applied much faster in Western European markets. Also, doing business on these markets helped us significantly during the financial crisis.
Are there any differences in the user needs of domestic and foreign customers?
Yes, there are, but we attribute this to the fact that foreign markets recognised the possibilities and potential of IT solutions earlier than the domestic market did. The maturity of the Western European market is manifested in its readiness to invest in proper project planning. Proper project planning means providing detailed specifications of user needs, which may include the consulting users on technical potential and the possibility of optimising their business processes. In any case, apart from clearly defined user needs, you need to recognise and understand the “hidden” needs of users while allowing them flexibility in changing their priorities during the project. Comminus has a dedicated team of business analysts who perform detailed analysis and specification of needs in cooperation with users. In a way, business analysts are the link between business and technology. A solid understanding of user needs and flexibility are the most important things in implementing high-quality IT solutions.
Which key technologies and solutions do you offer that users want today?
Despite the fact that new technological concepts are emerging nowadays, we see that the majority of business, both abroad and at home, is still done “by hand” instead of with IT solutions that can speed up work and cut costs. A strong need still exists today for classical solutions out of our portfolio, such as business intelligence and reporting or tailor-made solutions development. However, customers from Western Europe want advanced functionality in these systems, like machine learning and predictive models, which have advanced so far in the past few years that they can be better, faster, and more exact than humans in many branches of business. Also, foreign customers often ask for modern technologies and services, from blockchains to big data and data science, and although these technologies sometimes present no clear benefit to business, the demand for them shows an interest in investing in technology so that clients can gain an advantage over their competitors.
What do users expect today when it comes to IT solutions?
All users, regardless of the market, expect above all that implementing an IT solution will give them a competitive advantage, provide access to all the latest information anytime and anywhere, simplify business processes, reduce manual labour, and, of course, provide a quick return on investment. Also, in our tailor-made solutions segment, users expect high quality and timely delivery, which we achieve by applying application lifecycle management and using agile development methods. We see more and more customers looking to implement IT solutions that differentiate them from their competition, give them added value, and give them a market advantage, so they are becoming more and more open to new ideas and concepts that can disrupt their markets and thus allow them to take advantage of new business models and revenue streams. Likewise, today’s customers place a great deal of emphasis on user interface appearance, frictionless design, and two-way communication with end-users.
These days, everyone is talking about data science, big data, and behavioural economics. How do you see these fields developing?
All of these fields represent great potential for the further development of IT, as well as for the development of the economy in general. Comminus has already put together a data science team. Data science represents a set of demanding skills that one person alone can rarely master. This is why Comminus has a whole team of people with knowledge of statistics, maths, analytical skills, programming, and economics. It all actually requires cross-functional teams of people who are capable of looking at the big picture and complementing each other. Aside from this, we have also been using the behavioural component in analytics to add an “inexact” human factor to the exact numbers to help put them in a real context. As we know that even changes as small as the colour of a button on a web shop can increase customer conversion, elements of behavioural economics in synergy with data analytics can provide new and interesting results, especially in the marketing and retail sectors, where there is a great deal of digital interaction with end-users.