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Slovak IT firm focuses on 'domain knowledge'
18 Feb 2013 Jana Liptáková IT
NOWADAYS, to succeed in the competitive market for information technology it is not enough to be considered an IT expert. Domain knowledge, i.e. knowing how one’s client’s business works, as well as related legislation, is now necessary to develop effective IT solutions for clients. The Slovak Spectator spoke about the latest IT trends, including mobile technologies, as well as the current challenges in the industry and expectations for the future, with Aleš Mičovský, managing partner at Softec Group.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): What are the latest IT trends in Slovakia? Do they differ from those abroad?
In general, when looking at the IT community, the most notable trend in Slovakia, as well as in neighbouring countries or even globally, is the arrival of mobile technologies, which involves the use of smartphones and tablets and the influence of those devices on our clients’ information systems. In my opinion, nobody expected that this would come so fast. We knew that this would arrive, but it is a surprise to a certain degree that mobile technologies arrived so quickly and that they are so widely accepted. Smartphones have become a common device even in countries with low GDP and with people who are far from rich. This is fascinating and has a major impact not only on common people, but companies as well.
Mobile devices have become so popular among people that companies have to respond either to the pressure of their own employees using mobile devices first in their private lives or pressure from their clients. This has brought new challenges as companies are mostly prone to behave rather conservatively and like to have their IT environment under their full control. Thus, the arrival of mobile technologies has brought them a range of security challenges, like whether to allow employees to use their own mobile devices for work or whether a company should buy the devices for its employees. On the other hand, mobile technologies improve the synchronisation and flow of information in a company and can contribute to better management.
We, as a software company, are trying to seize these impacts and use them to make companies operate more effectively.
TSS: What role does the cloud play in the rising use of mobile devices in companies? What challenges does this development bring to IT companies and the development of new products?
Companies were used to having all their data ‘at home’. Firstly, these were papers kept in safe deposits and later companies used to have their own computer centres and were willing to trust only that which they had fully under their control. The crisis and efforts to make things more effective have resulted in a gradual movement towards data centres. Nowadays many renowned financial institutions are starting to use the services of data centres, which can be thought of as a private cloud. From here it is only a small step to deciding whether to use a data centre in Petržalka, which I can personally visit and know its manager, or whether to launch a data centre in Beijing, where costs of labour and energy are completely different and far more competitive. Then it is only about my mindset and whether I can believe that my data would be safe over there and that the facility would provide the required level of services. It is also necessary to take into consideration EU legislation, which does not allow some data to be located outside the EU’s territory. Sometimes it is not possible to do some things even if they are more effective for the company. Thus, there is a whole set of rules on decision making about effectiveness as well as trust that data will be administered safely, that nobody will abuse it and that it would be as safe as if I kept it at home under my personal control.
TSS: Deloitte predicts that in 2013 more than 90 percent of user-generated passwords, even those considered strong by IT departments, will be vulnerable to hacking. How do you view this opinion?
Deloitte is right that now there is much more computer power available to crack a password. While in the past it might take years to uncover a password, now this process can be shortened to days or even hours. Thus a strong password is not a cure-all. The safety policy should direct the user to behave responsibly. We also know to make verification of identification more complex, using fingerprints, but also chip cards, various tokens, short messages, randomly generated codes and other forms.
Nevertheless, the human factor is still the most important element and the question of how to protect the user from himself or his deeds remains. Phishing attacks and social engineering [a form of hacking] can be very creative and people often swallow the bait very easily.
TSS: Where do you see the biggest IT safety risks? What is the situation in Slovakia compared with abroad?
TSS: What inspired your company to develop its own solutions for uncovering fraud or to create its own business intelligence-based solution?
And this was a challenge for us as we were convinced that here we can bring a significant added value to our clients. We first used, as a basis, available business intelligence tools. But standard solutions always have their limits and it is difficult to do sophisticated data analyses when you cannot improve and adapt these solutions according to your needs. As a result we developed our own solution. The goal is to analyse data and indicate suspicious behaviour. Then it is up to auditors to find out whether there is actually something fraudulent happening or not.
The target group for these products are financial institutions, which mean banks and insurance companies, but we also cooperate with the Labour Ministry, where we take care of the system of payment of social benefits.
TSS: Many companies in Slovakia are not satisfied with the level of knowledge of school and university graduates and complain of a disconnect between business and academia. How do you view the current situation?
TSS: In Softec you have implemented a concept of education and development based on so-called expert centres. Could you explain this concept?
Now we have a matrix structure, in which people work in divisions but they are simultaneously in one or more expert centres. Within this structure our employees work on their own projects, but at the same time they can convey their knowledge to others as well as have a chance to learn new things and further develop.
TSS: Last year Softec became the IT company of the year. What did this award mean for your company?
TSS: What is the history of Softec? How has the IT market changed over that period of time?
TSS: The Slovak IT market has been affected by the crisis as well as by the halting or postponing of projects within the Operational Programme for the Informatisation of Society (OPIS). What are your expectations for the future?
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