IN THE WORLD of computers, there are no borders. The surging global demand for qualified software developers has made it increasingly common for larger companies to purchase various services abroad.
Slovak IT experts are obviously benefiting from this trend, since they have been attracting many foreign clients recently. This is chiefly due to their experience and flexibility, the fastest-growing IT firms in Slovakia say.
Slovak-produced software has been installed on computers throughout the world, but only a few people know its country of origin.
The internationally renowned NOD32 anti-virus programme by the Eset software company, for example, is used by 15 million customers in more than 160 countries.
You don't have to go abroad to become well-known or recognised, Miroslav Trnka, director general of Eset, said.
"It is enough to provide first-rate products, fair partnership and an accessible service network," he told The Slovak Spectator. "Our success in the global market relies particularly in our personnel. Our employees are exceptionally talented and qualified young people who work at an international level. We are simply lucky to have them."
Though their salaries are undoubtedly lower than in Western countries, Slovak software engineers are far from being the cheapest on the IT market.
"Our hourly rates are almost four times higher than those in Romania, Ukraine or India," said Šimon Kollár from Aston ITM software company. "Nevertheless, foreign companies prefer our programmers to others."
Aston ITM has strengthened its position by cooperating with several business giants, such as mobile phone producer Foxconn Hungary and the British automobile service network for Fiat, Honda and Toyota.
"We have seen that experience is exceedingly important," Kollár told The Slovak Spectator. "Our British partner first negotiated with a certain South Asian company, but found its personnel unable to speak English. So the negotiations were called off and our company was offered the contract."
Along with IT solutions, Slovak firms also provide personnel leasing. This means that software developers are commissioned to supervise or manage some projects on-site.
"Slovaks are highly valued in many international teams that design various IT solutions," said Martin Noskovič, spokesman for the Siemens Program and System Engineering (PSE) company. "They are flexible and well qualified. For instance, as many as 99 percent of our IT experts have a university degree."
The Slovak branch of Siemens PSE has exported its software systems mainly for medical devices, but its services are being used in the energy industry and other fields as well.
Noskovič said that one of Slovak programmers' key strengths is their willingness to travel, which is relatively uncommon compared with their foreign colleagues.
"Not only does Slovakia have a favourable geographic position, but our experts make themselves available to visit customers whenever it is necessary," he stated. "They are now taking part in several important projects in such far-away locations as Georgia, Morocco and Azerbaijan."
Bourses receptive to Slovak IT
As appreciation for Slovak IT companies has developed abroad, the companies' stocks have become very attractive for foreign investors.
Last month, the Polish Puls Biznesu daily published a survey of brokers which ranked the growth potential of 346 companies quoted on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. Asseco Slovakia IT company was listed in fourth place.
"Such placement shows that analysts and investors trust our future," Jozef Klein, director general of Asseco, said in a statement. He added that the firm's achievements have been excellent for Slovakia's reputation abroad.
Asseco has developed software for many foreign enterprises, such as HVB Banca Pentru Locuinte bank in Romania, the Nuremberg-based N-Energy company and the Rzeszowski Zaklad Energetyczny firm in Poland.
Marcela Mokráňová, PR manager of Asseco, said that the company's market capitalisation has increased by 80 percent in the past year, which constitutes growth of Sk3 billion (€91.4 million).
She credits the quality of Slovak programmers as key to IT firms' prosperity.
"[Slovak IT experts] are able to find solutions that are literally tailored to clients' needs," Mokráňová said. "Their projects are so technologically advanced that even US enterprises are seeking out these 'brains' of Central Europe."
10. Mar 2008 at 0:00 | By Dominika Uhríková