IT COMPANIES in Slovakia are still feeling the sting of the economic crisis in their sales as well as prices. This has led them into new fields of business and to design solutions that are most attractive for consumers. The Slovak Spectator spoke with Martin Kubala, general director of HP Slovakia and Pavol Varga, the general director of Dell for Slovakia and Austria, Branislav Kohl, country marketing and communications manager and Tomáš Filip, IT and logistics director of Edenred Slovakia about their firms’ standing in the current market, customer needs, and their plans for the future.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): How would you assess the current situation in the IT sector in Slovakia? How has the financial and economic crisis affected the sector, based on your experiences? What are the biggest challenges which the IT sector is facing?
Martin Kubala (MK): The financial crisis has also affected the IT sector in Slovakia. Even though we have managed to keep the position of leader in this sector over the last few years, we feel the impact of the decline in economic strength in the creation of prices for the products and services we have in our portfolio. On the national level HP occupies prominent positions in rankings of sales of products such as printers, personal computers and notebooks. We continue to be among the most successful players in the market for servers, occupying about 60 percent of it. In the sale of notebooks, HP ranks among the most-sold brands in the sector for corporate clients. HP is especially successful in the market for printers, where its share has reached 60 percent and is growing more quickly than the market.
With regards to forecasts by economic analysts, one of the biggest challenges in IT which HP Slovakia faces is maintaining its standards, reputation and position, which it has been building in Slovakia for over 20 years. With regards to other challenges, it is understandably building on the knowledge-based economy.
Pavol Varga (PV): We continue to witness fluctuating demand in the software as well as hardware sectors. Demand is determined by postponed purchases, lower IT budgets, as well as general efforts to optimise costs.
Branislav Kohl (BK): The Slovak market is again undergoing transformation, which is caused primarily by the expectations of end-users. Under the influence of the crisis they redefined their goals and in this way their perception of the added value they expect from IT has been significantly changing. This has also affected the IT segment, which has adapted by changing its business model.
Companies in Slovakia started to behave more conservatively because of the crisis and the situation forced them to operate even more effectively. This has resulted in them making their internal processes more effective so that they can respond more quickly to the requirements of their customers.
From my point of view the biggest challenge is to estimate the development of the market in a mid-term horizon of roughly three years when our company needs to back certain developments and adapt its operation to these. It is of key importance that we invest into fields that are topical and in the growth segment. An important success factor is to be able to operate effectively and provide clients with added value and deliver solutions made to suit the client.
This trend is very positive for IBM because transformation has been going on within IBM for 100 years. We are managing to adjust the profile of the company to what clients are interested in. In Slovakia we benefit from closely observing the investment segments and from positive references from comprehensive IT projects undertaken by IBM across the world and we then endeavor to bring these services to Slovakia as well and offer them to our clients.
Tomáš Filip: Companies’ investments in IT were depressed in 2011, even though they were a bit bigger compared to 2009 and 2010. They focused especially on optimisation of business solutions in the field of virtualisation of servers, which in the long term means saving costs in the sector of hardware, or transfer from classical telephony to VOIP, where cost reductions may reach up to 30 percent and return on investment is very fast.
In small and medium-sized companies the challenge for the IT sector is administration of databases for clients, and effective solutions based on customer relationship management, where a clear trend is segmentation of clients and detailed direct communications.
TSS: How would you assess the current interest of customers for the services and products of your company? What factors affect this interest?
MK: HP Slovakia has been operating in Slovakia for over 20 years, while the Hewlett-Packard trademark entered the Slovak market as early as 1967. Since then we have built a stable circle of clients in all sectors. But we understand very well the situation which small and medium-sized companies are experiencing and thus we are endeavouring to create solutions for them that are on the one hand not financially demanding but on the other hand simultaneously guarantee high return on investments. We have registered the biggest drop in the public sector, because some previously signed contracts were halted. The retail business has experienced big fluctuations since the start of the crisis. Even though HP is the biggest seller of computers and printers, we are paying increased attention to the consumer sector. We mimic its dynamic development by introducing new products onto the market for IT devices and technologies.
PV: Nowadays Dell is an established brand in Slovakia in the sector of hardware and is also markedly heading into the sector of IT solutions. Dell’s offering has recently moved in particular towards systems based on open standards, high capability and affordability.
BK:These are the business priorities of our clients – who need to achieve their business and strategic goals. And they need to achieve them as effectively as possible in the long run.
TSS: What are the current plans of your company in terms of expansion, recruitment of new employees, development of new products or services and cooperation with educational or research institutions?
MK: HP Slovakia will continue in its expansion, especially in centres which need highly specialised workers in order to meet the above-average requirements of clients in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region. For the time being we are taking up about 70 people monthly and we should continue in this trend to the end of the year. We are intensifying cooperation with Slovak universities and the non-governmental organisation Junior Achievement Slovensko – Mládež pre budúcnosť (Youth for the Future), through which we want to provide students with better-than-average business education.
PV: Dell is also dynamically extending its portfolio of services via significant acquisitions, among which I would mention, from the latest ones, Force10, Compellent and EqualLogic. Slovak clients will also be able to benefit from the extended offer of services.
BK: Our plans reflect that we are operating in so-called growth markets. We focus on the growth of the company, taking up talented people and extending the scope of services that we want to provide to our clients. We want to bring intelligent solutions in Slovakia, those which help to improve the quality of life. IBM has been achieving considerable successes as well in international centres. By the annual, significant increases in the number of employees we have also proved that we are interesting as an internal client for IBM.
Because we are the biggest employer in the IT segment in Slovakia, cooperation with the academic community and universities is of key importance for us.
With regards to the research, IBM is the biggest private research organisation in the world. For the last 18 years we are number one in the number of patents and in Slovakia we are and want to be active in this area. We are managing to lead dialogue with the academic community and with the Slovak Academy of Sciences in the field of long-term priorities for research in Slovakia.
19. Sep 2011 at 0:00 | Jana Liptáková