Vitaly Sedler, the CEO and co-founder of Intellias, is sharing his experience in organizing the effective functioning of IT companies during the quarantine with LDaily. First, transferring a significant share of company specialists to the remote work format protects all employees against COVID-19. It is also essential to develop an anti-crisis set to optimize customer service, create a reserve of experts, and reduce costs. Social responsibility in the joint fight with the government and the community against the pandemic is another vital component.
LDaily: How did you adapt the company’s work to the quarantine conditions?
V. Sedler: Back in early March, Intellias created a special cross-functional team to monitor the development of the epidemic situation, promptly implementing the necessary measures. Within a week since the start of quarantine, more than 96% of the company’s specialists switched to work from home. Business meetings and educational activities went online. At the same time, our office support helped them prepare everything for remote work, including the transportation of equipment and furniture if necessary. Our internal survey revealed that about 70% of employees need some kind of protection during the quarantine period. So, we purchased medical masks, sanitizers, gloves, and formed the appropriate kits, which were delivered to our specialists in a way convenient for them.
Additionally, we support the strategy of mass testing of the population. Intellias has allocated 1.5 million UAH for the purchase of 10,000 rapid diagnostic tests of coronavirus. The company handed over the first batch of rapid tests to the Lviv IT cluster, which together with the Lviv regional and city authorities launched a campaign for mass testing of the population in the city and region. Tests are already being used to detect coronavirus among health care workers, utility workers, and people at risk. Some of the tests will also be handed over to the IT Ukraine Association for further distribution in Kyiv.
LDaily: Coronavirus is a very serious threat to the economy. It is already obvious that we won’t avoid an economic crisis. What do you think — will this crisis affect the IT industry?
V. Sedler: Undoubtedly, the situation in the world has greatly affected the conditions of doing business, including the IT industry. However, we have a significant advantage in the ability to work remotely. Intellias quickly responded to quarantine and quickly switched to the ‘work from home’ format, continuing to fulfill our obligations to customers.
There are two divergent trends in times of an economic downturn in the IT market. On the one hand, customers are reducing IT budgets, which leads to cuts or even terminations of projects. On the other hand, they are exploring options to move development from expensive onsite locations to more efficient markets, for example, to Ukraine. Depending on the prevailing trend, there is either an increase or decrease in the IT business. Concurrently, these trends can manifest themselves in different ways even within one industry. When the major part of the Ukrainian IT market will experience a decline, some companies’ businesses may even grow. Still, in general, the negative trend is much stronger in the context of the crisis caused by COVID-19.
According to experts of the McKinsey consulting company, the crisis will exceed the scale of the decline we saw in 2008 and 2014. There is a decline in market demand for IT services, but this doesn’t mean no demand at all. This provides impetus to find new customers in growing fields — eCommerce, eLearning, iGaming — as well as in those regions which economy is either already recovering or less affected by the crisis (the Middle East and Asia-Pacific).
LDaily: From a business standpoint, what actions do you take to resist negative market trends?
V. Sedler: To quickly respond to new economic conditions and counteract the effects of the economic downturn, we have formed a cross-functional working group with top management and experts from various departments. Together, we make important and, what’s essential, prompt business decisions. We are constantly in touch with customers and jointly develop new ways of cooperation for this period. All in all, to adapt to the new reality, Intellias has developed an anti-crisis set of actions like optimizing customer service, forming an expanded reserve of experts, and reducing expenses.
Our main goal is to keep the company’s team and expertise and prepare the basis for the anticipated after-crisis growth. We decided to invest in an expanded reserve of specialists. The company allocates own funds, and the co-founders of Intellias give up the company’s profits and their salaries at least until the end of 2020. In addition, 5% of the salary of all Delivery department specialists (engineers, testers, analysts, etc.) and 10% of the remuneration of managers from the Director level and higher will also be used to fund the reserve.
In 2020, we will follow the ‘Intellias Employees First’ principle. I mean that after opening a vacancy, we’ll give the unconditional priority for the company’s employees, not for external candidates. At the same time, we will form a reserve of specialists affected by the staff cuts. Only if we do not have a specialist in the reserve, we’ll open the vacancy.
LDaily: Has productivity declined since your employees switched to remote work?
V. Sedler: We managed to stay quite productive during the quarantine. The duration of the working day for engineers has not changed on average. Still, this is a difficult period for the management team. Personally, I now work 10-12 hours a day. It is now extremely important to react quickly and make the necessary decisions. The one who will be able to adapt to change will survive.
LDaily: Many IT companies have already started suspending projects. Have you come across this?
V. Sedler: On the one hand, Intellias portfolio has a small share of travel & hospitality projects that are experiencing a real collapse due to the pandemic. On the other hand, one of our specializations is the development of software for the automotive industry, which has also suffered. The production and sale of new cars have almost stopped, which negatively affects the revenue of the automotive industry. Fortunately, we have long-term relationships with most of our clients, which adds confidence that we will be able to keep afloat almost all our projects.