Despite Brexit Uncertainty UK IT Outsourcing Is Growing Fast

IBA Group
Mark Hillary

Although outsourcing as a business term has generally been replaced by strategic partnership, there can be no denying that it is being used more and more by European companies. Recent research from the UK shows that companies are exploring IT outsourcing as a business strategy more than they have been for at least five years.

In fact, the latest data on UK spending on IT outsourcing shows that British companies spent £1.74bn ($2.26bn) in the first quarter of this year. 68% of this spending was on launching new IT projects.

The strong data is encouraging, especially with such a large proportion of new project launches. The Brexit process in the UK has caused uncertainty for any businesses that need to interact with European partners, but this data shows that at present there is still a clear appetite for technology improvement.

If Business Process Outsourcing and Customer Experience outsourcing is added into the picture then there is an even stronger message of growth coming from the UK. Q1 featured £2.73bn ($3.55bn) of overall spending on outsourcing of IT and services enabled by IT. That’s growth of 13% on the previous year demonstrating that businesses in the UK are investing heavily in IT and the services that IT supports.

The UK general election will take place in June, but it is generally assumed by most analysts that the incumbent Conservative party will continue to lead with their focus on delivering Brexit by 2019.

Although British politics appears to be confusing at present, with an election and the process of leaving the European Union all filling the headlines, it cannot be denied that executives are investing in technology. This implies that there is some confidence in the UK economy over the next few years and with growth at around the 13% mark that looks good for IT specialist partners all over Europe.

Aleš Hojka: We can offer a solution for any company

Aleš HojkaIn an interview to the TTG magazine, Aleš Hojka, CEO of IBA CZ and IBA Slovakia, speaks about solutions and services that any company can benefit from.
When I look at your business card, IBA strongly resembles IBM, doesn’t it?
You are right. Originally, IBA was founded in Minsk in 1993 as a joint venture with IBM. The brand and logos of the company are deliberately similar and as IBA was growing, it shifted to a direction different from IBM. New branches emerged, the first one was created in the Czech Republic, and the product portfolio has changed considerably. Although today IBM does not own any of the IBA Group branches, a very close cooperation continues.
For IBM, we implement both internal projects, for example one of the most remarkable is the Learning Portal, as well as other within our core expertise in portals and mainframe. In cooperation with IBM, we work for the end customers and bring them the best of both companies. Anyway, now we operate as two separate entities in the Czech Republic being even competitors to some extent.
Worldwide, IBA has over 2,500 employees with about 120 in the Czech Republic and still expanding. We have our own development centers in Prague, Brno, and Ostrava. The entire IBA Group is headquartered in Prague and now has offices in 11 countries, including the United States and South Africa, with IBA Slovakia among the youngest.
So what is the crucial area of your activity?
We dominate in portals, document management, mobile applications, and more. Most often, we use Java and .NET, though not avoiding enterprise and open source solutions, but mainly listen to our customers and assist them while providing deployment and maintenance of our solutions in their environment.
Whom do you mostly supply the solutions and what can we expect from them?
Our customers are large financial institutions, telecom operators, and government institutions, as well as manufacturers and distribution companies. Primarily due to our own development, we can offer advanced solutions for a company of any size.
For example, for Česká pojišťovna, we have developed a part of a mobile application that helps people deal quicker with car accidents. To be more specific, it finds the nearest service station, facilitates provision of all data that the insurance company may need, and etc. For T-Mobile, we have created an intelligent contact form with a prompter that allows for self-servicing in most cases. As soon as the user has finished typing a request, an answer is suggested, as well as other information that might be of interest. With our solution, T-Mobile receives roughly by 30% of emails less, which is a huge number and great cost savings on their call center operations. For the Generali insurance company, we provided a secure online consolidation of insurance with suggestions throughout the process. For Moneta, we created a fully responsive loyalty portal Bene +. The content adapts to the screen size of a device, either a mobile, tablet or desktop, with no need of development for each platform separately.
And what is your activity in the tourism sector? Do you have any customers in this area?
Not yet, though indirectly, we actually operate there as well, for example, within the projects for the regional authorities or the National Heritage Institute. But as I say, we are capable of meeting the requirements of any customer. Document management is used almost everywhere. Let’s say, a solution intended for invoice workflow covers the whole lifecycle from scanning a document to the data entry via processing, approval only after payment, and archiving, with all the stages automated and transparent.
Or the so-called Big Data, which is the processing of large volumes of data and keeping track of customer behavior. When a user logs into a social network where there’s a lot of personal data and then visits some other website, these tools recognize the user and offer him or her an advertisement of related products, for example, on news portals. For travel agencies and rental companies, we can offer the integration of their systems into a large retrieval system like Booking.com or TripAdvisor. Identity Management may also be of great necessity, thus providing security system and preventing unauthorized user access.
This system facilitates the work of administrators and also makes personal client data safe from leakage.
For the customers engaged in tourism, we can offer the services where we are truly the market leaders. From simpler websites and intranets with e.g. a review of attendance through complex client loyalty portals where each user sees different data, to the solutions like an anti-corruption subportal that we have created for the Department of Defense and that guarantees absolute anonymity. A portal may also serve as a planner of human resources, which could be useful especially for companies with a large or frequently changing number of permanent or temporary employees.
Integration with social networks may also be of interest. Our expertise on how to use the information that people make available on a variety of networks for targeted advertising may be useful everywhere, including the tourist sector.

 

Portals of Digital Cultural Heritage

IBA Group
Jan Schuma

This year, IBA CZ has successfully delivered two projects that became another step forward in the area of portals. The projects were implemented for the government sector and included solutions to manage the objects of cultural heritage.

Although library portals are our new skills, we are not first-timers in the area of digital cultural heritage. Since many years, we have gained a profound experience of working with records of digital cultural heritage, for example, during the project implemented for the Police of the Czech Republic. It was the portal of the artworks’ registry system and implied the processing of information about stolen and found objects of cultural value. So we had a good knowledge of cultural valuables and a deep knowledge of police systems. The extension to another specific area was just the next logical step.

Motivation

Currently, only a few companies work in the area of library systems. The information systems they were deploying for quite a long time in all institutions, libraries, and museums are rather static and are viewed as legacy systems today. Considering our deep knowledge of portals and previous experience in similar systems we brought some fresh air into the world of library information systems. And we succeeded.

Solution

In a situation when we were providing proof of our experience in the sector, it was important to understand what the library systems are. Therefore, within the partnership with Masaryk University in Brno we worked with external experts to understand better the specific requirements and characteristics of these systems.

In fact, every institution that owns a collection of books, museum showpieces or any other collection is trying to catalog them. But everyone is doing it in its own way. Figuratively, we can say that at first there was a clay tablet, then came a papyrus followed by a parchment, paper, and finally by a digitized information system.

There is no need to say that the uniformity of data is at a “very low level”. Special purposed protocols and standards were supposed to improve the situation but they are past their prime.

For now, nothing better is available yet. (Please forget about web services). In addition, the institutions want to exchange the information about their collections.

As soon as we understood and learnt by experience what library systems were about, it was enough to cope with the existing implementations of these non-traditional technologies and to integrate the whole thing with the portal. It was not easy but thanks to the dedication of the whole team we came to a successful end.

Results

The web portal of historical collections is currently running on the Liferay platform providing the search through 50 castle libraries and ten other large-scale library institutions.

The portal of digitizing the cultural heritage literally displays the collection of books and collection of items from the Vysocina region.

For example, the above mentioned project is called PSEUD and is based on the IBM WebSphere technology.

These two projects were for all members of the team of a great benefit both from the technological and project point of view. We proved ourselves and demonstrated to our customers that we are able to work with the records practically about anything from books, paintings, sculptures, and clocks to weapons and jewelry.

We were able to create and configure the portal so as to provide easy search not only for scholars and museum keepers but for police, ministry officials, and general public as well. And certainly, no one can get illegal access to the information belonging to others. In addition, we were able to integrate the portal with the databases of ministries, Interpol, the National Library, as well as the municipal museum “somewhere in the mountains.”

If you are interested to obtain more information on the portals of digital cultural heritage, please contact Jan Schuma (jan.schuma@ibacz.eu).