Events of the past seven months irrevocably changed both the processes and identity in Ukraine as well as understanding of Ukraine and Ukrainians in the world. Given that the IT-industry of our country has always been and remains focused solely on foreign markets, it is important to understand the changes that have occurred in the perception of our country in the world in order to manage the potential risks and take advantages of new opportunities, especially given that some of them are very short-term.
Lately I have read and heard a lot of reflections on the future of IT-sector in Ukraine:
- How should IT companies operate today and tomorrow?
- What should be the strategy for service companies today?
- s it a good idea to start/develop the product business? Is worth trying to raise investment today for a Ukrainian IT-startup or is it better to wait for a while?
- Things that are happening now in the Ukrainian IT sector - is it generally a disaster or a breakthrough?
- What should we prepare ourselves for - major cost cuts and hard times or rapid growth?
Given that the answers to many of these questions for me personally and for our company have been obtained in practice, let me express the opinion that even though the axiom that any business likes tranquility, the IT-Industry of Ukraine suddenly got huge opportunities, the implementation of which requires a great deal of activity from all of us right now. We must not waste even a day.
Let's put aside the politics and talk about the facts of today applied to the Ukrainian IT industry.
FACT 1: There is no major economic crisis in the World, there is only Ukrainian-Russian conflict. There is not only the absence crisis but rather a rapid growth of IT-business, needs and the amount of investments. This means that external conditions have not changed for the worse in Ukraine. All that has changed - the perception of market participant’s risks and opportunities associated with Ukraine. Hence, if we give correct answers to the fear of risks and draw a correct perspective of market development the opportunities Ukrainian IT companies will only increase.
FACT 2: Any business working with Ukraine or thinking about getting started with Ukraine today face the need for approval by the Internal Security & Risk management departments of their companies. Virtually all the partnerships that exist today within our company have requested a number of checks and test that we had to go through. At present, none of these checks have had even the slightest negative impact on the level of our partnership. They were not simple, but all the questions and concerns of international partners can have solid answers if properly prepared. How? We’ll talk about it further.
FACT 3: Getting new connections and leads got easier. Today, there is a fail-safe method to make conversation with almost any intelligent citizen of the world, telling him that you are from Ukraine. Business is no exception, and most of today's meetings and phone calls begin with an exchange of views - on the news about the situation in the country, Russian aggression, and so on. These are greenhouse conditions for any proficient sales person.
FACT 4: Huge sympathy for Ukraine in the western world and the negative perception in one country to the east. Without discussing the causes and the adequacy of the situation, stating a fact - the entire Western world (Europe and USA) today is experiencing a lot of sentiment towards Ukraine and intuitive desire to help in the fight for freedom. At the same time, part of Russian business has been a sharp deterioration in respect to both the country and the people. Two simple examples:
A few investors in the U.S. have expressed the opinion that the question for them about the Crimea now is a part of due diligence for companies associated with Eastern Europe and any support for the Crimea annexation by Russia is a red flag. Not because of politics, but because the person endorsing the violation of agreements favouring non-legitimate methods and may sooner or later react to their business minorities and partners in the same manner.
On the other hand, in Russia there are already voices calling to punish the de facto Russian (and de jure Western) Luxoft and EPAM companies for the support of Ukraine's new government and their participation in the memorandum between the Ministry of Economy and the IT industry in Ukraine. More recently, the news broke that Russian companies will divert part of their business in Ukraine.
FACT 5: A certain faith in a bright and civilized future of Ukraine. Again, as in 2004-2005, the confidence that Ukraine will soon turn into a rapidly progressive country with great prospects is gaining popularity in the western world. This means that there is no better time to invest in Ukrainian business than right now. The Support of Ukraine by the EU and U.S. governments, international organizations such as the UN, OSCE, IMF and other private investors signals about a bright future.
FACT 6: Ukraine is at war and it changes the behaviour patterns. It is obvious that Ukraine today is in a state of war (not so important what and with whom - overt or covert, with the terrorists or with the Russian Federation), and such a state is always characterized by an increased ability of people to be consolidated; People tend to be more collective (as opposed to personal) more than in peacetime; they make important and difficult decisions faster, they have a more responsible attitude towards risk, and so on. Military industry and military situation always strongly influenced the civilian business one way or another, and Ukraine is no exception.
So, how should the representatives of the IT-market of Ukraine behave in order to minimize the negative impact of the situation on your own business and open up a new horizon, being aware of these facts?
Based on personal and corporate experience in recent months suggest the following steps:
1. Soothe (and keep calm) your current partners and customers.
The best method to keep your current clients is to deliver the results just as good as before. There is nothing as soothing to your customers as a demonstration of the results of your stability in providing solutions and services. This is nothing new, just keep working well. But the lack of "psychoanalysis sessions” with your clients would not do so well too.
Therefore, you should do the right PR:
1.1 Send out an occasional newsletter about the current status of in our country. Explain mostly, everything is OK, people, infrastructure, state - it all works. Give some examples - planes fly, trains go, the internet is working, no deficits, banks work and so on.
1.2 Emphasize that the people of Ukraine have showed and keep showing a tremendous commitment to the principles of civilized western democracy. And that means that your partner can and should count on the same behaviour in the private sector. We have the same values, we have the same understanding of the situation. Yes, Ukrainians, unlike the Western world today are forced to defend and prove it by force, but that is why our support more important than ever.
1.3 Explain that events that have taken place for 7 months have not affected the IT sector in Ukraine in a negative way. Unlike Syria, Egypt, Thailand and other hot spots of the present world, in Ukraine nothing terrible happens, except for the two eastern provinces. Use any evidence to support that life did not slow down even for a minute. For example, show the running BuddhaBar between the European Square and the Maidan, in the "heart of the Ukrainian revolution." Tell them about Hilton hotel, which opened in Kiev recently etc.
2. "People I work with mostly have a good understanding about the current status but still require risks mitigation plans from me in case something goes really bad. How do I not lose customers? "
- If your partner begins to express concern - do not worry and do not be nervous. Moreover, try to start such a conversation first.
- Refine the list of interesting questions and prepare the answers.
- Be prepared to talk about the following:
2.1 The effect of events on your office - employees as before work in the office (and not in the army or at the barricades), they can easily and safely get to the office and the electricity, water supply and the Internet - it all is in good condition.
2.2 Infrastructure - tell them that there is a stable internet connection, communications and the banking system.
2.3 Your mitigation plan. It is most likely that it would not be implemented, but you have to show your partners and clients that you really have a plan for a case of emergency. Make sure you tell them that you have:
- Access to information resources, if the office suddenly closes down (where are the code backups, are all the documents available from the cloud?)
- Relocation of key personnel in case of emergency - where, how fast, who?
- Recovery fully operational office in how many hours/days.
Thus, calmed and maintaining the current business operations, go forward and try to get new business.
3. Speculate on interest for Ukraine. In working with potential clients and partners try to speculate on their interest in Ukraine - give details of the events, tell about places and people. People around the world are sentimental, play on it (in the good sense of the word).
Activate the search for new partners, customers, and most importantly - investors. Very often the first-second question after people realize that you are from Ukraine, should be "how can I (we) help you?". Do not miss this opportunity - get acquainted, communicate, offer options. Our personal experience and what I hear from colleagues in the industry shows that today it is a viable way to attract such new IT-business and investment. And perhaps today it is even less difficult than before.
4. Represent Ukraine as a promising market, which is better to enter now than later. Use each quantum of news in their favor and make sure that now is the time to enter or expand their presence in Ukraine for your customers and partners, and all the risks - are manageable. For example:
IMF, EU and the U.S. has provided loans and grants to Ukraine - the good news, the economic situation is getting better and will only improve. Now is the time to enter, when the entry threshold low.
Legitimate presidential elections - wonderfully, this is another step towards stabilization. All countries acknowledged the elections as fair and transparent, the new president is selected in one round and won in every region.
There were news that the Russian Luxoft is relocating from Ukraine - it may be good because of the bigger and better offer on the labor market for those who enter.
Is there any news about the IT industry in Ukraine with the new government - you see, now the industry is held in high esteem and will receive all further development.
In applying these very simple steps (which of course does not cancel your sales-talent and traditional approaches that you have used and are using in sales), we all can not only avoid a recession, but also lay a good short-and long-term growth of our joint IT industry in Ukraine.
To summarize - we live in interesting times of change, times of stress and turmoil, as well as a time of great opportunity. Today the situation is more favorable than negative for the IT sector in Ukraine, but you need not miss a moment and take advantage of this as widely as possible, working the next 6 months in the active involvement/creating a new business in order for the next couple of years to be a period of rapid growth for all of us.by Dmytro Bilkun