The year 2020 brings an interesting moment for the Romanian market from the perspective of the engineering market and the IT consulting market, in the context in which “adaptation” is the key word, in addition to “digitalization”. Viewed through the eyes of the local subsidiary of the French giant Alten, the Romanian market is enjoying a new series of opportunities, in the middle of the crisis.

Romania could be among the winners of this crisis, in the context in which the Covid-19 pandemic brought a change of perspective in the global economy. Local market engineers and IT specialists are increasingly trusted globally, and their skills are attracting more and more projects locally.

"We notice on the engineering market some interesting trends that will surely mark next year and not only. First of all, I refer to a transfer of activities with high added value to Romania. Thus, the big players in the engineering market decide more and more often to entrust local teams with complex activities, such as, for example, programming new interfaces for the dashboards of the vehicles of the future or performing complex tests in a virtual environment ", explained Adrian Nicolae , executive director of Alten Romania.

Founded in 1988, the French conglomerate Alten has more than 28,000 employees worldwide and operates in 20 countries. In Romania, the French entered 14 years ago and in 2019 reached a turnover of 25 million euros. The company has reached almost 100 customers in the local market, which come from sectors such as manufacturing, telecommunications, banking, automotive, insurance, pharma, retail and aeronautics.

The business activity in Romania is structured on two divisions, namely the engineering one and the IT one. As for the engineering division, the executive says it has not noticed major changes due to the pandemic, and the projects carried out in recent months have kept the company's line of business.

"If I were to notice a difference, however, I would still be referring to the increasing demand for adaptation and digitization. Specifically, the first weeks of the pandemic were mainly dedicated to adapting work environments to the remote formula and developing and implementing digitization solutions in the context of ongoing projects. This was, moreover, the leitmotif of 2020 - in almost all industries and independent of the business model, the digitization process has been strongly accelerated, these solutions allowing managers to be closer to customers, to give employees the opportunity to work from anywhere, even in the most isolated corners of the country, or deliver services and products with just a few clicks.

He explained that the IT sector, along with players in the telecom and banking sectors, were less affected during this period, and the return is already visible by the end of 2020, and will continue at the beginning of 2021, which will determine companies to initiate new projects.

"They will no doubt continue to have above-average momentum next year as well, especially if restrictions with an impact on users' consumer behavior or way of working remain in place."

The pandemic crisis has hit the economy hard, but research and development (R&D) projects have a longer-term specificity. Unlike the previous crisis, when many such projects failed rapidly, while others were emerging, R&D projects are booming today.

"Industries in which the development cycle is longer, and business plans generally designed for the longer term, respectively industries such as automotive or aeronautics, will continue to invest in the R&D area. Even if the current moment is not necessarily favorable for them, companies in these fields always invest for a longer time horizon, of 3-5 years, and must maintain the investments in order to ensure these solutions in the future. "

On the other side of Alten's business in the local market, IT consulting services were all the more sought after in 2020 as the pandemic pressed the accelerator pedal for localization digitization projects.

"It was a challenging period, and for many companies or even industries, digital solutions meant the difference between bankruptcy and market survival. At the level of our daily activity, however, this transformation did not have a crucial impact. Working on R&D projects, which are practically projects for solutions that we will see implemented only in 3-5 years, the necessary adaptations today and now have not played an important role. But what I think will be beneficial, for us and for the industry as a whole, will be the opening of more companies and industries to the beneficial potential of technology.

However, the year 2021 brings with it a lot of uncertainty in terms of market prospects, not only locally but also internationally. The Alten representative considers that the evolution of the sector in which it operates depends both on the dynamics of the epidemiological situation and on the authorities' responses to this dynamic.

"If we look back on the last few months and remain cautious, I think next year will be a good one for the entire IT&C industry. The pandemic has already forced companies in the region to change their outlook, which will boost demand for R&D support and advice.

Today, the company has 630 employees, of which 340 work in the IT division in Bucharest, Craiova and Pitesti, and 190 work in the engineering division, divided between Bucharest, Timisoara and Sibiu. Employees in Romania serve 70% of the internal market, and 30% of their activity is represented by projects for the external market.

"Our activity and our way of organizing makes us have niche roles, for which we need specialized, very good people - people who are not easy to find, especially in a market as dynamic as the local IT market. Therefore, recruitment is a constant process for us, regardless of the period. "

One of the challenges of the crisis was also represented for ALTEN by the transition to work from home, in the context in which the company had to create the necessary premises for remote work for several hundred employees.

"First of all, our activity, like that of many other companies in various industries, has moved into the homes of our employees this year. The practice of remote work already existed in the company, and most of the employees were already used to working from home one day a week, which made the transition to this new way of working a little easier. Even so, it was a concerted effort to move 90% of the team to telework, but especially to make sure that our IT systems and internal procedures are adapted to this way of working and that we could maintain work efficiency while respecting all customer data security requirements. "

The local subsidiary of the French giant registered in 2019 a turnover of 25 million euros on the local market, according to the figures provided by the company, and for 2020 it registered an increase of 5% after the first nine months.

Aticle published by Business Magazin.