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2021 highlights and 2022 predictions

Retrospective and some perspective

As the new year starts and the business strategies begin to shape once again inside our company, it seems like the perfect time to write about 2021 in retrospective and 2022 in perspective.

With 2021 closed and all things settled, we feel it’s time for us to settle as well and share with you all our company’s highlights for last year, as described by the management team. What follows below is our exercise of reflecting about the challenges, the successes, the trends our team observed along the way over the past year, combined with some predictions of what comes next in the different sectors of our business.

Optimistic about the past and future

Although some of us feared the industry will slow down at the beginning of 2021, it actually moved forward, even surprising us by exceeding some of our optimistic predictions. This made all of us acknowledge it’s been yet another full year, as captivating and challenging as the times imposed.

According to Cristian Barbu, Managing Partner, ‘last year was a great one for ITSS, as we hit all our strategic targets’.

Along the way (and the projects), we succeeded firstly to expand our professional services business even more outside the home market. As Cristian states, ‘in 2021 almost half of our revenue (46%) was generated from international projects, the highest percentage ever, and we were recognized by Everest Group as a global services provider, being listed in their IT Services PEAK Matrix for Banking and Financial Services clients.’

Secondly, we became an established SaaS / Managed Services provider. Cristian also reminds us that ‘in 2021 we’ve signed our first two SaaS contracts, with two very prominent actors on the Romanian financial market’.

As for the third strategic landmark, we feel we managed to truly become a Fintech player this year: ‘in 2021 we launched Ryke, the first Romanian independent Open Banking app, providing Personal Financial Management and payment features’, says Cristian.

Starting with Digital Identity

Let’s start by discussing about one of our dearest subjects. As the new Global Digital Identity order reshapes, our bet went on the Zero Trust security approach. Daniel Coman, the Digital Identity & API Economy Manager stated, 'according to a survey conducted among IT security professionals worldwide, data breach costs increased so much in 2021, the highest average total cost in the past 17 years; and stolen or misused credentials were responsible for 61% of them. Because the security perimeter is no longer confined to physical office boundaries, the attack surface has expanded through mobile devices, cloud environments, IoT devices, data centers, IaaS, and more. That’s why the Zero Trust security approach should be implied by default – never trust any device, user, workload, or system. Always verify first’'. We did just that in consultations with our valued clients, trying to add value in our Digital Identity projects.

As for what’s next, Daniel also replies: ‘Digital identity will remain hugely important as we navigate a digital-first world. More and more institutions around the world will invest in digital identity as they saw it as a key enabler to economic growth.

This year we can expect to see more companies using passwordless adoption techniques to implement very secure controls across account recovery journeys.’

Moving on with Open Banking

We tried diving into the open banking subject further, as we asked Alexandru Cociu, Executive Partner, for his predictions: ‘'I expect 2022 to be a year of adoption of open banking in Romania. I am sure that this year will bring a lot of new use-cases and new applications that will make our lives easier. More companies will start their digitalization journey, even in the sectors we don’t expect them to’. Alex actually confessed that 2021 was for him ‘a year of growth and innovation. And from personal point of view, this year wasn’t about getting used to working from home anymore, instead I really enjoyed it. Moreover, open banking was present in all my activities, and I quite enjoyed that too’. On the other hand, Alex acknowledges that ‘growth has a lot of challenges these days. We find ourselves in a very competitive IT landscape with more and more demand but no skills growth. This trend seems to continue in 2022. I also see a trend in large enterprises to move from niche technologies and well-established vendors to open-source technologies with in-house development’.

Stating that, Alex also touches the delicate state of IT talents market. So, we’ve asked our HR consultant, Diana Dima, for more details about that.

Insights from inside the organisation

Diana feels that 2021 was a year of re-accommodation and new perspectives for our business, which mostly took hybrid work to the next level. ‘HR took a lot of care along with managers of making sure new colleagues feel good about their teams and develop a sense of belonging after they joined. Returning to office and teambuildings helped in consolidating relationships and increased collaboration, our almost 2 months vacation time responded to an increased need of time off and by the end of the year we concluded that hybrid work is the new reality even when the global pandemic will end’, told us Diana Dima, HR Business Partner.

The work environment was definitely affected by the global changes, and that’s why 2021 ‘was a busy year for our organization, with sprints and marathons run at the same time, lots of projects, new clients, initiatives and big ambitions that we tried to achieve. All these led to an organization that was struggling to manage its work-life balance especially along more senior roles. We could often find active colleagues at more and more unusual hours, not because they were asked to, but because they felt they should finish what they committed to. This was one of the challenges we had during the year’, continues Diana, ‘along with a more active and dynamic job market. Still we managed to keep our attrition within moderate rates, extended the team and faced positive challenges of answering to more and more clients’ requests and increased stakeholders’ expectations. Moreover, we ended the year with 41 in our eNPS score and 10 days of learning per employee, while the market trends were cutting learning costs and fuzzy engagement’, states Diana.

As for 2022 expectations with this new-found settlement, Diana also mentioned that ‘for a while now, our HR transitions from a provider of things to more of an enabler of ones’. Meaning that ‘with hybrid work here to stay, we look to enable the organization and each and every one of our colleagues to own their journeys, their needs and equip them with resources to be able to actively take care of themselves. Be there a learning need, or a project challenge or a bigger innovative idea, we will encourage and provide the support and safe context for their actions to take place’.

For this year, our HR team ‘believes that by each colleague reaching full potential, the organization will overachieve. This is our long term HR focus. From the operational point of view, we hope to see more of each other at the office this year, more outings as well, cluster learning, increase job rotation and tribes created around great ideas. Irrespective of our plans, each year comes with its own surprises, consequently there will always be a dose of unknown that we expect and we are looking forward to where the journey will take us this year’, Diana concludes.

Becoming relevant online

We tried to take a more playful and transparent approach this last year in both internal and external online communications, mainly because we all are caught in front of the screens these days. Communicating online has its challenges, but also can loom a more relevant and dynamic image for our public. We were active on all our social media channels, we actively updated our websites, and we chose to communicate more through detailed blog posts, relevant newsletters, exciting webinars, and informative podcasts. ‘It’s really important, I feel, not to lose the sense of reality with mostly everything moving online, while remaining connected, approachable and relevant’, told us Ioana Dumitru, our Marketing and Brand Development representative. ‘We invested a lot in content creation, in being transparent and I think we managed to make a shift to a full online presence in 2021, that used to lack ITSS. So, we’ll continue on this path, making things more interesting for our followers and growing together with them for the years to come’, Ioana concluded.

The journey continues

For IT Smart Systems, 2022 also means the 20th year of creating valuable services and innovative products on the Romanian and international markets. We’ve grown a lot during these years, we’ve learnt even more, and we feel we’ve touched a point of maturity any company seeks. We will continue to remain people focused, client focused, and partnership focused.

With a busy 2021 and a lot of lessons learnt, ‘we look forward to consolidating our position in 2022 on all the three major axes we started last year, as open banking, the domain in our strategical focus, will accelerate its growth’, told us Cristian Barbu.

We hope to have you all close by as our journey continues.

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