SOFTLY DOES IT

Colombia 2016 | TELECOMS & IT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Adriana Lucia Falla, General Manager of SoftManagement S.A., on the growth of the business, the value of R&D, and developing software for top clients.

How was the performance of SoftManagement S.A. in 2015?

For SoftManagement S.A. 2015 was a year of change. We started an internal consolidation process, restructuring the organization into business units. SoftManagement S.A. has a strong business line; software development, and we work on improving productivity and international exposure. At the moment, we have specialized teams in different tasks and we started to have a system in which we buy services within the organization. Now, we have performance indicators by units rather than processes, which makes us more efficient. It was an arduous task, but we have already seen results. In regard to customers, we have started a process to start changing the image of SoftManagement S.A. from a company that develops software to a company that provides services. We do not put aside software development because this is our main business line; however, we try to diversify our portfolio by becoming a company that provides software-based services.

What services of those you recently incorporated are developing faster?

Our strength is operation and manufacturing software, and we believe this trend will continue in the same line for the near future. With the recent changes, we intended to boost consulting and services. Our experience and knowledge enabled us to start offering services of supervision and auditing, enterprise architecture, and cloud. Up until now, our main customers were government and large corporations and, through the new services, we intend to reach to SMEs, widening our portfolio of customers. We believe that all the services we have recently started to provide have great potential; however, since our main strength is in software development, we understand that supervision and auditing services are those with the greatest potential, because large companies are the ones requiring these kinds of services.

What is the makeup of your portfolio?

We have many customers; for example, Caracol Television, the US Embassy, and the Ministry of Defense, to name a few. One of our main sectors is the public one, meaning that the government is one of our main customers and one of the most active players in the sector when it comes to software development. Large finance companies make up another chunk of our main customers, such as Banco Caja Social, Citibank, and JP Morgan. One of our main strengths is our experience within the social sphere of the country; for example, we are currently involved in a project led by an important country's embassy in Colombia for the peace process.

What is the role of R&D within your overall business activity?

R&D and innovation are key elements of our business. We have a dedicated group of people developing this activity and we have a particular methodology. This group works on a full-time basis to develop new tools as well as the application of these tools. These people also work alongside our quality department to develop and improve our current procedures. Thanks to that group of people, we apply innovation to our products and services. We also invest a great deal of effort in the development of pilot projects alongside our customers, where innovation is key in this context.

What are your competitive advantages?

We have received several awards in the last few years. For example, the Ingenio Award is for the IT sector and is judged on the IT solutions presented by a customer and has to be technologically innovative. In 2014, we presented a joint project with the Ministry of Culture as part of the Read Again project, whereby we tried to boost reading culture, especially among children. We developed a strategy to link all the public libraries in the country as part of the virtual libraries network of Colombia, and we received the award in the category of education. In 2015, we participated in another joint project with Certicamara, a nationwide leading entity when it comes to digital certificates, and presented a solution in the field of dematerialized securities from a digital perspective. One of our strongest points with these projects is that we always try to understand the structure behind the problem and generate value from that.

Have you thought about exporting your products and services abroad?

Five years ago we started to implement our international strategy and we currently have a commercial office in Panama, which serves Central America and Peru. Since we are working as a supplier for the World Bank, we focus on the internationalization of projects from these offices. We have increased our focus on Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, and Peru. SoftManagement S.A. has developed projects in all these countries, mainly alongside the Central Bank of these countries. At the moment, we are in a process of moving forward with our international strategy. Peru will be the first country to host a SoftManagement S.A. office, and we will continue to have development services based in Colombia, but we plan to have several stages of the projects in those respective countries.

How would you assess the current investment environment within the IT sector in Colombia?

The IT sector in Colombia is one of the most attractive sectors in our economy for foreign investors. This is due to the fact that we have become a key sector for the economy and we have an aligned political strategy from the government in order to strengthen the investment environment. The government has perfectly understood that IT is one of the country's greatest assets in terms of potential. There is a public strategy to diversify our economy, which in the past used to be based on traditional sectors such as mining and coffee. One of our main challenges is the lack of enough qualified human resources; however, the country also has a nationwide strategy supported by the government to develop more IT professionals. Colombian IT professionals are extremely innovative and creative. We always say that our work force is our most valuable asset.

What are your expectations for SoftManagement S.A. for 2016?

This is a year full of challenges, and we have targeted 24% growth; however, this goal has to be put into context because the country expects to grow at a 7% rate. Furthermore, from now until 2020 we expect to grow by 200% and we expect to have operations in two other countries, consolidating our brand and company as a leading provider of IT solutions and services.