Martin Hrnko, the CEO of QBSW, has been with the company almost since the beginning. We talked to him about how the IT sector and QBSW have evolved over the years.
What was it like to do business in this sector when you were starting?
I started as an analyst and a project manager, doing programming at the same time. I trained people in working with IT and was interested in implementing projects – entrepreneurship itself did not interest me. When I was starting in the field, there were different projects with different technologies, in different ways and with different sources of funding. Everything changes and evolves. As does, of course, the customers’ way of thinking.
What’s the difference between QBSW at the beginning and today? Was it easier then?
I wouldn’t say it was easier at the time when I was starting. It was different. Customers had different concerns to those they have today. The challenge was to do at least something electronically, to make economic and HR processes more efficient. Today we think of how the government should provide services to its citizens electronically.
QBSW started off with a couple of employees and a few enthusiasts who set out to build a software company. Nineteen years later, that company has reached a completely different level. We have around one hundred eighty employees who work on numerous projects for various customers from various fields. We have moved from an apartment to an administrative building where we already occupy three floors.
How would you describe the concept of digital literacy from your point of view?
The concept of digital literacy changes its meaning. Thirty years ago, it just meant an ability to type something on a computer and print it. Today it is something entirely different. This fact is most apparent in our children, who grab a phone and operate it completely naturally. In the future, it will also be reflected in the way we work, and not just in the field of IT. Today we would struggle to find a field of work which doesn’t rely on some information technology.
How does QBSW differ from other software companies?
We try to be different from the competition in what projects we do, how we accomplish them and what working conditions we create for our employees.
What moves you forward?
We are moved forward by constantly trying to do something that has meaning. We try to satisfy our customers and we always try to give them added value. We are delighted by every completed project and are really pleased when other potential clients notice our work and become our clients. It’s not always about the fact that we have plans and clients have requirements. Our growth is also limited by the labour market and everything needs to be combined so that the company grows in a suitable way.
What’s an IT guy’s normal day like at your company?
An IT guy’s work is creative work. We build on our knowledge and experience, but at the same time we must be able to apply it to the work we do. We can’t say about IT guys that the more they work, the more they produce. There is a limit somewhere in the sense that after a certain amount of time, working performance declines.
Our IT guys, of course, spend their normal day doing their work. Besides that, however, they can spend time with their colleagues in shared areas, take a break, go for lunch, re-energise with a cup of coffee or unwind playing table football. We try to create conditions where our employees feel comfortable, which then shows in their satisfaction and productivity.
Do you meet with employees?
I do meet with employees, I move around the company. I don’t hide in the office. But there are a lot of us here and it’s not possible to talk to every person at the company every day. On the other hand, whoever comes at any time and needs to discuss something, my door is very much open.
I prefer when people solve problems with the people concerned (an HR problem with the HR Department, marketing matters with the Marketing Department, and so on), but if I can help, I’ll be glad to do so. I happily join teambuilding or other company events if I have time.
Are you a purely Slovak company?
We are a purely Slovak company, so we don’t have any foreign capital. Investment capital is always about helping a company grow. As we don’t do product development, however much we would want to, our growth is always limited by our ability to deliver projects. This ability is determined by the knowledge, experience and the number of employees we have. And foreign capital can’t help us grow in this area. I can imagine, however, that in the future it could help us open new markets in the fields in which we are good.
What do you think the IT market will be like in 100 years?
I’m not a futurologist, I can only make assumptions. The way technology will affect the labour market is a much debated matter. In just twenty years, that market will be completely different. No one would dare predict what it will be like in a hundred years.
I believe that in the next ten years we won’t reach a point where people have nothing to do and everything is done by computers instead – there will always be work for people too. But to say specifically what positions there will be in twenty years is impossible. This is closely related to the question of how we should educate small children knowing that in twenty years they will work in jobs we currently have no idea about. We have to educate them so that they are able to adapt to the situation at a given moment. Overall, however, we probably all feel that technologies will surround us even more.
What would you like to focus on at QBSW in the future?
Still custom software development. We plan to support our customers so that software solutions that don’t currently exist, but would be useful for business, continue to be created. We will of course be pleased if we manage to create a solution from any of our projects, a solution we can offer to a larger group of customers in the form of a product.
At QBSW, we also deal with newer technologies. This year we have won projects in smart metering and banking, where the market is heavily affected by constant legislative changes. New opportunities arise for new players who need to digitalise their markets. Projects related to smart metering or electricity production and distribution will also expand. The world will have to embrace more ecological resources, which is a serious matter affecting all of us and we must adapt. It gives rise to a need to create new software applications, which QBSW wants to be involved in.
We also pursue opportunities to establish ourselves abroad, primarily in the field of outsourcing and software application development. Being a software house that develops applications, we can deliver this service to various start-ups. Many start-ups launched these days are not just about software solutions, but also about marketing, communication or legal services. In terms of product development work, this is also the kind of service we want to provide to our customers – it should be a comprehensive package. We want our clients to introduce the ideas inspired by us to real life.