A lucid leadership style and a well-defined strategy allowed Noesis CEO to tackle the crisis with agility. Alexandre Rosa endeavored to immediately guarantee the safety of employees and safeguard jobs, he was forced to slow down new businesses and internationalization, but he did not neglect opportunities. Now, it is time to capitalize on digital acceleration and bet more and more on topics that were already on the agenda.
The "new normal" will be more digital, we will probably work differently and try out new forms of relationships. These are some of the Noesis CEO predictions, although he makes a point of underlining how difficult it is to make guesses at this stage.
In an organization with around 900 employees and a turnover close to 50 million euros, Alexandre Rosa is aware that his role as a leader has to be reinvented, more than ever.
In recent years, it faced several challenges, of growth, economic crises, internationalization, opening new markets, new business areas, in addition to the job market evolution, the profile of new employees and new ways of working. «This situation that we are going through also presented other challenges, namely in terms of communication and the need to be close to our teams, something that the entire management team, unit managers, managers and team leaders were especially attentive to», also referring with satisfaction that the organization and teams adaption to this scenario was rapid and had an excellent response.
The digital acceleration we are witnessing, the emergence of new consumption habits, the exponential increase in interactions on digital channels, the challenges faced by organizations in terms of productivity, the cyber attacks in increasing numbers, the increase in the amount of data available to organizations, the need to develop solutions in an agile way and with rapid implementation represent opportunities for an organization like Noesis that has been operating precisely in these areas for the past 25 years. In a company that is more than accustomed to demonstrating a great capacity for technological innovation and anticipating trends, the focus on customers proximity is not lost, it is also a matter of caution. For now, edges are cleaned, plans are adjusted and actions are taken depending on the scenarios foreseen.
Although the way in which the crisis will emerge is uncertain, what are, for you, the successful arguments for your organizational reinvention in the Era, of what you now call, the “new normal”?
It is very difficult, at this stage, to predict what this “new normal” will be. We know that it will be more digital, for sure, that we will probably work differently and try out new forms of relationship with our customers and partners. Noesis has guided its performance in the market, for the last 25 years, by a great capacity to, on the one hand, follow technological innovation and be able to anticipate trends and, on the other hand, be very close to its customers and build a base of solid and loyal customers. These factors will continue to be our main differentiation in the market and, I believe, the critical elements of success for the future.
How should companies think about the “day after”?
They must be able to reinvent processes and invest even more in the digital transformation of their business. COVID-19 was an accelerator of this transformation, in many cases, forced. Now is the time to capitalize on this acceleration and bet more and more on topics that were already on the agenda before this crisis, such as Data and Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, automation, agile development of solutions and software or special attention to themes such as Customer Experience and the importance of following the journey of its customers, betting on the optimization of these processes and the interaction with them.
There is a lot of talk about reinterpreting the role of leaders. Do you feel that your role has required new skills?
In an organization with around 900 employees and a turnover close to 50M €, the role of a leader has to be constantly reinvented. In recent years we have faced several challenges, of growth, economic crises, internationalization, opening of new markets, new business areas, in addition to the job market evolution, the profile of new employees and new ways of working. This situation that we are going through also presented other challenges, namely in terms of communication and the need to be close to our teams, something that the entire management team, responsible for the unit, managers and team leaders, were especially attentive to. The adaptation of the organization and our teams to this scenario was quick and everyone's response was excellent.
There are still too many uncertainties, but it is true that organizations have to be agile, with good doses of improvisation. What is your action plan and main priorities for the Post-COVID-19 Era?
With Noesis acting in the areas of technology and digital transformation, the plan is to capitalize on the opportunities that this situation has generated in the market. The digital acceleration we are witnessing, the emergence of new consumption habits, the exponential increase in interactions on digital channels, the challenges faced by organizations in terms of productivity, the increasing number of cyber attacks, the increase in the amount of available data to organizations , the need to develop solutions in an agile manner and with rapid implementation, represent opportunities for an organization like ours that operates and specializes precisely in these areas. We are ready to respond to the challenges and to continue to accompany our customers on this journey.
At the same time, despite the crisis, we continue to invest in expanding our business and investing in internationalization. The entry into the Spanish market with some of our solutions, such as Low-Code (Outsystems), Cybersecurity, Data Analytics & AI, Quality Management, Automation or solutions related to Customer Experience, were already a reality before this period, enhanced by Noesis integration at the Altia Group at the beginning of the year, is on the move and with prospects of closing some deals in the short term. On the other hand, we continue to strengthen our presence in Brazil, we are developing our presence in the Netherlands, so that it is increasingly a Hub for the Benelux region and Northern Europe, without forgetting the presence in the United States of America which also we intend to reinforce.
What has the coronavirus accelerated and what has completely changed in your company?
It is still difficult, at this stage, to draw large conclusions in this regard. I do not believe that coronavirus has involved any radical change in the organization. We are in the technological sector, remote work was already a reality in the organization, our processes were already quite digitized, so I would say that in the functional aspect, there were no major changes. Naturally, the challenges posed by the market and the need to respond and anticipate the needs of our customers forced us to be even more attentive and to be more agile in our responses and in our ability to adapt.
How is the return to work being prepared? Would you highlight some measures?
Fortunately, throughout this period, we continue to operate as normal as possible. We did not face situations of service interruption, nor the need to stop the operation or put employees on lay-off, for example. In this sense, we are not exactly going to “go back to work”, we are going to continue to work , to develop projects and deliver with the same quality as always. Physically, we will remain in remote work until all security conditions are ensured and we will do this "deflation" gradually, with all calm and tranquility. Our facilities and several offices will be prepared for this safe and gradual return and our Human Capital Department is preparing this same return plan.
So far, what are the business impacts of this pandemic?
The main impact we felt was the slowdown in the development of new businesses, as this situation led to the postponement of some investments planned by our customers. Even so, the impact was felt in different ways in the different business areas of Noesis, in the opposite direction, we also felt a greater demand for our Cybersecurity services or in our Enterprise Solutions area where we developed, for example, a specific chatbot solution to help banks manage credit default applications. As in any crisis situation, we felt the negative impact, but we were also able to discover new opportunities.
What measures have been designed at this level?
As is natural, it was necessary to monitor the situation from the first hour, very closely and on an almost daily basis. Not only at the level of top management, but also at the level of our business areas and commercial management, we closely monitor the evolution of the situation and the impact on the business in order to be able to adjust in the plan planned for 2020 in an agile and appropriate way to context. In terms of management, the plan and objectives for this year were, of course, reviewed, and different scenarios were also drawn up according to the analysis that was being carried out, in order to define a plan of adjustment measures to be activated according to each one of the predicted scenarios.
In terms of social responsibility, what good practices would the company safeguard?
Noesis has a sustainability and social responsibility policy and plan defined, implemented and constantly updated, with several initiatives throughout the year. This specific context did not represent any change in this matter. Still, this was a time when the selfless and voluntary spirit of our talents was revealed. As an example, and because it is an initiative that deserves to be promoted and highlighted, we see examples that we are very proud of, such as the story of a collaborator from Coimbra who dedicates his nights to produce visors for free distribution to various institutions in the region . This initiative generated an internal solidarity movement, with colleagues who donated, ceded or lent 3D printers, financial donations, purchase of material and numerous expressions of support and mutual assistance within the organization. Institutionally, we also supported the initiative and donated a printer and raw material, so that our colleague could take his initiative further. The fact is that a few weeks later, Rafael already had an authentic factory set up, in a printing shop that gave up his space, and a team of volunteers who produce dozens of visors every night. These types of initiatives, perfectly organic and voluntary, are not part of a formal plan for social responsibility or sustainability, but are also proof of the quality of our people.
And what advice do you give to the Portuguese who lead other companies or organizations?
At this stage, we are all experiencing this situation in equal conditions, with access to the same information, with the same difficulties and uncertainties, so I believe I am not in a position to give advice to others. We are all trying to deal in the best possible way and, from what I have been observing, organizations in Portugal have reacted, in general, in an appropriate way.
From the perspective of a manager there are always two variables that we have to pay special attention to, on the one hand, the human component, we must guarantee the safety, tranquility of our people and safeguard jobs, this is very important. On the other, the business. It is essential to minimize the negative impact for the business / organization of this period and seek to identify and take advantage of the opportunities that arise from this context. Only in this way will it be possible to guarantee future sustainability and to ensure that this crisis will be temporary and circumstantial.
*Published in Líder.