Whether you are in the Netherlands, Canada or Poland, the language of the SAP technology is the same. Customers always and everywhere expect high competence and reliability of IT consultants. We speak to Waldemar Sokołowski, a Board Member responsible for IT consulting and BCC Data Centers, about the experience and aspirations of BCC.
Why would companies from America or Western Europe be willing to employ Polish consultants from BCC for projects in the field of SAP Basis, or more broadly – IT?
This question seems to me wrong-headed. Where you are from, after all, is not a serious argument. What is important is what you can do, how much time you need to do a job, whether you're credible, and finally – how much one has to pay for your work. Of course, an important issue is the communication understood not only as a common language of communication, but more broadly, as a culture and labor standards that enable striving to achieve a specific goal together with partners. So to answer the question: we are worth working with because of our experience so far. This is where the information about our competence, credibility and attractiveness lies.
Well, but is this experience sufficient indeed?
I do not know, because we do not talk about any specific project. I only say that it is worthwhile to consider us as a potential partner, comparing our potential and offer with other providers. I say that whether you are a company or consultant from Poland, Germany or the USA, it does not matter if you are running an international project.
If you have a project to implement for one of the largest companies operating in Central and Eastern Europe, requiring a migration of the environment of several dozen servers operating with the HP-UX system to VMWare virtual systems operating with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), will you be looking for the Slavs, for example, to deliver it, or a company with a sufficiently large team of consultants that can guarantee you the performance of this task in a way that is required by the business? What is important for you is whether the consultants dedicated to the project have experience in managing 10-terabyte Oracle databases, rather than whether they live in Poznań, Prague or Vilnius.
So how would you describe the technological potential of BCC?
BCC Data Centers operating in our company enable us to keep a team of several dozen IT consultants with a wide range of skills: from specialists in computer networks through administrators of operating systems and databases, up to specialists in backup systems or security. None of these areas is obviously a clearly separated competence. These are issues that affect each other, being strongly integrated. In addition, in each of these elements we deal with alternative technologies and all sorts of configurations. This requires us to improve methods of information exchange, change management and coordination of activities.
Such broad competences perfectly paid off, for example during the implementation of the project for a branch of one of the leading companies in the German energy sector. The project involved isolating the IT infrastructure from corporate resources for the Polish branch. The aim was to improve flexibility of operation at the local market whilst leaving the close integration of systems unaffected and maintaining security standards. After the creation and acceptance of the concept by the Germans, it took BCC consultants four months to implement solutions of a wide and local area network and IT systems including Microsoft technologies (Active Directory, Exchange, SCCM), Citrix terminal servers, and dedicated applications (Megaz and Telexus) for settling accounts with customers.
Due to the specific nature of the data center, consultants deal with large scale solutions on a daily basis; they do not feel the paralyzing pressure caused by working with critical systems and they are accustomed to teamwork. It all pays off in the implementation of projects because with such an experienced and large team of consultants, it is easier for us to gain the largest and most challenging projects. Besides, the technologies we deal with in the projects are often already known to us from our own "backyard".
This was the case, for example, with one of Europe's first implementations of in-memory computing solutions. Before we started the project at the customer’s site, consultants had already had the opportunity to gain experience on the SAP HANA system installed in the BCC Data Centers.
Today it is difficult to determine whether BCC Data Centers develop thanks to well-implemented projects, or rather smoothly implemented projects are the result of strong competences built in BCC Data Centers. Undoubtedly, outsourcing and consulting are in our case two lines of business with a very strong synergy. It is this synergy that builds up the potential; the potential of a constantly developing team: new people, new competences and new experiences.
– Performance tuning of SAP applications and databases
– Upgrades of systems working on various platforms
– Homogenous and heterogeneous migrations between different operating system and database platforms, including migrations to the SAP HANA platform
– Unicode conversions
– Building HA (high availability) solutions of various types (IBM HACMP, MS CS, HP, SG)
– Authorization projects
– SAP landscape planning and optimization
– Architecture projects, architecture assessments and audits
– Archiving of SAP databases
– Building and testing backup and recovery solutions
– Business Continuality Plans – creating and testing of BCPs
– Implementation of technical components of the SAP environment, from NetWeaver to SAP Solution Manager
– SAP virtualization and system integration
There is a widespread belief that Polish companies are cheaper than companies from Western Europe. How important is this competitive advantage for BCC?
Labor costs in developing countries, such as Poland, are actually lower than in the most developed countries. It is no secret that they mainly affect the cost of the projects. However, we should not forget about the work performance. If you look at the cost of skilled employees, it is no longer either so clear or obvious. This results from the fact that the work performance of highly qualified consultants is a very personal matter.
With the open labor market in the EU, good professionals can easily migrate for work since employers are looking for people with the highest qualifications, because they translate into work performance. For this reason, specialists’ salaries are reaching the level of differences that can be justified by lower cost of living in a given country. Therefore, the competitive advantage in the form of lower prices only does not seem to me to be sufficient even in the medium term. So I think that although labor costs still increase, to some extent, our competitiveness, we have to build the real advantage through effective implementation of projects and the ability to support the customer comprehensively during the entire life cycle of an IT system.
What do you mean?
Functioning within BCC, we can provide the customer with both the system implementation service and operation support services in various models and ranges, as well as take care of the system after its withdrawal from productive use. Something like this can be easily promised to the customer, but the completion of such a task requires adequate resources, competences and infrastructure that distinguish us as the largest SAP partner in this part of Europe. BCC has in total over 200 SAP and IT consultants who both participate in the implementation projects as well as are employed in service teams as part of the BCC Outsourcing Center.
The BCC offer of the SAP technology consulting combines both good quality and competitive price.
Many international companies already have, not always positive, experience in engaging SAP consultants from other, often distant countries, whether for implementations, or support. How do you manage in such a situation to convince customers to benefit from the BCC offering?
I think that each case is different and generalizations should be avoided. I consistently reject the way of thinking which boils down to drawing the conclusion that the consultants from the country X do not prove to be competent in projects in the country Y. These are always matters of individual skills. Sometimes on both sides. Speaking of BCC cooperation with partners from Western Europe, I would emphasize the lack of cultural barriers, the lack of problems with visas or work permits and the lack of an objective obstacle such as time differences. The existence of time differences may well be an advantage in cooperation, for example in the implementation of global support in the follow-the-sun model. It shows that evaluating the attractiveness of potential cooperation is a very individual matter.
In the case of countries far from Poland, here I mean mainly the USA or Canada, you should always consider the mix of remote work and on-site presence, because it significantly affects the effectiveness and costs of the project. We have a lot of good experience from such project management for customers in North America.
The key argument that I would like to emphasize here, is that regardless of whether we work with nearshoring or offshoring partners, we have never encountered barriers in the implementation of projects resulting from competences. We have had 20 years of experience in working for international corporations in the Polish market, the largest economy of the “new” EU countries. For over 10 years, we have been successfully delivering also projects outside our country, which is for us a natural step in the development of the company.
– SAP/IT managed hosting/hotelling/colocation
– Disaster Recovery Center
– SAP/IT administration
– Outsourcing of archival systems
The implementation of projects for corporate divisions in Poland where your contribution to the cooperation is the knowledge of the local market, including legislation, is however something different than participation in an international project outside of the home country.
It is true, though in relation to the IT or Basis offer, the local market issues are of no great importance. Operating systems, databases, network protocols, etc. – this all has a universal dimension. Problems and challenges faced by IT specialists are also universal. Business requires them to provide an efficient, stable and secure IT system, regardless of whether it is a company from the SMB sector or an international group. So, what matters is the experience in working with complex environments, a scale of systems with which you are working, rather than the way in which you pay your income tax. Therefore, we so strongly believe in the synergy of our "local" experience and global aspirations. Our value contributed to foreign projects is derived from the experience already gained, and this comes from the position that we have in the Polish market. It is the position of a leader, a team working with the largest and most complex environments.
Anyway, what is the difference today between a project carried out in the country and outside its borders? How do you define, for example, the project of SAP ERP migration from Italy to Poland, involving the isolation of the target SLES/Oracle solution from the source Sun/Oracle system? It was a very interesting experience both in consulting and technology terms. The effect that we obtained for the end user is more than a 5-fold increase in performance of the environment. And this is what undoubtedly matters rather than the "internationalism" of the project.
Are migration projects what you actually specialize in?
I wouldn’t put it this way. Simply, at a given moment, projects of one or another kind are dominant in the market. So it was with projects of data archiving, authorization audits, homo-and heterogeneous migrations and recently – virtualizations. I think that there is a wave of in-memory computing implementation projects ahead of us. At BCC, we are willing to undertake challenging and innovative projects. We like challenges, and these include work with complex environments involving several dozen systems in the landscape. We are eager to undertake the preparation of the architecture of such environments, we make migrations to new technologies, including e.g. SAP HANA, we make upgrades of systems for which the critical parameter is a minimal downtime, and we virtualize large environments and solutions. In such projects, we focus on optimization aspects that translate into a significant improvement of the performance and availability of systems. It's a habit that results from the daily operation of BCC Data Centers.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS – FITACLOUD)
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
Backup and Recovery as a Service (BaaS)
SAP on BCC Cloud
BCC Enterprise Content Management
Entrusting such large projects to an external company is a critical decision for customers. How do you convince them to cooperate with BCC?
We encourage new customers to order from us minor tasks at first that can be a sample of our competence and our approach. For us, the most important thing is to simply start cooperation, because one common experience is more valuable than a thousand words or a hundred other references. This is the most effective and surest way to check a partner. On our part, we are confident that we can bring value to the customer, so if cooperation seems to become interesting we even agree to start working in the try&buy model. Our experience in this area is definitely positive.
Of course, we are also open to a more traditional approach, the presentation of our competences during presales meetings. This is a task of the dedicated sales team of over a dozen people assisted by consultants who specialize in particular areas. Besides, we have a lot to boast about during presentations. In the BCC Data Centers we have done much to ensure that our customers could sleep easy. At least when it comes to their systems. For the implementation of projects, we always offer experienced people with competences confirmed by relevant certificates. We also often invite our partners, leading technology companies, to cooperate. Recently, we have been delivering a lot of projects using EMC, NetApp and VMWare solutions. This is probably the sign of the times.
We provide the customers who decide on some sort of regular cooperation with service according to an agreed SLA and ITIL standards confirmed by ISO 20000. Our quality of work and safety of information entrusted to us can be authenticated by other standards: ISO 9001 and 27001. In the field of SAP technologies, we have the highest partner status – the SAP Gold Partner; additionally, we hold the SAP Certified Partner in Hosting Services and SAP Certified Partner in Cloud Services certificates, as well as the SAP Partner Center of Expertise certificate that entitles us to provide maintenance services on behalf of the manufacturer. We have similar competences also in the field of Microsoft technology where we have held the Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and Microsoft Hosting Professional titles for many years.
If you were to say in one sentence why BCC is worth cooperating with, what would it be?
I would say that this question is best to ask one of our customers. I invite to our website www.bccgroup.eu where there is a description of many interesting projects jointly implemented with our customers.
Interviewed by: Marcin Kuryłło, BCC Group