Fernando Oliver of Option tells us about their digital acceleration plan.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Fernando Oliver: It hasn’t been easy, having small kids to take care of, a wife and a baby, while trying to keep running a business doing everything at home, it’s been quite an experience. Fortunately, in spite of some people within the company being caught by the virus, everyone is hanging in there strong.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Option.
Fernando Oliver: During my days as a restless and passionate college student, spending most of the time creating new ideas, in 2008 I decided to start a business developing software solutions together with my partner Raimundo Page. As entrepreneurs, we began to grow quickly, first as software developers of mobile apps, web, and smart TV applications, then specializing in SaaS, doing business in different industries like government, entertainment, media, and also different countries like Sweden, Finland, Korea, Perú and Argentina. As dynamic as the market, we were changing rapidly but always with the core business focused on constant innovation, leading cutting-edge technologies.
Today, Option is a leading company within the market now working strongly in the field of advanced analytics. Having a team of over 70 people, we are also a big family working together to become digital acceleration leaders.
How does Option innovate?
Fernando Oliver: At Option, we have developed a unique approach that combines the best of agile methodologies like Design Thinking and Lean Startup, together with the sum of experience of over 10 years developing digital solutions. Our Digital Acceleration Plan prioritizes what can be resolved in short periods of time enabling an incremental transformation, reaching success sequentially, and generating value through time.
We have a dynamic culture that encourages the team to innovate, sharing ideas through different committees divided by project, combining different backgrounds from administrative to computer nerds. Currently, we have teams specializing in User Experience, Software Development, and Advanced Analytics, working together with our Business Specialists and Subject Matter Experts to explore new business opportunities, also with our Operations and Administration departments to support the continuous functionality of the company.
This has been our working philosophy not only with our different customers but also as service builders, being able to develop products connecting very well with the industry needs thanks to Product Owners with expertise and full knowledge of each type of business. As an example, this has resulted in successful spin-offs, like MED360 a health tech startup that improves patients access through Artificial Intelligence, predicting behavior before attending medical appointments and preventing a No-Show.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Fernando Oliver: Like many other companies, last year was really challenging for our finances hitting hard in our initial growth projections for 2020. Some of our main clients were struggling as well (some of them airlines), but the technology wasn’t a thing that they could cut off, so we were able to keep running the business but with difficulties. Fortunately, that was an opportunity for us to reinvent ourselves and start building a strategy for new industry verticals like mining which is one of the main activities in Chile (where our HQ is located).
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Fernando Oliver: Some difficult measures had to be taken at the beginning of the year, making some minor cuts putting in suspension some contracts with HR (our local government released a law for employment protection, which we agreed to incorporate as a strategy to secure business sustainability). We learned that in spite of the moments, we had to keep our employees close, and working remotely was something we really harnessed since the beginning, with monthly meetings, and special events with the entire organization.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Fernando Oliver: After a few years of trial and error, now we’ve been able to better organize workflows and team structure to map opportunities and pipelines. A strong team of customer success managers, farmers, and hunters keep the wheel of business opportunities running smoothly through a platform for resource management, where everything from accounting to sales is registered in real-time.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Fernando Oliver: Wasn’t strictly necessary for Option, but we did raise public funds for entrepreneurs sponsored by a local accelerator, with our spin-off MED360, to be able to execute its growth plan as a healthtech startup. As said, it is one of our promising projects to scale up, and now raising venture capital money is on the roadmap for a Seed Round within the short term for this 2021, being able to expand through the Latam region.
Your final thoughts?
Fernando Oliver: As entrepreneurs, we are aware, and feel participants, of how the ecosystem has evolved rapidly during the pandemic. And in the matter of industry maturity, we still have a long way to go in terms of digital transformation, where companies have to decide to either transform or die. Often agility and innovation become a “theatre” with no effective results or not interpreting the pain points that need to be solved first in order to make sustainable changes within the organizations.
That’s why we’ve been applying our philosophy to drive organizations without being too ambitious, looking at the projects in humble and grounded stages through our Digital Acceleration Plan (you can check out our website or write to us directly to speak further about it! firstname.lastname@example.org).
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