We talked to José Vilarinho of Opensoft about digital transformation projects, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
José Vilarinho: The last months were challenging. Managing a company is always tough, but managing remotely is much more difficult. I had to create a new routine, keeping in mind the balance of professional life and my family responsibilities so that I can keep healthy and positive with the current situation. I decided to increase the number of online meetings with my team and other board members so I can check how my colleagues are, our projects and keep them motivated.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Opensoft.
José Vilarinho: After being graduated as a computer engineer from the University of Lisbon, I started to work as a software engineer in a Portuguese company developing applications for public administration and banking. Some years later, I decided to return to the University of Lisboa for an MBA degree. My new academic experience and the professional experience obtained led me to a new challenge, founding my own company in 2001. During these 20 years, I have been involved in digital transformation projects in areas such as public administration, banking, or education, as well as in Opensoft’s strategy and management.
How does Opensoft innovate?
José Vilarinho: Opensoft is a company specialized in software engineering and technological consultancy. We help our customers in their digital transformation journey, integrating or developing solutions tailored to their needs. Also, we are always curious about new technologies and methodologies. Each year, we invite all our engineers to join a group that will focus their work on learning and testing new technologies or approaches to development. Then, we try to understand how we can improve our work with their findings, which help us to create innovative solutions to meet our customers’ challenges.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
José Vilarinho: We experimented with both positive and negative effects on our business. Being a tech company in a time where companies are quickly making a transition to the digital environment allowed us to test and develop new products in this area, for instance, solutions to improve customer service through digital channels. We also started to work fully remotely and learn that our teams could meet the objectives and deadlines of our projects without difficulties. On the other hand, we felt that selling our services is now much more difficult since companies are more cautious when investing in innovation or new projects. However, we still had a great year, closing new business, opening international markets, and even growing our revenues.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
José Vilarinho: We are lucky enough, so we didn’t have to make difficult choices regarding human resources. Fortunately, we had several projects closed (or almost closed) in 2019 that started only in 2020, which required all our team. Nevertheless, we learned that working remotely and confined required a new set of skills that must be addressed to maintain a healthy team. We are still investing in training to help everyone to adapt to these challenging times.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
José Vilarinho: Client satisfaction is one of our main goals. We regularly assess the satisfaction of our customers and projects through a customer satisfaction survey, one of the easiest and most reliable tools to listen to our clients. From these surveys, we didn’t saw a decrease in customer satisfaction. Our approach to this subject was more based on procedures, such as regular online meetings, than on the use of technical tools.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
José Vilarinho: No, we did not as such apply for any government grants. Fortunately, we are self-sufficient.
Your final thoughts?
José Vilarinho: The current pandemic is probably one of the most complex situations that most organizations have ever experienced. However, it will not be the only one! Looking at the last few decades, we see that extreme crises and events have already been experienced, such as terrorist attacks or climatic catastrophes – fires, hurricanes. At the same time, we see that trade wars and cybercrime are on the rise. Thus, the future will have crises and extreme events. Change is part of business, so preparing for it and being able to quickly adapt to new circumstances is key for the success of any organization.