We talked to Oleg Fonarov, CEO at Program-Ace, a research & development company based in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Oleg Fonarov: We’re doing great and following all health guidance and ditching most in-person social events in favor of spending more time outdoors.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Program-Ace.
Oleg Fonarov: I am the CEO of Program-Ace, a research & development company based in Kharkiv, Ukraine. My company was founded in 1992 and has over 120 staff members working in over half a dozen departments. Our business has 3 divisions, each with its own niches and services: Program-Ace (software development), 3D-Ace (2D/3D art and design), and Game-Ace (game development).
When Program-Ace was founded in 1992, it was intended to be a graphic design studio and publishing house and functioned in this capacity. However, over time, our expertise grew and shifted to software development. We started with making graphic modules, games, and web applications and gradually expanded to building proprietary software and solutions for AR, VR, MR, and a range of other promising fields.
Currently, my role in the company is to be a guiding light, charting new vectors of development, business plans, and policies for the business. I work closely with heads of departments to deliver on the projects that our company undertakes and encourage further growth of the business.
How does Program-Ace innovate?
Oleg Fonarov: We develop innovative solutions based on modern technologies, such as AR, VR, or MR, and harness their impressive power to create innovative product configurators, visualization software, training & simulation products, and many more.
At Program-Ace, we love working with startups as well as with large enterprises by bringing to life their innovative ideas and equipping their business models with robust technological solutions. Our R&D engineers and business analysts perform market and technology research, create prototypes, build an MVP, and lead client products to market excellence.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Oleg Fonarov: We are pleased to say that our staff are all healthy and most are staying safe at home in accordance with health guidelines. The pandemic has certainly impacted our business in many ways. We have had to adapt and make tough decisions but are only stronger as a result. Our business is still running as usual, and there is no stop in development. We continue to deliver the projects and results promised to our customers.
A Work From Home policy has been enacted at our office. This policy is intended to safeguard our workers’ health and safety. All standard work processes are continuing as usual, with designated Project Managers still leading projects and carrying out project tasks and specialists in other professions also fulfilling their duties responsibly.
One of the upsides of the situation is that our specialists are now saving time by avoiding travel, conducting offline meetings, and reducing casual chatter. This has helped our teams achieve a higher rate of productivity, and our Project Managers are also boosting this metric by prudently distributing and overseeing work time.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Oleg Fonarov: We faced the toughest decisions in the first few months of the pandemic. Unfortunately, we experienced a shortage of new clients and even lost a few existing clients. This forced us to put some of our internal projects on the back burner and open new vectors of business and marketing to increase the flow of clients. The biggest lesson was that we could successfully adapt to changing circumstances and quickly redirect/redistribute our resources when the situation calls for it.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Oleg Fonarov: The switch to remote work was not as shocking to us as the crisis itself, and we have had no issues with remote work. In fact, many of our employees have worked in such a regimen in the past. Currently, each employee is equipped with the same tools and hardware which were available in the office. This includes computers, testing equipment and gadgets, graphic tablets, and accompanying programs.
For instance, our AceRP system efficiently tracks work time and productivity, along with helping staff juggle their tasks and deliver results on time. Apart from AceRP, we also still conduct meetings, use online productivity tools, and apply the finest business practices to stay on top of our work. Data and communications remain secure as we are connecting to internal tools and resources under the watchful eye of our system administrators. All of the work and operations that take place during this period adhere to the Work From Home policy that we have implemented.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Oleg Fonarov: Our business appeals to clients because working with us, they do not need to find specialists in several places. We have all of the specialists necessary to compose a complete team and house it under one roof, from artists to developers.
Furthermore, our broad expertise and long history on the market give us a leg up over most competitors. Our developers are well-versed in building software for a variety of industries and niche specifications.
One of our biggest strengths is certainly our team of Unity specialists, which is one of the largest on the market. Unity is increasingly gaining prominence not only as a game engine but also as a great resource for enterprise applications. With official certification and years of experience, our specialists know Unity like very few others.
On top of that, we have an assigned Project Manager associated with all company departments and capable of structuring the development process from conceptualization to release.
Your final thoughts?
Oleg Fonarov: We are immeasurably grateful to our enduring team that continues to deliver high-quality work in all circumstances, as well as to our dear customers, who are struggling yet persevering alongside us.
Program-Ace is honored to receive such strong support and wishes for everyone to overcome these challenges that we are facing today.
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