“The trends will be automation, modeling and automatic code generation” *
Cristina Marinhas talks about the path the company is taking, the challenges the software industry as a whole is facing, and how clients can address digital transformation issues
By Henrique Carreiro and Rui Damião, photo by Jorge Correia Luís, December 20th, 2019 *
What has been Quidgest’s story?
We are a 30-year-old company and our focus has always been to develop software. I think what sets us apart from other companies is that we know that software cannot be handcrafted; we have always strived to automate its production.
Developing software is like building a car, we have to industrialize its production. A software solution needs to be the result of a production line: with automation and half a dozen dedicated programmers.
In 1992, we had the idea of creating our own platform, called Genio, which is our code generator. In addition to aligning with our belief in automation, it also helped us in a different way. We hear a lot of talks nowadays about there being a lack of resources in IT, a lack of programmers, but this is not a new thing, this is a problem that has always existed.
Maybe it’s more visible now, but 25 years ago, we were already feeling this, and Geniowas a way to make up for the lack of programmers. With this way of producing software, we can have people on our team from various backgrounds who don’t need to know how to program; what they need to know is how to model the business for which they will develop the software. At Quidgest, we have people with backgrounds in history, geography, engineering, chemistry, physics, management – any of these people can develop a system.
This is our story. Our systems are usually complex and have a structural impact on our clients’ competitive performance. This way of producing software also has the advantage of allowing us to have a lot of contact with clients.
Do you also make what you are developing internally available to your clients?
Our platform was not, until recently, licensed to others. About ten years ago we created what we call the Academy, to train people in Genio, not just our people but also those who want to learn how to use Genio. At the same time, this led to the inception of a network of partners who use our technology to make their own projects.
We do not normally make the platform available directly to clients, because they often show no interest in having this type of technology; They want the finished product and then they want our support. However, if it is a client’s request, we can do this. We work with partners who are trained on the platform and can build their projects. So, we have our own licensing model for this.
What is your internationalization process like?
Our internationalization model is always through projects and partners. It’s always good to have a local partner who knows the culture, the bureaucratic processes that we, being on the outside, don’t know about. These are usually large projects.
There has to always be a great deal of dialogue. Whether you are a partner or the client, we have many interactions during software development. It is not at the end that we will test to see if all is well; It is throughout the process, with many iterations.
Is your relationship with your clients long term?
We establish a client relationship that usually lasts for years, because the software is always evolving, and another issue is that legislation is always changing. For example, in public accounting, every year there are new requirements, there are new reports that need to be made, and new files that need to be submitted to the court of auditors.
Over the years, what have been the main difficulties you have encountered?
When system automation began, there were many organizations that bought systems that did nothing and there was a hangover for investment because people thought “I’ve already spent money on that and it did nothing.” There was a lot of fear around implementing new systems. But I think we’ve moved past that now.
From my experience, I think Portuguese clients are very much given to these things, they like to be the first to implement and to be at the forefront. The difficulties lie more at the decision level. In Portugal we have a problem in making big decisions, because we often give a lot of priority to what is foreign, and national solutions do struggle against this – I am not advocating protectionism, but I think there should be equal circumstances.
There was a time when you could catalog software in fixed boxes — ERP, CRM, for example. Can we still do this today or is it more complex?
We can do that, but it’s not as functional. The systems you mentioned are much more complex, everything is interconnected, everything has to be integrated. The larger the organization, the truer this is. I cannot manage the financial part without knowing the resources I have, without knowing what I need to spend; Organizations want everything integrated. People want an integrated system that responds to them in terms of people management, finance, inventory management, etc. It can work in isolation, but that way, the client will not take advantage of all the benefits of an integrated system.
Do the Portuguese still have the box mentality, or do they come with the vision of integration? Does the holistic approach come from your side?
We always try to address this and our consultants do a lot of work to explain the advantages of a solution that isn’t a system completely isolated from the rest. Resistance can even rise from a financial issue, the client being unable to afford a system that covers the entire organization. In these cases, we can start with a smaller system and afterward integrate the other components. Sometimes they have phased projects, but in large organizations, we always start with an integrated solution. It can also be the case, for example, that a smaller organization has a localized problem and needs a solution just for that.
What do clients look for the most? In terms of digital transformation, what is the most sought after a solution?
It depends. The last projects we had this year were ERPs, but there is also a big aspect of dematerialization and freeing companies from paperwork – from integrated document management to avoiding paperwork, always knowing where documents are and what their deadline is, etc. ..
Then we have other interesting projects, like Cinemateca, where the system does the computerization and cataloguing of everything they have – from movies, publications, videos – to make it easier to consult these contents. It is the core system of Cinemateca’s activity, through which they can make available all the works they have to the public at any time, locally or through the portal. Another project, for example, is with a large telecommunications company in Germany in its core area of e-Learning.
What recommendations do you give to clients?
In terms of digital transformation, I think organizations need to catch up. Nowadays we see digital transformation everywhere. For example, in retail, if a business does not have an online store, it will lose market share. The same with travel agencies and hotels, but these are already very advanced there.
I think Digital Transformation will extend to all areas. Those who do not follow this evolution will struggle in the future. And then there is another question: Portugal is a small country and if companies want to grow they have to go international.
What are the forecasts for 2020?
Automation, modeling and automatic code generation will be the trends, especially because there is much talk nowadays about artificial intelligence in this industry. This is our view, as software producers. On the one hand, because there are not enough people to work code manually, and on the other, because there is more and more need for people who code. All industries work with software. Software is everywhere. The software industry has to be productive enough to meet growing demands.
The way Quidgest responds to this trend is through our business model, with Genio and automatic programming; We are convinced that this is the way forward for the software industry.
(*) This is the translation to English of IT Insight interview with Cristina Marinhas, CEO @ Quidgest. To read the original text, in Portuguese, please click here.