Mr. Kostov, how can you estimate 2017 as for FTS Group?
The 2017 was a successful year both for FTS Bulgaria and the whole group. We have nearly 30% growth, and our expectations are, in the present year, it to be alike. This is because the interest in Digital Transformation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is growing, and we are focusing our efforts on that.
Many people still seem to associate digital transformation with paperless paperwork. How can you explain it?
Digital transformation is something different for individual companies, depending on what stage of the process they have reached. There are companies that have ERP, CRM, integration with banks, vendors, and so on. For them the development is in the direction of further optimizing the steps of the processes. This is done by analyzing large volumes of data and artificial intelligence-the information available to companies from all their systems can be combined with other external environment data and defining patterns that make predictions. This achieves a new level of optimization and transformation of business.
At the same time there are companies where there is a huge document turnover. For them, the first thing to do is to enter the information into a system so that it can be used by everyone while controlling access rights and ensuring that the data that is handled is up to date. At a later stage with our BI systems with machine learning models, we can provide them with the ability to have accurate forecasts and expectations of market behavior or a specific contractor.
You have mentioned the artificial intelligence several times. What exactly are you doing in this direction?
For more than 20 years, our expertise has focused on business management systems - ERP, CRM, DMS. Now we recognize that our customers are collecting a lot of information and we are trying to make it work for them. Not only manage and optimize their transactions but go to the next level - through artificial intelligence models - to find additional sources of revenue and transform their business.
For example, if we take a trade company, there are baseline sales data and product offerings. However, we want to get a greater depth of analysis and add factors such as holiday days, sporting events, temperature, rainfall, snow cover, etc. Finding a link between such factors and sales not only gives us a different look but also an opportunity to optimize the business model and generate additional revenue.
How many percent increase in performance, indicative, can be expected from such an approach?
It is difficult to give an overall rate that is valid for all. It is easiest to consider in routine activities such as document handling. By automation it is possible to save time in the order of 20 - 40%.
In the example of the trade company, it is difficult to calculate the effect, but thanks to the above mentioned models, it can be predicted which product will be sold more if the relevant factors change. If we do not have it, then it's lost profits. Conversely, overloading with something that cannot be sold quickly enough is a direct loss so the effect is obvious. But the most important thing is that by using Advanced Analytics, solutions create a competitive advantage and added value for organizations.
One of the current trends is so-called Big Data. Tell more about what you are doing in this direction.
We started to develop a project called FTS Data Sense. The idea is to include everything we do in this area - starting with standard analytics (BI), through advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). An example of this is the models that have been discussed.
We not only help our customers build a knowledge base, but also use them - for example, with chat bots. This responds to inquiries without engaging people who could handle more important and interesting things.
Extremely appreciated by our customers is that FTS Data Sense solutions provide security, save time, and provide speed with decision-making and performance, all things that can shape the future of a company.
Another area in which you work is cloud technology. How do Bulgarian customers view them? Some time ago there seemed to be some mistrust ...
Yes, it can be said that there has been a great deal of change in cloud technology in recent years. Until 2-3 years ago, there were some reservations, but now everyone appreciates the benefits and opportunities for others to take care of IT infrastructure and provide the required security levels.
As a Microsoft partner we offer their cloud services. Accordingly, all our customers know that behind the service is the high level of security and quality.It can be said that our customers are increasingly choosing cloud versions of the products we work with.
What cloud products and services are preferred?
We deal with business management systems requiring server infrastructure that is typically in the client's office or in a data center. Now everyone is happy that this infrastructure goes into the cloud or have a backup system to be included and replace the servers in the office in the event of a problem.
The cloud service of all the business management systems that we offer is becoming increasingly popular. This is extremely versatile and convenient, with a high level of security and, at the same time, with a good financial model that does not require major initial investment.
And if we are talking about advanced analytics and artificial intelligence, then the cloud service is virtually 100%, as the resources that are used are in the sun. This allows us to offer a service with a flexible pricing model behind which, however, there is huge accumulated knowledge and billions of investments.
What trends do you expect to be leading this year?
Growth of the economy has encouraged more and more organizations to change their systems with ones that allow for greater optimization of their activities. Here are the reasons for the growth of business as well as the lack of staff, which can be partially solved using appropriate information technologies.
Personal data protection (GDPR) regulations will also drive IT investments because only organizations can meet the higher requirements in this area.
Another great subject will be everything related to artificial intelligence. The beneficial effect of these technologies will become more and more obvious and felt by organizations.
* The material is published in the CIO magazine
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