As tough as it sounds, working in European institutions, implementing, maintaining and developing software for such organizations might prove even tougher. The first criteria needed in order to be taken into account as a supplier is experience. Then, the interested company has to show financial strength and enough stubborness to keep going after the first drawbacks. Least but not last, it has to come forth with a valuable, skillful team, aware of what deadlines or commitments mean. Happily, Romania has a highly qualified IT workforce, able to compete with the employees of any Western corporation. For the last five years, Stefan Morcov, VP, Siveco, has been in charge of major projects in Bruxelles and now feels like home amid the European rulers.
How difficult would you rate becoming a supplier for the European Commission and entering this exclusive circle?
Ștefan Morcov: I think it all comes up to respecting the very high standards imposed. Romanian IT employees are known for their professionalism, technical proficiency and complex problem-solving abilities. When it comes to companies, though, there are only a few organizations able to meet the EC requirements. It is a highbrow, exclusionary environment, but we’ve been active in Brussels and Luxembourg since 2009 and learned some lessons. A solid background – as ours, built on 22 years of project management experience – helps you meet even the highest standards. During the last 5 years, we managed 20 projects for The Publications Office of the European Union, Eurostat, EuropeAid, The Consumers, Health and Food Executive Agency and Directorate-General Health & Consumers. We are skilled at developing financial systems, document and content management, geographical information systems (GIS), administrative apps, web portals, eLearning solutions, and, first and foremost, we own a set of technical abilities extremely useful and sought-after in computer programming.
You’ve recently announced a new contract with the Publications Office. Could you please elaborate?
Ștefan Morcov: This new contract includes development and maintenance services for the Publications Office. It is a 4-year long framework agreement aiming to standardize all web sites belonging to the Office on a Liferay platform called “EU Open Data Portal”. In fact, this joint platform has also been built by Siveco, following a separate contract launched a year ago. It is an ambitious project that we’re very involved in. The Publications Office offers an important array of on-line services to all European citizens – EUR-Lex, for EU laws, EU-Bookshop, for publications, TED, for public procurement, CORDIS, for the EU research programmes, etc. At this moment, each of these platforms uses different technologies: Drupal, Documentum, ColdFusion etc.
Could you say that, after all this time, managing this sort of projects became easier?
Ștefan Morcov: We may know by heart what we have to do, but I could never call it easy. Behind every major project there are tens of IT experts working thousands of hours, having hundreds of meetings, taking tests, check-ups, meeting tight deadlines, solving countless technical or communication problems. To cut it short, this is a tremendous effort only few companies can take on.
Banking solutions for entrepreneurs
FINANCING When examining a loan file, banks tend to pay more attention to the orders and contracts sealed by the applying company than to criteria such as mortgage, said Bogdan Neacsu, Vice President for Corporate and SME Business Area, Volksbank, at the launch of the new corporate business center in Bucharest, attended by over 40 businessmen.
According to Bogdan Neacsu, banks are beginning to realize that, in order to be successful, they need to adapt to the foreign and local entrepreneurs, by simplifying access to finance. In September, Volksbank opened 10 corporate business centers in Cluj, Timişoara, Oradea, Sibiu, Braşov, Ploieşti, Constanţa, Iaşi and Bucharest.
The launching was part of the “How to make Romania profitable” conference, where entrepreneurs could get answers to questions on hot topics such as economic development, access to finance and attracting European funds.
“We set off this program (the opening of the 10 corporate business center – nr) in order to learn what we need to change about ourselves, the people at Volksbank. The crisis made us acknowledge our losses and weaker points and identify solutions for the further development of our business here. Hence, during the last 12 months, Volksbank decided to make a shift in its strategy, to get more involved in the corporate segment and help set up a new Romanian capital market”, Neacsu said.
Benoit Catel, CEO, Volksbank, reminded the financial institution wants to make the switch from a retail bank to a universal one, with a strong presence in the Corporate and SME department. In Catel’s words, “We want to become a force on this segment and to help Romanian entrepreneurs build their businesses”.
The businessmen complained although structural funds could put Romania on an ascending track, the Romanian officials, not the European ones, are to blame for the excessive bureaucracy in the system. The most outspoken of them was Ioan Niculae, the owner of the InterAgro Group.
According to Niculae, “for a similar project, one needs one binder of documents in Poland, one and a half, in the Czech Republic and Germania. In Romania, the officials ask for 10 binders of documents. The local European funds accessing system was designed by Romania, not by the EU, and some of the local touches border on the ridiculous”. He claims he had to give up on projects worth 150 million euro, tired of the two, sometimes three inspections a day. In his turn, another businessman added he abandoned two European-financed projects because of uncertainty.
Niculae asked “How could we tell, back in 2009-2010, that a new government would radically change the rules of the game? We are the weakest country in Europe when it comes to funds’ absorption because we invented these artificial conditions that won’t lead us anywhere”.
As for the loans’ costs, the entrepreneurs asked for “affordable” interest rates. “The rates are still high because of the low degree of financial intermediation and because most savings accounts in Romania are due in a month”, explained Răzvan Bădălicescu, manager, Corporate and SME Business Area, Volksbank.