Our CEO Joins Techsylvania’s Podcast for an Insightful Talk on the COVID-19 Crisis
29 April 202029 April 2020 | News
- The co-founder of the leading technology event in Eastern Europe, Vlad Ciurca, interviewed Calin Vaduva about Fortech’s risk mitigation plan, remote work and future insights in the dynamic situation of COVID-19.
- Fortech is a long-term supporter of Techsylvania. In 2019, as a gold partner, the company hosted an Executive Roundtable, and our team joined discussions and panels about the future of tech.
Three Pillars of a Robust COVID-19 Management Plan: Healthcare, Business Continuity, Stability
Vlad Ciurca, co-founder of Techsylvania: In your most recent company announcement, you mentioned the development of a risk mitigation plan that covers the measures that you can take in the current times of uncertainty. Can you give us a little bit more details on this topic?
Calin Vaduva, CEO of Fortech: First of all, I would say that we took decisive actions early on before the outbreak even reached Romania. This was driven by our focus on staff safety and our client’s success. In our plans, we’ve covered three essential dimensions, three main pillars. One is health, one is business continuity, and the other is stability and especially financial stability.
Talking about the first pillar, the health measures, the first thing we did was to ensure that we protect our team. To do so properly, we’ve assembled an internal Health Awareness Team (HAT) responsible for tracking all the COVID-19 related developments and keeping our broader team informed on all necessary precautions and measures daily. That was at the very beginning. Of course, other measures included extended cleaning protocols, disinfection procedures, freezing all business travel – that was an important step -, running remote working simulations, and making sure the infrastructure is in place. I think it is important that we’ve started very, very early.
Time was of the essence. We knew that we had to move fast, and by mid-March, we have activated our level 2 scenario, which meant migrating our team to a home office. We are very proud that our whole crew did a great job and completed this complicated task in two days. Moving 800 hundred people to a home office in two working days and everything to work perfectly and unnoticeably for our customers was a big success for us.
So that was the first step: to make sure our team is protected and not exposed to the virus so we could address the next pillar: the business continuity perspective. We set up a senior management task force. We call it “Business Management War Room,” including both delivery and business stakeholders. This team was mandated to draft the business continuity plan, and this plan is a road map that covers multiple scenarios for the future. We wanted to make sure that we respond to our client’s needs with a high sense of agility and adaptivity. That was in the business continuity plan the priority after we transitioned our people safe at home: to make sure that our customers get fast answers, get solutions, that nothing is stopping the business for them.
We run different scenarios, we adjust our service delivery model, and all together, we focus that customers are served promptly and with a good quality product. The second pillar is business continuity with customer focus, and the third, and not the least, is financial stability. Our team shouldn’t be concerned with the safety of their jobs, and we want to offer them an emotional climate that allows them to focus entirely on our client project commitments. So, financial stability is essential for us, for our clients and our team.
Our experienced team of Account Managers stays in touch with our clients around the clock, ensuring them that we remain a reliable tech partner for any needs that arise from their side. At the same time, we understand the risk that our client’s businesses are exposed to, how much we can count on them, how much we can count that their business continues. In the meantime, this “War Room” is modeling financial forecasts for different scenarios and how this will impact our business. We mitigate different actions and activities to avoid any financial instability. These would be the three pillars we work with day by day.
Vlad Ciurca, co-founder of Techsylvania: You did mention you were able to have your 800 people team migrate to the home office in a matter of two days. How did they react when you told them that they would start working remotely for the foreseeable future? What was the internal reaction, and as a follow-up on that, is it too early to talk about any effects like social isolation and team productivity?
Calin Vaduva, CEO of Fortech: We were very surprised. We have launched a survey after the migration was complete, and we were amazed about how smooth things went. Of course, they have experience in working remotely in different collocated teams, and this helped. We have a mature team that understands the situation. Additionally, our team leaders and project managers setup processes to make sure each member is informed about future plans. So, things went smoothly. From this point of view, our team was very happy about how things unfolded.
Setting up this HAT was also very beneficial. They coordinated all the efforts in the company and connect with the team regularly for updates and support. We have a hotline in place, and that is excellent.
If we refer to how our team is acting in the new work setup, according to our internal feedback survey, they manage very well. The teams keep in touch through video conference calls, their managers have constant 1-on-1 meetings with them throughout the office hours. There are, of course, challenges, especially for the ones having small kids at home, it is challenging to balance all priorities. The kids are knocking on the door because it’s ok for them to have different issues and questions, but we don’t see now that this has an impact on productivity. Everybody is missing face to face interaction, for sure, but I don’t think they feel socially isolated. As I said, we are in constant communication.
From my side, as CEO, I’m more in touch with my team than I used to be before. I have daily syncs with the C-level teams, every other day, and I have a sync with the Account Managers and Customer Executives and syncs with our Unit Managers and so on.
Fortech Teams Remain Motivated and Productive
Vlad Ciurca, co-founder of Techsylvania: Regarding the clients. Did you change anything in terms of working processes? For example, did you add more tools to collaborate better with your clients, to communicate more constantly through Zoom or Skype calls? What insights can you give us in terms of how you reorganized the shift in collaboration with your clients?
Calin Vaduva, CEO of Fortech: Even before this dynamic situation, our people were working in virtual teams with clients, so it wasn’t a major change in the working model. However, we had to adapt our infrastructure for remote work because everybody is using a VPN. Before the migration, we’ve updated our infrastructure to sustain more than 1000+ simultaneous connections, so this was a really important decision that made our lives easier. After this step was completed, everything worked exactly how it usually does from the office.
In the meantime, we have updated and communicated our Work From Home Guidelines to all colleagues. We’ve advice, everybody, about their schedule, work setup, communication principles, and available resources. We provide instructions for team leaders and the whole team. We coach our team members to have constant 1-to-1 feedback meetings, and we monitor team performance, availability, and responsiveness. We have weekly project status discussions. So, the customer doesn’t need to feel any pain during this period because the business continuity plan’s purpose is to keep the client happy.
Each company has to make sure that their clients are not 100% happy, but 150% happy about your work, about the way you manage. This is essential. If you lose your customer, you have an issue. This is our focus on the business continuity plan, to make sure that we deliver in time, we keep our excellent quality and remain proactive to our clients.
Vlad Ciurca, co-founder of Techsylvania: Very well said that you need to be more careful with the client’s satisfaction during these times and give 150% because it is not that easy to meet them face to face and discuss specific issues you could have addressed in physical meetings before.
Calin Vaduva, CEO of Fortech: We have a previous advantage because even we work from the office, we work in virtual teams with our clients. Moving the teams at home didn’t change things much. The guidelines, procedures, and recommendations we’ve sent helped us to adapt even better to the work from home model. You have to realize that we have 800 people, and it was so smooth and easy that I couldn’t imagine. Initially, I said that there is no way. We’ve planned for three days, actually, but it was two days. On the last day, we had about 20 – 40 people still in the office from all 800. In other words, we had a smooth transition. Our people work mostly efficient from home, and it was impressive to see that we’ve done it.
Vlad Ciurca, co-founder of Techsylvania: What is the plan? For how long do you expect to keep this work from home scenario?
Calin Vaduva, CEO of Fortech: We monitor very close what is happening, and we adapt to the new evolution. For us, working remotely is not a problem at the moment. The question is, how stable are our customers and how stable is their business and of course, how healthy are the cities in Romania in the next period.
Fortech Supports the Frontline Medical Workers
Vlad Ciurca, co-founder of Techsylvania: It seems you’ve managed to transition successfully, and I hope everything will work according to plan in the next couple of months. I’d like to address now the social involvement of your company in the fight against the coronavirus and, most specifically, the generous donation you made a couple of weeks ago to support this mission. Can you share more details on this?
Calin Vaduva, CEO of Fortech: We’ve made a donation of about 50.000 euro to the Beard Brothers Association that started an initiative to support hospitals and the medical community. First of all, as IT companies, we have been for years some of the most privileged companies in the Romanian economy. We have the means to support and shoulder the community we belong to. I think it is our duty to be part of this kind of initiative.
We’ve partnered with them on many other initiatives in the past. Honestly, I see a lot of other companies that help them, and this shows support from the community. I would like to say thank you, once again, to our doctors for their effort, to the community for their response, and to the private sector, as well.
We work with Beard Brothers for a long time, and I think they do an excellent job. I would like to congratulate them on what they are doing. It was always impressive. I would like to finish with a message: These guys need our support, mental or financial because it is the only way we can get out of this kind of situation, with as many people healthy as possible.
Vlad Ciurca, co-founder of Techsylvania: Thank you for your advice. It is a great initiative and something that a lot of other companies should follow up on and do similar actions.
Calin Vaduva, CEO of Fortech: A lot of IT companies help these initiatives from Beard Brothers, but not only. At Fortech, we support other hospitals and other initiatives, too. We just don’t make it public as we did with the latest one.
Vlad Ciurca, co-founder of Techsylvania: I would suggest that we end on a positive note, and that would be to ask you to share some of the interesting plans that Fortech has for 2020, factoring in the unpredictable effects of the current coronavirus crisis.
Calin Vaduva, CEO of Fortech: I think the most important thing is to take care of yourself and your family and stay healthy. This is essential. Once you are healthy and your family is good, you can think. Then, I think it is essential to keep calm and don’t panic. This is a must.
As a company manager, I say that you need to be very well organized and act very fast and decisive. This is a war, and you and your managers are in the “War Room” coordinating all actions: set priorities, establish the direction people should focus on, coordinate as all initiatives are essential. You should accept a loss and casualties and go forward. It is a time when you should act fast. You may not afford procrastination, and agility is critical at this moment. It is a must to act quickly and to adapt. Nobody can control what is happening now, and nobody knows what is going to happen in the next two-three days or one week. We shouldn’t forget that after the storm, the sun always comes up. We should have this in mind. We should stay positive, calm, and look forward to the future.
First of all, we try to manage this war with the virus and the economy. In the meantime, we think long-term and focus on different initiatives. For example, one project that I’m very excited about is the launch of an AI-powered Investment Risk Management Solution for Institutional Investors. We are working on this for more than one year with the company we’ve set up the Chicago office with, a risk management consultancy company. It is a product that can manage current situations and the risk for this kind of black swan events. We intend to go forward with similar initiatives. We have one in healthcare that we are working on for more than one year, and it is a product that would have been good to have in this crisis. So, we see a lot of opportunities for the future.
I don’t think that in the next two-three months people will move much because of the current situation with the virus, the economy, the health warnings, but I think after this time people will think about what is next. As I said, after the storm, the sun always comes up, and we have to look a bit more positive to the future, stay calm, and don’t panic.
Vlad Ciurca, co-founder of Techsylvania: These are fantastic words to end with. I’m really glad we had this conversation. Thank you for joining the podcast.
Calin Vaduva, CEO of Fortech: Thank you, Vlad. I look forward to seeing you at Techsylvania. We stay positive and calm, but we like social interaction, drinking a beer with our friends, and definitely, I’m looking forward to seeing you face to face.
The podcast episode is available on SoundCloud, iTunes, and Google Podcast.