Interview by Dunja Bezdrov, Marketing Communications at QSS
#cyberthreat #security #cloud #remotework #digitalisation #dataoncloud #securecloud #managedcloud #giz # qss
The COVID pandemic has dramatically accelerated the digital business. From the rapid, necessary adoption of remote work to the rise and adoption of new technologies that support unprecedented shifts in consumer behaviors, the digital transformation has shifted from a long-standing aspiration to an ongoing initiative to deliver new customer experiences.
Most small and large companies (SMEs) in BiH understand the importance of digital transformation but do not know where to start. Digital transformation does not have to be complicated. When done correctly, it can become part of an organization’s DNA and integrate into an existing business culture.
QSS company has so far mainly focused its business on the local market. It has an excellent insight into how the market has changed from year to year when it comes to digital transformation and business security.
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is implementing the project “Innovation and Digitization in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Bosnia and Herzegovina” on behalf of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The reasons why GIZ decided to support this topic in Bosnia and Herzegovina are reflected in the modern development trends and the intention for companies, both those from the relevant sectors for the development of BiH as well as IT companies from BiH, to be part of creating a new, digital and business environment.
How do you create a quality strategy and avoid the threats that today’s digital transformation brings to the table? We’ve learned that in our interview with Armin Talić, Digital Transformation consultant, hired by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in BiH and Aida Bejtula, Head of Sales and Marketing at QSS, providing software development, cloud and system integration.
- Initiating Digital transformation in BiH
Armin / Digital Transformation consultant— What is the status of digitalization in BiH, at what level is the development of BiH in terms of digitalization trends in the region and Europe?
We are witnessing a complete digital transformation globally. The world is completely different from what we knew 30 years ago. The presence of digital technologies allows us to be involved in the broader economy, become more efficient in strengthening the production capacity of various sectors, and encourage innovation. The result is a large reduction in operating costs.
In the last decade, BiH has been trying to make the most of its capacities and get closer, and implement digital trends that would greatly facilitate various activities in the field of business, but there is still room for improvement. For example, Serbia is actively working on its vision to be a leader in the digital economy of the 21st century through the “Digital Serbia” initiative, where all the leading stakeholders actively cooperate in achieving digital goals.
BiH has many activities aimed at digitalization through initiatives in the field of smart cities, e-government, e-commerce, digitalization of small and medium enterprises, but all initiatives operate separately. It is necessary to observe digitalization strategically, look for successful practices from the region and the EU, and create umbrella solutions for a wide area. A vast number of international organizations recognizes the importance of digitalization, and are willing to dedicate their resources to implement activities that will lead to BiH using its digital potential.
A vast number of international organizations recognize the importance of digitalization and are willing to dedicate their resources to implement activities that will lead to BiH using its digital potential.
According to 2020 reports, BiH is the only country in the region that does not use any form of electronic signature, which is the foundation of business processes digitalization, and which ensures the protection of the integrity of electronically transmitted data and the irrefutability of the signed electronic document.
The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the context of digitalization in BiH and accelerated it in all areas (education, economy, public administration) where more businesses try to digitalize their processes and increase their competitiveness.
Aida / QSS — How does QSS help the development of digitalization in Bosnia and Herzegovina and do you notice a shift?
QSS was established 25 years ago and the business is mainly focused on the local market, so we can say that we have a very good insight into how the market changes from year to year when it comes to digital transformation. We currently employ around 40 people, and we have over 1000 different IT projects behind us through which many of our customers have been digitally transformed.
We organized an event called “Bosnia goes digital” In 2017, which was attended by more than 300 guests from leading companies in our country. Presentations were held by companies such as Uber, SAP, Olx, Lottery BiH and the like.
Currently, the key trends in the field of digital transformation are related to the implementation of IT solutions that QSS develops daily such as IoT/Smart City initiative, fintech, digital banking, a user experience platform, AI/machine learning, e-commerce, and cloud computing. We believe that with each new implementation of any of the solutions, we bring the domestic market closer to global trends.
Unfortunately, the domestic market is still quite behind in this area compared to the global market. This is especially noticeable in the public sector. B2B and B2C business are trying to transform to a great extent and there are visible shifts, but G2C (Government-to-Client) digital transformation is really late. If you have recently needed to obtain any document from state institutions (e.g. to obtain a building permit, pay taxes, register a company, etc.), you are sure to see how slow this process is, not to mention that it has not been digitalized at all.
There is currently a really large number of projects launched by global EU organizations (such as UNDP, GIZ, USAID, the EU Delegation, etc.) through which they will develop various digital platforms for public sector in BiH. We hope to see the positive results of these activities as soon as possible.
We live in digital time, and the pandemic has significantly accelerated the process of digital transformation. New technologies and their availability also change the way users behave.
We notice that in Bosnia and Herzegovina, various e-commerce services, fast delivery services have finally come to life and that many companies are transforming business processes by running them online or remotely to reduce queues and visits to points of sale.
The process of digitalization is still slowed down by strict regulations and restrictions. We have had the Law on Electronic Signature which regulates the basics of the formation and use of electronic signatures and the provision of services related to electronic signatures and verification, however it was not applied. Finally, some steps have been taken in 2020 to finally start with its use. The use of an electronic signature would facilitate business in many industries, and users in many situations would not have to go to service provider locations.
2. Digital transformation in BiH — The Strategy
Armin / Digital Transformation consultant— What is the role of the IT sector in the digitalization process and what are the activities of GIZ in that process, especially for small and medium enterprises?
The IT sector should be the guide for the complete process of digitalization in BiH, given that it has expertise in this field and is already a sector that has adopted successful western and EU practices. It is necessary to create strategic cooperation with the decision-makers and IT sector, where a common approach and activities will lead to digital solutions needed for the digitalization of small and medium enterprises and public administration.
Small and medium enterprises have a significant role in the overall economic and social framework of BiH. Special focus should be put on the use of all of SMEs’ potential for their reinforcement and position in the global market. One of the key tools is the involvement of the ICT sector in this process, and motivation of small and medium enterprises to move in the direction of digitalization. Unfortunately, the research conducted does not support the fact that SMEs are sufficiently involved and interested in this process.
According to the study “Innovation and Digitalization in SMEs in Bosnia and Herzegovina” published by GIZ, most companies need digital solutions to improve their business, but they rarely participate in ICT events that can enable them to cooperate in these activities.
Companies need to accept the fact that technology is changing the way companies do business and deliver products to consumers in many sectors in a positive way, and that innovation in organizations is always a plus.
Among the activities that GIZ implements to connect the IT industry and representatives of small and medium enterprises are: B2B meetings 2020, IT sector as a private service provider for SMEs in BiH: in some cases, the IT sector offered a service to SMEs. We organized webinars and publication articles that benefit SMEs in the digital age: “Business Data Security” and “Cloud Business.” Like B2B meeting events, IT should become a traditional tool that will enable interaction and cooperation between different sectors.
Aida / QSS — What steps are needed for a particular company to embark on the digitalization process and what steps are key to its success?
The process of digital transformation should not be viewed only as of the implementation of new technologies, nor is it enough to say that we operate agile and innovatively. There needs to be a link between strategy, innovation, business model, and the use of technology itself.
From the experience we gained in working with our customers and through our own experience, we concluded that the key to success is planning on an annual basis and monitoring this process at the company level.
Also, it is very important to correctly choose what is worth transforming and make the right decision on priorities in the digitalization process, because these activities should create new value for the company’s business, employee work, cooperation with partners, and user experience itself.
Business processes need to be constantly monitored and improved in order to operate more efficiently and it is necessary to monitor technological trends and know which trends one can apply in their business in order to transform faster. Employees need to be constantly educated and encouraged to accept change, and digital transformation must be deeply rooted in business strategy. Creating teams within the company to monitor the digital transformation process has also proved to be a good practice, and teams are usually composed of existing employees and the acquisition of new ones who possess certain digital skills and who can provide training and education for existing talents.
3. Digital transformation in BiH — The Security
Armin / Digital Transformation Consultant —When talking about digitalization, we must also mention cybersecurity. What are the risks that companies in BiH face?
Companies must be educated on what the digitalization process involves, the tools they will encounter, but also the risks in which cybersecurity issues stand out. The topic is not discussed enough in BiH, given its importance. Certainly, this is one of the reasons why only a small number of companies opt for the digitalization process.
The Allianz Risk Barometer for 2020 highlighted that cyber risks come first for companies, which alarms that this topic needs to be addressed. According to the Allianz Barometer, the world economy loses $ 445 billion a year due to cybercrime.
The key goal is to raise awareness and knowledge about cybersecurity in companies, but also in society in general in order to strategically approach cyber risks as well as traditional risks in companies. Unfortunately, the term Cloud business or data protection is still relatively unknown, but with quality preparation and education, organizations can achieve positive results.
Key risks faced by companies in the context of cyber risk in their business include breaches of company data, increased blackmail attacks, and the possibility of penalties or litigation for violating privacy after a particular company event/activity. For this reason, it is necessary that companies have enough knowledge and educated IT staff who will work to reduce cyber risk.
Aida / QSS — What security steps should a company consider when digitizing their business?
The process of digital transformation has brought certain security risks and threats that companies face on a daily basis. The use of a vast number of digital technologies also increases the number of potential security attacks as cybercrime is on the rise.
The “Cyberthreat Defense Report” published by CyberEdge Group in 2019 shows that 8 out of 10 surveyed companies (78%) were victims of at least one successful cyber-attack in 2018.
Therefore, it is very important that companies, in parallel with creating a digital transformation strategy, create a security strategy that will protect their business from data theft, ransomware attacks, and any other critical threats that can slow down the digital transformation process and derail it.
Malware, phishing and ransomware are at the top of the list of cyber threats that create problems for IT professionals and decision makers. From our experience, a large number of users, especially small and medium-sized companies (SMEs), have neither the knowledge nor the resources to successfully fight these threats. Therefore, a large number of them decide to move to the Cloud as part of their security strategy, because Cloud providers, due to the nature of their work, make great efforts to increase security and implement security solutions that will maximally protect the infrastructure on which user applications are located.
We wanted security not to be an “add-on” in our Cloud services, but to be a must, so we created a hybrid service QSS Secure Cloud built into all our Cloud services and which users can implement in their own data centers. Also, we have offered customers various Managed services, such as infrastructure maintenance, patching, upgrades, and many more.
Our system engineers provide these services both for the Cloud infrastructure used by customers in our data centers and for the infrastructure at the customer’s location. These services have recently proved very useful in the current Exchange zero-day vulnerability situation where hundreds of thousands of systems were exposed to security risks. For all our users of the Security Managed service, we immediately updated the Exchange and thus avoided security threats.
In the security strategy, employee education is crucial because, despite significant investments in the latest security technologies, security vulnerabilities often occur due to human error factors and employee failures due to insufficient knowledge of security threats.
4. Digital transformation in BiH — The Solution
Armin / Digital Transformation consultant — What is important to consider when a company embarks on a digitalization process to avoid potential risks?
It is crucial that companies clearly define goals they want to achieve by business processes digitalization, their deadlines, and a clear plan they will follow.
Digitalization as a concept is quite broad, and most companies need “custom-made” digital solutions that will make their business easier and better. Companies need to assess their digital maturity, internally or with the help of external organizations, to properly respond to the challenge of digital transformation they are witnessing. A quality digital business model needs to be created that aims to examine which digital tools exist, how to adapt them to your business and strategy, and ultimately be ready to adapt the strategy to the new digital business. Companies often face a deviation of strategy with the new business model, and it is important to align the two items initially.
Also, it is necessary to define the capacities of production and human resources that will lead the digitalization process, and provide adequate education during the implementation phase. In order for digital solutions to respond to the challenges the company possesses, it is important to hire or educate current employees who will manage those solutions and tools the moment they are put into use.
Aida / QSS — What solutions does QSS offer and which does it intend to offer to companies in BiH this year?
In our service portfolio, we have three key types of services: software development, system integration, and cloud services, and all services are fully focused on creating new value for the user and accelerating the process of digital transformation. Although there are three different sets of services, these services are constantly intertwined, so we often work on projects in which we deliver several types of services from our portfolio.
We often work on developing end-user applications hosted in our Cloud or our systems engineers are working on implementing the infrastructure at the user’s location that will be used to run the system or application we have developed.
We have expanded and supplemented our Cloud portfolio with a large number of services that will make work easier and safer from home. In the new generation of our Cloud services, we have included new security solutions (Gen 3 QSS Secure Cloud and Secure Cloud Endpoint Protection), solutions for backup, disaster recovery (DR), collaboration, video conferencing, and remote access.