November 29, 2019 Alexei Kuzovkin
is the former chairman of the board of directors of Armada group, director general of Infosoft and member of the security technology working group at the Russian Association of Cryptoindustry and Blockchain (RACIB).
Alexei has extensive experience in managing innovative IT projects. In this interview, he touched upon a number of interesting subjects relating to Infosoft's operations. Alexei, what segment of the IT industry you are focusing on at the moment? What are you interested in and why?
Information technology is all about momentum. Continuous change is the only constant in this sector. Transformation is everywhere: from technology to the rules of the game. What seems as a constant today may be radically different tomorrow. Every day brings new challenges and goals. This applies to IT consulting and IT services, the two segments I am currently focusing on.
Demand for outsourcing and consulting services is increasing, driven by ongoing changes and technological advances. Of course, the market has become quite crowded, with competitors elbowing each other. Still, we have much to offer. Infosoft is a relatively young company, but it employs experts with extensive experience and deep knowledge.
Apart from consulting and other services, we proactively develop proprietary software that we can offer to our customers. These are mostly Big Data solutions. The demand for them is still there, even though the hype that used to surround this segment is gone, which is a good thing. Using Big Data, we also develop machine learning capabilities, or artificial intelligence as some like to call this. This term does not fully reflect what this technology is about, but it sounds cool, and people in the street can relate to this. Moreover, these solutions are related to distributed ledger (blockchain) technology, as well as the Internet of Things, a promising sector that has yet to overcome its inherent challenges. What were you first steps in this sector?
At the outset, education determined my career choices. I understood that technology is my thing at a young age.
In a sense, IT crowns the technology sector. It is now everywhere, and it is here to stay. This was already clear at the turn of the century. I got to know this sector back in my high school years, and I could not imagine doing anything other than technology. What are the pros and cons of working in the IT sector?
The constant drive we have in our work is a plus. And finding effective solutions to ever changing tasks and challenges is highly satisfying.
As for the downsides, I have to admit that everything is relative. Some get an energy boost from constant changes and unpredictability, while others get worn out, but this is a matter of personal preferences.
In our sector, we have to process a lot of information that has value during a limited period of time only. But are things any different in other sectors? Probably not. What pitfalls does your sector face?
The main stumbling block is not directly related to the IT sector. I am referring to the political landscape. By promoting import substitution and all-round digitization, the government has given a major boost to the Russian IT sector. This created a new reality, in many ways radically different from the one in which the market existed over the past decades.
There is now a plethora of new opportunities and challenges. Just imagine a private company with several hundred or up to several thousand workstations having to switch all its users from one office suite to another. Consider the required effort. Then, imagine that the entire country has to go through this process.
Changes in the legal framework and regulations are another major factor. While expected, they always come as a surprise. The IT sector works closely with the government trying to explain its point of view, but our voice is not always heard. Changes in the legal framework sometimes bring about positive change, but not always. In both cases, we have to adapt along the way. Could you tell us about your three biggest achievements?
The first one was getting an offer to join RBC, which jump-started my career in the IT sector. I think that my contribution to creating the online version of a newspaper that remains one of the leading business dailies in Russia can be described as an achievement, even if I did not have the leading role in this process.
I can also take credit for arranging the initial public offerings for RBC, and then Armada. At its peak in early 2010s, Armada's growth rates were 20 to 30 percent above the market average. Could you share your most outstanding achievement and your most epic failure?
Both date back to when I was working for Armada in the context of what happened in 2014. The media extensively covered this conflict. There was a lot of biased, as well as unbiased coverage, so I will not go into the details.
In any case, it is important that we learn from our failures, since negative experience also counts. Failures are inevitable no matter what you do. That said, becoming hung up on this is unreasonable and counterproductive. Infosoft has been on the market for five years. What have you achieved since its launch?
Five years is a long time. During this period, we developed a number of major solutions. At first, we only used them in-house when providing IT services to our customers. Soon, we intend to offer out-of-the-box versions.
We are now working on Big Data and AI solutions, including neural networks. Most people think that a neural network is mostly about psychedelic images, but in reality they have little to do with this technology.
As a matter of fact, there are many opportunities in this sector. It would not be a mistake to claim that, despite all the hype surrounding this topic, developers around the world have only scratched the surface of this technology. It offers boundless opportunities. As such, it cannot be said that we are anywhere near unleashing its actual potential. What are the current IT trends on the market?
There are three key trends. The first one is about import substitution. The second has to do with changes in the legal framework related to data protection for critical infrastructure sites as part of the State System for Detecting and Managing Computer Attacks, etc. Finally, the third trend consists of adopting blockchain, Big Data, and AI.
It may seem that these three spheres have little in common. However, they are becoming increasingly intertwined. This is especially true for data protection and AI, without which information security is now unthinkable.
The top 20 companies account for the lion's share of revenue on the IT market. Last year, their share was equal to 79 percent, and this year this indicator could be even higher.
This is attributable to a number of factors. What makes the Russian market special is that it is mostly driven by major companies. However, this does not mean that this will always be the case, or that small businesses will never get to call the shots. In what direction will your company move in the next few years? What are your plans in terms of software development?
We will continue developing our original functions: consulting, software development and cutting-edge technology. In the near future, we plan to develop solutions for IoT and its security. This is a very relevant topic. IoT is everywhere, creating major risks for data security.
We have solutions that substantially reduce these threats, if not neutralize them altogether.
We also plan to develop Big Data, considering that demand for these solutions from major and medium-size businesses will only grow. The same applies to the public sector, where macro-level IT systems are being developed alongside solutions for securing the data within them. Big Data goes hand in hand with analytics systems. Are there any imported solutions on the Russian market similar to your offering?
There are both imported and domestic solutions. Nothing extraordinary about this. There is no market for solutions that are unique to the point of there being no equivalents. Customers need effective tools rather than bespoke solutions.
It gets more complicated once you dig into competitive advantages. I believe that our solutions have their advantages, apart from their country of origin and cost, as evidenced by the fact that we have successfully implemented our software solutions and received positive feedback from our customers. Who are the main consumers of your software? In what sectors is it used?
It all depends on specific solutions. Demand for Big Data, AI and neural networks mostly comes from the state and major corporations, especially banks and retail chains. IoT is relevant for all market segments, which is also the case for blockchain-based solutions.
At the outset, we mostly installed our solutions for our customers as part of our IT services contracts and improved them to accommodate new requests. Today, we have a number of agile, scalable and multifunctional out-of-the-box solutions that we can offer to a wide range of customers. Does your company have a motto or a mission statement?
Progress and growth. Complacency is the biggest threat in the IT sector, when companies focus on their niche sector and stop looking around. Even major multinationals that make the most advanced products sometimes lose everything when they fail to respond to the ongoing changes. BlackBerry is a case in point: the company originally known as Research in Motion. They used to make the most popular and secure smartphones for business people, but failed to respond to changes on the cell phone market and had to reformat their business.
Responsiveness is key to survival, especially in the fast-moving and sometimes unpredictable IT markethttps://www.cfo-russia.ru/blog/index.php?article=57784