Maxim Ivanov of Aimprosoft: “Digital transformation is ambiguous”

Digital transformation is ambiguous; it is different for every company. Digital transformation is penetration of technology and innovation across your business so that all the processes are reflected in the electronic form that influences value delivered to its customers. Sales, marketing, development, finance, and others are integrated into one system that helps you keep your […]

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Digital transformation is ambiguous; it is different for every company. Digital transformation is penetration of technology and innovation across your business so that all the processes are reflected in the electronic form that influences value delivered to its customers. Sales, marketing, development, finance, and others are integrated into one system that helps you keep your finger on the pulse of your business.

As part of our series about the “How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maxim Ivanov.

Maxim, as Aimprosoft’s CEO & Co-Founder, stands at the forefront of innovative development and leads the company helping businesses worldwide to become resilient in the race due to digital transformation. Maxim is active in the media space sharing his vision on digital transformation for SMB and enterprises of various verticals.

He has a Master’s Degree in Computer Science from the Kharkiv National University of Radio Electronics. He is an active member of the local educational community, supporting students’ early career path. Under the Aimprosoft Trainee Academy, he is inspired by mentoring young talents giving them a great help in entering occupations.

His company takes part in the charity project IT4Life whereby Kharkiv IT-companies donate to acquire medical equipment and other supplies to support COVID-19 infected citizens.

Maxim is keen on kitesurfing, windsurfing, snowboarding and other extreme sports. His active lifestyle ignites people around him engaging to keep on moving whatever it takes.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

A little bit about me: I started out my career life not as a classic software developer. When I was in my teens, my dad taught at the National Aerospace University, one of the best in my country. He showed me the entrance to the digital world first, telling me how we can automate some work. We with my brother and friends of ours went mad on computer games. We came to the room with computers to play games but left it with an unmet need for developing a couple of strings of code that works.

I was twelve when I wrote my first code. My parents were responsible for their sons’ needs and gave me a set of rare books about programming on Basic then. I started off my tries. Then were periods of stormy youth, and I gave it up.

I picked up a non-programming faculty Applied Math and Management on the way to achieving my degree. My brother was a software developer, so I helped him as a hobby while studying informatics at the university.

I was born in the Soviet Union. I went through the era of the 90s ruin in Ukraine, and the digital transformation could never have begun in my country. In spite of it, I firmly believed that there is a loophole in our world through which I can personally change something. The technological backwardness of post-Soviet people and my passion for transformation became a catalyst that took me to what I do.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

The world has just stepped into the third millennium, and it was kind of time for me to move on. I craved being onboarded by one of a few software companies in my city.

I was worried a lot, like everyone else, going through my first interview in life. At that time, it was much harder to get apt knowledge and skills with a lack of available educational and practical content. I was boning up Java day and night long and started off searching for an opportunity right after the dot-com crisis broke out; it was almost impossible in our area.

At that time, the test task was difficult for me; I did it for three days, sealed off from the rest of the world. Outside it was a hot summer with the temperature hovering 38 degrees. It was physically and morally tough, especially when your friends are hanging out on the beach.

After a series of thorough interviews for several days, a gig named Igor engaged me as a junior Java developer to join CS Ltd. What I’ve learned about from it? Setting goals helps stay focused on achieving them even in desperate times. Trust your instincts. Don’t give up. Be freewheeling when you long something.

By some quirk of fate, I’ve found my first job and met a business partner to come.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I owe everything to my dad and mom. My brother and I were so lucky to grow up with our parents who instilled values that have been lasting a lifetime. They ignited an interest to create. They taught us the importance of getting pleasure from work, whatever challenging it could be, treating people next to us whoever they are friends, colleagues, employees, or passersby. My parents have always given me full freedom of choosing what to do; they strongly supported any of my undertakings. I had the benefit of being raised in a healthy and full of experimental opportunities atmosphere regardless of how severe hardship was in post-restructuring time in Ukraine’s sluggish economy.

Igor takes second place on the Olympus of figures who influenced my career. Igor is a great technologist, my business partner and co-founder of our business, who hired me to my first job in scrutiny times. He believed in a young starry-eyed boy, although he was not much older but more experienced. We have been talking about technologies and our striving on the topic nights long. I am very grateful to him for my development as a specialist.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

It was a flea market in my city nicknamed by locals “gully” market because of the area’s landscape features.

In Ukraine, a post-Soviet country, it was scarce with professional literature in the official language, to say nothing about the literature in English. I was hunting translated books by foreign authors to learn programming by them. Not everything was what I wanted; the books that I managed to procure were worth fabulous money approximately equal to my father’s monthly salary at the university.

There is a book market in our city, which stands in a former swamp, where you could buy the most outlandish thing. If there is a desire, then there will be a result. I remember wandering between the trading rows with all kinds of junk, and my eyes caught on the book “Thinking in Java” by Bruce Eckel. I got stuck. I’ve got no required amount of cash. I gave a deposit to the seller and ran to borrow money from friends. The next day I had the book.

What may happen will happen.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

Sometimes it takes a dramatic turn of events for our lives to head in the direction they were meant for. Once a company where I worked was acquired by Microsoft. Software developers were pushed to shift from Java to .Net. I was devoted to Java. I quit and literally started in a garage.

Igor and I, having worked in other companies, noted for ourselves what we did not like and wanted to make a difference building our business. Caring leaders are the very purpose we are driven by.

Long before we found our feet, we had been of the firm view that we had to help young people find their first job because we knew how tough it is. Even in 2020, we continued hiring young talents under our Trainee Program to give them an opportunity during the most challenging times.

Coming from ordinary programmers, we understand their essential needs. If we had much of a choice, we tried to take on the most promising technologies and projects that could give pleasure from what we do, neglecting more lucrative ones.

We have always considered employees as the main asset to any business. Through the desire to arrange the most comfortable working space and favorable environment for personal growth, we invest in people first. It gives us fire in our chest, and as a result, taking care of team members, we take care of our customers.

In my twelve, I couldn’t even grasp that ordinary guys from Eastern Europe could change the world, but my 27 took a chance on me to catch up.

Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Far long before COVID-19 pushed everything to fall into pieces and spurred us to be more eager during racing, our young gigs had started a face recognition project that is highly demanded in the new reality. The necessity of a contactless lifestyle is here to stay much longer than we think. Pandemic raised monitoring and control to the highest position. Humanity now more than ever accepts innovative technologies as a means to get their life back in order.

Booming biometric authentication and identification can bring relief to society, making it more comfortable to live our lives in the uncertain times and far after. Along with contactless authentication access for humans as the simplest function, facial recognition will pervade the most critical niches where identification matters.

Also, I’m so proud for us to be involved in the process of global scale as technical implementers. Genesys is a global informational hub of the world’s crop diversity exploration. It helps collect data about сrop and tree diversity material shared by genebanks, allowing the global community to vault crop samples, preventing crop diversity loss.

By our mutual efforts with the Crop Trust, we have been contributing to the global community serving the highest mission to prevent food insecurity around the world. In 2021 research institutes, breeders, genebanks can easily share, access, and explore over 4 mln plant samples online very easily.

Thus, by connecting people online, technology helps fight hunger and maintain species diversity.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly Digital Transformation means? On a practical level, what does it look like to engage in a Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation is ambiguous; it is different for every company. Digital transformation is penetration of technology and innovation across your business so that all the processes are reflected in the electronic form that influences value delivered to its customers. Sales, marketing, development, finance, and others are integrated into one system that helps you keep your finger on the pulse of your business.

They say laziness is the engine of progress. But I disagree with that. Progress happens from consciousness and understanding human needs.

A far-sighted client came to us who wanted to stop a long, painstaking routine with a recheck of dealer certification data. You don’t even imagine this complex and oppressive job with tons of documents. Together we analyzed the case; our side was diving into the client’s business processes, their side with heroic patience was explaining how it was done and how it had to be done. Together we achieved a thirty times decrease in the time-consuming labor intensity. As a result, after several backbreaking months of our mutual efforts, the American automotive industry was able to enter a new era of automated document processing and verification.

In fact, by helping one client, we solved the problem for the entire industry. That’s what to engage in a digital transformation means.

Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?

Those that want to move forward. With the natural growth of the business, digital transformation gives the leaders an understanding, to a large extent, what’s wrong or right. It helps clearly analyze the bottlenecks in the shortest possible way.

Prioritizing might be the basis for compromise. For example, human labor may be cheaper than purchasing and maintaining licensed software. But people can get sick, make mistakes, etc.; in contrast, the software will perform stable work. If the cost is the same, it is wiser to favor software rather than rely on human labor.

This raises the question of how total digitization will affect the labor market? If we replace people with software, how can people work to provide themselves with their daily bread? The fact is that when we get into digitizing, we can’t do without humans. Humans should still keep the superior position to the software. The human is a driver and a customer who needs this software. It’s a tool, not the thing-in-itself.

Changes first start in mind.

A luminary Henry Ford gave us a digital revolution back in the early 20th century when he launched the mass production of automobiles on the first moving assembly line. Those car manufacturers that weren’t transformed are dead. Those who saw the benefits in affordability and speed did it and continued production.

We’d love to hear about your experiences helping others with Digital Transformation. In your experience, how has Digital Transformation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.

I must say we are lucky to work with the bold persons who are not lured for short-term gains.

The first story is about the wish to provide the highest level of personal customer service in processing hot orders eliminating human-caused errors. Now they have an operational error rate of less than 1%.

Several years ago, we had an opportunity to transform a disorder in client care managers’ communication. Separate applications, no data synchronization, a complicated workflow on paper, all of it has a nation-wide US distributor of promo products with production performance of over 5,000 types daily.

We developed a high-end custom solution using the mapped employee journey based on a business automation platform enabling them to respond to drastic shifts in demand. The client got more control over the flow, and order processing increase tripled due to putting under one roof workflow and content management.

The second story shows how the persistence of a small group of men can bring value to the citizens throughout the nation. Over 9 years ago, we started to help one small but ambitious company willing to realize its wish to provide an internet connection to the most remote corners of the country.

We delivered the value improving customer experience highly correlated with the commercial growth of partners due to the transformation of customer relationship management from manual to the digital accelerated sales process. A corporate-level B2B portal advanced relationships with distributors and partners.

That is a brilliant example of how technology can grow a small company into a national wholesaler of telecommunication services.

Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?

Digital transformation is a complex process that brings the desired results only if it is approached and used correctly.

The biggest problem with digital transformation is not transformation itself but the setting up of the company’s processes. When the processes are straight, they can be easily wrapped up into the digital jacket applying strict rules to put in order your business.

I witnessed how it took place in eCommerce, healthcare, education, automotive, manufacturing, real estate, telecom, and others. I’ve had some cases when enterprise clients addressed us having chaos in processes having little more than an idea of how to copу with that. In fact, there are always processes, undocumented, unestablished, variational, but anyway, they are feasible to be unified.

First and foremost, digital transformation is about human needs that come first, stimulating to invent, scale, and spread around the world solutions with the human on the top, of course. Putting myself into the same client’s entrepreneurial shoes dives me in the deep to find a solution as well as a feel of responsibility for the implementation of the technologies for people usage.

The acceleration of the world requires digital transformation implementation, while the digital transformation accelerates the rhythm even more. There should definitely be a balance here. Analysts from IDC predict that the majority of data volume will be generated by enterprises rather than humans in the coming years. It got me thinking whether this creates an extra challenge for a business that we have to cope with yesterday?

Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”? Please share a story or an example for each.

Having over 500 projects gone through me, I can highlight a number of common features that are inevitable to succeed with digital transformation.

  1. Preparation is the hardest. Awareness of the problem and willingness to solve it are crucial. You have to be ready to invest efforts of time and money. Not all solutions that improve processes are economically viable. Formulate an idea clearly to find both perspectives and narrow places to define if the game is worth the candle. By identifying the problem, you are no longer left with those who row behind. Instead, you take the first step towards gaining a competitive advantage.
  2. Process establishment. Basically, you have to take a pen and write down algorithms and rules on paper outlining the organization’s processes. Doing it for the first time, you might be taken unawares and even be astonished by the disorder or the complexity of your business processes that require attention. You are not just approaching to get in order, and you’re getting something valuable.
  3. Implementation. Everyone should start using it after going through the training phase. After a while, though, you will be surprised what a pleasure is to work leveraging technology now. Company leaders going into business automation should take into account retraining the personal. You can’t just flip a switch and demand to accept it as a morning sun. Going hand in hand with technology, you’ve got power.
  4. Acceptance of irrevocable changes. Innovations have touched you. There is no turning back. The sooner your staff get used to the new mode, the sooner you move ahead. There has to be a mastermind responsible for staff motivation preparing people long before the changes happen. That goes for compliance with law and regulations. Being timely adaptive to the digital transformation’s legislative changes gives you extra trump cards up your sleeves.
  5. Reap the benefit. Do not let things take their own course. Go through with this. You need to be able to use the results because if you made a cool thorough system, but you don’t closely monitor the results, then it was done in vain. Leverage the data resulted from digital transformation to level up your business value.

In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?

Here are three things to consider regarding creating a culture of innovation.

Desire. There should be a desire for everyone and the ability to do this. If a company is focused on one narrow niche, then it is difficult to innovate. Companies need to be ready to ride the wave. Digital transformation requires inevitable culture transformation, which is impossible without strong and wise leadership that implies keeping a focus on the company’s mission, goals, and deep understanding of its employees as they are the main asset to any business.

Leader. One energetic leader who is able to involve is enough for companies to begin developing innovatively. Whether it is a Chief Innovation Officer or an ordinary employee who reasonably insists on carrying out transformational processes in business, he needs to be heard. You are most likely at the dawn of creating new competitive advantages. This person can look out much further along.

Experimentation. We are living in a world where experimentation is intensive. Facing unknowables on each step, we digitize all spheres of our lives one by one. We penetrate fields that have never had a traditional look. I mean, we transform and challenge simultaneously. A culture of experimentation generates a culture of innovation.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My colleagues say this phrase became aphorisms already. So I will quote myself: “We have to enjoy what we do. Why else are we doing it out there?))”

Work takes over 1/2 of my lifetime. If it does not bring me fun, then spending most of my life doing what I don’t like is sad.

Bringing someone value is what gets me excited to wake up in the morning. I’m here to continue. Periods of exhaustion happen, of course, but I cannot imagine that I will do something else. The company is developing, and we are developing with it — lots of challenges and responsibilities.

Responsibility spurs. Helping businesses to accelerate for me means being responsible for delivering the most favorable outcomes. Replacing manual labor with automation unleashes a lot of time and effort. Companies can retrench and save the environment. Do you know that by only going paperless, each of your workers can save 2.5 trees yearly? In my opinion, it is worth getting up in the morning and doing our work.

How can our readers further follow your work?

We are active in the media space sharing motivating cases from our clients and our experience in software development. To stay connected, look in our blog. We hope you’ll find a helpful vision in our sharing.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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