Q&A: Marco Stefanini, Stefanini
Since he formed the company that bears his name in 1987, Marco Stefanini has seen it grow into one of Brazil’s largest tech companies and an increasingly prominent player on the global stage. We spoke with the Stefanini CEO and President about that remarkable journey, got his thoughts on developments in the outsourcing space over the next few quarters – and asked him what he’d do differently if he had his time over again…
Outsource: Marco, thanks for joining us today. Stefanini has enjoyed some pretty substantial growth in recent years. How are you managing the transition from being a regional to a global provider in terms of your corporate mindset – are you changing the way you run the business?
Marco Stefanini: These are big challenges because it is one thing to have a company that has an international position and another to have a company with a global mindset – that is a real global operation. I think we have some assets that have helped Stefanini to reach this point and to be global. Brazilian society is a little like UK society: we are open to foreigners, and being more open-minded we can share our thoughts about strategy with more than just Brazilians. Today, most of our operations are international – we have significant presence in Europe, the US, Asia and also other Latin American countries, so we are not a company of Brazilians. We have a very global team in terms of our executives.
O: Do you think there will be a period of consolidation amongst providers in the next few quarters? If so, how are you positioning Stefanini to emerge successfully?
MS: There are a lot of competitors in the IT services market: local competitors in each country, regional competitors and very large global competitors. Our challenge is how we position ourselves against the larger companies like HP? We’ve decided to show we’re a global company that also offers a very flexible service to our clients. Our mid-size means we are closer to our clients. For example, some giant clients – big banks or large manufacturing companies HSBC or Ford – prefer it when the provider follows their models rather than introducing our own. That is one of the ways that we can add value; we can differentiate ourselves from our largest competitors.
For Indian companies the strategy is a little bit different. For example, in India our competitors are more structured compared with Stefanini. We offer our clients access to much more senior people than Indian companies; Indian companies offer more juniors or beginners. We have more to offer in terms of business knowledge, not only in IT. We try to look for what makes us niche so we can be different from these giants in the US or Europe, or in India.
O: Where do you see your growth coming from in terms of new service lines?
MS: We offer a lot of different services in IT. We are very strong in the application side, development, ERP – like SAP and others. We also work in infrastructure; we are very strong in service desk support – we have a lot of global clients there – and also BPO.
We are bringing in new companies – making acquisitions. We are offering our clients new innovative solutions. For example in January, we acquired the largest credit card processing company in Brazil – and the idea is of course, in due time we can offer these services globally. Then our strategy is not only IT services as a provider but a full integrator so we can be closer to the business of our clients.
O: How are you making sure that Stefanini wins the war for talent?
MS: You know that in many countries – not only in Europe, Brazil or the US – we have a talent gap and unfortunately we expect it will only get worse over the coming years. How do we manage this? First, we understand that recruiting the right people is key for our success. We have put in a lot of work to ensure we have a solid management structure and a model to recruit good people worldwide. It is very important, to be able to select people worldwide. We will look anywhere for talent.
Secondly, we have very good programs for trainees, we select people from universities or high schools and we train them and include them in our company.
Finally, we have a very interesting model in that we have delivery centres inside university campuses. I have not seen any other Brazilian company do this; it’s a fascinating model. We have one delivery centre with 1000 people inside a university. We rent a part of the university and we have real delivery centres. Therefore we are very close to the universities.
O: Do you feel the balance of power between providers and buyers is shifting? How is this impacting upon the way that Stefanini deals with its clients?
MS: I think it is shifting, but not much. Why? Because unfortunately (for us as providers!) our market is very competitive. Almost always, we have a lot of competitors in most of the countries that we work in. What I see today is more the power of the buyers. During the last three or four years, buyers want suppliers to be more effective, to increase quality. Of course, business areas are pressured: the client’s IT needs to respond the company’s needs better. And of course the IT department then demands much more from the providers. We need to respond to the demands of the client, usually without increasing the prices: that is of course is a big challenge…
O: Finally, Marco: if you were going to start this whole journey again, what would you do differently?
MS: Many things! When I began the company 25 years ago Brazil was very different, it was very tough. But if we had to change something in our strategy, if I began again, I think I would begin the phase of acquisition some years before.
Another thing I would change is, maybe when we began our international operations, we should have first focussed on the US. Our international operation began regionally in Latin America – and then after that the US, then North America, then Europe and then Asia. Maybe we could have started in the US – but to be honest, I’m a little bit doubtful if this would have been the right way or not. We are a conservative company, and we like to do things step by step. I think the big difference may be that we could have acquired international companies some years before.