From Toyota to i-Neti.
Head of MS Dynamics department at i-Neti, Vladislav Somov, explains how the transition from an automotive giant to a developing IT-company enhanced his managerial expertise.
A year ago, I was part of one of the world’s largest corporation Toyota, planned my career around Toyota’s IT-projects and felt indispensable in that huge international mechanism. However, within the space of several months, I dived into the turbulent world of MS Dynamics with my new team at i-Neti.
How Toyota works
Being a leader of IT-applications development and support team, I was completing a large-scale project on upgrading the Microsoft Dynamics AX corporate system. Applications development plans that already covered more than 90 business-processes were known for several years in advance, and feedback from our European partners let us feel secure; hence the Russian office outperformed its partners for 4-5 years, as it seemed to me.
However, soon the European office of Toyota changed its IT development sector to consolidation of information resources; and then comprehensive auditing, competent negotiations, and reasoned verification of items started in order to choose common systems for each business area and to unify their support processes.
At first, the idea of centralization of all services seemed to be very attractive. How great it is not to blur budgets to local systems, but develop a unified solution for each of the company’s business areas, which will be the most state-of-the-art and the most relevant one. But unfortunately, much of what we discussed we had either already implemented several years before, or it had no practical relevance; and we often returned to initial state after several-months discussions.
A long-term practice was telling that with such a powerful ERP system for back-end, as MS Dynamics AX 2012 obviously was, it was better to confidently move forward on its basis, surrounding it by the best front-end and integration solutions. The time was instead spent in the search of new ideal architecture. On the one hand, the central headquarters was doing its own experiments with a reasonable view to get control over IT-processes in all of its branch offices. On the other hand, business divisions were tired of IT restrictions and full of their own initiatives.
The giant company is as stable as it is cautious in its decisions. Thanks to it being somewhat conservative, Toyota has been and will continue to be the leader in car manufacturing and sales. In this company I gained invaluable expertise of consistency, finding compromises, organization of large project teams and support. Yet after 6 years of successful cooperation I decided to give momentum to my development and to discover something new in IT for myself.
ERP market in Russia is changing
In fact, having decided to change jobs, I seriously underestimated the situation in the Russian ERP market. In the past 15 years my work was connected with Microsoft Dynamics products, and in 2018 they experienced hard times in Russia. Russian localization of Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations had been anticipated for two years already; providers and clients were at a loss. I was even thinking about going to management of web development projects or even returning to 1C that had gained momentum, thanks to import substitution policy.
Nevertheless, having analyzed new features of Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations, on the one hand, and the risk to make a new beginning in completely new areas on the other, I remained faithful to Dynamics. Yes, the new system is not so popular in Russia; yes, there are a lot of technical problems with cloud solutions. But I paid attention to the fact that western companies were still implementing it, while developers and consultants that started to work with it did not want to return to old versions. This led me to believe that progress in Russia is also inevitable. Besides, competitors just do not have as powerful an ecosystem as Dynamics 365.
Why I came to i-Neti
I chose i-Neti among many proposals to participate in a wide range of projects. All these years I was observing the development of this unique company, having known the founders for a really long time dating back to when we had just started to practice ERP together. The unique feature of i-Neti is that all its employees work remotely, many of them have a broad project experience; and despite the fact that all employees are dispersed throughout different regions and time zones, they work closely and participate in a great number of projects that run simultaneously.
Besides, i-Neti’s main principle seemed very fair to me. The company does not try to do business with those who are not ready for Dynamics products, but provides the clients that have already chosen the system with ready professionals capable of creating solutions, strengthening project teams and support teams.
By the time I came to i-Neti, the company already had expertise in Dynamics AX support and development for dozens of clients in Russia, participated in projects in Bulgaria, Poland, Latvia, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Austria, USA etc. For communication within teams and with clients two languages are used in the company: Russian and English.
Except for Dynamics, the company develops other directions as well, such as Machine Learning, PHP, as well as different services for 1C – the most popular platform in Russia. And those are more than 150 employees; 40 of which are in the Dynamics department.
How they work here
My attention was immediately drawn to that each member of this large team had trust and support, both vertical and horizontal.
Any initiative is welcomed, rapidly analyzed and, as a rule, is brought at least to a prototype. The company has a lot of self-organized groups, like-minded people unite around initiative leaders, and there is almost no vertical structure. To be more precise, it exists, but not so much for control, but for creating better conditions for development and initiative.
Some of the staff take part in several teams at once, while the others work, on the contrary, autonomously. The diversity of work formats is really breathtaking.
In the MS Dynamics department, of which I am the head for half a year already, some colleagues provide support to clients for different AX versions; others develop AX 2012 within joint project teams; the third group develop new modules and integrate different systems; and the fourth take part in the creation of vertical solutions for Dynamics 365 FO. And all those people share their experience with colleagues, providing internal training, webinars, recording tutorial videos; write articles and translate into Russian interesting materials of colleagues from the professional community.
i-Neti has its own social network with interest groups, professional mutual-aid chats, internal library and knowledge base.
We have revised our skill card recently, extending it by a number of new technologies from a Microsoft line that are actually or potentially required by our clients. We are just acquiring some of them; 1-2 professionals have already mastered the rest. Now we not only know our strengths, but also see more clearly where we should develop.
What are i-Neti’s strengths
Dozens of our clients have their own regulations for development and communication rules. And we have a unique ability to simultaneously work with all of them, providing high service level. Thanks to a large number of clients, the company is constantly improving its communications culture, while the employees grow their professional skills at a rapid rate.
Work at i-Neti is very intensive and resembles a virtual ant-hill, where each ant knows its roles and is at the same time subject to overall objectives.
Remote work format allows to switch between projects without wasting time on logistics.
All of this provides high efficiency that lets us keep the most competitive rates both for Russian and for global Dynamics markets.
But the key advantage of i-Neti lies in that we do not divide our clients into big and small, into important ones and those of low priority. We maintain trusting working relationship with each client, we are a dedicated team looking for optimal solutions side-by-side and always collectively creating new products.
To be part of sustainable mechanism or to develop business on a daily basis…
Having worked in companies of such a different nature, I can point out pluses and minuses of each of them.
In such a legendary company as Toyota you feel stability. You deeply know the company’s business processes; you can propose ideas for implementation of which you will be proud of yourself, because it will take you months or years of challenges at all levels to prove their credibility. Your prize will be also in that you will see the results of your work, coming to numerous dealers; and watching a commercial of a new car on TV you will be able to feel your belonging to its introduction to the market. You played your part in that, it’s great! (But Toyota would perfectly cope without you as well, no matter how your ego is suppressed from that fact).
It is absolutely different to work for a dynamic company, where decisions are made very quickly, where a lot depends on each person, where the result of a mistake is seen immediately and you can quickly react and change the process. And all the processes are “alive” and often changing. Each of i-Neti’s clients contribute to the improvement of support processes. You are constantly in the thick of the action: on the one hand, clients want more and more services; on the other hand, competitors are closing in; furthermore, your staff is in need of constant personal development. You are able to be at the cutting-edge of technologies, to observe the trends of development of many clients all over the world; to search for and to develop new directions.
It’s a really great feeling, when at the beginning you’re looking and choosing to work with customers because of their size and reputation. But then, through hard work and exceptional service, the tables turn and companies start looking for and choosing you.