Amid the unprecedented disruption of 2020, a number of clear trends have cut through the turmoil.
“There’s been a lot of talk about digital transformation in recent times, but this is the year that companies have been forced into actually doing it,” says Pat Lucey of Aspira (pictured pre-pandemic on the left beside Peter Ryan), the Irish-owned technology consultancy.
“The pandemic has taken organisations out of their comfort zone,” he says. “If you look at big pharma or medical device firms, a year ago their main challenges might have been in chemistry or bio-pharma. Now they are trying to deal with huge logistical and supply chain issues that are completely outside their domain area of knowledge.”
To ensure they get it right, many organisations are turning to the experts. For technology project management specialist Aspira, the pandemic has triggered a three-fold increase in demand for digital transformation services as companies look to quickly improve their e-commerce capabilities and supply chain networks.
For a company that prides itself on forming close, collaborative partnerships to deliver projects and build capability, growing demand has seen Aspira open a new Asia-Pacific regional headquarters in Malaysia while expanding the company’s mainland European operation with a second office in the Netherlands.
“Initially [Covid-19] was about survival, but we’ve managed to thrive over the last six months by helping clients to take advantage of disruption in the marketplace,” says Pat Lucey, Aspira’s Group CEO and co-founder.
“We’re up to date with all the latest trends including agile and entrepreneurial project management, so we can bring some of that new thinking and help our clients find ways of delivering more flexibly,” he says. “That’s been really useful over the past eight months because of the need for companies to be nimble and agile in the face of unexpected circumstances.
“But it’s a balancing act, because we have a very strong customer service ethos,” Lucey says. “A big part of our culture is regular face to face contact with clients, which is obviously much harder now that we can’t jump on a flight whenever the need arises. We felt if we were going to really take advantage of the opportunities in Asia and Europe, we’d have to grow our physical presence.”
This, though, is a company well accustomed to growth. Since its foundation in 2007, Aspira has on average doubled in size every three years, working with clients across multiple industry sectors to help them deliver large-scale technology projects. The company has been listed in the Financial Times ‘Top 1000 Growth Companies in Europe’ for the past two consecutive years.
Although Aspira offers a broad range of services, it is best known for its expertise in project management. The company’s Managing Director (Europe), Peter Ryan, is also VP of the Project Management Institute of the Netherlands.
“Fundamentally, we’re a consultancy,” says Ryan. “That means we listen to our clients first and foremost, then we advise and help them to deliver their technology projects successfully end to end. We offer a broad host of services, including advisory, training, hands-on delivery services.
“What we want to do for clients is deliver their projects today and also build capability for them to improve tomorrow,” he says. “A simple engagement would be a project manager going into a client and delivering a project, but we would also expect our consultants to give some added value, not just to deliver the project but to build in best practices that allow the client to continually improve.
“We operate across a number of verticals including energy and utilities, pharmaceutical and medical devices, fintech, healthcare, and e-commerce which has accelerated rapidly during Covid,” says Ryan, who is based in the company’s Amsterdam office. “The majority of our clients are enterprise clients including multinationals and large-scale organisations in the private sector.”
The firm’s client portfolio includes names such as Johnson & Johnson, Stryker, Vattenfall, K3, CRH, BME, Citco, McAfee, as well as a host of blue-chip financial institutions, energy suppliers, plus a range of public sector, semi-state clients and Government departments.
This year, the company has been helping e-commerce software giant K3 to undergo a major digital transformation involving some of the biggest retailers on the planet.
“A client like [K3] would come to us for our end-to-end service,” says Peter Ryan. “They come to us because we have a reputation for excellence in delivering projects, and because we can think through what a digital transformation looks like in an e-commerce world. So, we can co-design digital transformation from a retail perspective with them and help build their capability through creating the right mix of our advisory and training services.”
Aspira’s hectic schedule is unlikely to ease any time soon. The company expects 2020 growth to be slightly up on last year – some feat, considering the context – and is looking at setting up in North and South America in the next 18 to 24 months.
“Because we have that broad range of services, we’ve been able to withstand the challenges [of Covid],” says CEO Pat Lucey. “We’ve worked hard to develop a spread – geographical spread, client industry spread, currency spread – and that makes us relatively resilient. We’ve also been lucky.
“Then again, as they say, hard work puts you in a place where good luck can find you,” he adds with a smile.