Technology

BiQ Group - Provider of complex IT services

Published: 6. 7. 2023
Author: Lucie Burdová
Photo: Shutterstock.com and BiQ
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The initial aim was to grow to 100 people and 100 million CZK of turnover. Today, six years after the founding of the Group, its team comprises 460 people and it boasts an annual turnover of more than half a billion. We're talking about BiQ Group. And why the name? The answer is simple – it's meant to denote the size of the company in the field of IT but also its ambitions, and last but not least, its complexity.

It has a breadth of expertise ranging from software development, through the SAP, Atlassian, and Kentico Xperience platforms, all the way to e-commerce and marketing. "As far as the scope of our expertise goes, we have very little competition in Czechia and Slovakia. Some tech companies have been trying to match us by adding things such as SAP to their portfolios, but very few have as wide a scope as we do," explains Marcel Červený, head of BiQ Group.

Gradual development
The tech group was formed gradually. At the very beginning were the tech companies owned by Marcel Červený and Lukáš Novák, which were merged in 2017 to form BOOTIQ. The two co-founders operating in Czechia were joined by Boris Zovčák in Slovakia, so the Group has been operating in both countries from the very beginning. And since the very beginning, its goal has been to develop and supply complex digital solutions. Besides software development and e-commerce and digital marketing solutions, it also helps implement major platforms such as SAP, Atlassian, and Kentico. It has stable long-term relationships with clients such as Benzina, Unipetrol, Kofola, Škoda Auto, Konica Minolta, Sazka, Tomáš Baťa University, and many others. The initial idea to call the newly-formed company "IT Boutique" was scrapped, but the concept of the boutique as a symbol of craftsmanship and bespoke work stuck. The logo designs that the founding members had drawn up included one depicting an American-style garage with the name BOOTIQ in vertical lettering. The design fully matched the company's "garage" style of development, which it remains faithful to to this day, now as a subsidiary.

BiQ origins
The name BOOTIQ won thanks to how uncommon it sounds, but other alternatives and abbreviations were also thought up in the process, including BiQ. This brand name found its use in 2018 when BiQ Group was officially established. The first acquisitions happened under the BOOTIQ brand ( Consulting Company Novasoft, EEA, Blueberry, and Bluesoft); the BiQ Group brand was activated in 2021 – it was well-known and it made sense that it be used as an umbrella for the entire group. "For being a traditional software development company, we came up with a pretty exciting brand and added SAP, Atlassian, digital marketing, and the Kentico platform to our portfolio," says Marcel Červený, and goes on to add, "Thanks to this and subsequently other acquisitions, we managed to create a very original business in terms of not only numbers and capital but primarily expertise." The Group completed another successful acquisition in 2022, which was PUXdesign, a website and online store developer. Thanks to these activities, the Group grew and expanded its scope of expertise, which has helped it become an SAP Silver Partner, Atlassian Platinum Partner, and Kentico Gold Partner. It also provides Microsoft and AWS services. It is primarily its scope of expertise that sets it apart from the competition and makes it unique in a way.

What covid brought (or didn't)
Marcel Červený separates the covid pandemic, which came at the time the very first acquisition was finalized, into three periods. The first one was a time of stress – nobody knew what covid actually was and what its impact will be on people and their health, which was reflected in their productivity. The second period was mired with management uncertainty as to whether the government will throttle the economy or not. The third then brought with it projects such as contact tracing of the infected, which BiQ Group participated in voluntarily and free of charge. Then came a time when a lot of companies went through a digital transformation, which entailed a large volume of work for the IT sector. "Instead of losing business as we feared, my colleagues and I were forced to find solutions to having plenty of work but not enough people. Even a year after covid had ended, we were forced to compete for new hires because the job market was scooping up everyone at the time. We had to turn some work down, which was very difficult for me as a businessman," he recounts with a smile today. Many sectors are still forced to deal with an insufficient labor force and low quality of work. That's not the case in IT, though. Marcel Červený thinks that the level of readiness of graduates with degrees in the field isn't the main issue. "Many businesses were unable to handle work in terms of capacity in post-covid times, which was reflected in their approach to junior employees – there was often no time to help them learn and grow. This might be one of the causes for the feeling that their output is inferior. And about our approach to new hires? Talent is one thing, the other is personality. When our team clearly sees that a person will be a dependable team player, they're happy to help educate them further in terms of technological expertise. When somebody's a promising junior and a skilled worker but they don't fit into the team, they won't stay for long."

Company culture and synergy
The Group now operates in several offices across various regions throughout Czechia and Slovakia. The growth in recent years went hand in hand with changes within the Group. For instance, reporting was implemented in terms of the management process, new job positions were formed such as project manager and many others. Despite the necessary systemization, BiQ Group has stuck to its specific way of doing things, far removed from a corporate structure. BOOTIQ maintains its "garage" style and so – similar to other subsidiaries – is able to retain its culture and identity. However, the companies within the Group are able to cooperate synergistically, which puts BiQ Group in a unique position based on its scope and makes it the main client-facing partner and guarantor. As far as the subsidiaries and individual teams go, home office work is predominant, which has been the case in the IT world for quite some time, so there was no need to adjust the infrastructure to support it during covid. The Group employs the concept of virtual teams, which are made up of experts from various parts of the country as well as Slovakia – one team member from Opava, second from Olomouc, third from Prague, fourth from Poprad, and all headed by a team leader from Ústí nad Labem. Members of such teams don't meet in person but they know each other through online communication. Certain teams, especially for long-term clients, are permanent, others have members across various areas of expertise, and others yet are formed on an ad-hoc basis for specific projects.

Cooperating with universities
Thanks to the acquisition of Consulting Company Novasoft, which implements SAP and provides the necessary long-term support for Moravian higher education facilities, BiQ Group has been working closely with all universities in Moravia for several years now. The most intense cooperation in terms of educating their own people takes place in Brno, where the Bluesoft offices are right on the premises of a Masaryk University faculty. "Students start out as temps who eventually turn into long-term contractors or even employees. But it's not like we have a contract with the university that would stipulate it supplying us with new students," explains Marcel Červený. Representatives of BiQ Group also give lectures throughout Czechia and Slovakia, primarily focusing on the topics of security, cloudification, and testing.

Expansion abroad
We have already touched on the scope of expertise that helps the Group offer end-to-end solutions. Expanding that scope is not planned in the near future; however, it does intend to broaden its reach by hiring new senior subject matter experts. Growth in terms of new acquisitions is planned for next year. "This year, we needed to regroup, gather our thoughts, and deliberate on the future direction of the Group and our strategy – which areas we want to expand in, which to contract in instead, and what we want to do with our portfolio of products and expertise. We've essentially found answers to all these questions and we're at the courtship stage, which should culminate in one or two new acquisitions that we'd like to announce in 2024," explains Marcel Červený. The Group's three-year outlook also contains the goal to expand beyond Czech and Slovak borders into foreign markets. It has the Nordics and the so-called DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) in its crosshairs. Why these specifically? Besides their geographical proximity and accessibility in terms of time, they are also culturally similar. While expansion into the Nordics is slightly easier than into the DACH region in Marcel Červený's opinion. "If you want to be a subcontractor in Germany, Austria, or Switzerland, which essentially makes you a provider of cheaper labor, there's no big barrier to entry and you can become one quite easily. But if you want to become a partner, you need to jump through hoops to prove certain professional qualities. As far as DACH goes, the situation is a bit easier in Austria, but the Germans are the strictest in this sense. Things are entirely different in the Nordics. All it takes is for you to have a local partner who does SAP, Kentico, etc., and the door is wide open for you as a provider essentially."


WE'VE GOT YOU COVERED
BiQ Group can advise in choosing and implementing various solutions such as ERP, CMS, and SAP, and online stores and websites. It's capable of providing a thorough analysis of systems, processes, and dataflow and designing integration and cloud solutions that will factor in specific requirements and platforms but also primarily lead to the simplification of day-to-day operations in a given business. BiQ Group's solutions are safe and sustainable thanks to internal synergies and the expertise of its developers and consultants. Besides analysts, consultants, IT architects, developers (front-end, back-end), designers, and testers, the Group also has a team of marketing specialists who can help move a business to the next level in terms of marketing and strategy. Graphic designers and UI/UX experts are a given.

Marcel Červený



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