Connecting Worlds Through IT
The increasingly powerful information technologies have fundamentally changed the world, creating new opportunities for residents, institutions, and entire regions. The IT sector has been among the strongest contributors to economic growth in numerous countries, generating employment, exports, and investments. As an integral part of the world community, Belarus has been witnessing profound progress in this area.
Minsk was historically among the main USSR information technology centers because of production facilities and design institutes that were concentrated here. Today, the city is viewed as one of the largest centers for offshore programming in Eastern Europe.
Belarus’ reputation for scientific and IT excellence, and its competitive labor market have attracted the interest of numerous IT vendors. IBM is one of those vendors that came to Minsk more than ten years ago and became a co-founder of the International Business Alliance (IBA). Nowadays, IBA is one of the biggest IT companies in the former Soviet Union.
The International Business Alliance was created in 1993 as a three-way partnership between IBM and two Belarusian enterprises (NIIEVM and MPOVT) with the purpose of complementing the high skills of Belarusian professionals in the area of software development with advanced IBM technologies. In 1999, IBM withdrew as a part owner of IBA, though remaining the company’s strategic business partner. The IBA team was initially composed of several people and its activities were focused on the provision of software development services in the market of the former USSR. Yet, IBA management understood that to be on the cutting edge, the company needed to explore new markets. The task was very challenging and problems the company faced seemed overwhelming. Speaking about that period in IBA history, Sergei Levteev, IBA CEO, said that the difference in mentality between Belarusian and Western business people was so dramatic that they seemed to be worlds apart. Aiming for international recognition, IBA modified its business processes, infrastructure, and project management and quality assurance systems.
Eventually, the small firm has evolved into an international organization that employs more than 1,000 people and provides software development, product marketing, maintenance, and support for customers in more than 30 countries. The company has business offices in the United States and Germany, and development offices in Minsk, Gomel, and Prague. IBA was among the first in Belarus to receive an ISO 9001 Certificate and among the first in the world to achieve the SEI CMMI Level 4 Maturity Rating. A combination of dedication, training, talent, professionalism, and creativity became keys to the company’s success.
However, much more should be done to ensure that IBA and the Belarusian IT sector at large hold a strong position on the world market. Although Belarusian companies offer the same core development languages, platforms, and technologies as their counterparts in other countries, Belarus has not become a popular destination for foreign IT vendors. Experts compare Belarus to a “sleeping bear” meaning that the country has huge potential that remains unexplored. Belarus has a well-educated source of professionals interested in new ideas, who are dedicated to delivering high quality products to their customers. All the republic needs to do is wake up and realize that it has a lot to offer to the rest of the world.