Softline’s present and future is explained by Zoltán Urbán, the company’s regional business development and sales manager, who also addresses cloud evolution and the significance of knowledge transfer.
As a business development and sales manager, what is your role at Softline?
I coordinate the work of sales teams in six countries. In addition, I’m involved in business development, which includes representing the products and services of vendor partners and developing and expanding the services provided by Softline. This includes examining the marketability and relevance of a new service, preparing for its successful introduction, and laying the foundations for customer communication.
You joined the company almost simultaneously with the regional formation of the company. What attracted you to this job?
I have a vast amount of appreciation for the start-up team that started the regional operation. These are professionals with whom we share the same values and whose professional opinion is important to me. The fact that the regional team focused primarily on cloud-based services was also convincing for me, as I used to deal with a lot of this range of services on the vendor side, in the role of partner development. I was interested in how I could cope this time on the other side. I’d also mention regional responsibilities. I was attracted to the opportunity to learn more about regional cultures, business customs and trends.
How did building the business development and sales area start?
We started to build a regional team of excellent professionals. But with regard to the colleagues, there was a significant difference in the types of specialisation. For example, someone with a thorough knowledge of Microsoft, was however not so proficient in sales, and vice versa. Different levels of knowledge and skills had to be brought to one level. I think it’s important that my account manager colleagues also have deeper product knowledge, like with Microsoft 365 or Azure, to make the preliminary needs assessment more effective. In addition to these, I focus on a practical approach. I try to utilise my knowledge gained earlier on the partner and vendor side in the form of real-life situations and practical approaches.
What do you see as the strength of Softline's sales team?
The type of balanced knowledge and skills that our sales colleagues have is, I believe, outstanding on the market. From the first minute, a practical and comprehensive approach shapes our operation. We make sure we give new sales colleagues real knowledge through our own training programme; in this way we make sure they have an understanding of the basics. Our focus is to represent the solutions offered by Microsoft, so the members of the sales team must have passed a Microsoft exam, and thus have the practical knowledge and training to be at the disposal of our customers.
At Softline, knowledge transfer also takes place through international competence centres. This is where the advantage of our international background comes in, given that knowledge gained in another region can be put to good use by our colleagues in Central and Eastern Europe, and vice versa. At the same time, we consider it important to have local connections. In summary, we are in direct contact with our clients through our local teams, while providing them with international knowledge and experience.
What new demands have emerged from customers this year, and what response can Softline give to them?
In general, the transition to online work has forced a significant proportion of companies along an inescapable path. At the same time, companies that have previously supported remote work have been able to shift to working entirely from home with relatively little effort. Our customers belong to the latter group, so we observed the tendency that the remaining doubts surrounding the cloud have disappeared and fine-tuning the introduction of services has come to the fore. We have vast experience, especially in these types of situations that raise the issue of change management. By successfully implementing a particular programme, promoting understanding and mastery, we can open up new opportunities for our clients.
Cloud services have been with us for a while, but now they are receiving more attention than ever before. How do you see the evolution of the cloud?
Acceptance of cloud services has grown significantly over the past eight years, further accelerated by the pandemic. However, for a large enterprise, it’s not viable to move all applications and data to the cloud at once. In their case, hybrid solutions came to the fore. In my opinion, the coming years will also be determined by these systems. Technologies currently managed and used separately, such as artificial intelligence or machine learning, can add value to everyday life through their fusion with everyday services. Using a practical example, free-text search now works on almost every interface used to store a document. However, it’s not really possible to explore the context of individual documents and their organised transmission with current search engines. The proliferation of contextual search, also thanks to cloud-based solutions, will have a major impact on work efficiency.
Another exciting area for enterprise cloud services is the user habits of different generations. A colleague who saves his or her private photos in the cloud for years has a noticeably different attitude to the corporate cloud infrastructure than someone who essentially first encounters this platform at work. At this point, change management comes to the fore again, which is why we put a huge emphasis on this at Softline. If employees understand how the system works in all areas and jobs, and if they learn to use it in a way that is useful to them then we can say that we have actually implemented the service.
What are your professional goals for next year?
Our plans include further expansion of our service portfolio. We’re seeing more and more customers thinking about a multicloud solution, in other words implementing their corporate infrastructure by involving several service providers. As such, it’s also important for us to credibly represent the market-leading cloud services. In addition, we’re increasingly focusing on service projects based on the active use of international knowledge sharing and competency centres, which can provide our customers with more cost-effective and practical solutions. Through these, we strive to continuously increase our market share in all six countries.
Zoltán Mészáros, our general manager, spoke earlier about the exciting moments of the formation of Softline in the region. This time, Katalin Jenet, the second member to join the team, will take stock of the company's special qualities and milestones. Katalin is the Marketing Leader for Central and Eastern Europe at Softline Group, and she also talks about how she connected with the IT profession and how she sees the success of the regional team.
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