After Romania became the first foreign market in which the Portuguese digital archiving company EAD – Empresa de Arquivo de Documentação SA expanded in, Business Review wanted to sit down with EAD Digital Romania’s first CEO and COO, Bruno Amaro and Liviu Zamfir respectively, to find out the background and the future plans for this expansion. What resulted was an in-depth talk in which the two C-suite executives revealed quite a bit of their hopes and plans for both their company and the Romanian digital archiving sector.
- To kick things off, tell us a bit about the history of the EAD Group?
Bruno Amaro (photo left): EAD – Empresa de Arquivo de Documentação SA is the largest Portuguese companies in the field of archiving. Founded by Paulo Veiga in 1993, the company is present in Portugal, the Azores, Madeira, and Romania, has over 250 employees and a turnover exceeding 11 million euros. EAD offers Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) services for scanning and optimizing document-based processes (digital workflows), as well as virtual mail-room solutions, and cloud storage. The portfolio of EAD Group includes over 500 top international companies, such as Vodafone, Nestlé, Renault, BBVA, Janssen, Johnson’s, Abbott, Generali, Otis, Oracle, BNP, Cepsa.
- Why did EAD Group choose Romania as its first external market to expand into?
Bruno Amaro: Romania is the first foreign market in which the company expands its activity. Romanian entrepreneurs and especially the State are now looking very closely at digital transformation and remote services, in the context created by the pandemic. If the western countries have started this process for a few years and already see the benefits, Romania is at the beginning of the road and we consider that our experience of over 15 years in Portugal can be a valuable contribution.
- What are the short, and long, term goals for EAD RO?
Bruno Amaro: It is in the Group’s culture to have a key player position in the market. As it happens in Portugal, where EAD is the market leader and largest group operating in document management services. We intend also to consolidate our position in the Romanian market in the coming few years and become one of the companies of reference in Digital transformation, BPO and records management providers. We expect to achieve this objective through client sourcing, partnerships with upstream companies and horizontal partnerships either thru strategic partnerships or acquisition. In fact, we are already working on this, making the needed market assessment and identifying the target companies that match our objectives. News are expected until the end of the current year.
- Many recent studies have shown that Romania has quite a big digital growth potential, but digital archiving is still a relatively small niche. Do you think EAD can tap into this potential and become an established field in the market?
Bruno Amaro: According to market studies, there is a direct correlation between the number of a country’s population and the volume of existing documents (archive boxes). Romania has around 20 million archive boxes (29 billion pages) of which it is estimated that 10% will be scanned (2.9 billion) and managed electronically. As for the attractiveness of the market, the figures speak for themselves. The word “Digitalization” became quite recently very frequent in the Romanian lexica. We experienced and participated in this “digital transformation” in Portugal, more than a decade ago and are fully prepared to give our contribution to this process in Romania. Besides this, we also have several transnational clients that for some time are challenging us to provide here the same support we are currently giving to their sister-companies in Portugal. The language and culture also make Romania more attractive than other neighboring countries.
- What can you tell us about the services offered by EAD RO?
Bruno Amaro: EAD RO outstands for providing application development services in the area of document management systems (DMS), with the Read, Write & Share (RWS) software, a document management and workflow solution developed by EAD and available in SaaS (Software as a Service), customizable according to the needs of each organization, as its flagship and most important differentiator.
This type of services is essential in continuing the process of business as usual, when companies have had to adapt from going to work from home and to comply with the rules of social distance. Restrictions around the world have affected all industries, especially in terms of paperwork and physical presence at the office. By scanning the most important documents from company archives, creating cloud databases and inserting new documents into a digitized workflow, employees in all departments (finance, accounting, legal, HR, sales, etc.) will no longer have to be physically present at the office, but they will be able to access the documents with a few clicks.
- How important is it for an organization, private or public, to declutter its paper trail and digitize its documents, archives, databases, etc?
Bruno Amaro: Is very important, especially in organizations with complex hierarchies. The dependence on physical paper can slow down considerably the processes of the company and human error can cause some breaches into those processes that might reveal costly to the company. The creation of workflows allows the participants to always know the status of the process at any stage. The document doesn’t have to reach his desk, for the person to have access to it and draw conclusions about it.
Another important perspective concerns the possibility of accessing the documents or workflow from any location. The approval will not be suspended until the person returns to the office to sign it, or the document in the archive can be consulted from anywhere and not only when the person physically returns to the office.
When it comes to archives, accessibility isn’t the only benefit. We should also consider the easiness of consulting the archived documents. Searches by key words or free text, allow to find much faster documents. Last but not the least, and especially when we refer to public entities, is about transparency. Having the information available for consulting, internally and public, not only facilitates the access to it and the relation between the citizens and the state, but also builds up the trust in the state.
- Which are the industries/sectors that could benefit the most by adopting digital archiving solutions?
Bruno Amaro: The large “paper producers” in the market, independently of the type of industry. Meaning, all companies that deal with large amounts of documents/papers on a day-to-day basis, or that have complex internal management/approval fluxes, mostly based on paper, or with large physical archives that require considerable amounts of time every time they are to be consulted, are our main targets. These companies exist both in the private and public sectors and we are prepared to evaluate the structure and provide an assessment to any potential client that contacts us.
In Portugal, we have more than 28 years of experience and a portfolio of more than 2000 active clients, operating in this field. During this period, we had the chance to develop our own records management software and tailor-cut it to the most diverse industries in the market, such as retail, telco’s, banking, insurance, transportation, etc.
- How many employees will EAD RO have and how do you see the Romanian labour market in regards to the skillsets and profiles of your current/future employees?
Bruno Amaro: The recruitment is projected to be made according to the needs of the company and our clients. The services that the company is offering are divided in: “project-based” and “recurrent”. Project-based are mostly the archive scanning and mass scanning services provided to clients, especially when they have all their archive in paper support and want to convert it into digital. In these cases, according to the size of the project, we will hire temporary work teams, already have contracts signed with two HR providers, and these teams will be under the guidance of our collaborators that were being trained for the last year; Recurrent are the services we provide to the client on regular basis, being data extraction (ex: invoices) or database management (RWS). In this last case, we will have dedicated collaborators, making no sense the use of temporary teams. We expect to hire 10 people in the coming months, between in-house and temporary workers, but this number can increase if the demand from the clients also increases.
- You’ve only recently been appointed as CEO of EAD RO, but you’ve been in Romania for almost 13 years now, so you should have a good idea about EAD RO’s initial challenges and opportunities alike. What can you tell us about them?
Bruno Amaro: Even if having the fastest internet speed in EU, the Romanian entrepreneurs are still quite reluctant to certain types of innovation, namely, digital transformation. People have been running their businesses in a certain way for many years and don’t really accept that it can be run in a more efficient way. So, a first challenge will be to present and explain the advantages of digital transformation and document dematerialization. Other challenge will be the economic situation we are facing at this moment. With the slowdown of the economy, companies lost liquidity, making entrepreneurs to become very conservative when it comes to invest their scarce resources. This is a challenge but also an opportunity because only companies that improve their efficiency and flexibility will be able to survive the increasing competition in the market.
Other opportunity is, for example, the quantity of work that is still to be done in the private and public sectors. Romania is still in the early stages of the Digital transformation, as we know it from the western Europe countries, what can create interesting opportunities for companies with the same profile as us.
- With almost 12 years of experience in the Romanian digital archiving sector, 5 of which as a COO, how would you characterize it, and what were the most important changes and evolutions you witnessed during these years?
Liviu Zamfir (photo right): While being in archiving sector for almost 12 years, I had the privilege to witness this amazing transformation of the market from physical archiving to digital. Although it is still a young market in Romania, in the last years roughly 500 million pages were scanned, out of a total of over 3 billion. The numbers speak for themselves in terms of market opportunities. If, at the beginning most of the requests were quite basic in terms of services (scanning, indexing or data validation) as the years passed, the demands were more and more challenging and complex. Today we are talking about a full list of services like automated work-flows, digital mail rooms, BPO’s, integration of DMS (document management system) into different enterprise software solutions, cloud storage and so on. Organizations from our sector had to develop a new set of skills to be capable to offer their customers a one stop shop solutions.
- There’s a lot of talk in the current context about accelerated digitalization. Are there any dangers in this unprecedented pace in which we are transforming our business processes, as some people/organizations may be left behind, or the sooner the better should be the motto of this transformation?
Bruno Amaro: Well, a combination of both concepts might be the best answer. The transformation should be made “the sooner, the better”, but not in any way or at any cost. The processes to be implemented into a company, archives to be scanned and databases to be created, should be carefully studied and audited before implemented, in order to be the most efficient, practical and helpful for the company and its collaborators. Nonetheless, “the sooner the better” is important especially when it comes to lockdowns and “work from home”. The company should create the needed tools to not affect the day-to-day activities.