The software and services market shrank in the first half of the year by approximately 20 percent, according to analysts. “The steepest decrease was in the public sector, retail and industry while banking and telecom were not so badly hit. Meanwhile, the recession has led to a stagnation of IT investments in production, retail and construction as well as projects in the public field,” says Anca Crahmaliuc, marketing and communication manager at Siveco Romania”This financial crisis has clearly changed companies' perception and attitude to any technique or instrument (and here, IT holds by far the most important place) that optimizes their activity, increases management control of the business and employees and gives them information in real time about everything that happens in the company and on the market,” says George Butunoiu, founder of Kazier. Clients are also increasingly interested in integrated solutions. The market has not shrunk too much in volume but the solutions that are sought by companies have significantly changed. They are now much more realistic, with more flexible solutions, more adaptable, cheaper and more reasonable. “I believe Romanian companies have much to gain from this re-orientation because, often, the ratio of real needs/price (including maintenance and later developments) is better in local products than foreign ones,” says Butunoiu. “Those who are making profit and managed a 10-15 percent growth are those with a larger portfolio of clients and their own products,” says Bogdan Musat, marketing and strategy manager at TotalSoft. “Overall, demand for business software solutions has dropped a lot. This year the focus has been on solutions adapted to the economic situation,” he explains. During the recession, the most sought-after software solutions have been those which facilitate debt-collection from clients or the efficiency of cost control. There has also been demand for ERP, HR and project management solutions but not as much as in previous years. “It is a normal step for companies to focus more on increasing productivity, reducing costs and making customer relations more efficient, and less on investments,” says Musat. This year, many companies have submitted projects to obtain European funds that should help them make investments in software infrastructure. “Over the last few months, we have noticed that the most popular software solutions among companies are those of management, security and cost efficiency. The solutions that were selling well before the crisis and have now dropped off are ERP/CRM,” says Gabriela Mechea, general manager of Gecad Net. Large companies are obliged to purchase complex solutions that can be configured, because there is no “ready made” software for each model of business. “Of course, these are expensive and the duration of implementation is pretty high, but there is no other solution,” says Butunoiu. Small companies usually have to acquire several separate software items, which are either cheap or free of charge, and assemble them “locally, ad-hoc,” says Butunoiu. They must adapt their business model entirely to the system that is built in this way, which is not a bad thing, in many cases. Butunoiu says that several years ago, when it was cheap to employ programmers or even a small IT firm, many companies preferred to make their more-or-less sophisticated software in-house. “Maybe then such a choice was justified, but now this has become almost unconceivable since the market is flooded by cheaper and safer IT products than any software that anyone could think about making. Moreover, these systems have started to be a burden for some of their owners, who became ‘prisoners' of the system,” says Butunoiu. Small companies do not even represent potential buyers of software business solutions, says Musat. “As a rule, these companies run their activities using standard programs from Microsoft Office and only start thinking about professional software when the business increases significantly,” he explains. Corporations are the regular purchasers for this type of solution, which can range from business intelligence systems, management of customer relations, self-service, debt collection from clients and intranets, which serve as an interface between the user and all the applications used by that corporation. As an example, law firm NNDKP recently acquired from Zitec and implemented a software solution based on OpenSource technology. “Such an application primarily offers the advantage that it saves a lot of time that was initially eaten up searching through various categories of documents in numerous databases. So the lawyers now save a great deal of time, which they can use elsewhere,” says Ion Nestor, co-managing partner at NNDKP. The firm previously used Microsoft and Novell products for accounting and financial administration and other software specific to the legal profession. The public sector is a totally different kettle of fish. Mostly, public administration requires solutions for the management of documents, electronic payment of taxes, administration of internal activities, administration of geographical information and portals, explains Crahmaliuc. “I saw many task books from state companies that left me stunned. I think sometimes not even NASA has that many demands!” says Butunoiu, adding that in most cases, the demands of the authorities are absolutely out of proportion to their real needs since they do not even use a tenth of what they have purchased.