In my professional career I’ve been with Coopers & Lybrand, which later merged with PwC, also with EY, I was Vice President at Capgemini, and then General Manager for Getronics. After this journey through the Big Five, with almost 20 years in senior management positions for English, American, French and Dutch companies, I decided to set up my own business project. During those 20 years in multinationals, I learned a lot and had a very interesting time that helped these past twelve years in this project with a great business connotation.
What is Grupo CMC? What is your value proposition, and what are your differentiating features?
It is a very competitive market indeed, and one in which it is not easy to be different. We have always pursued differentiation in the market. Basically, our main strategy has to do, on one hand, with a deep knowledge of the business and the challenges of our customers. Through the understanding of these challenges and this in-depth knowledge, we propose a response to these challenges that is very effective, agile and efficient. In fact, it is almost like making tailored suits in response to these challenges, based on the knowledge we have of the customer.
Additionally, the search for the solution is always supported by the latest technology with a very important innovation component. And it is important to have the best professionals and being able to attract and retain the talent and work pace that our team has.
So, summarizing, first a deep knowledge of our clients’ business and its challenges, second, an effective response to those challenges, third, being supported by technology with a very strong innovation component and fourth, having the best professionals.
Tell us a little about your approach to the market. How is your structure? What type of companies or sectors do you focus on? With what kind of technologies?
We are present in all the main sectors of the Spanish economy: banking, insurance, telecommunications, energy and utilities, infrastructure, tourism and health. In terms of percentages, approximately 33% is banking, 18% is tourism, about 15% is energy, another 15% is telco and then, the last 20% is shared between industry, infrastructure and health. Insurance is about an 8%.
With this positioning in several sectors we have a sufficiently diversified position and our approach in terms of deep knowledge of each of the businesses, and a very important knowledge of all the sectors which are important for the Spanish economy. It is also important to note that we have the most important customers in each sector.
Our approach to the market is with a specific approach for each of these important customers. In the end, about 50 clients represent about 80% of our business. And our approach is to identify the specific challenges of each client so we can serve them better. We try to differentiate each of the clients and we do it with solutions based heavily on innovation that are specific for each customer.
Even if company A and company B are in the same sector, they probably won’t have the same challenges, the same culture, or the same way of doing things. So we adapt to each of them and try to understand what the challenge is for each moment, of each client. What he wants to do, what are his priorities. And we then respond in a specific and differentiated way.
We do this through solutions and, when I say “solutions”, I am not talking only about technology. But we try to generate solutions through technology.
A deep knowledge of our clients’ business, allows us to give an effective response to any arising challenges
How do you generate that innovation? How does it get to Grupo CMC?
For us, innovation is key within our strategic plans. Right from the beginning of this project we are innovating by means of using the best technologies and proposing specific solutions for the market.
First of all, our offer does balance everything related with traditional information systems and using both custom-made and standard solutions. That is one of our main blocks, and another one is everything that has to do with digital transformation technology.
The digital transformation technology block is subdivided into five or six individual segments. One of them has to do with the Internet of Things, another has to do with digital and electronic operations, another one is everything that has to do with Big Data and Analytics, another one with Artificial Intelligence and finally one that encompasses Security and Cybersecurity. These are the 5 most important subdivisions.
In each of these blocks we have focused very much on innovation and looking for solutions for the market. We do not sell “IoT” as a concept. What we sell are actual solutions for the businesses of our customers, based on IoT. Or else solutions for Big Data or artificial intelligence. You get the picture.
And for each of these areas we use either technologies that already exist on the market, (which are standard), or we use technologies that we have developed ourselves. The latter ones can be the result of an acquisition of a company, that we will immediately integrate in our innovation process.
I’ll give you some examples for each of them. For IoT we are very focused on several things:
- The world of energy generation, where we are one of the leading companies for implementing solutions for the management of photovoltaic plants. Actually, everything that has to do with the management of power generation in photovoltaic plants, for example based on SCADA technology, with mobile access.
- The world of water is also a very interesting topic from a strategic point of view, thinking of the future management and allocation of water, as well as of its distribution and its commercialization. This is a field where we have pioneering solutions.
- The world of BMS (Building Management Systems), this is actually the management of intelligent buildings via IoT technology. The most important project we have done to date has been the intelligent management in the BBVA “sail” building where we manage more than 120,000 devices and we take care of the energy efficiency as well as the environmental management.
- The world of Big Data, where we also have some innovative solutions. For example one that is called DatKnoSys, which is dedicated to analyze provider risks, or risks in general (for banks, acquisition departments, etc.). The system even looks for information on Social Networks, blogs, webpages, and so on to find information about the potential contractor, partner or provider.
Lately we have also acquired a stake in an innovation company, that produces intelligent mirrors. But in this case, we’ve tried something new. Instead of doing all the innovation ourselves or buying 100% of some company we are interested in, we have just taken a stake in their shares, that has allowed us to incorporate these company’s innovation in our core. This is a new approach for us. Anyway, what we try to do is combine both worlds: the traditional IT world, and the Digital Transformation paradigm.
How has Grupo CMC been doing these past years and what are your expectations for the future?
Well, in 2007 we were a small company, with about 40 employees, and today we are over 1,000, but we expect to finish this year being over 1,200. Our growth rate, year over year, for the past 12, has been around 25%. But in the last 5 years, from 2014 onwards, we actually have been growing at a pace of 28%. Half of that growth is organic, and the rest comes from acquisitions. In our sector we have been in the Top 5 for the past 3 years and, in 2018, our growth has actually been a 42%. Last year’s turnover was about 51,5 million Euros and for this year we expect to cross the 60 million mark. In fact, our goal for the next couple of years, is to surpass the 100 million Euros, and to get into the Top 20 of Spanish companies.
The acquisition of startups by big companies is something usual. How has Grupo CMC done this? How have you integrated your acquisitions into the group?
Actually, as I already said, one of our strategic keys is innovation. Which we have done, in part, acquiring other companies with interesting products or services. Some of these companies where, obviously, start-ups. What we do usually is that we integrate the new knowledge into our company, and then do a really big marketing and product effort. Our O2.Digital platform, for example (see also the article “Identity management. The next step forward for digital companies” in this same magazine) has its origin in the acquisition of a start-up. As has our product DatKnoSys. So you can see that some of our most important solutions for the market, come originally from start-ups. Our main goal, after the acquisition phase, is to convert the knowledge they add to our innovation pool, into solutions we can offer to our customers, so they can solve the problems or necessities they have.
What we have seen is that the opportunity window for new technologies in this digital era are getting shorter all the time. So we think it is no longer possible for us to finance all of our innovation initiatives completely in-house, because we need technology that is ready or almost ready, to integrate and implement it in our product range. Therefore, we still work on two or three own projects, but the rest has to come from outside, because the pace of change requires it.
The financial sector is one of the main drivers for Grupo CMC. ¿What kind of innovative propositions are you making to these companies?
I think that the current challenge the financial sector has right now is the complexity the market has currently. The new digital banks, for example, are game-changers. And then there are the new competitors, like Amazon or Google, which want a part of this market. And this is the reason the financial sector has to changes its processes radically.
And we are just there, helping them digitizing their processes. For example, our O2.Digital platform is the perfect gateway to make digital clients. Among other things because you can identify yourself without leaving your home. Another challenge is credit risk assessment. Today, you can actually access all the information you want (so to speak) about a certain customer, just by searching on the web or on Social Networks.
Everybody knows Digital Transformation is a must, but the speed at which you do it is the most important thing
In your experience, what is the degree of transformation today? Is there still a long way to go?
I think everybody knows Digital Transformation is a must. At least if you want to compete on a market that is in constant evolution. But the most important thing is the speed with which you are trying to transform. Because there are lots of very traditional companies, set in their ways, which have it quite difficult to adapt. Because technology, as such, is only a means to an end: a facilitator. Not the universal solution when you talk about Digital Transformation. You can’t transform a company only with technology. Therefore, the first step, especially in traditional companies, is changing the mindset and the way they operate.
You are focusing quite a lot on the tourism sector. Why is this?
Yes. Last year we acquired a company called Brújula, which is a specialized IT company for the tourism sector. Anyway, I personally think that, since we are in Spain, being in the tourism sector is a natural evolution. We actually have all the technology ready to do, for example, the digital check-in. Even complying with all the legal requirements of the government. And our digital Smart Mirrors, could be used as digital butler right in the room, or as assistant for trips, transport or information, in the Hotel lobby. On the other hand, we can apply all the IoT technology to the building, to control the electrical grid, water supply, lights, heating and ventilation, etc. So, you see, our technology is ready to go, and this sector really can take advantage of it.