Contributions and challenges of today’s crisis - Interview with founder and CEO of ATL Group

Rashad Mirzayev is the founder and CEO of ATL Group operating in various business sectors. He is also mentoring to support the development of other commercial entities, including start-ups along with his business activities. Modern business techniques, IT solutions, and sustainable innovation are the key points of his business vision.

  • Many entrepreneurs say that every crisis brings opportunities with itself. What positive contributions may today’s crisis create for businesses?

The most evident contribution is the fact that every new crisis, every unprecedented problem obviously requires a unique solution. Companies can explore new ideas and approaches, functioning mechanisms to produce a solution and capitalize on it. Inevitably, businesses will be forced to transform themselves to survive.

Ambidextrous organizations that explore and secure present opportunities and search for future innovations will benefit the most from the positive opportunities of the current crisis. These organizations are characterized by their ability to attend products and processes of past successes while also focusing on opportunities that will define the future.

We must not forget that traumas regardless of their magnitude create a coping mechanism for future similar occasions so that the reaction takes less time and is more effective. History shows that we as human species have learned great lessons throughout many catastrophes. These coping mechanisms also develop in organizations, not only individuals.

To put it simply, with the words of Stanford economist Paul Romer: “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste”.

  • What is the role of knowledge management in transforming challenges into opportunities? Do you think KM becomes much more popular, common and effective these days?

While tackling challenges, the main task which falls upon companies is to capture a relevant stream of information and turn it into enterprise knowledge. After capturing this stream of information, you need to select and process the most valuable information, which typically resides in the minds of your employees. However, capturing tacit knowledge and adding it to the enterprise knowledge base is not an easy task.  This is where knowledge management comes is. This whole process can be achieved by implementing a proper knowledge management strategy supported by the correct toolsets.

The main benefits of efficient knowledge management are communicating important information instantly, making expertise available as shared knowledge, reducing the friction of processes and internal politics and stimulating innovation and education.

Knowledge management is becoming more relevant than ever as entrepreneurs are continuing to understand that data-centric management is a new era and no single decision should be made based on intuition or the fact that “things have always been operated in this way”. The current digital age has adopted a system of first-come-first-served and with the pandemic, this process has sped up significantly.

Those companies who will thrive tomorrow will be the ones who capitalize on a successful knowledge management strategy.

  • Before the crisis, high-tech companies and business intelligence services had already become one of the most demanding and effective businesses. Now the crisis is boosting this process. Can and how do you consider, these businesses also save other types of businesses?

High-tech companies and business intelligence services actually provide other business types the necessary resources to cope with and survive crises. Tech companies offer the essential tools required for digitalization, which traditional businesses need more than ever now, during lockdowns. Business intelligence services on the other hand help create a better understanding of what is going on and give hints on what must be done.

For example, ATL Tech, the largest software development company in Azerbaijan provides many restaurant chains, which have been severely hit by the imposed lockdowns, with a call center software called InstaCall, enabling them to manage with increased demand in deliveries. On top of that, it allows SMEs to manage their contact centers without having asked employees to be present at work – which is a powerful support to WHO’s recommendations about self-isolation and staying at home.

It’s self-evident that many other business types need tech companies to tackle problems that require data analysis and digitalization.

  • Will business methodologies change after the crisis in the Caucasus? Do you expect big innovations in business models or implementing existing, but uncommon methodologies in the region?

One of the main business tendencies in the Caucasus is that many companies are implementing “play not to lose” strategies rather than “play to win”. In Azerbaijan, the majority of companies have adopted the first one, due to the fact that since 2008 no single company has been able to foresee, plan and construct a strategy that can be applied for the next five years, due to many instabilities in the region and worldwide.

When we established our AI Lab at ATL Tech we didn’t set serious goals. But we believed in the idea. We knew that the AI is something beyond just a buzz word, and today we’re happy to see some glimpses of its fruits.

Companies in our region are making certain attempts to explore uncommon methodologies and adapt to the new reality. However, some obstacles definitely exist. For example, we can observe many organizations trying to adapt to the current trend and the necessity of remote working, however, most companies in the region face a lot of challenges with this particular format. Because even though they are forced to operate in isolation, their management format is not adapted to such a working process.

Nevertheless, I’m optimistic that more and more local companies will gradually shift to “play to win” strategies, meaning they will: invest in technology, innovation and business models to gain a significant advantage in competition.

          

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