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Lithuania is among the leading European Union states according to the number of women working in the field of technologies and innovations. The IT field boasts a growing number of success and leadership stories of women that are the inspiration to other women of different ages. However, the experts claim that women still have a huge potential in this field and there is plenty of space for their self-fulfilment in the technology sector.
Working in the IT field is increasingly popular
Paulius Vertelka, one of the founders of the mentorship and consulting programme Women Go Tech, says that although the IT field is currently still dominated by men, the situation has changed for the better within the last decade: in Lithuania, we see the growing number of successful women working in the IT field, leading technological companies, and developing innovations.
“Women in IT mostly work as project managers, testers, data analysts; fewer of them work in the capacity of programmers or IT system architects. Both women and men hold talents among them, which should be encouraged, empowered and welcomed to the sector of innovations. We cannot afford ourselves to ignore women that make half of our talented society, and therefore, both men and women should follow the principle of gender equality,” says Mr Vertelka.
Mr Vertelka says that due to historical men domination in the IT field, not only women aiming to have a career in this sector need encouragement, but also men working in this sector must be encouraged to open up.
Wide possibilities for self-fulfilment
Ija Šležė, CEO of the IT company Forbis, is one of examples of successful female leadership in the IT field. The career path of Ms Šležė takes its roots from her passion for mathematics while at school and has led her to the CEO position of the company developing IT solutions for financial institutions.
“Looking back to my first year at the university, I could not have even imagined that I will enter the IT world. I was studying maths with particular interest in its real-life application. Then, at the beginning of my career, I discovered programming. It attracted me because programming requires analytical, concrete and structured thinking. Later, I had a chance to try other IT positions in the banking sector. At that time, I was the only woman in the IT team, however, this never stopped me from fulfilling my ambitions to have a career in this field,” tells Ms Šležė about her choice and the beginning of her career.
According to Ms Šležė, her biggest attainment from the IT career is a possibility to fulfil, test and improve herself, and learn new things.
“A large number of people still believe that IT is programming only; however, IT has many directions that both men and women may choose from to fulfil themselves. Work in IT requires creativity; however, it is not easy to control this creative process. It is a challenge, which is always intriguing and allows you to improve yourself constantly. For me, this is probably the biggest advantage of working in the IT field,” says Ms Šležė.
According to the head of Forbis, women who are interested in the IT field should disregard all stereotypes and seek to fulfil themselves in the activities that they really like.
More determination is required
Meanwhile, programmer Karolina Ambrazevičienė at the technology company Tesonet is convinced that any person can succeed in the IT field regardless of their gender, if he or she is ready to constantly improve and expand their professional knowledge.
“I would like to believe that women are no longer affected by stereotypes and are able to select their profession according to their interests and goals rather than perceptions of typically feminine or masculine professions. I have many female friends and acquaintances, who successfully work in the field of technologies,” says Ms Ambrazevičienė.
However, she believes that there still is a lack of appropriate information on IT sector professions and their diversity in schools. According to Ms Ambrazevičienė, if the stories of successful women and their attainments in the technology field were highlighted more often, more women of different ages would choose careers in this sector. Success stories would definitely be an encouraging example to young women.
“However, I find women’s desire and perseverance the most important. I started my career by studying books and I had to learn everything myself. It is really possible. If you think that you belong in IT, stop dreaming and start acting. There is plenty of information online. All you need to do is commit yourself and seek your goals,” says Ms Ambrazevičienė.
Forbis, the maker of the FORPOST financial services platform, recently completed a 15-million-euro project for a core banking system which enabled a pan-Baltic business transformation at Danske Bank. It as a rare example of a major IT transformation project finished on time, on scope and on budget. And with no business disruptions. EY Baltics served as the independent programme consultant.
Accepting the challenge
Many said it could not be done. Forbis took the challenge to commit to the aggressive terms that Danske Bank mandated for building a “Baltic Single Instance” – one IT system for the Nordic bank’s until then separate operations in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – and taking it live within 24 months.
“Forbis was the one that accepted the challenge under the conditions we required,” said Darius Jasinskis, Head of Baltic Business Development at Danske Bank. He oversaw the transformation programme for Danske Bank’s Baltic presence, which involved regional integration, alignment of services with a new focus on business customers only, and optimization of IT operations. “It was about the ability to deliver on a new value proposition, going from three banks, three systems and three organizations in the region, to one bank, one system and one organization,” Jasinskis said.
Each Baltic country had quite different product offerings and approaches to IT governance, said Jelena Michailova, Deputy CEO at Forbis, which has been in the business of banking IT systems for more than 20 years. There were complex legacy systems and huge amounts of diverse data to deal with. “Both parties agreed that programme management office, preferably an independent one, with banking competencies should be introduces for successful programme implementation. That role was filled very well by EY Baltic” Michailova said.
She said projects of this scope generally take five years of work or more. Doing it in just two years demanded careful planning and resource management – including a 30 percent increase in Forbis’s staff. It helped that the Forpost system was already in use at Danske bank in Lithuania and Latvia, so there were no surprises in terms of local specifics. And the Forbis team’s experience with other international projects of this type would also prove to be invaluable.
Three big milestones
The project launched in early 2016. It was decided, logically, to split it into three parts, for the move to the Baltic Single Instance in each country. Lithuania was first, as that migration required the least development. And it provided an early win – a very smooth transition before the end of 2016 and in fact two weeks ahead of schedule. The roll out was managed by Danske Bank’s Command Center, involving key executives in charge of transformation.
Latvia took more effort. On the technical side, significant development work was needed and all the data from the other Forpost version used in Latvia had to be migrated to Baltic Single Instance. From a business perspective, the bank had to change or upgrade its processes and organization in keeping with a regional, pan-Baltic way of working.
One complication was that the change-over date at Danske Bank in Latvia in 2017 coincided with a redenomination of the national currency in Belarus, where the company’s system thus had to be adjusted. “For the amount of work involved, the redenomination of the Belarusian rouble was like the introduction of the euro in each of the Baltic countries. A lot of changes had to all be made, and the same night as the Danske migration in Latvia. Forbis’s support of these two major projects in parallel shows its capacity to handle multiple large-scale international projects,” Forbis’s Deputy CEO noted.
The third, Estonian milestone was the most complex one. That migration was scheduled last, during 2018, in order to leave more time for all the preparations. It, too, was completed, on time, with no major incidents or operational disruptions. Forbis had agreed not to completely freeze the bank’s business development during the project, and to help comply with any regulatory changes.
“The bank promised to inform us as early as possible about new requirements from the financial regulator, and about any planned new products or the like, so we could react right away and plan accordingly. Being so flexible, so agile, without jeopardizing your project is only possible when you have a lot of practical experience, a clear grasp of the big picture and how it will be impacted by one or another change. Theoretical knowledge is not enough,” said Jelena Michailova.
Ready for the future
What exactly did Danske Bank get? “The Baltic Single Instance is one system with a single interface in the local languages for customer and in English for employees at multiple branches in different countries. It has flexible user rights for data management and the same system-wide functionality with customizations for local compliance, and supports instant inter-branch payments 24/7, with standard pricing terms that can be adjusted locally. It’s connected to one data warehouse – as a single source of truth for business intelligence and reporting, and as one system ready to connect to the Danske Bank group’s Business Online system. Now we are working as a regional, Baltic organization with centralized governance, structure and processes.” That’s how Darius Jasinskis describes what is now up and running.
Artūras Piliponis, EY Baltic Advisory Services Partner, summarizes EY Baltic work as PMO in this transformation: “This was not a regular IT system implementation. It was a major IT and business model transformation challenge considering that Danske Bank in the Baltics had to upgrade its technology in Lithuania and Latvia and change technology in Estonia, whilst also changing its operating model and unifying products as well as procedures across the three countries. What is more, all of this happened as planned and in less than 2.5 years. It takes other similar complexity organisations three to five years per country to do something like that.” EY Baltic assisted Danske Bank with programme management, testing management and other quality and technical support aspects of IT solutions implementation.
In fact, Danske Bank in the Baltics is undergoing further transformation related to the Danske Bank Group’s new strategy to concentrate on Nordic customers. That means exiting local business relationships in the Baltics to focus only on Nordic and international customers present in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The new core banking system that Forbis put in place, the Baltic Single Instance, is proving to be essential in supporting the ongoing operational changes in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, Jasinskis stressed.
After all, the company’s IT solutions are “designed to be readily adaptable for the future,” she explained, adding that: “The pace of technological and market change is now so fast that you can’t just build systems for today. Successful digital transformation at financial institutions requires understanding both the technologies and the business environment in-depth. We work hard to build that into our integrated and multifunctional solutions.”