The advantage of strategy
Cegeka boasts one of the most impressive growth stories in Belgium, standing out head and shoulders in the IT crowd. Quite surprisingly, they seem to have come from nowhere. What is more surprising, however, is what they did next.
The rebirth of Cegeka in the early ‘90s began (rather unconventionally) with a death: management had decided to let an entire department go. The head of that department decided then and there that this was not going to happen. André Knaepen (today Cegeka CEO) initiated a management buyout and took the entire team with him to start afresh. What began as a tremendous risk—i.e. launching a new company with 30 people from the start is costly—has now become a robust business with over 1200 employees. It is a remarkable story of growth, one that continues even in these difficult economic times.
Looking under the skin of Cegeka does not at first glance seem to reveal anything too revolutionary. The company comprises three main areas: Firstly, Cegeka functions as an outsourcing partner in data centre services. This kind of heavy duty long-term (seldom less than 5 years) contractual business requires intensive face time with clients. This is something that Cegeka shines at. They are not an overseas giant; on the contrary, the company’s decision makers and data centres are right here within reach. This might not be a big feat internationally, but it is so to many Belgian companies who consider data their lifeblood. Indeed, numerous companies such as Delta Lloyd Life, AVR - Van Gansewinkel and Ewals Cargo Care are opting for a full outsourcing model at Cegeka.
Cegeka’s second area of focus is application development. Here we begin to see a little more of what makes the company unique. The division is called the Agile Software Factory—and the name says it all. It is a factory because it is fast and efficient, and it manages to be a factory because its approach is agile. Cegeka’s software factory has developed a methodology whereby it is able to get a significant head-start on projects and reduce their risk. As a result, it is able to start delivering working software within two weeks of a project’s launch.
Rounding out the company is their third division: product development. While a significant proportion of the big players in the Belgian IT industry rely on hosting and maintaining third-party software, Cegeka has been bold enough to develop or acquire enterprise level products, mainly in the health care sector. This kind of software (for instance, a central patient record application) allows for remote installation and feeds the company’s international expansion plans, as it does not require a hands-on approach – it can be supported (unlike the other divisions of Cegeka) from anywhere.
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