Finn Worm Petersen, founder of Norwegian global technology company TIQRI, reflects on achievements of his 200 employee strong company in Sri Lanka .
TIQRI’s founder and former CEO reminisces about the successes so far, while outlining future challenges as the company continues to evolve into an international player.
This year marks the tenth year anniversary for the global software development firm and Microsoft gold partner TIQRI Corporation, which has offices in several geographies. This October marked another significant event for the company, when founder Finn Worm-Petersen stepped down from his position as CEO. Taking the reigns over is Shamira Dias, an industrysavvy professional, who has taken on the challenge ahead in moulding TIQRI from a SME to a truly global enterprise.
I am very happy about transitioning to Chairman because Shamira has been with me for a long time – he was with me at Exilesoft for seven years (the software company Mr. Worm-Petersen founded and helmed prior to TIQRI), right up until I left with the company. He spent several years at Nasdaq-listed company VirtUSA, leading business transformation programs and a team of 300 software developers and IT specialists,“Mr Worm-Petersen says.
After stepping down from overseeing day-to-day operations, Mr. Worm-Petersen says he is still fully engaged, spending “a lot more time in the market”, which subsequently allows him to take a more strategic overview of TIQRI, and how their customers experience the organisation.
“Now that we’re up to 200 people, we’re definitely undergoing a paradigm shift – up to this point we’ve been a classical SME where everybody knows everybody, and all of the sudden you’re bumping into people in the staircase, wondering who that was.”
Heading forward, Mr WormPetersen says one of the primary areas of focus is making sure all TIQRI employees are pulling in the same direction as the company is transforming into a larger entity.
It’s a tough thing at times to bring to the board, but you have to maintain a long-time perspective on what you’re doing and swallowing those costs pays a dividend in the end - we now have people celebrating their 10th year work anniversaries with us at TIQRI. Investing in people has been absolutely pivotal to our success”.
As the company keeps growing, another side of the equation is how to successfully manage the increasing number of teams and ensuring they are able to meet the high expectations of clients in mature markets.
“We’re doing a lot of work on how teams and project management has to adapt to these new challenges. Basically, the goal is to have a series of small companies running under one umbrella company. I’ve always been impressed of how well IBM has managed to run a half a million-strong workforce, acting as a small company. In practice, it means there is a very short distance to travel from when something needs to be done to decision-making, without all the layers of bureaucracy in between.”
TIQRI has major clients in the credit card, transportation, healthcare,
automation and sensor systems on their roster, which means dealing with extremely tech-savvy clients on a daily basis.
“The hardest part has been bringing together people from different parts of the world and organise them to work as a team. This means overcoming any obstacles, as well as establishing a mutual understanding based on the same basic goals and principles. This can be a tough job with people sitting in the same room, let alone different countries!
It was extremely tough 20 years ago when I started in Sri Lanka and we didn’t have video conferencing technology, but even with all the technological advances, at the end of the day, it’s vital to have people meet face to face - it’s the only way to move past the ‘us and them’ or ‘you and me’ sort of thing. We invite our clients to come down to spend 1-2 weeks with us, doing workshops and have a laugh and a beer – let people be people.”
One of the key initiatives to bridge the cultural gap and bring the world closer to Sri Lanka‘s booming tech scene has been DEV DAY, an annual international tech conference held by TIQRI, is now in its sixth year running.
“The initial idea behind DEV DAY was that since it’s impossible for us to send all of our employees to all these conferences around the world, we started thinking why don’t we get a worldclass, international conference going in Colombo instead. It helps to expose our employees to cutting-edge technologies and what the customer, living in a hi-tech environment, expects as a baseline.
In the first few years, we had some speakers from Norway joining, now they’re coming from all over the world. This year, for example, we have dr. Anita Sengupta, a rocket scientist with Elon Musk at Hyperloop One, and formerly with NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory. Her keynote is titled ‘The next frontier; Humans on Mars’. When we have people of her calibre coming in, that adds a lot of value to the local community and inspires our people.
There are three separate tracks to choose from and we’re completely sold out with over 400 registered participants this year. I guess it’s becoming a bit of a thing, really.”
In October, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe commenced on a three-day official visit to Norway, the agenda including a visit to XXL Warehouse, where the robotic warehouse technology of TIQRI-partner Element Logic is deployed.
“We’ve been working with ICT Norway and their Sri Lankan counterpart SLASSCOM over many years, playing a role in establishing their partnership and bringing more awareness of the Sri Lankan tech capabilities to Norway. Earlier this year, I had met with one of the local ministers in a private social setting, discussing how to further the cooperation between our two countries. Later, they organised the visit with the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.
One of the companies the PM visited was our partner Element Logic, whom we’ve enjoyed a successful relationship with for the last ten years. They’re on the cutting edge of warehouse automation and well on their way to becoming a billion NOK company. Overall, it was a very successful visit and I hope to see more Norwegian companies doing business with Sri Lanka, since it’s a much closer fit between our small countries than India, which tends to be the go-to outsourcing country. Mind you, the average company there has anywhere between 5,000 – 30,000 employees, which is not a great match with a Norwegian company with 50 – 200 employees.
In terms of future prospects, Mr Worm-Petersen says the industry is becoming a lot tougher as a whole and internally it means TIQRI has several challenges to overcome. He attributes a large portion of the company’s success to long-term partnerships with their clients, playing an extended technology partner role, and being able to scale up and down as the need may be of the client. Moving forward, “business as usual” will be challenged by increasingly complex software scenarios, and shorter software lifecycles. With Artificial Intelligence (AI) as the holy grail of the tech industry, it means that there is a lot of pressure on the engineers, who have to continuously adapt to an ever-shifting landscape.
“We have to really ask ourselves why we want to grow past 200 employees – and in order to scale up, we need more resources, more people on the job and of course, more money. As the technological challenges increase, it will be increasingly difficult to remain relevant and a successful SME in our business over the next ten years. That’s my biggest concern– the minute we stop challenging ourselves and stop growing, we’re probably heading for the dust bin.
It’s an all-in game to go international with software development, it’s not about finding a bunch of guys in Asia, setting up an office and doing some Skype calls; you have to take it as seriously as you would in Norway or Brussels. The key learning from over the last decade is that there are no shortcuts or half measures – it’s boots on the ground, all in for the long-haul. It starts with engaging the community and ends with making sure your every individual employee is marching in the same direction.
It takes grit and commitment in order to globalise a small company the way we have done, but I must admit that I’m thankful I didn’t foresee all the challenges we would encounter along the way.
That being said, it’s been a most exciting and rewarding journey, and I’ve enjoyed every step of the way. I can’t wait to see what TIQRI will manage to achieve over the next decade.” F acts A.
TIQRI has offices in Norway, Sweden, ustralia, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Vietnam a.
Key areas of expertise include digitisation nd software engineering
Fuji Xerox, Element Logic, Cushman T. & Wakefield, and Sensor Link are some of IQRI’s portfolio clients
TIQRI organises DEV Day, an annual m. global tech conference and Kids Can Code, a onthly coding club for kids
has over 200 active employees
Above Left: Outgoing TIQRI Corporation CEO and now Chairman Finn Worm Petersen and incoming CEO Shamira Dias in front of the company’s Colombo office. Above: Peter D'Almeida, CEO of n*able at DEV DAY in November 2018.