Lithuania’s GBS community thrives in ‘the new normal’

Nov 18, 2020
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The following article by Laura Kavaliauskaitė, the Head of GBS and ICT Team at Invest Lithuania first appeared in the Outsourcing&More magazine. You can find the original here.

The COVID-19 outbreak has presented a challenge for everyone, including Lithuania’s GBS sector that employs almost 20,000 specialists. But what could have been a story of mass layoffs, actually turned out to be a story of growth and resilience. Thanks to careful planning and agile processes, the country’s GBS centres have adapted to ‘the new normal’ exceptionally quickly, and continue to deliver tangible value for their clients and partners.

The changing face of nearshoring

The pandemic has forced a lot of companies to change the ways they think and work. Offices working in shifts, retail chains going entirely online, IT companies allowing staff to work from home indefinitely – we’ve seen it all. In the GBS sector, new trends are also emerging, with the importance of reliable, secure digital infrastructure and future-focused leadership becoming critical to the businesses, as they rethink their location strategies.

It is not surprising, then, that Lithuania’s GBS sector has been successful in navigating the COVID-19 crisis. The country’s robust ICT infrastructure, experienced industry leaders and tech-savvy talent make the Lithuanian GBS sector perfectly placed to meet the shifting needs of nearshoring operations. The COVID-19 crisis showed that Lithuania-based centres are quick to adapt, with the likes of Danske Bank having no problem to reorganize the work of thousands of employees in several days.

At the same time, global businesses continue to believe that Lithuania is a suitable place for growth even in times of crisis. Instead of massive furloughs across the sector, we have seen companies like Intrum and Western Union announce plans to grow their functions and hire more specialists. Just as I am writing this, Yara has announced adding a Business Intelligence team to their Vilnius-based European Business Services Centre established in 2019. In short, growth, resilience, and leadership are the qualities that best characterize Lithuania’s GBS sector in 2020.

GBS community coming together

In times of adversity, staying connected is paramount. During the pandemic, the Lithuanian GBS & ICT community came together to share knowledge and experience, helping one another to weather the crisis.

From the start of the quarantine, Invest Lithuania has been co-operating proactively with our GBS investors. Right after the lockdown was announced, our team started gathering information about the challenges and issues investors face during the COVID-19 pandemic, including migration procedures, tax payments, subsidies and other available state support. As always, it was our agency’s top priority to provide a clear picture for the investors and partners and help them as much as possible every step of the way.

With the lockdown still in place, we held the annual GBS community gathering. The event, held online for the first time in its history, proved to be a huge success. A panel of inspiring leaders – from Deloitte consultants and GBS centre managers to Lithuanian Parliament members – shared their experiences of leading teams, organizations, and even countries, through times of crisis. Expert voices from Nasdaq, Telia and Danske Bank and other companies were very well received in sharing their insights and experiences in a series of short public videos. These efforts have undoubtedly helped to keep the Lithuanian GBS community connected and working like a well-oiled machine.

Lithuania: Challenge us, and we’ll deliver

The pandemic has allowed Lithuanian businesses to demonstrate that they are flexible, resilient and adaptable during the times of crises. Challenged by the COVID-19 outbreak, companies in different sectors have delivered innovation and fast results, trying to do their part in helping the situation. For instance, it took only a fortnight after the lockdown was announced for Intersurgical, a Lithuania-based manufacturer and supplier of medical devices, to start producing PPE for Lithuania’s medical workers. In the meantime, Lithuanian programmers at Lympo came up with an app for people in self-isolation to monitor COVID-19 related symptoms, reducing the burden of collecting data about the virus for health services.

Invest Lithuania has also treated the current challenges as opportunities, not obstacles. Once the pandemic grounded international flights, we immediately started organizing virtual visits for prospective investors. Just like we would with a real visit, we create an itinerary and attend online meetings between prospective investors and other parties. What has been very helpful to potential investors is filming potential investment locations using drones – the current situation has driven us to find creative solutions to maintain our position in the game.

Lithuania is ready for the future

This unprecedented global pandemic has challenged the conventional approaches to both site selection and large-scale critical business operations management. Core site selection criteria are now likely to be reshuffled as companies learn from their experience. They increasingly prioritize locations that offer a greater degree of flexibility, resilience, and robust ICT infrastructure.

Lithuania is ready to meet such criteria. Here, the global pandemic has greatly accelerated digitization processes. The latest research by leading management consulting companies show that the lack of digital skills is the biggest threat to enterprises’ digital transformation efforts.  According to Eurostat, Lithuania is among the top countries in the EU for the share of young people with digital skills, with more than 90% of young Lithuanians having digital competencies. The potential for digitization is also evident in the fact that as much as 40% of jobs in Lithuania can go digital – the highest percentage among OECD members. This, combined with the aforementioned advantages, makes Lithuania a reliable solution to address the newly emerged challenges in the post-crisis GBS landscape.

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