The following article by Laura Balsiukė, Senior Investment Advisor at Invest Lithuania, was first published in Outsourcing&More magazine. Please follow this link to access the whole issue.
When the fraud prevention team of Danish advertising technology platform Adform discovered a large, sophisticated advertising-fraud operation, it knew it had uncovered something big. In fact, the Hyphbot, as it was dubbed, was probably the biggest bot network to hit the online ad industry. Conservative estimates are that the bot was generating at least $500,000 a day offering ‘fake ads’ to companies. But thanks to Adform’s skilled engineers and proactive approach, the scam was nipped in the bud.
The Hyphbot story highlights the fact that it requires constant vigilance to keep your IT operations secure, and that cutting corners is not an option. But there is a second moral to this story: that having a skilled, diligent team makes a huge difference. And Adform, like many other international companies, have been able to put together that team in Lithuania, thanks to its rich pool of IT talent. Adform’s fraud prevention activities, and many other IT functions, are delivered from its service centre in Lithuania, which currently employs over 450 staff.
The Lithuanian team that uncovered the Hyphbot scam has two key characteristics that can be found throughout the country’s IT services sector. Firstly, the sector is comprised of highly skilled experts who are analytical, solution-driven and dedicated. Secondly, it utilises custom-built solutions to support the work done by the people themselves. In the case of Hyphbot, it was an algorithm that had been developed in-house that enabled Adform to detect the fraud. Thanks to this combination of expert talent and bespoke automated processes, Lithuania’s tech sector is developing and providing critical global IT services to the likes of Uber, Nasdaq, and Western Union.
Tech talent you can trust
Lithuania’s GBS sector is diverse and multifunctional, yet the provision of IT services stands out as a major feature. 30% of service centres in Lithuania belong to company groups from the IT industry, making it the largest sector in Lithuania’s GBS ecosystem. Furthermore, IT services are the most common service provided, with 29% of employees working in this field. The main reason international companies are choosing the set up in Lithuania is clear: talent.
Whether it is working on cybersecurity, ensuring critical systems remain in operation 24/7, or developing smart new software to meet customer needs, Lithuanian IT specialists are currently responsible for a huge array of tech projects for global companies. Take Uber, the ride-hailing service currently valued at close to $70 billion. Its Engineering Centre in Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, is responsible for “keeping the engine running,” as Uber’s website puts it – that means providing critical site reliability. Nasdaq also has a growing IT team in Lithuania, which, among other functions, provides global system operations support, maintaining the infrastructure and applications that run in all Nasdaq-managed European locations. Then there’s TransUnion, one of the world’s biggest credit risk assessment and information solutions companies, who recently opened a brand new office in Kaunas, Lithuania’s second largest city. The new facility is tasked with ensuring the company’s cybersecurity worldwide, which means continuously monitoring the online security of over 1,200 employees and the information systems of TransUnion’s corporate customers. Likewise, Telia, the Scandinavian telecoms giant, is leveraging its Lithuanian IT talents to ensure stability across its IT infrastructure.
Much more than a safe pair of hands
The fact that these international companies are trusting their Lithuanian offices with business-critical IT responsibilities is testament to the trust they have in their IT specialists. But what is striking is that in almost every case, these teams are also being asked to put their creativity and ingenuity to use as well. These specialists are not just problem solvers, they are solution drivers.
In Uber’s case, its Vilnius office is providing IT development services to take care of 50% of Uber’s core infrastructure. Nasdaq’s Vilnius office is involved in developing, testing and delivering state-of-the-art technology which powers trading venues, clearing houses, CSDs and corporates around the world. With Telia, its Lithuanian tech talents are being tasked with developing mobile software solutions for the company’s e-channels (mobile and internet), which are used by 4.5 million customers every month.
Perhaps the best example of cutting-edge IT solutions coming out of Lithuanian tech teams are those of Danske Bank. Danske Bank is one of Europe’s largest retail banks, and one of the factors behind its success is its willingness to embrace of innovative solutions. Its most recent, Sunday.dk, is a revolutionary online and mobile platform that covers every step of acquiring a property loan. This enables Danske customers to get a mortgage without having to leave the comfort of their home, and all in record time – 60% of home loan applications made through the platform are confirmed within 48 hours. Then there’s the MobilePay App, launched 5 years ago, which is Denmark’s No.1 money transfer application, and is on 90% of Danish smartphones. Both of these breakthrough solutions bear the mark of Lithuanian IT talent. Both Sunday.dk and MobilePay were developed by joint Danish – Lithuanian teams. Danske’s Lithuanian team includes experts in user experience, process consultants, designers, data scientists, business analysts, programmers and testers. And the company intends to grow its Lithuanian IT team, which has expanded by 40% since last Autumn, by a further 30% this year.
A growing pool of talent
This kind of growth is made possible by Lithuania’s well-developed pipeline for tech talent. There are currently around 32,000 IT specialists employed in Lithuania’s tech sector, with 12,000 students enrolled in IT studies at present – the number of IT students increased by 20% from 2013 to 2016. In fact, Lithuania’s IT talent pool has the second highest level of tertiary education in the EU. Many of these talents enter the workforce as Junior Developers through qualification schools such as Code Academy and the Vilnius Coding School.
And companies and organisations are supporting the effort to develop a strong IT community. Devbridge, a US-based software developer with an office in Lithuania, offers free educational programs to students through its Sourcery Academy. Starting even earlier is Computers for Kids, a program set to teach coding by providing BBC mciro:bit computers to all 5th graders. Another strong trend, which is supported through initiatives like Women Go Tech, is the improving gender balance in the sector. Lithuania is in the EU’s top 3 countries for the proportion of women working in the IT sector.
Rise of the robots
Alongside developing smart solutions for customers, Lithuanian IT specialists are also being put to work developing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions for GBS centres. Currently, 67% of GBS centres based in Lithuania are using RPA solutions, with 48% of these developed in-house. This means that 2.3% of the GBS workforce in Lithuania are now robots, with an average of 31 robots deployed in each centre. Western Union, which operates a GBS centre in Vilnius employing almost 2,000 staff, has been one of the pioneers of this trend. This year, the company’s Vilnius facility won the Top Robotics / RPA Implementation Award for the CEE region at both the USA – Europe Shared Services Awards 2018 and the CEE Shared Services and Outsourcing awards 2018.
Reliability plus ingenuity is a winning combination
As scams like the Hyphbot reveal, taking chances with your IT operations is not an option. Keeping on top of the constantly shifting developments of IT operations requires both expertise and tenacity. But beyond being a safe pair of hands, the very best IT talents also show the creativity to develop new solutions that meet ever-changing customer respects. From maintaining Uber’s global operations and providing critical services to Nasdaq and TransUnion, through to developing smart solutions for the likes of Telia and Danske Bank, Lithuanian IT teams are offering international companies the perfect blend of reliability and ingenuity.