This interview was originally featured in the German CIO.de Magazine. Dr. Andrea Marlière has been the CEO of the Romanian IT service provider Accesa since the autumn of 2020. From then on, Accesa’s team increased from 700 to 1,200 people.
CIO.de Magazine: Ms. Marlière, can you tell us about your journey from working in Germany to becoming the CEO of Accesa in Romania? What inspired you to take on this role?
Dr. Andrea Marlière: I came to Romania in 2019 as an external consultant and project manager, more precisely, to Cluj-Napoca in Transylvania. Even then, I was impressed by the dynamics of the IT ecosystem in Cluj-Napoca, the extremely high level of technology and innovation that thrives here and, of course, the agility of the IT teams at Accesa. At the beginning of the pandemic, Accesa's founder offered the company for sale to my client, a German IT service provider from the cooperative financial sector, and I have been CEO of Accesa since the autumn of 2020.
CIO.de Magazine: What were your biggest challenges, and how did you overcome them?
Dr. Andrea Marlière: There were a few challenges. But one that I remember, in particular, happened during my first meeting as a CEO when I received the most surprising question. My new colleagues wanted to know if the acquisition would change anything about Accesa's values. Accesa has always been a people-first company and we quickly agreed that it should stay that way. Our focus is on our clients, colleagues, and partners.
We live by this value consistently through our processes - from recruiting, onboarding, and getting to know each other sessions to career coaching, many hackathons, and brainstorming sessions and, of course, in the daily collaboration on projects with our customers. Good IT is only created when the human relationship works.
It helped that I got involved in the "people first" culture right from the start and put away my "German glasses". And, of course, from the point of view of our German customers, it builds trust when a German CEO is at the helm of his nearshore IT provider. That helped a lot during the rapid starting phase.
CIO.de Magazine: How has your leadership contributed to Accesa's success in the German market? What strategies have you implemented to stand out in this competitive industry?
Dr. Andrea Marlière: I often invite our customers to Cluj-Napoca. When they see how professionally and highly motivated, our teams are and how driven by innovation this community is, they are usually thrilled and become our "promoters". At the same time, I encourage my Romanian colleagues to be more confident and not hide their light under a bushel. We are very far ahead technologically, but our colleagues don't always dare to position themselves firmly and contribute with their experience and skills during their discussions with the German project managers.
CIO.de Magazine: The pandemic had many consequences for the IT industry. How are you helping businesses in their digital transformation journey during these challenging times?
Dr. Andrea Marlière: Since 2020, we have almost doubled our team from around 700 to 1,200 colleagues and collaborators - and we did this literally in the middle of the pandemic. During this process, we have grown mainly through our long-standing existing customers in the Retail, Manufacturing, Banking and Finance industries. The recipe for success has been a customer-centric approach combined with a long-standing expertise in automating complex processes, modernising legacy applications and migrating them into the Cloud.
In parallel with the growing demand from our customers, we have managed to attract many new talent inside and outside Cluj. We are targeting our recruiting, especially in university towns across Romania. Once a certain number of employees is reached, we provide them with a suitable co-working space to work from, in addition to our remote option.
This year, we opened new offices in Timisoara and Bucharest. Right now, we have an exciting pilot underway: a partnership with three coffeehouses in Cluj-Napoca, where our colleagues can meet during the day to work or simply exchange ideas.
We don't force our employees to come to our offices - but we create many attractive opportunities to ensure open communication, shared knowledge and high team performance. For us, hybrid work means a flexible mix of offices, teamwork and home office. Following strict IT security standards, using an in-house desk booking app, and having many intelligent workplace processes in place help us, and our customers make the most of the new world of work.
Friendshoring - A Mix of Nearshoring and Friendship
CIO.de Magazine: Building strong partnerships is essential for sustainable growth. What does it mean to partner with Accesa, and how do you foster collaboration with companies of different sizes, including SMEs in the Financial, Retail and Manufacturing sectors?
Dr. Andrea Marlière: Sustainable growth in our industry only works if we integrate ourselves into our customers' value chains. Therefore, we’ve organised ourselves internally not according to technologies but to the industries we serve. Within our company, a Java developer in the Retail industry has already worked on several projects after just a few years.
In addition to his technological skills, he has already gained a lot of know-how in his field of expertise and can successfully bring this to bear on new projects. This allows us to put our talents together in teams with pinpoint accuracy. The German and Romanian teams get to know each other personally, strengthening their relationships.
We specifically promote mutual visits, team building and authentic relationships. To this end, our in-house team coaches have a significant contribution. By doing this, we are also setting the limits for what we don't do: we usually kindly reject requests for two developers for three months as "gap fillers". But if an SME asks us whether we could imagine starting a small project together and seeing how our collaboration evolves, we'll definitely go for it.
We call our strategy "friendshoring" - a mix of nearshoring and friendship. For us, the personal relationship with our customers is essential - this is also shown by many of our customers who have been working with us for more than ten years. We are willing to walk alongside our clients through both good and sometimes challenging times.
CIO.de Magazine: "Friendshoring" is a unique approach that sets Accesa apart from the competition. Can you explain the benefits of this model and how Accesa ensures its effective implementation?
Dr. Andrea Marlière: Friendshoring has many facets. We are currently supporting our clients with hackathons leveraging AI technologies. Here in Cluj, we put together mixed teams of clients, colleagues and our AI experts. Starting from an initial idea, these teams develop PoCs and prototypes in 24 hours. We’ve created a methodology for companies to assess which AI projects they should prioritise. Today's question is no longer whether to introduce AI, but to what degree to prioritise AI. For us, it is important that our customers are "ahead of the game" when it comes to AI.
In addition, we also regularly invite our customers to our technology conferences in Cluj; sharing knowledge with IT experts from other industries is a very rewarding experience for them. Transparency towards our customers is essential for us. We openly discuss our own technology strategy and how we innovate here in the market. In relationship with our clients, we recently introduced a new type of share-knowledge experience - the CEO of Metafinanz, a subsidiary of an Insurance Group, spent a week at Accesa on-site, and I will soon be doing the same at Metafinanz. We believe in friendship-based networking with our clients and partners.
ISAE & BAIT Checks and ISO Certificates
CIO.de Magazine: Accesa has an impressive presence in the German Financial sector. Could you give an overview of the company's approach to this industry and its impact on clients?
Dr. Andrea Marlière: We have been part of the cooperative financial sector since the company's takeover in 2020, and thus we belong to the Volks- and Raiffeisen Bank. Meanwhile, more than 250 of our colleagues work for the cooperative sector. It turned out to be an advantage for us to work for highly regulated clients such as banks and insurance companies on the one hand, but also for Retail, Manufacturing and Multi-Industry on the other. We have learned from the regulated clients how valuable good risk and IT security management are. Our internal control system is based on the "3 lines of defence" principle.
We are certified according to ISO 9001, ISO 27001, and ISO 14001 and have been audited for compliance with ISAE 3402 Type I and the BAIT guidelines in the last two years. The audit mission for ISAE Type II is planned to be performed next year. Data protection, compliance and ESG requirements are becoming increasingly complex, especially against the background of a growing number of AI projects.
At the same time, the Geno Group and other financial services providers benefit from our experience in Automation, AI, Data and Cloud from other industries that are often technologically ahead of banks. In this way, regulated and non-regulated customers benefit from each other.
CIO.de Magazine: Tailored services and solutions are crucial to meet specific needs. Can you give an overview of Accesa's service portfolio and how you ensure that these solutions adapt the changing needs of the IT industry?
Dr. Andrea Marlière: We offer our clients the complete lifecycle from custom software development, legacy application modernisation, SAP Commerce Cloud solutions, migration into different Cloud Solutions to Managed Services - i.e., application management and support and monitoring systems.
The topics currently most in demand are data engineering and AI in combination with process automation as well as green code as an answer to the growing ESG requirements - for our customers and as well as for us. Our Quality Management and SecOps team plays an increasingly important role. Last but not least, due to the pandemic, the topic of "Intelligent Workplace" holds a top position.
CIO.de Magazine: As a closing note, why should CIOs in the Finance, Retail and Manufacturing industries choose Accesa? What recommends Accesa as the ideal choice to drive the digital success of their businesses?
Dr. Andrea Marlière: CIOs working with us will have their own "friendshore" team in Romania, integrated into the client company, showing enthusiasm, high professionalism and reliability. And, of course, we still have a significant cost advantage over many other EU countries. But the real benefit is that Accesa teams are innovative, agile and high-performing, having our clients' "future readiness" in mind.
Dr. Andrea Marlière's rise as the CEO of Accesa is a remarkable and inspiring success story. Under her leadership, Accesa has delivered an outstanding performance in the German Financial, Manufacturing and Retail sectors. The company's innovative "friendshoring" model has changed the rules of the game, providing unique IT services to companies operating in these industries.