As the second wave of COVID is entering its finale and governments around the world are reintroducing new meeting restrictions, cluster organizations previously oriented on physical events and community building are using this time to rethink their business models and redefine the value add for their communities. The Kyiv IT Cluster is going through a reorganization and the IT Dnipro Community, the cluster organization for the Dnipro high-tech cluster, is also in the midst of their strategy session.
In our interview, Yevhen Hostishchev, the CEO of the IT Dnipro Community shares his plans for the cluster organization, and how it is helping its members to weather the complex business climate of 2020.
[Sergei Sokolenko, Ucluster]: Yevhen, cluster organizations such as yours are supposed to bring together members and give them a platform for collaboration. How is COVID impacting you and the members of your community?
[Yevhen Hostishchev]: We are using this time to recruit a Supervisory Board and conduct a strategy session. The IT Dnipro Community has been the main organizing cluster organization in the Dnipro region since 2016. We now have 39 members - outsourcing software development companies, product companies, startups … The restrictions on physical meetings due to COVID-19 have made us rethink our purpose, and we initiated a strategy session to figure out who our customers are (as a cluster organization), what our value proposition is, and develop a strategy for the next 3 years. We paused in-person meetings, but our Supervisory Board continues meeting online. Speaking of the Board, a precondition to be on the board is having the HQ located in Dnipro. We now have representatives from 7 companies on the Board: Sitecore, SoftServe, Archer Software, Luxoft, Comparus.ua, WebiNerds, and AMC Bridge.
[SS]: Did your strategy session help you define what value you are bringing to your members?
[YH]: We are still working on it, but several things became clear to us.
- First, it’s the access to fresh talent that is graduating from local universities and IT academies. It’s one thing to recruit at universities as an individual company. But when our members get an introduction from us, the doors open wider.
- Our members often share advice with each other and offer discounts on services and hardware goods.
- Being part of the cluster also enables access to the city and regional (oblast) governments and foreign delegations. We recently had a delegation from the German Embassy in Kyiv visit Dnipro, and they met with the members of the cluster as a group.
- Our cluster organization has also been elected to the Advisory Board of the Ministry of Digital Transformation (Громадська рада Мінцифри).
[SS]: How closely do your members work together? Either on value added chains or on activities that benefit all cluster members?
[YH]: I can give you three examples.
- Members of our community both organize and take courses at the IT Dnipro BizSchool, with lecturers and mentors sourced from top management of local IT firms. We offer classes in Business Strategy, Sales & Marketing, HR, Operational Management, Finance & Legal. After attending one of such courses, one company reorganized their Finance department after better understanding their financial picture. Another company, a startup, received an investment from another student attendee at the BizSchool. And yet another attendee established a subcontracting relationship with someone taking the same course.
- In another example, the community came together in 2019 to conduct a research study of the economic impact of the high-tech cluster on the Dnipro region. [ed: Ucluster reported on the results of the study in our first article on the Dnipro cluster]. 20 members of the cluster agreed to provide sensitive information about their expenditures, something that would not have been possible if the research was conducted by someone external to the community.
- And, lastly, our cluster organizes a yearly IT Dnipro Conference and quarterly IT Dnipro Biz Meetups. We skipped the yearly conference in 2020 for obvious reasons, but will have one in 2021. But the meetups continue and we had one online in May.
[SS]: What are you focusing on right now in the IT Dnipro Community?
[YH]: Our biggest focus is educational projects.
A month ago, in October, we launched the LearnIT project. As part of it, leading IT companies of Dnipro are organizing online tours for high school and university students. Students have the opportunity to learn more about available jobs, trainee programs for young professionals without experience and requirements for entry-level positions.
In addition, together with IT-school SMART, we are working on the "Modern Teacher" initiative. It’s an educational program for Dnipro teachers who want to improve their skills in managing distance learning programs. Experienced IT practitioners conduct lectures and workshops for teachers on the use of online tools.
We are also co-organizing the RunIT 2020 Online Conference on November 21-22. For the first time in four years it will take place online, bringing together 24 speakers and six streams of topics, including AI&ML, Business Analysis, Product & Project Management, People Management, Full-stack Development and Quality Management.
[SS]: And what about your future plans?
[YH]: We are working through many other ideas, but we have to first complete our strategy session. Once we’ve done that, I am sure there will be many more changes and initiatives in our community. Stay connected!
[SS]: Thank you, Yevhen, for sharing your thoughts.
If you would like to learn more about the IT Dnipro Community and high tech ecosystem in Dnipro, review the following resources: