To succeed with digital transformation requires more than technology. There has to be a cultural and workplace environment that encourages, and harnesses, creative solutions. Argentine software and IT outsourcing giant Globant, which has operations throughout Latin America, has found a nice fit in Bogotá, Colombia.
“We’ve been in Colombia for eight years, and now have 1,500 employees in Bogotá, and another 1,000 in Medellin,” said Andrés Giolito, Globant’s Colombia Country Manager, during a sit-down interview at Globant’s well-appointed Bogotá facility. “In total, the company has about 9,700 employees.”
That means that over 25% of Globant’s workforce is in Colombia.
“I would say that Colombia is the market with our biggest, fastest-growing opportunities,” Giolito said. “Here we have technological connectivity that allows for non-stop contact with the world, which is essential given that most of our clients are Fortune 500, and in the US.”
Our conversation continued as we strolled the floor. People were walking around, talking, working on various applications. It was a lively and stimulating environment. Facebook and YouTube were visible on the occasional screen, which came as a surprise.
“We don’t block social media,” says Giolito. “It’s about productivity. With us, if someone gets bored with a project, they can change. Or we give them the option of working from another country for three months.”
Though the building itself was operating at the highest levels of security, once on the floor the vibe was both relaxed and dynamic. As a company, Globant certainly deserves credit for supporting a creative environment, but this approach also appears to be well-suited to the culture in Colombia, and perhaps more specifically, to the capital city, Bogotá.
“There are a lot of bilingual schools in Bogotá, and the university-level English is very good,” Giolito says. “We’ll train people out of university, as we have an emphasis on new tech, such as AI and machine learning. We’re looking for candidates with a basis in math, logic, and statistics. After internal courses and tests, we can determine the best fit.”
Giolito also spoke at length about the importance of economic stability, something that is no doubt on Globant’s mind, given Argentina’s recent struggles. This message was mirrored by private and public sector speakers during Bogotá’s Foreign Investment Summit, which was held in the capital city on August 14, 2019.
“We’re the only country in Latin America that has never defaulted on its foreign debt,” Paola Garcia, VP, Investment, for ProColombia, told Nearshore Americas during a break in the event. “Colombia’s GDP will grow 3.5% this year. We are the 32nd largest economy in the world, and the 4th largest in Latin America.”
ProColombia, a government agency that’s been around for 25 years, boosts tourism, non-traditional exports, and foreign investment. Garcia’s pitch included highlighting the fact that Colombia has low barriers for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), and that it recently joined the OECD as the organization’s 37th member.
The macroeconomic argument is legitimate, as is the observation that the Colombian time-zone is well-aligned to American clients, with Bogotá’s new airport now number one in cargo for Latin America, and number three in passenger traffic. However, the most powerful advantage, particularly for a company like Globant that delivers high-value services, appears to be Colombia’s confident, open culture, in which productivity is encouraged with positive incentives, rather than negativity and discipline.
“Our overall company turnover is 1.5%,” says Giolito. “And in Colombia for us it is actually lower, at 1.2%.
This kind of stability – of labor as well as within the political and economic sphere – is critical for a company like Globant, which has been on a tear in 2019.
In January of this year, Globant acquired Avanxo, a cloud-services provider with its head office in Houston and a presence in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Argentina. When making the announcement, Martin Migoya, Globant CEO and Co-founder, stated that in picking up Avanxo’s 400 employees Globant had “found an amazing team that complements our model.”
However, it appears unlikely that Globant will physically integrate the Avanxo workforce with those of the parent company. Avanxo, which has a large presence on Bogotá, has 310 cloud specialists. These professionals help maintain Avanxo’s status as an Advanced Consulting and MSP Certified Partner for Amazon Web Services, as well as a Platinum Consulting Partner for Salesforce. Such specialized cloud-services professionals will likely remain where they are, as they might not adapt well to Globant’s fluid environment.
This August Globant also announced that it had acquired Belatrix Software, which has been around for almost two decades, with offices in the United States and Spain. The purchase adds 600 IT professionals in areas such as digital transformation, agile, and product development. At the time, Alex Robbio, Belatrix President and co-founder, made it clear that the added value to Belatrix was to “bring a new service offering to our clients in areas like artificial intelligence and machine learning.”
These are the kinds of workers who would be more likely to blend in at a campus like the one in Bogotá.
“Belatrix is a good fit for us given their expertise in finance, payment, healthcare, and retail,” said Giolito. “They have about 150 engineers in Colombia, with another 450 in Peru and Argentina.”
Given these acquisitions, and Globant’s 30% growth rate in Colombia, it would appear that Globant is fast becoming one of Latin America’s ITO powerhouses. It now has a presence in 17 countries, and works with companies like Google, Southwest Airlines, Electronic Arts (EA), and BBVA. A member of the Cybersecurity Tech Accord (2019), Globant has been featured as a business case study at Harvard, MIT and Stanford, and has twice been named a Worldwide Leader of Digital Strategy Consulting Services by IDC MarketScape.
The view from the floor of Globant’s operations in Bogotá would suggest that these accolades are no accident. Digital transformation requires a high level of collaboration and autonomy, and, given that creativity cannot be legislated or disciplined, the only way to deliver on these seemingly contradictory goals is by treating employees with a high level of trust and respect. To do that, you have to build the right work environment, and then let it work for you – in Bogotá, and around the world.