• CEO's interview: ‘The short-term needs of our clients go beyond physical solutions’

    CEO's interview: ‘The short-term needs of our clients go beyond physical solutions’

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Published 27 de February de 2020

Posters seen around Ayesa’s head office announce an internal initiative, Ayesa Tasking, the aim of which is to optimise its project management system. These feature a particularly relevant sentence – ‘The change has already begun’. This does not just refer to the implementation of a company-wide management system, but also to the beginning of a new chapter for the company, one in which the objective is to consolidate a business model based on ETC. This involves combining engineering and technology throughout the company, as well as placing particular importance on innovation.

José Luis Manzanares, who was appointed CEO of Ayesa last May, is responsible for the biggest challenge the family company has faced since he joined it in 1996 – staying ahead in the market and creating the services needed by the new digital economy.

What did Ayesa look like when you were appointed CEO?
It was already a solid company, financially and operationally speaking. Our goal now is to work in an integrated manner and maximise synergies between engineering and technology through our Digital Transformation Area. These are the three parts of the triangle.

Could you tell us a bit about the company’s road map?
Ayesa is a dynamic company, where we don’t like our areas to be set in stone. Change breathes new life into an organisation and generates new opportunities. What we need to do in the short term is lay solid organisational foundations so that, in the medium term, the change in direction bears fruit. To achieve this, we must also strengthen our services portfolio. It’s a lot of work, but I remain optimistic because the message we’re an ETC company which offers integral services is taking root, and I’m confident we’re going to be there with our clients on their journey of technological transformation.

Is the future brighter for technology than infrastructure?
On the one hand, government investment in construction is on the decrease, whilst on the other, there is an enormous need to introduce technology at all levels. Ayesa has extensive working knowledge of infrastructure, and technology and processes look set to replace cement. It goes without saying that we will continue to offer engineering services in the strictest sense of the word, but it is important we also focus on areas which bring value to the digital world we are heading towards. Each year, our Engineering Area signs contracts with around twenty new clients and, even if investment slows down or dries up, we will be able to accompany them through Digital Transformation Area.

The first stage in this new chapter for Ayesa has seen changes to its structure. What exactly have these involved?
We have simplified the way the company is organised, going from having six business areas to just three, and have given more responsibility to our managing directors. As such, Rosalío Alonso, now head of civil engineering, architecture and industry, is responsible for the company’s growth strategy. Whilst in terms of the Knowledge Technology Area, led by Germán del Real, the priority is to improve the efficiency of our management system. Lastly, in the Digital Transformation Area (formerly Smart Life), Pedro Sanz is focusing on creating a strategy which maximises synergies between engineering and technology. In short, the change involves a simplified company structure and a better idea of where we’re going.

How does the new management structure work?
The Management Committee now meets on a weekly basis, the aim being to work more closely together and ensure our goals become reality. As such, following the approval of the new structure and business plan, since September each area of the company has a 200-day plan with clearly-defined and measurable objectives geared towards turning Ayesa into a 100% ETC firm.

What are the key aspects of this new Ayesa?
In short, experienced engineers and outstanding technologists, two ingredients I’m confident will ensure that synergies flourish. The short-term needs of our clients go beyond physical solutions. What they will also need is a digital strategy, something which will require technology.

What are the keys to growth?
The key is to have the very best team and know what the company is about – what it is and what it wants to be. These two aspects, in addition to a sound business model, are ensuring Ayesa continues to grow. We remain well ahead of companies who have decided to go down the route of acquisitions. The reason for this is that such operations are very complex from an integration perspective. We have positioned ourselves in a very strong place from which to accompany our clients on their journey of digital transformation, and this has allowed as to avoid stagnating as a number of other engineering companies have.

The company has always been open about the possibility of acquisitions. Is growth expected to be organic or inorganic?
In the company’s business plan, which takes us through to 2021, all its areas have a target for organic growth. Our experience, expertise and presence in 17 countries certainly pave the way for such growth. Although we’re well established, there is always room for growth. In terms of inorganic growth, we’re not ruling anything out. If, in the area of emerging technologies, such as cybersecurity, machine learning or AI, it becomes necessary to acquire a company, then we’ll carefully look at the best way to go about doing this. At Ayesa, we’re always on the lookout for ways to grow.

Ayesa has been amongst Spain’s fastest growing middle-market companies in recent years. Is size important in the markets where you are present?
Size can sometimes be important, but with almost 5000 employees, we’re hardly small. This means we’re able to take on major global players, particularly in transport engineering and IT systems for the utilities sector. In other areas, we’re definitely a middle-market company, but that often proves to be a strength in the sense that our shareholders take an active interest in the running of the company, something which is essential in allowing us to establish close relationships with clients and offer them quick solutions. At Ayesa, our decision-making processes are efficient, which is a real advantage in an ever-changing world.

The job market is moving towards a more flexible model. What plans does Ayesa have in this regard?
Teleworking and flexibility are a challenge for any company. Technology is providing us with opportunities for striking a better worklife balance, something which doesn’t need to involve a decrease in productivity. In fact, studies show it has quite the opposite effect. At Ayesa, we already have experience with teleworking and our idea is now to gradually introduce it across the company.

For young people, training opportunities are also one of the most important factors in choosing a company.
Our aim is to improve and increase training opportunities. Our idea is to offer an effective online platform with quality content. In terms of in-person training, this is something we want to offer each and every member of the company. Providing our talented employees with clearly-defined career paths is also a priority. We have people with exceptional talent who would flourish if given positions of greater responsibility. Furthermore, we have made significant progress in establishing better dialogue with universities.

Ayesa is a very international firm and certain countries are currently going through difficult times.
The challenge we currently face is to continue to expand in Latin America, a region which is experiencing economic slowdown caused by economic and political factors. Civil unrest has also been an issue in certain countries. In Europe, our offices in the UK, Germany, Italy and Poland are growing. We have a strong presence in the Middle East and the opportunities for growth in this region are abundant. We’re also involved in many projects in India, a country where we’re eager to expand. Un doubtedly our big challenge now is to grow in the English-speaking world through our presence in Australia.

What big challenges does this new chapter for Ayesa involve?
In the Knowledge Technology Area, the major challenges are the consolidation of global providers, increasing our importance and continuing to be competitive. The introduction of new technologies presents both opportunities and challenges. We’re in a strong position in certain regions and in the utilities sector, although it’s important we make progress in a number of other areas. In terms of our Engineering Area, some of its divisions are well consolidated whilst others are slightly behind. We must ensure we’re not affected by ups and downs in public investment by pursuing a robust and flexible strategy. Whilst for our Digital Transformation Area, the challenge is mainly internal. We must also present the best versions of ourselves in order to ensure solid relations with our clients.

In a few words, how would you describe the Ayesa of today?
We’re a young and ambitious company with clear goals, a well-defined internal structure and a united management committee. Flexibility and being able to respond quickly to change are crucial. Moreover, we continue to be a leading company and a fantastic place for talented professionals to develop their career, despite being aware that there is always room for improvement. However, most important of all is the fact that we’re a robust company eager to improve. From an economic pers pective, we have performed well during the first financial year of our new business plan and expect to meet all our targets.

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