Yuriy Adamchuk of Avenga On How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level


Many companies with a long history carry a huge technical debt, an IT cluster that’s the core of their business engine. Inevitably, this will slow them down, hinder growth and become a burden. However, by adjusting their strategy and, for example, breaking up their monolithic IT into microservices and bringing their infrastructure into the cloud, they can ensure sustainable success.

As part of our series about “How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Yuriy Adamchuk.

Yuriy Adamchuk is responsible for the execution of Avenga’s vision and global strategy, expansion to new markets, change management, and integration. Prior to becoming CEO, Yuriy held C-level positions at Avenga, including COO, CDO, and Country Director for US/Ukraine. Previously, he occupied different senior positions at CoreValue, PPF Investments, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and KPMG

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a few words about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Avenga, the company I lead as CEO, was relaunched three years ago through the merger of four formerly independent IT service providers. I had started to work for one of them four years before that, holding different senior management positions.

From the very beginning, I was intrigued by the transformation process that our merger brought along. Also, I was always willing to step up and take on more responsibility. Step by step, that’s how I grew into the role I have today.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

If we go back even further, I started with diplomacy. From my very early years as I was growing up, I dreamt of being a diplomat. I viewed this profession through the lens of a high-stakes game, where you are in the middle of global affairs and, like James Bond, can help the world get rid of the bad guys. Things turned out to be quite different. It wasn’t at all like the James Bond movies that made me choose this career path. Frankly speaking, it turned out to be rather boring.

What I encountered wasn’t a world full of high-stakes poker games accompanied by shaken, not stirred Martinis, no supercars, and no breathtaking chases. On the contrary, the complexity of the bureaucracy made everything very slow.

Beyond that, I didn’t want to be another small cog in a big wheel without the possibility of influencing anything on a large scale. Looking back, I can’t but laugh at the naivety my younger self went into diplomacy with.

The valuable lesson I learned from this chapter in my life is that not everything that looks good in theory works well in practice. Therefore, giving new ideas a reality check as quickly as possible is essential.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There is no single person I could point to. Instead, I try to learn something from everyone I meet, whether I like them or not. I believe you can get something out of almost every encounter, and the negative ones often teach you the most.

Life is a never-ending learning experience if you keep your eyes and ears open. I do my best to keep an open mind and listen to what people say. More often than not, there are valuable lessons to be learned.

We are all caught up in our own realities, only seeing parts of the objective whole. Where we come from inevitably shapes our perspective, how we look at things, and how we approach them. Consequently, the same challenge can be tackled with entirely different approaches, with none necessarily being right or wrong. For example, a question that sounds ridiculous when you first hear it can turn out to be exactly the right one to ask when you get the complete picture.

With this said, of course, there are also people who don’t bring any value to the table and waste your time. But it’s possible to take something away from these encounters as well, as annoying as they may be. Learning begins where your comfort zone ends.

So, if nothing else, these situations can teach you a lot about yourself — your limits to put up with certain character traits and ways of thinking, for instance. By analyzing how I react, I can do better next time.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Regarding movies, I have to go with one of the most critically acclaimed ones of all time: The Godfather. It’s been called “arguably the great American work of popular art,” and rightfully so. Its cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance cannot be denied.

What’s more, there is so much one can learn from this masterpiece. For example, about the importance of traditions, leadership, and how to keep different strands of your team together. Many little stories and lessons within the big storyline serve perfectly as business metaphors.

There’s the death of Sonny, Vito Corleone’s eldest son, who gets ambushed and killed after losing his temper. It shows the dire consequences hasty decisions can have and that it’s usually ill-advised to rush into them based on emotions.

Another story I like is the one of Tom Hagen, the Corleone’s consigliere. For a long time, he serves as the voice of reason. However, as the conflict between the Corleone family and the other New York families escalates, Michael removes him from this position because he is not “a wartime consigliere.”

It shows that whether someone is the right person for a job often depends on the circumstances. And if you go on a long and challenging journey, you don’t always end it with the same people you started it with.

I read a lot, and there are many books I love. But if I had to pick the one that has influenced me the most, it would have to be Viktor Frankl’s autobiographical “Man’s Search for Meaning,” in which he shares his experience as a prisoner in several concentration camps.

Next to chronicling his personal experiences, the book introduces logotherapy, which is based on the human desire to find meaning in life and laid the foundation for positive psychology. It was a real eye-opener for me because it shows that your mindset shapes the quality of your life. On the one hand, with the right attitude, humans are able to overcome almost every obstacle. On the other hand, drowning in self-pity can literally kill you.

I’m from Ukraine, so under the current circumstances, Frankl’s observations are more valuable to me than ever. Sure, we only have limited control over the things that confront us. But it’s entirely up to us how we approach them.

When faced with adverse circumstances like repulsive acts of violence and destruction, do we give up? Or do we push back and start to put things back together, piece by piece, thereby making sense of our life and giving it meaning?

Ultimately, struggle and challenges show who you truly are and what you are capable of.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

From day one, our goal has been to build a global organization sizeable enough to make an impact and make this world a better place. For our customers, for our employees, for everybody. Our weapon of choice is technology, and we use it to improve people’s lives by driving innovations and making boring and repetitive processes more efficient.

Also, we are a reliable and attractive employer that gives jobs to many talented and highly motivated professionals. In this way, we play our part in establishing a well-educated and financially well-off middle class. The bigger this middle class is, the better — it keeps societies and democracy stable.

Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

At Avenga, we come from many different corporate DNAs and cultural backgrounds. For this reason, building one company under one brand with a common vision and strategy, with a shared set of values, systems, and tools, is one gigantic, exciting project.

Companies that join our global growth platform, like the Argentinian IT powerhouse IncluIT and its 800 employees this year, get access to a much bigger, diverse set of competencies and a broader customer base. Also, they benefit from synergies and can leverage much more extensive expertise, which lets them grow even faster.

In the end, this allows us to provide many people all over the world with a secure and attractive workplace and an opportunity to use their skills and knowledge to build solutions that improve people’s quality of life.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly Digital Transformation means? On a practical level what does it look like to engage in a Digital Transformation?

There are hundreds of definitions out there if you look them up. For me, Digital Transformation means using the possibilities of modern technology to make our clients’ business models more competitive.

Technology is a big driver of change, and we haven’t even really got started yet. Sure, the internet and the iPhone probably changed our world for more people and more dramatically than anything else I can think of lately, be it social discourses or political events.

But what do you think will happen when, for example, AI, robotics, and 3D printing merge with digital biology and worldwide gigabit networks? These technologies will accelerate each other exponentially and completely change the world as we know it.

And these are just the already-known drivers. In addition, there are countless inventions that we can’t even imagine living here and now. But I think experts agree almost unanimously: we are in for quite a ride in the next decade or so — better buckle up!

Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?

That was an interesting question — 20 years ago. Today, the reality looks different.

Let’s take the S&P 500 as an example. The digital revolution has reshaped it dramatically. In 1969, there were only 16 IT companies represented on the index. Fifty years later, it was 68 — tying industrial companies for the top spot. Also, many of the largest market capitalizations today have new names: Apple, Alphabet, and Microsoft, among others.

The trend is clear, especially as the average lifespan of companies on the S&P 500 is getting shorter and shorter. Since 2000, more than half of the Fortune 500 companies have either gone bankrupt, been acquired, or ceased to exist.

Usually, they didn’t sufficiently use technology to modernize and become more efficient. Thus, they were overrun by their competition that suddenly could come from all angles and emerge all over the world because technology transcends borders.

Netflix, Spotify, Amazon, and the like are great examples of how companies built on software can swallow up whole industries and make previously dominant household names irrelevant. However, they are only the tip of the iceberg. Marc Andreessen had it right: “Software is eating the world.”

If you are a small family shop, you may still survive using a 20th-century analogue approach to your business. But any of today’s thriving enterprises has put technology at the core of its strategy.

We’d love to hear about your experiences helping others with Digital Transformation. In your experience, how has Digital Transformation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.

At Avenga, we support global corporations and complex organizations in their digital transformation with projects along the entire digital value chain. So, where do I start?

Lately, our team has helped the National Bank of Liechtenstein create a consistent and seamless user experience across all platforms, which means their online banking and web portals are now working as one for their customers.

Another one of our clients benefits from faster decision-making and analysis, as we’ve built a BI and reporting solution for them that takes their business capabilities to the next level.

For Stylepit, one of Europe’s leading multi-brand online fashion retailers, we used the Salesforce ecosystem to make sure our client’s sales thrive with the help of wise data usage.

And for Trōv, a global leader in embedded insurance, our team built a robust fraud detection system based on Artificial Intelligence and statistical techniques. The benefits are tremendous, from optimizing the process to enhancing the accuracy of fraud detection to improving the customer experience by accelerating payments on genuine claims.

I will stop here, but we have more than 400 happy clients. Believe me, I could go on for quite a while.

Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?

Change is always a challenge, especially for big organizations with a long and successful history, where things have always been done in a certain way. For them, Digital Transformation, first of all, requires a change of mind, and some must completely reengineer how they do things. This can be an excruciating process, especially when you must let go of people who have spent long careers in this company but aren’t up for the change.

Technology is always a double-edged sword; let’s face it. This is not exclusive to software; it has always been like this. Resistance to innovative technologies and new products is probably as old as humanity.

There were protests when the Silesian linen industry began to mechanize, costing many linen weavers their profession. In 1830, the agricultural workers in southern and eastern England rioted against agricultural mechanization. And when railroads came along, doctors warned that passengers would risk brain disease if they didn’t die first from pneumonia caused by the headwind. The maximum speed back then was 20 miles an hour or so — imagine that.

So far, technology has always prevailed, and we all benefit from this circumstance. As a result, we live longer, healthier, and at a much higher overall standard than ever. And this is with an ever-increasing number of people on this planet.

Changes require a lot of time, effort, and budget. But if you shy away from it, your technical debt will only increase. To survive, you must evolve and adapt — that’s probably life’s most fundamental principle.

Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”? Please share a story or an example for each.

Many companies with a long history carry a huge technical debt, an IT cluster that’s the core of their business engine. Inevitably, this will slow them down, hinder growth and become a burden. However, by adjusting their strategy and, for example, breaking up their monolithic IT into microservices and bringing their infrastructure into the cloud, they can ensure sustainable success.

Digital Transformation can also help companies develop new monetization models and make their offers way more attractive. The subscription model is a good example. Instead of having to make one big investment, clients pay a small sum of money every month. This can be a desirable solution for both sides.

Next, Digital Transformation enables companies to speed up innovations dramatically and makes them more flexible when adapting to changes.

Another opportunity is to strengthen customer loyalty by improving existing products and delivering added value.

Last but not least, “new work” is a real game changer. Companies today have the chance to source talent worldwide because people can collaborate in real time from wherever they are. In the ever-intensifying war for talent, technology can also give you a decisive advantage. It allows you to provide a flexible work environment with maximum freedom, so your employees can work effectively and keep a healthy work-life balance at the same time.

In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “Every great institution is the lengthened shadow of a single man. His character determines the character of the organization.” Obviously, it can also be the shadow of a single woman, but other than that, I agree entirely.

A culture of innovation, like any other company culture, is established at the top. Leaders must set the tone.

At scale, comprehensive transformation always requires the commitment and alignment of the entire organization. The only way to get this is the leadership’s determination to its success. Long story short: They must lead by example and walk their talk.

On top, people who come up with new ideas must feel supported and have a career path.

To get people to come forward with new ideas, you first must develop a culture of trust, where people feel safe even if they make a mistake or an idea doesn’t work out as they had hoped. If people are afraid of making mistakes, they won’t think outside the box and only work by the book. Fear kills all creativity.

Therefore, if you want to drive and establish a culture of innovation, you must be prepared to reward failure. Success is great, but it only will come along if you first appreciate your team’s efforts and not only the outcome it produces.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Better done than perfect,” the famous Facebook maxim by former COO Sheryl Sandberg, immediately comes to mind.

In today’s competitive market environment, it’s crucial to be fast; you could even go as far as saying that speed is the ultimate currency.

That’s why, as soon as you are done with the main features of your product, you need to introduce it to the world.

If you spend too much time perfecting every little detail, by the time you get done, chances are that the ship you wanted to catch has already sailed away.

How can our readers further follow your work?

I’m most active on LinkedIn and happy to connect.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!