interview in startup.info
Interview with Miguel Angel Nicolao, Director of Innovation and Systems at Panel, and Co-founder.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these times of COVID-19?
We are taking it, for now it has only haunted us. In any case, we are aware that even taking the precautions within our reach, the feeling of control is a dangerous companion.
Tell us about yourself, your career, how you founded or got into this company
Let's go there! My name is Miguel Ángel And I'm addicted to technology. I came from Pamplona to Madrid in the middle of the Madrid scene, to study Teleco and I'm still here.
I have programmed, tested, managed and sold software. I am expendable, forgetful and I love to share what I manage to understand. I even label myself: I am an expert generalist.
In 2004 a group of friends founded Panel Sistemas, a professional services company for software development in which I started from the machine room, involved with systems and infrastructures… the blessed «ICT».
Since then, we have matured in how we can help unlock the power of software. In essence, we currently accompany companies in their evolution and transformation process, providing at all times the necessary value-added services to promote the necessary cultural, technological and process change on this journey. We live well with technology and its nature of permanent change. We devise, prototype and develop viable solutions to complex problems with business impact.
How does your company manage to innovate in a pandemic?
In our case, technological innovation is present naturally from the first moment thanks to the wonderful talent we have. Since 2018, we have also been promoting and developing Intra-Entrepreneurship and Open Innovation programs to encourage the exploration of new markets. Thus, we support the discovery of differentiating ideas and value propositions based on mega-trends in Information Technology, always with the aim of discovering new markets or new business models and validating their economic potential.
To do this, we rely on an Innovation ecosystem based on the Lean Startup philosophy, agile methodologies and Design Thinking processes. As I told you when talking about myself, I love to share what I manage to understand and this cannot be an exception. On our website you explain this process in detail and we are open to any interested party who wants to contact us.
How is the coronavirus pandemic affecting your business and how are you coping?
In the professional services part, we have been a mirror of the effect that the pandemic had on our clients, growing or suffering with them. In contrast, in the area of technology-based products, the pandemic has strengthened our ability to continue building products even during the strictest phases of confinement. As we are present in sectors in which the impact of the pandemic has been brutal, with a special mention for the Tourism and Travel sector, during the second and third quarters of 2020 we had to partially take refuge in ERTEs, which affected a group reduced from the company and that fortunately we managed to recover in September of that same year. In the affected sectors, the effects have continued to be felt during 2021 and we are facing them by being very close to our clients, making it easier for them to face forced transformation processes.
Have you had to make difficult decisions and what are the lessons learned?
Although teleworking was already part of the culture of Panel Sistemas, our most difficult decisions have been related to people and our constant commitment to maintaining the employment and stability of the workforce. Among the lessons learned is the strength that our teams have shown, both those who are working for our clients and those dedicated to providing services to the company itself. This reflection leads me to another lesson learned, taking care of the climate and the commitment of the employees since they are the pilar that sustains us
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to get through this crisis?
This crisis has highlighted the value of secure remote access services because they have been fundamental in being able to make our activity independent of our location. Communications services have also risen to the challenge. In terms of computer programs, in the part of software construction and quality assurance we have not had major changes, except for those of technological evolution. Regarding office automation, we have normalized the use of Microsoft Teams for collaboration between people and teams, while for dissemination we rely on Cisco Webex. Regarding management skills, we have strengthened internal communication and we have focused on the challenge of helping to take care of personal productivity.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
For some we are a technology consultancy, and they consider us their competitors, while for others we are a company very close to execution, those who are responsible for turning paper into a real solution. In these cases they see us as technological specialists and our competition is usually niche companies, with a good position in that market/company. We, on the other hand, consider that any of them can be our client or collaborator, the current technological framework is too large to claim to be the universal solution to all needs.
Our innovation strategy during the pandemic in markets clearly shows how we intend to “stay in the game”…providing profitable solutions to our customers, collaborating with our competition and exploring new markets.
In this line, with Kalena (https://kalena.es/) we are already developing in the Facility Management market (building management) through a pay-per-use business model while with Zahorí (https://zahori.io/) we are exploring the market for the automation of technical and business flows through open source business models.
Your final thoughts
Panel Sistemas It is not a startup, it is a mature, compact, highly competent company whose main dilemma is the nature of the market for professional services in software: a market that is constantly expanding from the outside, but that is living in suffocating contraction from within. Therefore, adopting the dynamics of a startup to explore markets becomes a matter of survival for us.
Exploring markets or business models from a mature company is not easy for us. Staying in touch with the entrepreneurial community is helping us to innovate in these times of pandemic, and the rhythms may not be the same as before, but this firm commitment to continue innovating allows us to move forward and strengthen our differential value.
In particular, I think in Panel Sistemas we will have to up the ante and add “impact investing” as another of our pilarit is strategic for our innovative activity, but that will be another story 😉
This interview was published in Startup.info magazine in November 2021. You can check the published link here: Exploring markets and business models in the midst of a pandemic (startup.info)