"Managing the personnel agenda is a demanding discipline in retail," says Vítězslav Ciml in an interview with Retail News

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December 1, 2020

Vítězslav Ciml, Chief Executive Officer and Vice-chairman of the Board of Directors of OKsystem, a.s., was the main guest of the November issue of Retail News. In his interview, he talked mainly about computerization of the daily agenda of retail customers, who are exceptionally demanding so far as the functionalities of the personnel and payroll system are concerned. “The system needs to be modern, mobile, easy to control. Moreover, the supplier has to develop the functionalities continuously. Important is not just how such system looks but also what accompanying services are offered by the supplier. The quality of consultants is also decisive,” Ciml says in the interview. How important a good-quality system is for retail clients has been shown by, among other things, the so-called Covid crisis, wherein the retail segment found itself under unprecedented pressure. A number of important central European retail clients have already chosen OKsystem, a.s. to be the supplier of their personnel and payroll systems.

Read the interview with Vítězslav Ciml in english below or in original czech language here: Vítězslav Ciml interview Retail News


“Personnel management is a demanding discipline in retail,” says Vítězslav Ciml in an interview for Retail News


The topic of the second wave of the Covid pandemic and introducing new restrictions resonates now with the media. Is OKsystem ready for this situation – not only in relation to its employees but mainly in respect to its customers? 

The information technologies business, unlike many others, is to a great extent immune to whether employees have to be at home or in offices. I say intentionally “to a great extent,” because I personally believe only partially in home offices. The carrying out of tasks may be well measured and checked, but I believe that people have to meet and talk to each other in order to engage creativity and create new and unique products and develop their functionalities. In answer to your question, I would say that within OKsystem we are coping very well with the situation and without negative impacts on our customers. But I am already looking forward to getting back to operations as usual in our administrative spaces and in journeys to our customers.


Did coronavirus interfere with your plans for 2020?

It did, but not in a way that we would have to lay off people or cut planned investments. OKsystem is a long-time supplier of middleware for labor offices, and therefore we decided in the spring of this year that we will conduct free of charge the collection of applications and aid payments to employers (a program known as Antivirus) for the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and consequently for the Czech Republic. Although putting the Antivirus system into operation was very difficult due to limited time and changing conditions, we do not regret undertaking this pro bono operation. The entire solution received very positive evaluations from users as well as independent experts. Such reaction encouraged our teams that were taking part in the implementation.

It is true, though, that from the viewpoint of financial plans for 2020 we are affected a little bit by the situation, as some clients put off the planned start of projects with our company. Nevertheless, I believe that the projects will not be canceled and we will execute them for our customers next year or the year after.


What other trends will prevail in the development of personnel systems in the coming months and years? That is to say, from the technological and social point of view.

Definitely there will be computerization of common working tasks, ideally while using elements of artificial intelligence. From the viewpoint of our product portfolio for retail, it is for instance the use of mobile applications for all employees or smart shifts planning. The pandemic period is logically speeding up the decision making of companies with regard to investments into increased efficiency, and this is certainly an opportunity for IT suppliers. Only those who will follow new trends in research and development have a chance to succeed on the market.


How do you recognize a high-quality personnel and payroll system for retail?

I would begin by saying how you certainly do not recognize it, and that is according to price:-) A high-quality, modern, and well-functioning solution cannot compete on price with

products made by individuals without broader background and mainly without investments into continuous innovation. I am glad that in recent years our customers are well aware of this. For us as suppliers, long-term partnership is important and this may be established only if both the customer and the supplier are satisfied with the delivery.


How should retail customers choose such a system?

The system must be modern, mobile, easy to control, and the supplier has to be developing its functionality continuously. Important is not just what the personnel and payroll system looks like but also what accompanying services are offered by the supplier. Decisive is the quality of the consultants who set up the system according to the customer’s needs, the support provided by the supplier, but also such complementary services offered along with the system, such as cloud services, providing of programs as a service (SaaS,) training, or professional conferences.


Is the retail segment somehow specific, and how important is this segment for you?

The retail segment is by its nature specific due to the large number of branches throughout the Czech Republic and by the fact that workers often move between branches. Attendance recording, shifts planning, and managing the personnel agenda of retail clients is much more complicated than in other businesses. The solution we provide to retail clients is so well designed that we observe with pleasure how great the benefits are for our clients’ operations. In the course of the so-called corona crisis, we have seen how important is the retail segment for the functioning of the state, and we are glad that we contribute a little bit to this. 


You mentioned at the beginning that OKsystem is celebrating its 30th anniversary on the market. How have the personnel and payroll products you offer changed during that time?

Thirty years is an enormous time expanse in the IT world. In 1990, nobody had an idea how the internet, mobile networks, and smart phones would intrude into our lives. Compare it with how long are we waiting for the Prague Ring Road to be finished – 30 years is nothing :-) The product portfolio that our company offers to our clients has expanded significantly over that time. I would say that it has been in proportion to the growth of OKsystem, by two orders of magnitude. From originally 4 founders, who were co-owners and at the same time the first executives, our company has grown to its current size consisting of specialized teams of about 400 experienced experts. The key products that we have had in our portfolio for more than 10 years have been modernized. From original client–server applications through multilayer architecture with thin clients, we have come so far as to mobile applications.


Amendment of the Labor Law entered into force this year in June. How is the OKbase HR solution ready for this and how are your clients ready?

The Labor Law amendment was the main topic of the annual meeting with our clients. Our analytical and development team has been paying particular attention to the issue of annual leave already for a number of months, but unfortunately we are confronted with interpretative inconsistencies and limits on the part of our lawmakers. We are engaged in lively discussion with our customers in order to prepare them as much as possible for changes the amendment brings. Although there isn’t much time left until the end of the year and there is still little information, we will provide our customers with new versions of the personnel and payroll system on time. As always, by the way.


What are the greatest challenges in OKsystem’s future?

A great challenge for our company is in applying the new trends in IT: increased cybernetic security requirements, use of blockchain technologies, and implementation of artificial intelligence elements into our products. These all are challenges that we face, and conquering them will ensure our company’s further long-term successful operations – not only on the market in the Czech Republic but also abroad.


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