Many sectors are struggling with a shortage of specialist staff. This is certainly the case in the information technology (IT) sector, where more specialists are needed than the market is providing. Alternative solutions are urgently being sought. One option for Swiss firms is nearshoring. This involves procuring additional workforces abroad, with these employees becoming part of the company. In an extension to its ongoing measures, Swiss Post decided to build IT capacities in Portugal in a targeted manner to cover the shortfall in Switzerland. Project manager Andrea Filippelli explains why PostFinance is now also becoming part of the Lisbon IT campus.
Countering the shortage of IT specialists with nearshoring
The shortage of specialist IT staff is proving a challenge for the IT sector in Switzerland, so PostFinance is daring to take a step beyond national borders. Project manager Andrea Filippelli explains what he hopes will be gained from nearshoring.
Andrea Filippelli has been working at PostFinance since 2018. He was Informatics Project Manager during the introduction of the QR-bill and later Product Owner in the Platform Business unit. Today, he is Overall Project Manager for the nearshoring project. Andrea’s personal interests include politics and the economy, and he is interested in disruptive technologies and their effect on our sociocultural environment.
Andrea, just like the IT sector as a whole, PostFinance is struggling with a shortage of specialist staff. What is PostFinance doing to tackle this?
For one thing, HR is treading new paths. People Attraction Managers are pushing employee branding and operate Talent Relationship Management schemes. In addition, we asked ourselves what other selective steps we could take as a supplement to our staff acquisition measures in the IT sector in Switzerland – for instance, whether a partnership or looking abroad would be feasible options. It was important to us to find a long-term solution.
PostFinance chose a partnership with the IT campus in Lisbon. How did this come about, and what does PostFinance expect from nearshoring?
It’s not only PostFinance that’s struggling with a shortage of IT specialists. Swiss Post Group also encountered difficulties and so established a campus in Lisbon. We looked into a collaboration and decided that this was the path we should pursue. Firstly, because as an OECD country, Portugal fulfils many of our requirements, such as geopolitical security, compliance and data security. And secondly, Portugal strongly supports the technology sector. Lisbon is currently evolving into a tech hotspot. We think that nearshoring is the right path for successive sustainable growth over the next five years and the right way to tackle the shortage of specialist staff.
What specialists are being sought for the IT campus?
Currently, we’re looking for software developers, business analysts and test engineering specialists. The recruitment process is underway. Initial interviews with qualified applicants have been conducted. What’s crucial, however, is not only specialist expertise. Future employees also need to share PostFinance’s culture and values.
What does the IT campus look like, and how is it organized?
The modern campus is in an attractive, quiet district close to a park. Various specialist IT sectors work together on the interdisciplinary campus. Our ambition is to expand and reinforce existing work groups in Switzerland with IT specialists in Lisbon. We don’t see any problems with collaboration between the two locations. We’ve long been very agile, and many things operate virtually. For this reason, specialists from both Bern and Lisbon will be working in the individual project teams. But currently, we’re still in the project phase. The official start will be in autumn 2023.
What effect will the nearshoring project have on partners and employees in Bern?
Nearshoring has no effect on our partners. All existing partnerships will remain as they are. Our employees in IT will soon benefit from the support. The greatest challenge for them will presumably be the language; our plan for the official start is to build up English as a common language in the IT sector step by step. Cultural differences can also be demanding. Respect and tolerance are required on all sides.
What cultural differences are you thinking of, and how is PostFinance contributing to good collaboration?
One example is differing working and operating conditions. The Portuguese take great pride in their work and set high standards for themselves. As a general rule, we should always consider how people from another culture might react to something. I hope that the teams in Bern are open to cultural differences, will open up dialogue and accept their Lisbon colleagues into the PostFinance family. We will appoint ambassadors to promote intercultural collaboration. With this in mind, we’ll invite our work colleagues in Lisbon to visit Switzerland from time to time, and we’ll also send our employees to Portugal. This will allow both sides to gain insights into another culture and to share what they learn.
What’s the difference between outsourcing, offshoring and nearshoring?
With outsourcing, certain tasks or projects are handed over to third-party companies. With legal and organizational outsourcing, the appointed companies – usually with a service or work contract – undertake responsibility for a defined task and carry it our according to specifications. Outsourcing is common in sectors such as consultancy, IT, customer service, marketing and sales.
In offshoring, production and manufacturing facilities in particular and services such as call centers are located in distant countries in order to take advantage of significantly lower salary levels. Offshoring has been widespread in the fashion industry for many years.
With nearshoring, company functions are located in neighbouring or nearby countries. For Swiss companies, the preference is generally for countries in Central and Southern Europe, as well as Germany, Austria, Italy and France. While offshoring is usually solely about the costs, nearshoring is often primarily about the workforce. The IT sector in particular aims to tackle the shortage of specialist staff with nearshoring.
What were your personal challenges, and what are you hoping for?
All the legal aspects are incredibly challenging. For this reason, nearshoring can’t be considered a solution to all problems but a way of building up coexistence with the local labour market and developing this sustainably. At any rate, I see getting to know new worlds as a great enrichment. I hope that everyone will go into this with plenty of patience and empathy, adjust their expectations, build up relationships and benefit from the alternative approaches. And I hope we can bring PostFinance’s values to the IT campus in Lisbon.
Nearshoring helps counter the shortage of specialists
Germany and Austria have been making use of the nearshoring concept for a while now, and with great success. No wonder more and more Swiss companies are discovering the benefits. The overall costs aren’t usually much lower, so nearshoring is seldom used to reduce costs. More often, it helps companies find urgently required specialist staff. This opportunity should be identified and seized.
Three benefits of nearshoring
Of course there are differences, but within Europe, fewer problems arise because of background than in collaboration with countries in other parts of the world.
Language barriers are lesser than we might imagine. Many Europeans, especially the younger generations, speak excellent English. In Eastern Europe, many even speak German.
In Europe, the maximum time difference is two hours, so there are no great differences in working hours. Due to the geographical proximity, face-to-face meetings are also easier to arrange.