Interview 7/18/2022 Read 6 min

Shifting Focus From Strategic Development To Business Operations Support

Sergiy Detyuk, CIO of Metinvest Group and CEO of Metinvest Digital, discusses Metinvest Digital’s results up to 2022, changes in the Group’s priorities since the outbreak of the war and the current plans of the Group’s IT partner.

– What was Metinvest Digital’s status quo as it headed into 2022?

– Several aspects are worth mentioning. First is the implementation of the Group’s comprehensive digitalisation programme. We launched it in 12 areas and achieved 90% progress on the plans for the first year. Meanwhile, as business orders grew by 40%, we implemented twice as many projects as last year. 

The second aspect is the development of in-house expertise. We have built up capabilities in engineering, cyber-security, project management, big data, technology scouting and service support. To date, more than 70% of projects have been implemented using only in-house resources and Metinvest Digital’s expertise. During the pandemic, we made significant headway and strengthened our capabilities to support remote work effectively. Thanks to cloud technologies, we became more flexible and faster in responding to emergencies and learned to effectively align with the new reality and a rapidly changing external environment. As a result, we have ensured 99.9% reliability of our infrastructure and services. 

The third aspect is plans. Amid a rising trend in the steel market, the Group’s requests to implement comprehensive programmes and projects increased. We headed into 2022 with an ambitious investment programme. Its main focus was on production and industrial automation: creating enterprise data warehouses, rolling out a hot-metal silicon prediction project, devising new AI-based optimisation models, designing and implementing MES systems for steelmaking and mining, digitalising the mine processing plants, and so on. 

– How has the war affected the Group and what changes in operations and development plans has it entailed

– Until the last moment, we did not want to believe that the war would start. However, we already had undergone a stress-test with the coronavirus pandemic and, technology-wise, we were prepared for a “black swan” event. Since the early days of the war, we have been continuing our main task as an IT partner: ensuring the continuity of IT services for the Group. Given the mass relocation of many employees and a rise in the number of non-standard tasks, the support workload has increased significantly. For example, we have set up backup control centres equipped with IT and phone communication in 38 bomb shelters on our industrial sites. We have launched a Starlink system at eight enterprises to ensure continuous backup communication. In addition, we have provided several enterprises with satellite communication. Despite regular damage, we continue to promptly restore communication channels and ensure the functionality of IT systems. 

We have placed special emphasis on business cyber-security and made this area a greater priority. According to the State Service of Special Communication, in the first four months of the war, the aggressor conducted more than 800 cyber-attacks in various sectors of the economy. In our case, the number of attacks has increased by around 75%. We have allocated more personnel to this area, and our Cyber Security Centre has switched to 24/7 operations, as almost half of the attacks take place outside business hours. This enables us to detect and respond to potential cyber-threats timely and proactively. 

As regards the project portfolio, the war has dramatically changed our plans and made us revisit priorities. We have shifted our focus from strategic development to business operations support. On one hand, the loss of industrial sites has by definition reduced the number of projects. On the other, we have had to face the question of whether investments are advisable in our technology projects at operations, which have quite a long investment period: over one year, on average. As a result, almost one third of the 90 projects planned at the beginning of the year have been left in the portfolio. Primarily, these are digital initiatives, which are essential to business operations support. 

However, the other side of this challenging decision to cut the number of projects is that financing from the Group has been curtailed, and funds have been redirected to help Ukraine and Ukrainians. Since the early days of the war, Metinvest has been actively helping the country in its fight against the Russian aggression, donating more than UAH1.5 billion in aid to the Ukrainian army and civilians. This includes personal protective gear for the armed forces of Ukraine, food and essential items for people affected, medical equipment and medicines, and, of course, aid for Group employees. Metinvest’s enterprises have been actively engaged in producing and supplying the country with armour plates, anti-tank and anti-landing hedgehogs, and anti-vehicle spikes free of charge. 

Also, through cooperating with key vendors, such as SAP and Microsoft, we have been maintaining a dialogue not only in the context of business objectives but also on the issue of the war against Russia, our partners pulling out of the aggressor country’s market, and the need to support Ukraine in times of war. 

– What are the Group’s plans for the near future? 

– Two areas are worth mentioning. The first is ensuring IT support for Metinvest’s activities and the continuous operation of the Group’s complex technological landscape. We understand the level of responsibility and are focusing strongly on the operational efficiency of our services. We are continuing to implement projects and discussing numerous new initiatives, including strategic ones, such as the implementation of SAP ERP at Kamet-Steel and Metinvest Polska. Aside from this, we are seeking new ways of implementing them, since the old ways of rolling out solutions based on “best practices” no longer match the situation.  

Another area is retaining acquired knowledge and skills. Metinvest Digital is a company with unique expertise. As one of the largest corporate integrators and IT partners of the Group, we have both extensive IT expertise and a deep understanding of production and business processes in the metals and mining sectors, which took years to acquire. Our company is responsible for not only implementing new technologies and supporting them in the future, but also, primarily, delivering results and, ultimately, added value for the business customer. We must maintain our abilities to the maximum extent to work on future digital transformation projects effectively.

– How has the war affected Metinvest Digital’s team?

– While it might seem strange, the war has improved our efficiency. Difficult times create an imperative to dismiss unnecessary matters and keep the essential ones. Bureaucratic procedures take a back seat to effective communications. People are focused on achieving the overall result rather than on processes. Ultimately, this is a win-win for both the team and the client: this generates more trust and support and reduces the time spent on decision-making and meetings and discussions. We maintain a constant dialogue inside the team, openly discussing the current situation in Ukraine and inside the company on various internal platforms: town-hall meetings with employees, sessions with the management and online events in the corporate social network. All of these enable us to be in a common information space and facilitate knowledge-sharing and new ideas. I am grateful to each and every employee and the team as a whole for their dedication and commitment to achieving the common goal. 

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