The development of AI will help people. There is no other way, says Bohumír Zoubek of Profinit

Profinit delivers unique software systems, projects and teams for major European companies and organizations. Their services are based on the principles of software engineering, enabling the long-term operation of IT systems. These touch the lives of ordinary people, from pharmaceuticals to insurance, banking to information at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport.

And artificial intelligence? “Its reasonable use will help the whole society, it’s just not easy to define what is reasonable, but there is no other path anyway,” says Bohumír Zoubek, Services and Products Director at Profinit.

Bohumir Zoubek, Profinit

Profinit was founded in 1998. What was the most difficult thing in the first quarter of the century?

In 25 years, we have grown from a company of a few people to a team of more than 600 employees and associates. Our biggest challenge is to consistently deliver the top-notch, relevant services that keep our customers happy. And the fact that we have truly been able to do this is shown by our cooperation with institutions such as ČSOB Insurance Company and Václav Havel Airport, essentially since the beginning of Profinit’s existence. We have also been cooperating with Česká spořitelna and Komerční banka for about 20 years now. Our customers have stayed with us over time, and I am very happy about that.

How did you enter this highly competitive field?

Profinit is based on several fundamental pillars that have helped us enter the market, but most importantly to stay there. One of them is that we build on software engineering principles. This means that we try to do things in line with industry best practices. As a result, Profinit has an unprecedented concentration of people with degrees in software engineering or computer science who simply enjoy doing software well. The second is the emphasis on education, where we invest in each person within the Profinit Education program so that they continually advance professionally. And not just in software engineering, but also in business knowledge and soft skills.

Anything else?

And the third pillar is innovation. Thanks to innovation, we have always been able to offer our customers something extra. A good example is artificial intelligence, where we have been working for eight years, which means we are able to help customers, whether they are just starting out or already have some experience.

Your website says that you are a major player in the field of application outsourcing and information management. What exactly does that mean?

Very simply, we help customers to digitise their systems and work efficiently with data. We can develop a software system, such as electronic banking, or deliver a system for working with data. And all systems created in this way become resources (digital assets) that require care. And that is also our domain, the long-term development of systems so that investments in them pay off as much as possible and so that these systems can support the customers’ business in the long term.

Who are your primary customers?

Our customers hail from the finance, transport, utilities, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications sectors. The largest share of customers is currently in finance, but we see growing demand in other areas as well.

Did you feel more demand for your services during the years of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent crisis caused by the Russian war in Ukraine?

All such events have an impact on the whole of society and therefore on us as well. At the time of the coronavirus pandemic, we saw first a great deal of uncertainty and then an increase in demand as the pandemic contributed to greater pressure to digitise services. The wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, on the other hand, are causing a great deal of uncertainty and the corresponding rise in caution, so they, conversely, are reducing demand for services. But of course, this is nothing compared to the suffering they cause in the countries where these conflicts are taking place.

You develop custom software. What has been your most challenging project, and how did you manage it?

I wouldn’t dare to say that any one project was the most challenging. Most of our projects are challenging but very interesting. So I will try to pick a few that I am proud of and that people may encounter in everyday life. When you arrange non-life insurance with ČSOB Insurance Company, the contract will be negotiated in a system that we designed, delivered and are developing for a long time. The information on the “screens” at Václav Havel Airport is from the system we supply. We are involved in the websites and electronic banking of several of the largest banks in the Czech Republic, as well as in the data solutions based on which the bank management then makes decisions. We developed the portal of the largest energy company in the country, and we are working on projects in the pharmaceutical industry that will help reduce the need to test new drugs on animals. For example, we are also helping tech companies grow in ways they could not have done on their own.

Is there anything you wouldn’t dare to do?

We do not embark on projects where we cannot guarantee quality delivery of work according to customer expectations. Our experience repeatedly confirms that the key to the success of a software project is that the customer and Profinit are on the same wavelength when it comes to the key aspects of the project. The project must be a priority for both parties and information openly shared. In such cases, we’re not afraid of taking on virtually anything.

Are you struggling with a shortage of skilled labour? Alternatively, are you involved in their training?

Like everyone in our industry, we are faced with a shortage of top-notch professionals from time to time. Fortunately, we manage to be an attractive employer, i.e. not only to attract but also to retain professionals thanks to interesting projects and our company culture. And we also try to cultivate and educate the market. The breadth of our cooperation with top universities such as Czech Technical University in Prague, Charles University, University of West Bohemia and Prague University of Economics and Business speaks for itself and this is what defines us. It’s not just about teaching courses or contributing to it, but also research grants and labs, student work and much more.

What direction will the trends in your industry take in the coming years?

We see a great shift in the use of clouds, but at the same time, with their massive use, some disadvantages are also emerging. It remains to be seen whether the trend will continue to be unidirectional, or whether some solutions will start to move away from this infrastructure. Another trend is the advanced processing of data and the subsequent use of data science algorithms and the use of artificial intelligence.

Will the development of artificial intelligence help or harm you?

Reasonable use will help society as a whole – it’s just not always easy to define reasonable. Trying to define rules, such as the AI Act, may be coming a little late, but again, we have a lot of good and bad cases now, and we can build on them. So, I believe that the development of AI will help in the long run. There is no other way anyway.

You are active not only in the Czech Republic but also in Western Europe. How different are these environments? Do they require something completely different in the West than in the Czech Republic?

The requirements for quality service are very similar, so I don’t see much difference there. Our customers’ progression is determined by their history and direction rather than location. It’s more about the type of customer, with slightly different needs for a larger bank and a new fintech. The dynamics of the fintech environment in London are obviously a little different to those of a private bank in, say, Germany.

How does the Czech Republic compare in terms of technological development?

The Czech Republic is doing very well, there are great projects being done here and we have a lot of great ideas. Business processes often differ slightly depending on the country, but from a technological point of view I don’t see much difference between the Czech Republic and abroad. We can help, for example, with moving data to the cloud both for a customer here and in Hamburg. Or help with the use of artificial intelligence methods in Prague or London.

You have been certified by Dun & Bradstreet. Do you welcome it mainly because of your business partners abroad?

We welcome it for the sake of all our customers because it confirms that we are not only a top technology partner, but also a reliable one.