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Unilink Software and Infrastructures Group – Helping Clients Reduce Expenses / By Tal Ben-Baruch

The Unilink Group specializes in finding professional solutions that allow organizations to reduce their operating expenses in the field of infrastructures and server management and software testing. Founded in 1997, today the Unilink Group has 200 employees, including developers, system engineers and programmers in a broad range of platforms, WIN/UNIX/LINUX/MF, software experts, system experts, architects and training and assimilation experts. We spoke with Dror Shaked, the group’s vice president, about lowering costs during a recession by switching to the use of open-code systems and by turning to unique sectors, and about opportunities that have become available during this period.

About the company:
The Unilink Group was founded 12 years ago and includes several companies, the most notable being Opal Systems, which specializes in all areas of implementation and switching to Linux and running open code and commercial applications in various environments and HPC clusters. The Unilink Group also serves as a veteran outsourcing supplier for numerous companies in various areas of IT. The group’s main office is located in Ramat Gan, but operations take place around the country at large, leading organizations in many fields, such as information-rich industries and high tech, finance, communications, defense, etc.

Which solutions is Unilink offering its customers?
Since the company was founded by Gavin Cohen, who now manages the group, Unilink has operated in several channels, such as outsourcing and professional personnel services, system services and software testing. We recently developed a number of models that enable clients to reduce operating expenses without hampering quality, and even improving it. Take the Tachlit Project, for instance, in which we set up testing groups and teams at the client site, bringing in alternative personnel from various sectors to enable our clients to substantially improve the cost-effectiveness ratio, thereby achieving significant savings.

Dror Shaked, vice president of the
 Unilink Group

What is the Tachlit Project and how does the process work?
The Tachlit Project focuses on software testing. It’s one of our growing projects. We locate workers, such as recent graduates in computer science, software or practical engineering – including workers from the charedi sector – and following a screening process they undergo specialized professional training in software testing at our expense, with a focus on areas that meet the client’s needs and in accordance with the methodologies required by the project. The training program is built according to the client’s demands and carried out by qualified instructors. We’re currently assessing additional sectors to include in this field by creating collaborative arrangements with commercial and industrial organizations in Israel, and we’re anticipating ongoing demand in this field.

Where did you get the idea of turning to these sectors?
In principle this idea is not new in Israel and stemmed first of all from the need to reduce software-testing costs as part of work packages and managed services. But the Unilink Group took the process one step further by providing customers a broader and more flexible range of testing options, which lowers expenses very significantly. We’re also offering our customers an option to add system and infrastructure services to the testing process. This is made possible thanks to the company’s experience in the field as well as in the field of infrastructures, and the savings can come to as much as 50%. We also see this as a matter of principle during a time of recession, since it brings various sectors into the work force and encourages employees to develop expertise.

Do you have other solutions to lower costs?
Definitely. We provide technological consulting for our customers to reduce licensing costs for databases, operating systems and infrastructures, and to reduce the TCO. Today switching to open-code and Linux-based systems, consolidation and virtualization allow every organization to reduce costs by 40%-50% while upholding the organization’s independence to avoid reliance on suppliers and manufacturers and while receiving constant professional support by the official open-code manufacturers.

As a company that also provides outsourcing services, which changes do you foresee in the market during the recession?
This recession period is notable for several aspects, but the most prominent among them is the cut in costs, and the most painful result, as all of us know, is the cut in projects, operating costs and wage outlays. Meanwhile most companies are changing their focus and priorities regarding various projects, and this is a process that actually leads to recruitment, though more limited, as well as commissioning managed services based on work packages provided by outside companies. Another outcome of the recession is prolonged hiring process because companies operate under conditions of uncertainty and because there’s a large supply of quality candidates for every job opening. Certain sectors that are not highly dependent on investors and stock markets, such as security or government companies, are in need of employees since many projects continue to develop despite the reductions and cutbacks in the business sector.

Which types of positions are currently in demand?
I can’t point to a certain main area that has focused demand because there are various development environments at a range of companies and development organizations in various sectors. Today notable demand can be found in a range of fields such as testing, programming, open-code development, systems analysis, system engineering and integration and real-time programming. From some of our customers we receive professional demands including several areas of expertise and professional experience, which allows the company to hire an experienced, multidisciplinary worker capable of operating in several areas simultaneously rather than hiring several workers. I suggest workers who are not currently in the job market take advantage of this time period to expand their areas of knowledge.

What screening processes do your job candidates undergo?
The process of locating and screening candidates is done by a professional personnel department managed by Neta Kleinman through several processes that complement one another to form a single, quality process. The first stage focuses on understanding the needs of the client or the project, and only afterwards does the process of screening resumes and locating suitable candidates begin. Then a talk is held with the candidates and they are called in for personal and professional interviews. The candidates go through an informative interview that involves verifying data and checking references, followed by an individual interview that focuses on the candidate’s skills and ability to handle the job he is vying for. Some of the positions require special documents, such as a security clearance, and some require expanding the screening process by performing an assessment and/or professional tests.
We’ve seen an increase in employee referrals and we believe an employee who recommends a friend is more aware of the company’s needs and can focus the selection of the employee more effectively. When a Unilink employee recommends his friends join us, we see this as a vote of confidence and a feeling of professional partnership on the part of the employees.

How is the integration process carried out?
The moment a decision is reached and contact is made with the worker, the process of studying and matching expectations and getting to know the job and the staff he is slated to join goes into gear. Professional issues and the job contents are hammered out and the worker is familiarized with the processes behind the project or staff. This entire process is accompanied by representatives from the Human Resources Department and the employee is provided with all of the conditions he needs to carry out his job tasks.

Most of your employees are assigned to work at client sites. What do you do to retain them?
We have one of the top human resources and employee retention staffs in the country, which remains in constant contact with all of the employees regarding various aspects of company benefits and maintaining professionalism. The human resources manager is Dikla Ben Ari, and Unilink employees generally enjoy excellent conditions and above all – are equipped with professional pride. Our employees are our most important asset! Every worker has a professional he can turn to for professional mentoring. We also consider this an added value for our clients, which benefit from excellent personnel who feel they have personal and professional backing. I believe our approach to retaining employees and maintaining their professional capabilities inoculates us. Particularly in a time of recession, investing in employees is a matter of vital importance, because once the recession is over and there’s a much larger supply of positions and options – this will allow our employees to develop loyalty and confidence in us over time.

What do you think the coming year holds in store?
The coming year will be characterized by smart locating of existing opportunities in the market, and they are out there. Rinat Cohen, manager of business development at the Unilink Group, leads a clear line that allows us, despite the period in question, to spot new opportunities in the market. To illustrate, I see this as a job at two different but complementary strategic levels that remind me of a microscope and a telescope. On the microscopic level we have to learn more and delve deeper into our clients’ needs and constantly be attentive out in the field and develop a personal, day-to-day bond. On the telescopic level we have to look at the long-term investment, both in the employees and the clients over the long term, and spot market trends as early as possible.

What distinguishes Unilink from other companies operating in your market?
We operate in a dynamic and competitive market, which is now dealing with a slowdown and cutbacks at many organizations. Unilink management is working through an efficient headquarters staff, including experienced professionals, and is very focused in identifying the clients’ changing needs and its ability to provide a quick, quality response. For instance, the cost-reduction models in the area of software testing or switching to open-code technology offer a direct solution to a real need. Our ability to operate efficiently in a changing, unpredictable market enables us to respond quickly and provide better cost-efficiency solutions.

How does your background in behavioral sciences and management come to the fore in working with clients and employees?
The main issue I see has to do with building long-term trust and creating real cooperative dialogue with clients and employees. The basis for this has to do with our ability as managers to more effectively manage the interpersonal interface with clients, service providers and employees and to implement this during a crisis period. This is an issue that’s not studied formally and at universities, so I meet quite a number of managers who waste a large percentage of their time dealing with misunderstandings and conflicts and trying to solve problems. My aim is for as many employees as possible to be exposed to practical tools and approaches that have enabled us, as a services provider, to operate better with our customers, and during a time of tightening belts – to find joint activity and to better establish long-term relations founded on trust and mutual needs.

What is the Unilink vision?
The vision of the Unilink Group is founded on providing value! I believe providing our clients real value allows them to meet their business goals and fulfill their vision. Also, providing our employees value enables professional development along with self-fulfillment and meaning. When I talk about increasing value I’m referring to a broad range of values, such as financial values, service values, response-time values, etc. Our ability to meet the clients’ needs in a way that boosts the values they want will invariably lead to boosting our value.

For the Hebrew Article   

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