Accepting Brazilian and international awards and certifications has become routine at CI&T, a Brazilian multinational firm in information technology based in Campinas that specializes in software development and computer system maintenance. Ever since it was founded in 1995 by a group of then young recent graduates of the University of Campinas (Unicamp) the company, owner of a worldwide services structure that includes four units in Brazil, five in the United States, one in Europe, and two in Asia, has accumulated about 20 honors. For the last six years, for example, it has held a permanent spot on The Global Outsourcing 100, a list compiled by the U.S. Fortune magazine. Another significant award was given CI&T in 2012 by the consulting firm A.T. Kearney and the publication Época Negócios, producers of the Best Innovator ranking. They identified CI&T as one of Brazil’s most innovative companies, alongside major corporations like IBM, Siemens, and BASF Corporation. The most recent award was received in March 2014, when information giant Google awarded the São Paulo company the title of Partner of the Year 2013 for the Google Cloud Platform, recognition conferred on its leading global partners in the field of cloud technology.
All those recognitions, according to Leonardo Mattiazzi, vice president for innovation at CI&T, are the result of the company’s firm commitment to the quality of its services, its search for the best solutions, and customer satisfaction. “Innovation is part of our DNA. We have always been involved with the most innovative technologies, as well as being leaders in software engineering processes and practices,” says the executive, who was responsible for establishing and expanding CI&T into the United States, where he lived between 2006 and 2013. With a degree in electrical engineering from Unicamp and an MBA from the Fox School of Business at Temple University in Philadelphia, Mattiazzi, 40, points out that CI&T has long been recognized as a leader in processes and methodologies. The company was one of the first in Brazil to operate with Java language and web applications in 1996, when it was newly-established. It was one of the first recipients of Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) certification, the world’s most highly respected software quality standard. “We were the first Brazilian company to obtain the CMMI capability rating at levels 3, 4, and 5, and now all our processes are based on the Lean Principles that were inspired by the industrial transformation that Toyota underwent in the 1980s,” Mattiazzi explains. Lean Management is a management philosophy that focuses on productivity; its primary objective is to create value for a company by reducing waste.
Anticipating sales of R$250 million in 2014—a 25% increase from 2013–CI&T plans to allocate 2% of that figure, or R$4 million, to research and development activities related to its innovation unit that has about 100 researchers, many of whom hold degrees in science or computer engineering. The company has divided those activities into four departments. The Digital Studio is responsible for creating differentiated digital solutions through the use of mobile components, social networks, cloud computing, and digital analytics, i.e., the ability to analyze a large volume of data and convert it into significant information.
The Analytics Studio concentrates on developing products that use well-known tools and concepts like big data. The department known internally as D-Products handles innovations based on smart computing and machine learning; its principle solution is the Smart Canvas software. Finally, there is also a department dedicated to Innovation Management, which is focused on creating and managing relationships and partnerships with universities, research institutions, and research-sponsoring agencies.
The innovation management model adopted by CI&T differs from the one usually seen on the market, where companies set up research and development (R&D) departments to execute ideas and projects. “In our opinion, service companies like ours that have a direct and intense connection with the market find it is the development areas that are the best environment for innovations to flourish. And so when an idea or proposal comes up, instead of shifting the task of creating it to another department—like R&D or innovation—we believe the proposal will flourish most successfully in its area of origin, and that’s how we do it here,” explains Flávio Leal Pimentel, 43, engineer and coordinator of CI&T’s Corporate Innovation unit. Before he was hired by the company, Pimentel, who earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees from the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE), worked at the Center for Advanced Studies and Systems (Cesar) in Recife, which specializes in information technology solutions.
Another young CI&T executive is computer scientist Paulo Roberto Vasconcelos Camara, 35, who heads the Digital Studio team. “I’m involved in all the projects that make intensive use of at least one of four current digital technologies: cloud computing, social networks, mobile devices, and analytics, he says. “My team is composed of professionals who work in design, advertising, and human-machine interfaces, as well as technical personnel and strategists who think about digital solutions from the standpoint of business and technology.” With 19 years in software development, Camara worked in the IT departments of financial and telecommunications corporations before joining CI&T in 2002.
With about 100 clients, CI&T, which appropriately adopted “Collaborate, Innovate, and Transform” as its slogan, has in its portfolio a vast list of high-technology products. One of them is CI&T Insurance Business Services (IBS), designed to help the insurance industry reduce the cost of handling claims. The tool is based on two pillars. The first is an application that analyzes data about the insurance company and the market (incident reports, fines, meteorology, etc.) and makes a comprehensive database available to the client that helps it make more agile and assertive decisions. The other is a governance process set up by the CI&T team that works with the client, which identifies and proposes actions that can improve the indicators in company sales and operations. “That solution, which was born out of a partnership with Mitsui Sumitomo Seguros, is an example of our policy not to innovate just for the sake of innovation. The solution was created to solve real problems experienced by the insurance companies,” says Rubens Barreto, head of the Analytics and Big Data unit. With a degree in electrical engineering from the University of São Paulo (USP), Barreto and three colleagues established a start-up in 2003 that they dubbed BI One, which was bought up by CI&T six years later. “We had a unique mix of competencies that attracted the attention of CI&T: the delivery of analytics, big data, and information intelligence services. We were the first business intelligence company that focused on the SAP environment, the most widely used tool for organizing information at large corporations,” Barreto explains.
Another important item in its portfolio is Smart Canvas, an application for intelligent handling of content, launched in 2014. “It’s a cutting-edge product that employs concepts taken from artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cloud computing,” says technology manager Daniel Viveiros, 35. The solution operates in three steps: it connects to the client’s internal and external sources of information, converts the content into cards—or data capsules—and distributes the most relevant ones to its visitors. In the future, these data capsules will be accessible even by advanced devices such as Google Glass–CI&T has already done conceptual tests involving that apparatus.
A Brazilian multinational
This focus on the external market has in recent years been one of the strategies adopted by CI&T to grow and establish its position as one of the world leaders in its industry. Earnings from exports of products and services now account for 30% of sales and the company has a prominent position on the most recent ranking of Brazilian multinationals published by the International Business Center at the Dom Cabral Foundation in Minas Gerais State. On the 2013 list, the company occupied fourth place in the group that includes only companies with sales of less than R$1 billion, and 18th place in the overall ranking, just one step behind Embraer and ahead of major groups like Marcopolo, Natura, and Votorantim. The organizers of the study pointed out that “stiff competition in the international market has led CI&T to be increasingly innovative in developing its services portfolio, looking for alternatives and launching offers that spur its growth in the international market.”
“The international market has always been part of CI&T’s growth strategy. We have kept our focus on fast-growing global markets, without failing to prioritize specific sectors of Brazilian industry,” Mattiazzi emphasizes. “The American market, in particular, affords ideal conditions for our investments in innovation, given the rapid pace at which new technologies are adopted there.” To serve clients in the United States, the company has a team of 70 professionals, more than 40 transferred from Brazil, and 30 hired there. Japan is its second biggest international market and Europe the third—the company has already delivered projects in most of the Western European nations. Among its foreign clients are world-class companies like Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Monsanto, and Pfizer. Its approximately 1,600 employees of CI&T include many expatriates who have decided to return to Brazil, bringing with them their experience of working in markets where competition is stiff and the market is contested by major world competitors.
The internationalization process began in 2004 and was supported by the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES), which executed a structured financing operation and acquired a financial stake in the company. Those resources were used to set up the office in the United States. “We ended 2005 having won two important awards: the Exporta São Paulo, which highlighted CI&T’s role as exporter, and the Best Infrastructure for Technological Components, part of the B2B Standard of Quality Prize,” Mattiazzi reports.
Throughout its history, the Campinas company has also received funding from the Brazilian Innovation Agency (Finep) under its financial subsidy program and has participated with that agency in sectoral funding projects carried out in conjunction with Brazilian universities, including Unicamp.