Over two decades in the IT sector, Panya “Pong” Pornkajornkitkul has accumulated expertise in application development since the days he worked at a unit of MFEC Group until he becomes managing director of Bluebik Vulcan today.
His mission is to pass on “technological weapons” and digital intelligence to help the organization combat challenges and cope with transitions. The key to success is “T2P”, which refers to technology, process and people.
Bluebik Vulcan: God of forge in digital age
In Roman mythology, Vulcan is the god of fire and metalworking whose Greek counterpart is Hephaestus. Armed with a hammer, Vulcan created thunderbolts for Zeus. Bluebik Vulcan is meant to have an image as a business that “arms the customers with technological weapons to fight the digital war”.
“The name is inspired by another IT unit of Bluebik — Bluebik Titans — which joins hands with us to help our customers with digital transformation,” Panya said.
Bluebik Vulcan’s motto is “Make Reality Alive”, an addition to Bluebik’s “Ambition to Reality”. “Reality” here refers to the realization of technological development and the growth along with the customers — from the ATM SIM at the beginning to WARP overseas money transfer service, and mobile banking today.
According to Panya, Bluebik Vulcan was a digital delivery unit under MFEC Group working on integrated software development. Of its main targeted customers, 80% are from the banking industry and 20% are from the energy sector.
With the purchase of the business unit, Bluebik Vulcan has become part of the Bluebik Group, strengthening its position as a consulting company and offering solutions to drive digital transformation.
“We have a strong potential to grow as a consulting company capable of competing with foreign businesses and expanding into the global market in the future,” the MD said.
End-to-end services to win customers’ hearts
Bluebik Vulcan’s main mission over the past couple of years involves serving the original customers from the banking and energy sectors. The customer base will then be expanded to the health service sector, including private hospitals. Over the next few years, the targeted customers are expected to comprise 70% from the banking sector, 20% from the energy sector, and 10% from the health service sector.
“The return of foreigners and the business recovery will bring the development of apps to deal with new and more financial transactions and payments, domestically and internationally,” Panya said.
Regarding the energy market, in which Bluebik Vulcan has been involved for a year or two, there are business opportunities beyond oil to cover the entire ecosystem. A super app will be best to serve the customers.
To enter the health market, the speed of services is the key for such matters as hospital appointments, links of patient data, and safety of personal data required under the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), according to Panya.
Bluebik Vulcan’s software development is in the end-to-end format involving the creation of front and back offices and taking into account the customer journey by offering a good user experience (UX) and easy user interface (UI).
“To meet customer demands in the digital age, we can’t afford to be slow,” he said, adding that in some cases his company developed an application within four months from scratch to a minimum viable product (MVP).
For him, an all-around tech company needs to have three important factors – up-to-date technology, competent and development-minded personnel, and a process that is fine-tuned to suit the changing problems and situations.
Monitoring technological changes
In the past, software was mostly web-based. But this age of digital transformation mainly involves application-based software for mobile devices.
Unlike in the past when there were limited choices, software users today have several thousands of mobile apps to choose from. And they may uninstall apps they don’t like shortly after downloading and trying them.
The main goal of software development is to impress customers and get them to use the apps for a long time. Developers should start by finding out about the demands of their targeted customers to make apps with features, the user interface and the experience that please them.
“I used to develop applications for the entertainment industry. The goal was to keep customers using our apps as long as possible and sharing their time spent on Facebook, YouTube, games or other apps that they use regularly,” Panya said.
He said there was a need to understand potential customers before selecting suitable technology and programming language.
“We need to invest money, time and labour into learning and development. I have a team that is tasked with monitoring technological changes all the time,” the MD said.
Personnel shortage is a big question
A shortage of IT personnel is a big question for organizations, including Bluebik Vulcan. About 90% of its 300 employees work in technology-related positions such as developers, software analysts, business analysts, and project managers. But that is still far from the actual demand.
To address the issue, the company is working with universities in sharing technological knowledge and experiences while accepting trainees who spend four to six months learning about application development. Bluebik Vulcan hires those trainees after their graduation.
The most challenging thing new employees need to learn involves the skills of managing customer demands so that applications can be developed to please them.
Panya views that a stroke of bad luck for today’s young people is that technologies change rapidly but they are lucky to live in a time when they can access technologies easily and they have the potential to keep up with technologies.
“When I share views and visions with my young colleagues, we help fulfil one another. After I retire, the next generation can take over. This is not for the company’s benefit only, it means growth for the IT workforce who are ready for national development,” he said.
Data is vital for corporate management
At Bluebik Vulcan, the workforce is managed in the form of squads, each with a leader and a team responsible for their business unit. There are eight business units divided into two major cores — the technology core (web and mobile) and the customer core (energy and banking).
Each unit is managed like a startup under the Bluebik Vulcan umbrella. The business units deal with their work projects, revenues, profits and costs independently.
Panya said data is also vital for corporate management involving analysis of problems, assessment of project feasibility, and evaluation of the personnel’s potential.
‘Never a top achiever’
“I was not growing up as a top student. I grew up through self-development and opportunities offered by the organizations [I worked for],” Panya said.
While studying at the prestigious Suankularb Wittayalai School, he was a “C-grade student”, according to the MD. He then graduated from King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, majoring in applied statistics, and got a master’s degree in information science. He started his career as a computer programmer at a startup company.
In 2003, he moved to MFEC Group, where he worked as a senior software developer and software analyst before becoming a development team leader. He left the company to join Thomson Reuters in 2008. Four years later, he re-joined MFEC as deputy project director before working at Bluebik Vulcan today.
While working at Thomson Reuters, he had an opportunity to learn and improve management skills from a global company. Also, he learned to analyze and solve problems more effectively. He later shared those experiences with his younger colleagues at Bluebik Vulcan to help improve its internationalism.
Technology and balance of life and learning
Panya said that he learned from Siriwat Vongjarukorn, chief executive officer of MFEC PLC, about maintaining a balance between work, life, technology, colleagues, customers, and various benefits.
“You have to keep all of them in proper positions and well-balanced. More importantly, you must give and take,” he said.
He described his expertise as “knowing like a duck” but he aims to be “the best duck” who is open to information and inputs from all around and who can communicate with everyone, anywhere, on any issue involved.
“I have been in mobile banking for more than 10 years. If you count the time I was involved with ATMs, that’s a very long period of time. I am proud of the time invested, which allows me to expand my knowledge and business until today,” the MD said.
He noted that his team grew from fewer than 100 to more than 300 today. Regarding the customers, he aims to win their trust in Bluebik Vulcan for creating quality solutions to help them achieve their goals.
Digital transformation has been talked about for the past five years, and it has been used in the creation of various services. After this, it is time for digital intelligence involving the collection of data on app-user experiences to allow corporations to better understand their customers and offer goods and services that are in demand. Artificial intelligence (AI) is required to manage data for maximum efficiency and in a way that does not violate personal privacy.
“The question is whether we can trust AI alone. Will AI make us humans that use our brains less?” Panya said.
He is convinced that an age of AI revolution is possible, but it is unlikely that AI can answer all the questions in the world. Developers may be able to avoid domination by AI, but general consumers will come under AI influence. He gave as an example the fact that many drivers believe in the Google Map app’s AI to guide them while ignoring other alternative routes.
For him, Bluebik Vulcan serves as a cogwheel in the country’s technological development to “arm” Thai businesses in the borderless digital fight of today and tomorrow.