Just Eat builds in-house IT workforce in Ukraine

Online takeaway service Just Eat has built a team of software development and project managers in the Ukranian capital Kiev

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Online takeaway service Just Eat has built a team of software development and project managers in the Ukranian capital Kiev through an agreement with IT staffing service provider Ciklum.

The company realised it could not recruit staff quickly enough to meet the demands of its expending business, which is built on e-commerce platforms.

Just Eat has around 120 IT staff and operates in 13 countries, but is expanding fast. IT staff are based in London and three other sites.

In December 2012 the company found its way to Ukraine-based IT staff provider Ciklum.

Ciklum helps businesses find and recruit IT staff in Ukraine, which has a large software engineering skills set, and then provides the office space for its customers at its operations in Ukraine and Belarus. The company has about 2,500 software engineers working for different corporate global customers.

Jim Beattie, director of international engineering at Just Eat, said the company needed to build its software team quickly and wanted the right mix of engineering skills, culture, time zone and cost. 

“Cost was a secondary consideration. Ukraine is not as cheap as places such as India but it is important to get a good balance of other factors,” said Beattie.

Beattie said Ciklum’s model means the workers are genuine staff of the customer and the supplier is not involved in the employee relationship with the customer. A fixed fee is paid to Ciklum for each worker but the customer is in full control of the worker, who is a full staff member.

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“The difference between Ciklum and other suppliers is that we hire and manage our own staff. Ciklum takes over the areas where we are not adding value such as the hiring, provision of office space and pay roll. I pay Ciklum a fee rather than to get a certain job done,” said Beattie. 

The fixed fee means that if Just Eat requires additional help on a certain issue there will be no wrangling over price and contracts.

Beattie said it is important that Just Eat gets employees through the relationship rather than outsourced staff. “We are a technology company and we do not want to outsource the how. The way we build and support platforms is our secret source.”

Just Eat has 30 employees in Ukraine, which it found through Ciklum, and it will soon have more. “We started with Ciklum by recruiting five people as a test and now we plan to have 40 there soon,” said Beattie.

He said the company started the relationship by tasking the initial small group of Ukraine-based staff on low risk projects, but due to the project’s success some of Just Eats country platforms are run from Kiev.

On the political troubles in Ukraine, Beattie said there has been minimal disruption. “There were a couple of days in extreme cases when we had a slightly smaller team and our corporate policy meant we would not travel to Ukraine at certain times.” Beattie said he normally visits his staff in Kiev once a fortnight.

Beattie said there is a good transparent working relationship with Ciklum, which is important because this is a new approach for Just Eat. “When we have a problem, which happens sometimes, because this is new to us, we sit down with Ciklum and it helps us sort it out because it has usually experienced the same thing before.”

Another way Ciklum ensures customers have a good service is by putting its customers in contact with each other to share their experiences and methods. “I regularly go for a pint with other Ciklum customers,” said Beattie.

Central and Eastern European countries, such as Ukraine, are becoming increasingly popular destination for IT outsourcing from the UK. The near proximity and cultural closeness of countries such as Ukraine, Poland, Romania and Moldova make the ever popular agile software development techniques more manageable than in India or China. Highly skilled software engineer in Ukraine will command a monthly salary of $4,000 (£2,355) before tax.

Ciklum CEO Torben Majgaard told Computer Weekly that in the Ukraine software engineers understand the business challenge the customer has and address this with technology rather than the approach he says is in India where a worker expects to be told what to develop and does not challenge this.

Majgaard is involved in the movement known as the Brain Basket. This Ukraine IT industry group wants IT to be the fuel to grow the Ukraine once the troubles are over. Brain Basket wants to make IT a major driver in creating a strong economy. It will co-ordinate efforts to train 100,000 people and generate $10bn annual revenues by 2020. Brain Basket was recently praised by Richard Branson for boosting education and creating new jobs.

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