Winning Digital Strategies: Digital Services Race Is On

The first event from the Winning Digital Strategies series was held in Moscow by the Vedomosti business publication in partnership with the National IT Leader Prize. Top managers from banks, retail, logistics, medicine, online education, service aggregation, and online service companies met to share cross-industry experience and ideas regarding online retail digitalization. The event was moderated by Anna Znamenskaya, Director for Digital Technologies, VEON Russia, and Pavel Kantyshev, Editor of Technology and Telecom Department, Vedomosti.

The evolving innovative technology challenges traditional business models, changes consumer habits, and makes businesses elaborate new customer relationship strategies. Internet has become the place where you can defeat competitors and win the market share in a delicate manner. Thanks to IT and new service provision opportunities, totally new players enter the market: more agile and focused on high-tech, initially ready to operate in new conditions, adopters of 'alien' business management models and thus more competitive.

“Those who go online faster and promptly respond to customer demands in the era of ever-increasing mobility, will win the race, while apologists of cumbersome, clumsy and slow-changing infrastructures will lose their market share. Consumers acquire more and more digital habits, so retailers have to run more experiments and accelerate decision-making," said Dmitry Vasiliev, First Deputy Director General, CROC.

During the event, the attending experts shared their business cases and discussed digitalization, which is a backbone of new-breed companies, and increasing revenue the successful offline businesses earn from their online projects, as well as different approaches to and intricacies of relationships with online consumers.

Vladimir Geraskin, Managing Partner, Telemed Help, told the audience about a new approach to individual and corporate medical care as a competitive alternative to voluntary health insurance programs:

“Digitalization of medical practice is a key vector of the entire healthcare sector development. Hardly accessible before, telemedicine technologies have already changed patient-physician relationship paradigm and have made it possible to help people even in remote locations where doctors or medical attendants are unavailable. Our service is also powered by these technologies and can directly link patients to any doctor and streamline their communication. Using TelemedHelp, you can obtain a medical consultation while sitting at home and always have up-to-date medical data. TelemedHelp is a reliable cloud solution that makes both website and app available to users, even at peak loads.”

Alexey Maklakov, Online and Mobile Banking Director, Touch Bank, gave an insight into a truly digital bank concept through a straightforward example: clients who opt for credit products don’t need to wait until a credit card delivery, since this bank informs clients of their credit limit as early as during their sign-up. In addition, he shared visual schemes to demonstrate the flexibility of digital bank processes.

“It is impossible to ignore digital transformation in the finance sector anymore. Banks and insurance companies have to adapt to new conditions to be on the same page with their clients. Although conventional financial services are still in demand, the ever-increasing number of consumers behave in such a way as being ready for the most thrilling innovative services and technologies, especially when those create a convenient financial environment,” Alexey Maklakov adds.

Maxim Berezin, Cloud Service Development Director, CROC, told the audience that the selection of computing platform for digital business dramatically depends on how flexible the load adjustment should be. Today, modern cloud platforms can automatically expand and reduce computing capacity in few seconds. For instance, once a built-in monitoring system identifies too many visitors, the website adapts to higher load by expanding capacity almost instantly. In addition, a customer should check what continuity guarantees are declared by a platform provider, with a good market ratio of today being SLA 99.95% (max downtime of 263 minutes a year), and how technical support is provided. Many cloud providers, including Amazon, do not have an opportunity to contact technical support engineers by phone without extra payment, which dramatically slows down the resolution process. When checking cybersecurity, it is essential to make sure that a PSI DSS certificate was issued for the cloud platform rather than an underlying data center. This is why CROC conducts annual cloud security audits when cybersecurity companies, which professionally search products and services for vulnerabilities, are trying to break in the CROC’s cloud. According to Mr. Berezin, such an approach drastically improves the platform cybersecurity, while the website content downloading speed directly affects the sales of online services. This is why customers have to check whether a cloud provider’s team is competent and ready to help in adapting a customer’s website to the cloud, thus allowing website content to download within 1-2 desired seconds.

“Today, the market leaders invest in digital strategies instead of maintaining clumsy back-office and obsolete IT infrastructure. This is why cloud platform is now a good opportunity for a technology leapfrog from IT infrastructure maintenance to the management of maintenance service providers. CROC meets such a demand, acting as a digital guide and enabling companies to focus on their business-critical tasks,” said Maxim Berezin..

In his presentation, Alexey Bogdanov, Deputy Director General, the State Hermitage Museum, named the technologies helping digitize and make over 3 million exhibits available to general public. He told the audience how Hermitage builds its centers in different Russian and foreign cities to host the museum’s exhibitions and demonstrates non-transportable exhibits using digital technologies, especially virtual reality.

“Digitalization creates new opportunities and thus changes not only the company’s performance principles, but also people’s everyday life. For instance, the richest Ancient Art collection exhibited in the State Hermitage Museum can now be demonstrated in other Russian cities using virtual reality technologies. Innovative technologies made this possible to create a virtual copy of one of the State Hermitage Museum’s halls and enabled us to become even closer to our audience and introduce ancient works of art,” said Alexey Bogdanov.

Vadim Melnikov, Technical Director,, showcased the company’s travel engine to demonstrate how high-quality online service attributes drive sales. Customer satisfaction is one of the key indicators used by To make customers happy, we have to understand what they expect from the service and what technologies we need to meet their expectations. In addition, he said that customers primarily expect both 24/7 and instant service availability. The company ran an experiment and saw that a 150-200 ms slower page downloading decreased sales by 2.7%.

“The key tourist industry driver in a short term is offline audience involvement in online travel product purchasing. Air tickets are actively moving to online sales; although train ticket sales do it a bit slower, it is a definite trend. Today, online package tour sales has the greatest potential while still offline sales prevail in this segment. To keep pace with these trends, we have to drive continuous change of both the product and ourselves. leverages Agile practices to reduce the release cycle and release our product updates several times a week,” commented Vadim Melnikov.

Alexander Starygin, Head of Technical Design Preparation Department, HPE Russia, structured the digital economy approaches. He said that today the path from idea to implementation has become much more shorter. This process is truly crucial. So it is not a coincidence that today’s world faces some 1.3 million technology startups raising $17.8 billion a year. The expert emphasized that for Google generation, which has already grown up and boasts of high purchasing power, Internet is a natural habitat. In average, a Google generation person scrolls a website in three seconds. This means that you also have just three seconds to calculate and make a custom offering for that person. This a true technology challenge many companies successfully address.

“An individual’s needs depend on not only biological or social factors, but also a certain digital reality created by such a person. We are living in a unique time when any product or service provider can address an enormous target audience, offering an individual approach to each consumer based on their preferences and needs, as well as purchase and request history,” remarked Alexander Starygin.

Olga Surda, Head of Online Practice Development and Management Department, Eldorado, remarked that online sales accounted for 20% of Eldorado revenue, while Lia Levinbuk, Executive Director, National Retail Association, added that the online retail share in Russia generally reaches 3.5%. Olga Surda said that Eldorado is currently testing and evaluating how new opportunities can help them increase the sum in an average consumer’s bill.

During her speech, the participants began to discuss chatbots. Olga believes that, in online retail, chatbots become a funny feature rather than a sales driver, while chats with prospects help increase sales fourfold. However, CROC experts, who implement chatbots for subscriber servicing at large call centers and automated typical request processing at helpdesk, showcased effective application of chatbots.

“Digital technologies unlock numerous opportunities for the development of sales channels and techniques. Sales managers are on trend when being able to ride a digital wave and prudently arrange their communications with customers. Buyers are more demanding now and want to have a service that fully meets their expectations. Following consumers, business needs to undergo transformation. It is time for the companies to think digital when technology and business go hand in hand,” commented Olga Surda.

In the closing speech, Alexey Muntyan, Personal Data Protection and Information Security Expert at DHL Express in Russia, shared the creation of online POS infrastructure, a joint project by DHL and CROC, to show that it is now possible to build cloud services compliant with Federal Law 152-FZ. The DHL business model has it that the company’s couriers accept payment at the time of order delivery and should transfer fiscal data to relevant operators. It is the above technology solution that ensures continuous interaction with both customer’s internal systems and those of fiscal data operators.

About IT Leader Prize

The Annual National IT Leader Prize was established in 2002. The Organizing Committee includes the Russian Managers Association, iBusiness web portal; Dengi and iOne magazines (Kommersant Publishing House); Intelligent Enterprise; and CROC.

Information Partners (in the past): Business FM radio station, The Analytical Banking Magazine, and Systems Administrator and BIT. Business & Information Technology magazines. Information TV Partner is World Business Channel. Finally, the online partners are Comnews, ICT-online, IT Manager, CRN, CTA (Contemporary Technologies in Automation), The National Banking Journal, and Global CIO magazines.

The IT Leader Forum is a landmark event in Russia which has been held since 2002 and is attended by over 300 executives and IT directors from the Russian and international companies. Last year, presentations were delivered by top managers from Yota, Enter Svyaznoy, Moscow United Electric Grid Company, URALSIB Bank, Sberbank of Russia, etc. In the past, IT Leader Forum special guests included: Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder; Thomas Frey, Executive Director and Senior Futurist at the DaVinci Institute; Peter Hinssen, co-founder of Across Group and CEO of Across Technology; and Josep Curto, CEO at Delfos Research and professor at IE Business School Madrid.

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About Vedomosti Praktika

Vedomosti Praktika means:

  • Venue for open dialog, opinion exchange and discussion of the most pressing business matters, progressive ideas and innovative technology
  • Venue for Russian and international business communities to meet and analyze and apply the best corporate management practices
  • High-level attendees and speakers: executives and business owners, top managers, heads of representative offices and departments of Russian and international companies