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The bug… and… other bugs more!

By José Campos Forte, Administrator

One day, in February 2020, we discovered a ‘bug’, which was named ‘novel corona virus’, running loose somewhere around China and we do not even know where, when and why it was born! A few days later it was discovered that the so-called ‘bug’ spread from person to person in a swiftly manner, multiplying inside each one of us at once and then leaving at a dazzling speed, jumping to another and then another, in a never-ending cycle. But the ‘bug’ was not just going through us – it caused heavy damage to our machine and, in a remarkably high percentage, it would tear us apart to our deaths.

As we learnt more, we discovered that the ‘bug’ was at our doorstep – and more, it had begun a fight for expansion and conquest worldwide. Thus the war with the ‘bug’ began, and the world mobilised itself, or rather, tried to mobilise itself fast enough, but it unfortunately failed and the ‘bug’ was unwavering, galloping under the enormous and terrifying weakness of countries, societies, public and private services, businesses and various organisations, alas, of everyone! We ran home, frightened, and locked ourselves up. We focused on guiding and organising the hospitals and all the healthcare machinery, attempting to control the damage that the ‘bug’ was causing to an ever-increasing number of people, killing a good portion of them.

At the same time, an attempt was being made to support businesses in order to prevent them from collapsing, with the corresponding immediate unemployment that this would generate. On the other hand, it soon became clear that there was also a need to directly support families that saw their income reduced immediately, in the face of the constraints that were precipitously occurring.

By the end of April we had no certainties, except that we would have to live with the ‘bug’, without knowing how, or for how long, but with the awareness that it would be possible to dominate it, although we do not yet know it well enough.

Having arrived here, the reorganisation and recovery of the economy, which on a global scale, is in a state of weakness never seen before, is gaining total and absolute urgency. The financial effort that all this shall entail is on such a scale that countries will not be able to do it alone, even those that were once extraordinarily strong financially. The ‘dominant blocks’ in the world must decide whether or not they want to continue to reaffirm themselves in this condition and, if they truly want to, they must reinvent themselves very quickly in order to achieve greater cohesion and, together, be able to overcome this crisis in a short time frame. It should be noted that the present crisis cannot be overcome in a solitary way by any country – the effort must be collective, equitable and solidary.

Now we must think of what is dearest to us and thus, very much concerns us – our companies. We all know that crises are a massive challenge – which can only be overcome with much struggle and in total unity. In the past, we have resisted and came out stronger from various crisis, in particular the crisis caused by the very violent actions of the ‘troika bug’, in terms of its unusual austerity policy.

We must bury the phase of fear in its entirety, that is, we must not let fear shape our actions, but we must not forget it either. There are indeed alarming situations of extremely high risk in terms of health and social, economic, and financial constraints at a worldwide level which will most certainly affect us. The solution is to always model our management on the premise that absolute certainties are not recognised, instead formulating the decision based on convictions formed on the basis of diverse origins and different opinions – the flexibility in action is now more decisive than ever!

The size and type of demand are the factors that will most condition our immediate and medium-term future. The only way to mitigate this situation is to permanently improve our organisation, focusing more and more on our Clients, executing their work with ever better quality and within the agreed deadlines – we must overcome ourselves. It is still necessary to improve the support services which we have already made available to the Client, but we still must develop other types of services, such as economic and financial feasibility studies, support in obtaining financing, etc.

We stress that when we refer to the quality of the project, we are not talking about the quality of the execution of the project per se, but also and fundamentally about the conception, in the aesthetic and functional aspects, as well as the constructive solutions adopted, never forgetting the balance of the cost/benefit relation of the projected object.

Today, still as a result of the devastating policy of austerity carried out by the ‘troika bug’, the level of technical support for the execution of works, by construction companies and inspections, has fallen in a terrifying manner, with a generalised attempt to transform the ‘technical assistance to the project in progress’ into ‘technical assistance to the work’ without any remuneration for this purpose. Furthermore, the planners are not prepared to provide such assistance to the work, nor is the company, as mentioned above, obliged to do so if it is not properly remunerated for this purpose. This aspect is quite sensitive and is beginning to have an enormous relevance, since issues poorly resolved on site usually generate high costs for the Client and impair the final quality of the works.

It should be noted that, on numerous occasions, the issues at work arise from errors and omissions in the project, which are usually the result of the lack of quality of the project and/or the measurements and budgets included in it. This aspect needs special attention. In order to continue to assert ourselves in the national and international market, it is imperative that we maintain an extremely high level of individual and collective demand.

In the end, we left the aspects of the company related to the management of the administrative and human resources, IT, and financial areas and, last but not least, the international area.

We must optimise some aspects related to the administrative and human resources management. One of the biggest issues we have, historically, is the implementation of procedures – we think them through and, on time, we create them, but we cannot implement them and/or feed them in a natural way – only by force! It is imperative that we resolve this old issue – because there are a lot of unpleasant problems coming out of it.

Computer science has had a huge development in the recent past. The ‘bug’ that declared war on us, or perhaps brought a set of messages and advice so we would stop walking towards some cliff, has caused or rather, has been causing the digital world to explode. I am talking, for example, about working remotely. There are even highly regarded management persons who say that anyone who does not implement a model which aggregates the ongoing digital evolution will not survive. There are also persons who believe that excessive exposure to new technologies dooms you to brain inactivity, to a solitary brain. As for myself, I find digital evolution fascinating, but on the other hand, I consider creating solitary brains, naturally without an affective aspect, to not be at all advisable. We ought to say yes to digital and yes to remote work, but everything must count for weight and measure and must be according to the essence and nature of each profession.

With regard to financial management, we would highlight as the most relevant aspect, the need to transform fixed costs into variable costs, as the only way to mitigate the uncertainties of the future with regards to this dimension of demand. It will be putting the whole company at a very high risk if we do not start this process as of now, because we must not in any way allow the company to one day not have a portfolio, where the execution of which does not free up the means to support the existing structure at each moment. However, we will not have the capacity to have a stock of external service providers, which can guarantee the execution of the portfolio that the market demand makes possible at each moment. The balance between a fixed structure of the company and the ability to raise capital is a key success factor of decisive importance.

As for the international area, we shall have to proceed with the reconfiguration of geographies where we are present, searching for new worlds, new countries with more mature, robust, and stable economies. Globalisation and all that this entails will most certainly undergo a major change, and it is therefore advisable to act with a great deal of flexibility, but, at the same time, with a great deal of prudence.

The watchwords in business terms to keep in mind should always be restructure, adjust, train, capitalise… never forgetting social conscience and responsibilities.

Ever since our creation and until today, we have always survived through every ‘bug’ that visited us, because we have always aimed to keep our course as dictated by our slogans, with a spirit of sacrifice, hard work and respect for our Clients. Every year we have grown with positive results, and fulfilled, with our Employees and Suppliers, all we have set ourselves to do.

Our grand objective is to do and say exactly the same after we have beaten this ‘bug’.

Lisbon, May 10, 2020
Thank you all.
José Campos Forte

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