VOLO Software Development Outsourcing Company's Blog

VOLO at 18: A Milestone Conversation with our CEO, Armen Kocharyan

14 May 2024

VOLO Birthday
1. As the CEO of an officially “adult” company, can you reflect on some of the pivotal moments that were a catalyst to VOLO’s growth and maturity?

All the pivotal moments in VOLO's history have been directly linked to our team's maturity, ability to collaborate effectively, and collective capacity to innovate and create value. United in purpose and having a shared vision of teaming up with strategic tech partners to drive growth and excellence, our team has consistently propelled us forward. The spirit of teamwork and the commitment to shared aspirations have been the main reasons behind our success.

Starting off with a product.

I have to say that there have been several pivotal stages in VOLO's history. Let’s start from its inception. In 2006, after four years of our entrepreneurial journey of enabling e-commerce in Armenia, we started VOLO. There was so much learning in those years, which helped to start the company with a clear vision.

We were working on the IDram payment platform. Those were exciting times, and we were very emotional about the change we were shaping and the lessons we were taking. We spent years pushing innovation to the market and educating the market on possibilities. We realized then that building a good product was only a fraction of the journey. Taking it to market was an entirely different undertaking that required non-tech knowledge and skills and was very resource-intensive. We learned a lot about the complexity of bringing digital products to the market and the importance of aligned teams for success.

Pivoting to a services company.

By spending more time on non-tech things, we continued to witness the rapid growth of technology globally. We recognized the opportunity to leverage our technical background and love for the field by becoming a software development services company. We were desperate to return to the world of technology with our understanding of the complexity of delivering innovation and our deep technology knowledge. So, we committed to partnering with our clients to shape the digital future as a single team and inspire companies to innovate rapidly. And this is how VOLO was born.

First major project.

We were a small team, but over time, we gained traction and success. An important milestone at the beginning of VOLO’s journey was when an American organization decided to move its Turkey-based remote team to Armenia and partner with us, trusting us entirely with their projects. This was basically the first pivotal moment that set the foundations for VOLO’s growth. Thanks to this partnership, our team grew to 30 people.

Following this period, our team size remained more or less stable for around 6-7 years. 

Investing in Business Development.

In 2015, we decided to invest in strengthening our business development efforts. The decision was made collectively. It was a natural progression that occurred thanks to our team’s increasing strength, professional growth, exceptional synergy, and efficiency. We were ready to grow, take on more difficult, challenging tasks, and work with more clients. So, the need for a strong business development department arose naturally. We started participating in various programs and expos and gathering experiences.

During our search, we came together with Matt Bartelsian, who brought a fresh perspective to business development. We started building a sales and marketing team to fuel the demand for growth in VOLO. The yields of this new initiative didn’t make us wait too long. Due to the hard work, we soon started gaining new partnerships and securing exciting and fruitful collaborations. Our team grew more, now reaching 150 people. I can confidently say that this was the 2nd pivotal moment that acted as a catalyst for VOLO’s growth.

Expanding our service offering, offices in Ukraine.

Some of our most notable achievements during this transformative period involved opening offices in Ukraine, creating an organizational structure, and diversifying our services to include specialized branches for cybersecurity and mobile app development.

So, first, we expanded our geographical reach and highlighted our ability to work effectively through distributed teams. Then, we formed the HR and Financial departments to foster a healthy organization. Afterwards, we expanded our verticals and service offerings, encompassing mobile development, Cybersecurity, DevOps, IT infrastructure management, and Network Operations Center, thus further reinforcing our position as a trustworthy and comprehensive technology solutions provider. Our geographical, administrative, and vertical expansions marked the third, fourth, and fifth pivotal stages in the history of VOLO.

VOLO Birthday

Evolving into a consultancy.

The next significant milestone in VOLO’s evolution was again due to the amount of accumulated knowledge and experience across different disciplines. We started to notice the common patterns of issues and realized that we needed to support our clients in putting the right structures in place to drive success. This was a stage where we concisely went beyond being a service provider and started offering consulting services to our partners. In addition to our technical expertise, we now provide consultation on project management, business analytic processes, quality assurance, technical architecture, infrastructure, and more.

We have achieved this thanks to our considerable professional growth. Besides being experts in software development, we now have our say in the business segment, helping businesses navigate their digital transformation journey. We assist them in becoming more efficient in digitizing their business processes, maintaining quality, and ensuring the successful implementation of the digitized tools.

This is an ongoing phase, which I refer to as the sixth pivotal period for VOLO. While it is true that we are still in the early stages of this transition and need to mature more, I strongly believe that it is a big step forward for VOLO. We are now 18 years old, officially an “adult” which means that this is the right time for us to start sharing our expertise and providing consultation and guidance to companies on their digital transformation journeys. We are definitely mature enough for this role. Give it another 3 years, and I am confident that, at 21, we will be a reputable consultancy firm.

2. How has the technology landscape changed since the company was founded, and how has VOLO adapted to these changes?

The technology landscape is evolving at an exponential pace nowadays. If I compare the tech environment of 2006 to the present day, it becomes evident that the technological cycles were way slower back then. We witnessed major shifts every three years or so for two consecutive cycles. Then, around 2011, we noticed a significant acceleration in the technological cycles. With the rise of Industry 4.0 touching cloud computing, IoT, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, 3D printing, 5G, etc., increased productivity, connectivity, and efficiency cycles were becoming shorter and shorter.

With the start of rapid AI transformations from November 2022 onwards, the technology cycles have come down to 1-3 months. Everything started to change way faster than ever before. Throughout all these shifts, VOLO has remained committed to investing time and resources in researching emerging technologies and exploring new opportunities. We always discuss this with our clients, trying to understand how we can implement new solutions to bring value to their businesses.

Despite the ever-narrowing spiral of technological cycles, we keep evolving and adapting continuously, ensuring agility and responsiveness to the rapidly changing tech landscape. We work hard to gain new knowledge and skills with each turn of the spiral and translate it into measurable and tangible value for our clients.

These rapid advancements force us to keep an eye on technological changes continuously and invest heavily in learning and development to stay on top of rapid developments.

3. How has your culture evolved during these years? What has changed? What has remained the same?

VOLO’s culture, starting from its origins, has been organically formed upon trust and care, empowerment, problem-solving, and creating together. These values have been deeply ingrained in our organization and were formative, especially in the first 10 years of our history, when we cultivated close and friendly relationships with colleagues and our clients, treating them as part of our family. Our turnover rate was almost non-existent during this period. Whoever left VOLO at that time was either leaving the country or being forced to do so because of personal circumstances. These 10 years laid the groundwork for the strong cultural ethos of VOLO today.

It’s worth mentioning that while we value friendly relationships with our partners, we also value a strong ownership mentality regarding our work and collaborations. The organic amalgam of these two aspects has brought us success over the years.

VOLO Birthday

Starting from 2015, when we began evolving rapidly, expanding to seven offices across two countries, gaining multiple new partners, and growing our team to 300 people, it became evident that having and maintaining a strong cultural integrity played a huge role in this development.

However, amidst the rapid development, we slightly overlooked the importance of nurturing our culture, which, of course, was not the right thing to do, but it was part of the growth process that brought a lot of learning. Maintaining a strong culture can be challenging when new people join you within a short timeframe. Yes, that was a moment when we forgot about the internal culture and focused more on growth initiatives and processes. This resulted in a kind of vacuum of ambiguity for the organization.

To be honest, it was interesting to witness how this vacuum hindered the efficiency of our operations. This was when we all recognized the importance of cultural integrity and joined forces to redefine and communicate its importance to the entire team. We started this process in 2022, and last year, we implemented workshops throughout the organization to involve our big team in reviving and redefining the core components that make up VOLO’s culture. Now, we keep continuously reinforcing the significance of culture because we understand that an organization already 18 years old must have a clearly formed value system, which will facilitate its growth and prosperity in the coming years.

This whole process is also simplified and systematized thanks to raiseR, our HR management solution, which we built to make our processes and culture more transparent and accessible for everyone in the company. 

When redefining the components of our culture, we maintained the values we had from VOLO’s inception. The values we have had all along, which I must have mentioned before, are trust and care, empowerment, problem-solving, and creating together, which have always been part of VOLO’s DNA. By analyzing the values gained due to the growth of the company, we realized that two new values were adopted. Those values were professionalism and agility, which were fundamental to our success. Adding them to our core values will fuel our future growth and adaptation. Agility is especially important because it helps handle the rapidly changing technological cycles. It has proved to be the best mechanism for helping us work on our efficiency and deliver value continuously.

4. As a software development outsourcing company, what are the biggest challenges and opportunities in the industry today?

There are 3 main categories of challenges that we have experienced during the change.

Operational

The main challenge for outsourcing companies is on the operational side. To be successful in this business, companies should invest heavily in understanding the culture of their partners and work on cultural fit, encouraging open communication and proactive collaboration. This requires commitment from both sides to get the maximal output. On top of that, the next layer of operational challenge is managing the software development process in terms of business analytics, project management, quality assurance, and smooth execution. If not done well, these challenges can become serious issues.

We have often seen that lacking the above could create a crisis of trust and uncertainty where politics arise! At VOLO, we work hard daily on every aspect of the above-mentioned challenges by bringing the best of our knowledge and expertise to help our clients smoothly navigate through those challenges. We help our clients set up the right processes, manage business requirements transitions, quality processes, and build the right infrastructure to achieve the best results in their digital journey.

Economic and Geopolitical

A big challenge currently relates to the economic and geopolitical situation in the world. Many companies are simply in an ambiguous state, which has caused a significant reduction in their forward-looking technology investments. Many companies have started to focus on core functions, thus prioritizing projects that directly impact their bottom line, like applications that streamline operations or boost revenue. This has led to a decrease in outsourcing for non-critical features or functionalities.

Economic uncertainty forces companies to tighten their belts and become more budget-conscious. All in all, the market is tight and a bit slow, but we are optimistic that it will change soon.

VOLO Birthday

Artificial Intelligence

AI is changing the world of technology like a storm. We notice visible advantages related to automating repetitive tasks and improving efficiency and speed. These advantages can be an issue for outsourcing companies that are not involved in business knowledge and creating value for the client.

On the other hand, AI tools help developers improve the quality of their work and focus on achieving efficiency and productivity. While this sounds like a huge help for businesses, it can also be challenging and overwhelming. Many business owners already find it ambiguous and difficult to tell where AI solutions are useful and where they are unnecessary. In any case, this is a natural part of technological evolution. Over time, with more knowledge and experience in navigating the AI landscape, things will become clear and coherent. We are preparing for our next growth phase in the new reality as a company.

5. With the rise of remote work and distributed teams, how has your company adapted its processes and culture to effectively collaborate and maintain productivity?

To be honest, we have never tried to manage the remote work system, sending people home or calling them to the office. This has been a very organic process in our organization. Of course, we didn’t come to the office during COVID because of the pandemic restrictions, but when the latter were lifted, we noticed that people were slowly returning to the office on their own accord. This was also the result of our strong cultural integrity - creating together and working as a team. So, when they felt the need to work from the office, they naturally and organically started coming back to the office.

We don’t really have a formal remote work policy in place yet. It is all discussed within each team, taking into consideration the aspects of efficiency and productivity and trying to adapt to the methods that work best.

One of the reasons we could smoothly handle the remote work shifts during and after the pandemic was that we were already used to distributed work. Having three offices in Ukraine and four in Armenia, three of which are in Yerevan and one in Gyumri, remote work has surely been a familiar territory for us. So, we didn't have a particular challenge or problem in that respect. The teams adapted to the changes on their own. Implementing formal processes to handle remote work has never been an imperative. 

6. How do you envision the future of VOLO in the next 5 to 10 years?

We will work on creating a global structure and partnerships, smooth operations, and a continuous learning environment where teams collaborate to handle tech challenges.

First, we will continue to team up with problem solvers to drive growth and excellence by creating the digital future. We have accumulated enormous experience in software development and, more importantly, in delivering working solutions with a deep understanding of business space in several industries. So, as we continue to provide excellence from our offices in Armenia and Ukraine during the next 5 to 10 years, we will also form our offices in the developed markets, allowing us to be closer to our clients on business and operational levels.

Secondly, we will provide hands-on consulting to our clients to drive success in their digital journeys. We have thoroughly realized the process of success during the last 18 years, and we must start sharing it. We began this practice last year, and in the coming years, the company will also extensively invest in its strategic direction of consultancy. We see our future as a huge business support for our partners in managing their tech strategies and delivery.

VOLO Birthday

Thirdly, we will spin off our home-backed HR platform, raiseR, and make it available to companies who want to win in competitive markets. This product is built with the dream to fortify businesses and guide them through their digital transformation journey, fostering high-performing and aligned teams. This transformative HR management platform will unlock their potential to lead in the competitive market. It fully aligns with VOLO's vision to help our clients grow and will help make the process even smoother.

And, of course, the next decade will be full of continuous learning!

7. Finally, what message would you like to share with your employees, clients, and stakeholders as the company celebrates this milestone?

I would like to congratulate everyone at VOLO on reaching adulthood. We have come a long way. Many of our employees have been with us for over 10 years, which I am very happy about. It is proof that we are on the right path.

Those 18 years were not easy, but we were able to pass them together. We grew through many obstacles and learned valuable lessons that will guide us in the future. We accumulated much knowledge and experience, established a strong foundation for future growth, and are now prepared to tackle even greater challenges and reach new heights.

Of course, I want to say a big THANK YOU to our clients. We take your trust very seriously and are very happy to work with you daily to achieve your dreams. We share your happiness during every success and try to find solutions every time something goes wrong. We are so proud of each of you.

When we represent our organization, we proudly say that 80% of our clients have been with us for over 5 years, and we have clients who have been with us for over 15 years. This shows that we can work successfully on the shared goals by continuously delivering value and building healthy partnerships.

During these 18 years, we learned that a successful business is built on passion and hard work, and we realized that a business that makes nothing but money is a poor business. So, I want to thank everyone for putting so much effort into delivering value across the years. As Steve Jobs said: "If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time."

Sona Dabaghyan

Content Writer

Sona, a content writer at VOLO, with a track record spanning over 5 years in the writing and editing industry, delivers high-quality, engaging, and informative content, including blog posts, guest posts, e-books, and case studies for the company. In addition to her writing skills, Sona also does translations from Armenian to English and vice versa.

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