Playtech develops unified software platforms and content for the online and land-based gaming industry, together with providing a range of ancillary services such as marketing, hosting and CRM services.
Leading gaming applications include casino, poker, bingo, sports betting, live gaming, casual and fixed odds games. Playtech provides licensees with the tools to maximize cross-selling opportunities, player loyalty and yield, all through the powerful management interface - the IMS. The Group's capabilities enable the delivery of an integrated software or turnkey solution, with players accessing online, broadcast, mobile and server-based gaming terminals through a single account.
New licensees include existing online operators upgrading or diversifying their offering, land-based casino groups, government sponsored entities such as lotteries, and new entrants making their online gaming debut, particularly in newly-regulated markets.
Founded in 1999, Playtech has some 2,000 employees located in development centres in five countries, the majority of whom are engaged in research and development of current and future gaming technologies, together with 900 employees providing ancillary services.
The key factor that pushed us into considering a new development center and a new country location is the lack of qualified resources in the countries where we already have our development centers – Estonia, Bulgaria, and Israel. This strategic choice was not about savings but about access to a new pool of talented IT specialists. We faced a situation where the recruitment speed was extremely low. There were cases when within a week of opening a vacancy and advertising it on various popular job portals we would get only one application a week. Given the fast path of the business we are in, such speed is not even close to our expectations and needs.
First we began our search for a place/city where we could set-up our development based on the following criteria:
Speaking Ciklum’s language, we were looking for a nearshore Own Development Center (ODC) solution. Amongst various locations we have analyzed, Ukraine, and specifically Kiev, was the top choice for the following reasons:
Then we began our search for a partner who would be able to meet our high quality standards and expectations. It is important to stress that we were looking for a strategic partner.
Yes, at the beginning we have had our attrition time with Ciklum, something that we see to be natural in a venture we were trying to set-up as each of the sides needed to get used to each other’s demands, expectations, and deliverables. However, we have quickly reached a level of mutual understanding.
At times we do want the recruitment to be faster in speed and volume, but we are delivered exactly what has been promised at the start, and these are the rules of the labor market we are to accept. There are no unemployed high quality IT specialists in Ukraine and sometimes it does take effort sometimes for Ciklum to ‘sell’ a vacancy at Playtech. Our current growth rate is about 15 vacancies opened per month, and hiring of about the same number.
Overall we would rate Ciklum’s recruiting department in terms of speed and quality of candidates hired as 9 out of 10! We see that they work very hard to deliver those closed vacancies, and are ready to adjust where needed. At the initial start of our partnership the recruitment ratio was 1 to 10 (hired to interviewed), where now it is 1 to 4 or even 3. We do obviously would want this ratio to be 1 to 1 but we understand that it is a utopian expectation.
Our selection process is very rigorous. We have never undermined quality over quantity. We have 5 levels of assessment that a successful candidate has to go through:
Even though Ciklum’s HR has their own tests to assess the technical levels of candidates, in our case we have asked recruiters to use Playtech’s own developed ones. We have been in business for a long while and know exactly what we need and how, and for that we want our employees across all development locations being evaluated on the same level.
In addition, all Playtech employees are asked to go through the VERITAS Integrity Test – Knowing Whom to Trust, a new web-based Integrity-Test developed in Israel, screening potentially high-risk candidates before they become a problem at the workplace.
As a result I can say that this is my best team I have ever worked with, and I have seen many in my life! I can vouch for every person who works here - they are intelligent, honest, purposeful, and motivated, and can bring a bunch of ideas.
At Playtech we evaluate our IT specialists on the following criteria:
Our Kiev based employees score 100% on all, except motivation. That being sad, we are working on improving the latter, and I believe that soon it will not be a topic we need to mention.
In my opinion, it is not correct to compare Ukrainian IT specialists to those in our other locations. The key for us is the culture and business understanding. However, if we compare Ukrainian and Israeli job markets, we can say the the market here is overheated – people are reluctant to work overtime, where in Estonia it is a standard, and in Bulgaria they are getting there. We are forced to ask people to work overtime as we simply have agreements with our clients to adhere to.
I must admit, the quality of Ukrainian IT specialists is great! We now even have opened vacancies for relocation; specifically we are now hiring people to relocate to our development center in Estonia.
Q. You’ve mentioned motivation; what team building and motivational activities do you offer?
Just recently we have taken all the employees who were willing to for a long weekend trip to one of Ukraine’s finest winter sports resorts Bukovel.
We are not looking to cut our resources in our centers in Bulgaria and Estonia, Ukraine is being an addition to our overall Playtech team. The policy of the company is that our office does not take away work from other offices. We do new work that they can’t do, not for the lack of knowledge, but for the lack of resources. Kiev office allows Playtech to penetrate new horizons.
People in Ukraine have the same privileges and adherence to the rules just as in any other of our development centers. They all get access to the same systems used elsewhere in the company, including a unique Playtech employee ID. An employee in Ukraine is just as equal to any other employee in Bulgaria, Estonia, or Israel.
As I mentioned, our development center in Kiev is a natural growth to our business. My team in Kiev is responsible for:
For example, one of our local IMS teams is writing a new platform which will be the base for all future Playtech’s products. It is fully developed here, our Kiev specialists have fully designed it, including architecture and technologies used.
Today we already have a couple of releases, including one in a Mobile team, which is not even fully assembled, and this does not prevent our guys to prepare releases.
We are fully in charge of our development process, which is the essence of the Own Development Center. I have been relocated here with my entire family to oversee the overall process.
For the development process we are using SCRUM and Microsoft Project. Our teams are divided by products, with an average team composition of 10 to 15 people. Currently we have about 9 projects. Team Leaders are all locals; we have hired 2 Project Managers and are looking for a few more.
We have opened our development center in Kiev in August 2011, where the first 6 months of our cooperation we were on a close watch and evaluation whether Ciklum can deliver. To tell you the truth, the results were stunning. I was just back from a business trip to Israel from Kiev when some of my Ukrainian guys that travelled in for training were asked to take part in some urgent work. I was met by a local manager who was in a deep shock. “Come with me,” he said, “I will show you something that I have never seen in my life.” He brought me to a SCRUM board – and it was all green. Everything was done on time and with high quality.
There was a lot of feedback, from Estonia, Bulgaria, and Israel – and all a positive one. The quality delivered by our Ukrainian developers was just amazing. By the end of 2011 we already had about 50 people and the decision to build a development center was made. Today we count almost 100 IT specialists, by the end of 2012 we plan to grow to a total of 200, and our overall goal is to grow our Ukrainian development center to 500 employees.
We began with the first hires travelling to Estonia and Israel for training and knowledge transfer. The initial trips ranged from 2 weeks to 2 months, depending on the position. So far about 70% of our current Ukrainian specialists have travelled to our worldwide offices.
The training program is customized uniquely to an employee, and it definitely includes on-site hands on development. People are sent to work there, not just to sit in classes. The goal is that those who went share the knowledge with the rest of their Ukrainian team mates.
We would like to extend a special thank you to Anna Matkovska, Head of Ciklum Recruitment Department. She is the best HR professional we have ever encountered! She is dedicated and very understanding of what we need, and we can say that only because of her we are at such level of success with Ciklum.
Using this opportunity, I also would like to thank Nataliya Ierisova and Nataliya Stukman, Ciklum Recruitment Consultants, and even call them Ciklum’s recruitment stars! Further, I feel that Anna Yemets, Ciklum’s Retention Consultant, is not just an add-on consultant as part of the package, but a true member of my team. Last but not least, I should mention Marina Vyshegorodskikh who is fully dedicated to make our partnership with Ciklum work, with a full understanding and keenness to solve any issue we might encounter along the way.
That is definitely Transparency! We love the fact that we can go and speak to everyone directly. We are able to go directly to the recruitment specialists and resolve any issue right away, and be assured that there will be an immediate reaction and a solution from Anna, if needed. We feel that this is truly OUR center where we focus on development and Ciklum does all the rest for us.
Here at Playtech we are very happy with the way our partnership has been developing with Ciklum so far. Even though we have opened up our development center at Ciklum Kyiv only a few months ago, we are already up to speed with our development plans levied on the team here. Ukrainian IT specialists are very talented and completely match the expectations set by the Western standards, thus giving us confidence in the quality of products we develop.
Playtech, Own Development Center, ODC, Kiev, Ukraine, IT specialists, SCRUM, project, Java, GWT, C++, Mobile, Flash, J2T, Android, iOs, Flex, .NET, Estonia, Bulgaria, Israel, software development, Gaming