‘Local talent migration makes it hard to recruit people’

  • Norway’s Compello on brain drain, document automation and plans for the Sri Lankan market 


By Tanya Shan 

Compello is a Norwegian IT company established in 1996, developing solutions for automated data flow comprising solutions for EDI, eInvoice, and invoice approval. The company is 100% owned by Etrinell AS with headquarters in Oslo, Norway. Some 90 people are currently employed in Compello based in Oslo, Larvik, Stockholm, and Colombo.

Compello develops services for simplified invoice handling and intelligent accounting. Every year over a 1,000 companies across Europe save a lot of time and get paid faster with their smart invoicing services and fantastic support. 

Compello Managing Director Torgeir Letting and Product Line Manager Torgeir Lyngstad visited Sri Lanka recently and The Sunday Morning Business sat down for an exclusive interview with them. 


Following are excerpts from the interview: 


Can you tell us a little about yourself and Compello?


Letting: My name is Torgeir Letting and I am the Managing Director of Compello. I have been in this position since 2018 and I have been in the company for about 11 years. When I took over as the Managing Director, we had more traditional, on-prem solutions. Today, we have transformed them into modern cloud-based solutions during the last four years.  

Lyngstad: I am Torgeir Lyngstad and I serve the company as the CTO/Product Line Manager. I have been here since 2018. I started my first team with 99x Technologies in 2011 when I worked at another company called ADRA. I was quite happy when I came to Compello, as Compello already had a relationship with 99x. Compello has been working with 99x since 2013. 


You are in the invoice and document automation sector. How has the industry transformed during the last few years?


Letting: If we go a few years back, companies used to send paper invoices but now with technology, 90% of invoicing is electronic. What we see is, continuously, the number of delivery channels delivering invoices to customers has increased. You can deliver them straight to your mobile, banks, and different mailboxes online. The number of ways of communicating and reaching your end customers has increased as well and has become more and more automatic. 

Previously, if you wanted to do automation, it typically involved setting up rules manually. Today, we have AI and machine learning to automate that process. That is a great shift we have seen over the past years. Also, because of the pandemic, automatic distribution has become more relevant.


Who are some of your biggest clients today? How were you able to reimagine their businesses, especially when the pandemic hit?


Letting: We have customers in many different industries and sizes and most of them are from the European region. Some of the biggest names include Fjordkraft, Eika, Vattenfall, Volkswagen Financial Services, Telenor, and Euronext VPS. Many of our biggest customers are from the energy sector. 

Lyngstad: We also have a few financial institutions like banks. We simplify inbound invoicing for companies, enabling them to receive and send invoices electronically. On the send side, it is for companies who have frequent invoicing like energy, credit cards, and telecom. Our inbound solution fits companies who receive a lot of invoices and want to handle them smoothly. 

Letting: The pandemic made our systems more relevant because our systems always had these capabilities. With the pandemic, every company realised they needed to automate. Manual processes still work even though they can be cumbersome if everyone’s in one place. But suddenly, everyone started working from home. If you are a 200-person company, you would have had one or two locations, but since everyone started working from their homes, there would have been about 200 locations. They needed electronic systems, especially cloud-based systems, as it is easy to reach everyone from where they are now. 

Lyngstad: We are in a part of the world where these systems are quite mature. For us, the time has come to move outside of Scandinavia. We were acquired by Visma, the fifth-largest software vendor, in 2020. We aim to use this as a vehicle to establish our presence in the world. 


How long have you been working with 99x? How valuable has it been as a partner in your journey?


Letting: We established our relationship with 99x Technologies in 2013. We started with QA and then slowly but surely extended into software development resources. I think when I started in January 2018, we had 11 people, but over the past few years, we have invested a lot in our product development, especially to accelerate our cloud journey. Right now, we have more than 30 resources working out from Sri Lanka. 

Lyngstad: They have been a valuable partner in our journey. We have a very good relationship with our teams here. We think of them as Compello and they are blended into our organisation. They work closely together with our teams in Norway. They are central to our operations. 

Before the pandemic, I used to travel more to Sri Lanka from Norway. The key point is, even though we have been working remotely, you have to be here in person to establish a presence and build trust. With things improving in Sri Lanka, I think we will be able to continue that once again. 


As you know, Sri Lanka is going through a difficult period and therefore many international organisations have lost their confidence in doing business with Sri Lanka due to various reasons. How has this affected you?


Letting: It has certainly made us more aware of the risks. Also, after the Easter attacks, there has been some uncertainty about whether it will be peaceful or whether there will be more riots. We were happy to see that things seemed to have settled down. I think the potential in Sri Lanka is huge, but better control of the economy is needed and that is the important thing. Things are stabilising. 

Lyngstad: Companies like Compello still had trust in their teams despite hardships. We care about the people in Sri Lanka.  We are happy to see improvements. Norway lifted the travel advisory it had on Sri Lanka, which is a governmental level indication from country to country that there is an increased level of trust and things are mobilising again. 


How do you see the next two to three years panning out for you in terms of strengthening your ties with Sri Lanka and 99x?


Letting: I think for all of us, times are uncertain. Even in Europe with the war between Ukraine and Russia, high energy prices, soaring inflation, and poor stock market performances, there has been much uncertainty. With the global migration of talent, we find it extremely difficult to recruit people locally, especially in development roles. 

There is a huge gap between the number of candidates graduating every year and the roles available. This means the competition for talent is huge. Up until this year, we have had very stable teams. But this year, we have been having a much higher rotation of new members in our team. This is due to the migration of talent because now, a 30-year-old Sri Lankan software engineer with experience has very attractive opportunities in Europe, Australia, or elsewhere. 

Lyngstad: Certainly, things have been chaotic globally, and lately for Europeans as well. I hope it will become stable and help us build relationships with Sri Lanka and 99x further. There are so many micro factors that are causing this and we need to be very mindful of them.