The Managing Director of Ibez Software Services and Consulting, OMMO CLARK share with IT Edge News, ABUBAKAR MOSHOOD the reasons why businesses in Nigeria should invest in software made in Nigeria.
What do you do, who are your target market and what is your unique selling point?
In Ibez Software Service and Consulting, we build software solutions. What I term information systems. We build information systems for you to retrieve information, store and gather information and run your business with more efficiency with a competitive edge. It’s a global market now, if you do not use IT, you are lagging. Every company needs to be operated as a digital business. If you are a bank, you are a technology business that provides financial services. If you are a marketer, you are a technology business that provides marketing services. Everything needs to be automated so that you can store your data, manipulate that data, and also analyze the data. I love what I do. I did a masters degree in IT. I am one of the few people that actually worked in the field because I like it. So that’s what we do. We interact with people often to find out what they need, so that we can automate that business to suit them. Our unique selling point is to help businesses develop their software. I am also a certified project manager, so I understand software development, end-to-end, and project management end-to-end. I also understand my country,and I understand abroad. We manage your operations and build systems that are custom made for you. It gives you a competitive advantage over your competitors.
How can we bridge the skill gap in the ICT sector especially the software industry?
We can bridge the gap through IT trainings and education. We are in a knowledge economy; we need more education on ICT from the grass root. Nigerians are smart and are keen to embrace technology but some Nigerians are still scared of technology, especially some of the older folks. They think that technology wants to change and take away their jobs. People are scared. So we need more education from the grass root. Technology can eliminate a lot of stuff like corruption. We are at an advantage, because in Nigeria, we don’t have legacy systems. If you go to England, for example, they have mainframe systems that have tons of data; to get them into a new version, you have to do a lot of work, but in Nigeria, we don’t have to do all of that. We can adapt to new technology quickly. We can build a lot of software. In the areas of software, we need training for primary, secondary schools. We can teach them technology and its benefits. For the people already working, we need a change management programme to change the way they think. We also need to start training Business System Analysts in this country that can go into any company,and speak with any user. You know, some users don’t know what they want. So, you have to be able to ask the right questions to get the right answers, and then code the system according to the user’s taste.
What does the rebased economy mean for the Nigerian software industry?
I think the opportunity is huge. Nigeria is an emerging market. There is a lot of money flowing into the country from Foreign Direct Investment. E-commerce has taken up in a big way in Nigeria. A lot of investors are coming in, a lot of people are becoming confident, and a lot of people are coming back to Nigeria, like I did. So it is a huge market. We have the opportunity to engage government agencies; try to get them automated. We have also engaged small businesses. I don’t see why SMEs cannot deploy technology because they think it is too expensive. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Technology is affordable to everybody. So, my targets really are government and SMEs. We don’t even need to start with complex systems at this stage. We need to start with the database. Draw up a customer database, start using e-mail, outlook and other simple things like that.
Do you have an idea on how we can transform our software industry to a more robust industry like in India?
One of India’s advantages is their population. They have a lot of people there to do a lot of software development, and very affordable. We also have a huge population, but the government needs to come up with an agency that will regulate the software industry in Nigeria, just like the Nigerian Communications Commission. I don’t see a federal government software agency. We need the government to come up with policies like the local content policy in the oil industry. We need something like that also in the software industry. Local content should be given a presence. There is no noise about the Nigeria software industry, so people don’t know what we do and what we can do. It is also a two way thing. The software developers have to come out and showcase their work. People need to see that the systems we build are logical and functional. Then, people become more confident to patronize us. We need to go out there. Also the government needs to come up with a law that would make software developers the preferred choice and if you say you cannot use Nigeria software, we need countable reasons why you would prefer to go abroad. Just like I said before, NITDA needs to come up with policies to try and get Nigerian companies to approach local software developers. Then, we need more events, conferences, more noise about local software. People do not understand software. When we talk about IT, people think is about plugging one computer to another.
In your own view do you think the software industry has enough potential to generate more revenue than the oil sector?
Yes! Technology permeates every single business sector in any society. There is no business that can operate without technology. So, obviously our earning potential is enormous. If every single company, including the oil company starts using technology for all of their business purposes, the sky is the limit! We just need to deploy competitive products locally instead of bringing products from abroad. For example, do you know what pains banks are suffering with the deployment of Finnacle? “Nigeria’s bank have no business deploying Finnacle Software. A lot of the banks, back-end processes are all messed up. If you see some of their back ends, you will not want to keep your money in those banks. Most of the foreign software requires extensive customization. If we can have people that can analyze subtly, that know exactly what is best and knows exactly how the banks want it to work, most importantly, how the customers want it, then all of these things can be built in Nigeria.
What are the challenges in doing business in Nigeria?
I come from a different perspective. I think just as everybody is unique and different, Nigeria is also unique and different. One needs to learn how to conduct business in the Nigerian environment. When you know how to do business here, I am not saying you should lose your morals, your integrity and your values, but when you understand how Nigerians think, and how their businesses work, you will be left with little to complain of. Someone said if you identify your problem that means you have a solution for it. We can do a lot in technology if the government can collaborate more, it would make our lives easier. If we can adopt more technology, we can transform the business environment of Nigeria.
You think our local content can compete globally?
Yes we can. There are some IT savvy people coming out of Yaba. If we have good analysts, we can do some really good software. We need people to be interested but analysis is key. We just need to harness that aspect more. I think we can be out there with the best of them. We need people that understand business problems and can translate that into computer language, so that coders can code. I think in my experience that is the key thing we are lacking in this country. All the banks I have worked with, I have spoken to so many people in the insurance industry, they will tell you the frustration in using software brought in from outside. I personally work with software developers that come from India and places like that, they will say to you that they write software the way they do their businesses in their country and they don’t write it the way we do business in Nigeria. So, you come here, you bring a piece of software, and you realize that the software needs more than 50 per cent customization and sometimes they know you have not done an analysis, so they charge you money for it. So they make so much money. In my opinion, if you have a 50 per cent customized software, there is no point, it is better you build from scratch. Customization frustrates the user and it is also cash intensive. If you take the time from the start to sit with your people, do proper analysis and give it to a guy in Yaba to code, you would have a system that exactly suits your need. So many companies in Nigeria are going through pain because they have gone to India where these people do not understand their needs, sometimes due to language barrier. So it is vital you meet someone that understands your culture, and with that local intelligence, they can code and that is what we can do.