Amos Emmanuel is the managing director/CEO of Programos Software Limited, a software development company. He is a recipient of industry awards locally and internationally. He spoke to funmi ilesanmi.
Patronage is actually something that is related to service satisfaction because the patronizing society expects to see a product they should fall for. Such a product would be something they want to go for anytime so if a product meets their standards, they will always go for it. Indigenous software practitioners have to be able to look at the quality of products they are developing, as well as the quality of the manner in which they are being delivered to customers. We started by first looking at the official requirements and the guidelines for the investment sector that is, the capital market segment of the economy and we went after the operational guidelines. We took up the smooth system design towards that guideline, that is ensuring that operators who are to operate within the regulatory framework have to see how they can operate within the regulatory requirements so that they can justify that very efficiently. We went after that design and we came up with a product that is suitable and that has been existing for over a decade now; this is about the 13th, 14th year of active service delivery in that sector. If a product actually satisfies one customer, you will realize that it sells itself in that the customer who used your service and is very comfortable with it will sell it to other people rather than opt for another product.
The very flagship product Programos software sold was the Integral 2000 Plus Software which was a dream product meant for the millennium in the early 90s. Prior to the Y2K issues, we were able to stay through all of that. Why we said 2000 was that it was a millennium vision and after the millennium, we are still moving on and technology is still advancing. It is an almost endless technological ambition and research that we are doing and we have been able to take care of the capital market and so have it properly designed and configured in a manner that a foreign influx may not find its feet easier because of the impact of indigenous ones particularly that of Programos Software. It is very easy because you want to protect indigenous products, the products need to identify standards that the foreign ones will have problems to compete with. Programos Software is having the bullish hold on ICT in the capital market because of the quality service we have to offer in the sector.
Role of Nitda, Ispon and Itan in Software Testing Laboratory
Every agency has done the best it could. Nitda has been there facing IT policy issues, general IT developmental issues across the country and looking at what the federal government is doing. They have also been doing this in collaboration with other IT bodies like Ispon, NCS, Itan and the like but the Nigerian system has been such that the impact of all these bodies may not have been felt more in the centre and this is not unconnected with the fact that we have had terrible political structures that would really make these things go down well in our system. This in itself has had issues and is affecting the way Nigeria is accepting ICT penetration which is still on a very low scale. It affects even the way the federal government is taking things. By and large, I think the private sector still has more work to do and that is why I can give it to some of these IT bodies that they have had to change the way they have to lobby and work more with the public sector functionaries so that we can be able to get better results at the end of the day. We can have more IT PPP arrangement for us to close the gap between the private sector and the public sector and make the people in government become more competitive in that they should be able to utilize the funds they get on competitive IT projects, not just wasting funds. I think IT bodies who have come up with public partnership initiatives in the system make life a lot easier for players both in the private and public sector in realizing that these local capacities can immediately be harnessed for the future of the country.
Automation of the Nigerian Stock Exchange
If the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) did not take automation seriously maybe by today we would not have had a capital market that we can compare. When NSE started with automation, it was like something to give us an assurance that there is hope which it really did but it is unfortunate that we experienced a recession. The recession is still with us, it is still with so many other economies and the rate at which these economies have changed or have improved may not be the same but if there was nothing like that, it would have been a calamity. Recession is a global economic action because in a way it has helped some people to realize that corporate governance was not in place in a lot of places. People are now taking corporate governance more seriously. So many regulatory authorities we have now realized were not doing anything. Contributing to the recession has been poor regulation, sharp practices and the christened corruption in the society that has made information that is supposed to be available to people unavailable for them and if it was to be made available in a modified manner or adulterated manner that would not help the investor. This is not the kind of information society we require for the capital market but at a time things were improved and we begin to see, just like having to see what the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is doing now in the banking reform. Not just that the banking reform is going on because of Lamido Sanusi for instance, it is that every other segment, every other part of the economy has to borrow a leaf from what the banking sector is doing right now, otherwise we get back to status quo. Not just when the banking sector is being refined and every other sector is still waiting, at the end of the day, they will end up corrupting the system the banking sector is reforming. If every part of the economy is undergoing a true and fair reform, it is probably going to help this economy a lot more. I think the recession has taught quite a lot of people some lessons, is it in terms of investment losses or how most of us have lost so much by that experience? We hope going forward, they would have learnt so many lessons that they won’t be able to honour the kind of practices that are probably going to harm the economy any further and that is why it is important that we all imbibe corporate governance and confirm that going forward the organization will be able to employ mechanism that will help the administration of their organizations to be compared with their peers in some other advanced nations where things work.
Essence of ISO Certification
We are still undergoing certification. We are an ISO registered company, the main reason Programos has to undergo the ISO certification process is that we are trying to see ourselves not just as an indigenous company. Programos is currently an international standard institution in that we have to subject all our processes to the kind of standards that our fellow entrepreneurs are exhibiting in some well formed economies. ISO being an international standardization organization helps businesses in refining their business processes, making the business more profitable by delivering quality service to customers which is just the end point of what every organization wishes to have and is a lot easier and smarter working with such procedural sequence in every activity of every platform of business. As a software company, we recommend this to every other IT firm in Nigeria because it goes a long way to improve the service quality of indigenous companies as well as improve the service benefits to their customers in the long run. It is a voluntary decision, it is not compulsory that you must go do ISO but it is better for organizations to identify with standards. The Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) has been involved with processes and regularly improving on such helps organizations. Technological institutions are also protected from the problem of poor legal frameworks that never make ICT providers earn their values; because we are never protected, not even the law, nobody cares. It is okay that the customer is right, we strive to offer the best of services to make the customer right but when we are abused as providers, nobody protects us. It is always better when you imbibe standards or procedures that make both parties understand so you come to terms with the exchange of service and appropriate values that are supposed to go with it. These are some of the things that I have seen in the balancing of the international standards of the ISO.
Programos is a core software development company. We are also into ICT training, we offer ICT training to diverse categories of professionals. We have a major training programme currently going on for graduates where we hope to turn out about a million software developers come year 2013. All these put together, manpower development in the country has benefited quite immensely from our past training programmes because we offer ICT education to CEOs of organizations particularly capital market firms. We had to take them through ICT related security and control set of education so that by the time they get back to their organization, they would be able to know, lead and manage their organizations properly. We also run programmes for different cadres of regulatory organizations like the Nigerian Stock Exchange, the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the likes. We also offer stock exchange consultancy services to exchanges outside Nigeria. By so doing, we hope to create a larger academy of entrepreneurs in this country who will offer the kind of services that we have ventured into over the years so that there can be continuity. We will have a larger base of entrepreneurs springing up in a public private partnership program where we get state governments to take over this programme and offer it as a political programme to their citizens for us to teach them how to come up with software development as a business. It is an entrepreneurship programme for their indigenes.
Programos Software is a global company, global in the sense that we might be indigenous but we are 100 percent global in thinking. Already, one of the reasons we might not say we are folding up in Nigeria is because we have considered things that can sustain us in Nigeria. That is one of the reasons our door is still opened here. If I need to consider power for instance, I probably will not survive but as we speak, quite a whole number of things are working for me right now, tapping into the energy of some countries outside Nigeria. Is it the Internet? There are quite a number of things I planned to do in the country but I can’t just venture into them because it is not possible initiating them. We have to take most of these things and operate from the UK, the US and Ghana just 40 minutes away from here just because my country does not have power. For the time being, we have been able to manage some of these business environment crisis with external economic facilities, maybe that is why we are still in business here, otherwise I sincerely do not see why any business can open its door in this country.