James Agada, managing director of ExpertEdge and chief technology officer, Computer Warehouse Group (CWG) Plc, is a thoroughbred electronic engineer with over two decade experience in the information technology industry.
Agada has worked with reputable IT companies before helping to form ExpertEdge in 1994.
He spoke to chike onwuegbuchi on issues around software and Computer Warehouse Group Plc.
Certification of Local Software & Role in Marketing and Patronage
Yes, certification has a role to play in marketing and branding. But in the software world, certification is normally done on the Company rather than the product.
Why it is done on the Company is that the product gives you the link to areas you can certify a company. For instance, if you are using word document, did anybody certified it? of course, no. We use Google daily without being certified.
But in some areas the software such as software used in running an airplane, there might be no certifications, but they are of standard, dogged and resilient.
Although, while you want to purchase certain products you might require to know if the software met certain standards, but it is very hard to deduce that, because any software in its composition has a mode it can operate depending on the environment, parameters and the users.
That is why nobody writes software and gives you a guarantee that it is bug-free.
In fact, if you read most licenses for software, there are usually clear disclaimers that they will not be responsible for any loss you might suffer as a result of a bug in the system.
They can only guarantee that when bug cases arise they will use their anti-bug system to fight it. However, companies that provide third party or outsourcing services, when you do not know the man’s competencies, you would want to see some certifications that will assure you that they have the competence. That gave rise to levels of certifications.
These are process certification. The idea is that when you follow these processes, hopefully, the quality of what you produce will match what is requested for.
But there is large portion of the work where people signify Mr. X I want banking software and it should do A, B, C, D&E in the following order.
So, you have that already specified; in other words, you can check if the final product meets the standard.
Basic Causes of Incidences of Failed Software Implementations
If we actually take time to study IT projects in general, there are probably more failed ones than the successful projects.
But it is not peculiar to Nigeria. It is a worldwide phenomenon, because software is trying to capture the way you work; part of the problem is, does the user know all the possible use cases he can have. So, as a banker, you do your processes, but you do not know all the possible ways to go about it.
The failure of IT or software related projects starts with the setting, which is establishing the act. If you fail to establish what your processes are properly, there is a great tendency to failure. Failure here implies that it is not meeting the requirements.
Maybe you set it to calculate interests under this condition, however, in actually use there are more conditions that you thought.
The second thing that causes failure in the software management projects is that the initial plan ought to incorporate all the decisions and at what point they need to be implemented, but bringing it as an adhoc thing will not fly.
Part of the success we’ve had is because the processes were laid down and when the banks came, we told them before you start we are going to take you away for 45 to 52 days and train the people in the bank, so they will understand what the software can and cannot do.
The next two weeks will be used to set the parameters; now you know the software; you have to configure it and establish where there are gaps, adopt the software and close the gaps.
Then, you do training and retraining to keep the update on the processes. We have used this process to deliver our Finnacle successfully.
So, project management is a big issue; you have to set the process correctly.
More so, choosing the wrong partner and wrong software add to the failures. It is your project, not the consultant’s.
You have to be dedicated to it and fight till it is delivered. Such choices as he is my brother, business partner; kickbacks, influential personality, are not supposed to be the standards.
Competence matters. For instance, in changing you bank application; it is like changing the processes engine; the man to do it must be qualified.
Managing Processes in Face of Incessant Project Failures
There is a clear process for implementation. We have adopted that into many projects we are doing. I think you can apply that process to any software project for a better result.
A software provider can be sure of the properties, but you do not know the man’s or client’s business and vice versa.
The first thing is that the man has to learn your software, as you learn his business too. Then, two of you can discuss on how to get the best out of the processes.
A lot of software providers go with the notion, ‘this is the software’, now, come and take it to run your business.
Most times, the providers tend to assume that this is what the people required for their operations.
CWG 2.0 For SMEs
CWG 2.0 is not a product rather an initiative of the company. Most of the time, we have focused on large corporations. But if we look at it in Nigeria, we probably do not have more than 2,000 big corporations.
If you use the Stock market as a yardstick, only 200 are listed on the market. But, if you look at the statistics government gave us, we have more than 17 million medium and small enterprises. So, to have an impact on the economy, it cannot be only the large corporate.
Like somebody said, Dangote on its own can employ about 10,000 or all the corporations that are flourishing employ 100,000 people all together, but how many Dangotes are you going to have in Nigeria.
But the 17million SMEs are individuals doing something and they need support. To us as a business, it is not just going to make impact on the economy. It also means that we are going to sell to the 17 million enterprises.
These smaller companies do not have millions of dollars to spend on; but the smaller amounts they have can be used to transforms their fortunes.
So, how do you support them? How do you use IT to make them increase their profit margins? A large portion of what we are doing in CWG 2.0 is to make this happens.
It will improve their business and they can employ others.
For instance, if most of them employ one person it will reduce the issue of unemployment in Nigeria.
The SMEs platform CWG 2.0, have three initiatives. One of them allows businesses to operate, but you pay only subscription fee and it is delivered over the web.
That solution also ties into the cashless initiative of the government. What we have done is that you can even use your mobile phone to access it or the regular PoS.
Now, as an SME, you may end up not making any investment fee, because you will get the PoS from the bank and can use it to run your business and other commercial activities.
We also know that critical to this segment of business is their inability to sell outside the immediate market. The easiest way to overcome that is to have online shop. We are aware there are several online shops at different combination in Nigeria, but what we have done is that we created a platform in collaboration with Spin, where we have equity holding too.
The solution is where anybody can open an online shop. What we have done to make it easier is by integrating payment and logistics system on it.
Therefore, without doing anything extra, people can go and start accessing you through the internet. And when you sell, our logistics partner will come to your shop, pick it up and deliver it.
What that means is that we have taken away the barrier that prevented them from selling online. Even the question of accepting payment is eliminated, because it is with a proof of delivery that will guarantee you take your money.
Subscription to That
Of course, there is a subscription fee, but the fee is very minimal; an average of about N2,500 for a month.
If you are to go rent a shop, for instance, Tejuosho, do you know how much it will cost. Even the subscription of N10,000 amount, that has not gotten you a shop in that market, but with that you are sure of reaching out to your customers anywhere in Nigeria.
CWG’s Data Centre
The Data centre we have is the Tier 111 with 25 to 45 racks. For now, we are our biggest customer, because we are using a considerable amount. However, there are other customers. We need to make distinctions.
Ordinarily, you build a big house, people come and rent. That is why a lot of people are building data centres in Nigeria.
Why is our different? It becomes different, because when you have such infrastructure, you need to keep something inside. When you do that, you need to manage it.
We have the capacity to support your hardware, software and your obligations. We have the engineers ready to attend to additional services in a jiffy.
However, we also realized that the data centre requirements in Nigeria is not necessarily going to be met by people who build any large data centre. My opinion is that there is already a block of data centres but there is a scarcity of properly managed data centres.
Our programme is that, we are going to maintain the support services; we are not saying build a 100 rack data centre; rather we will follow the trends of businesses.
For instance, we are building a teleport; that alone will consume 5 to 10 racks. Others are coming on board. So, if we look at banks, what many people will quickly find out is that if the banks require putting their data recovery centre, which is what keeps them going, the problem you will have as a datacenter is power.
By the time you have five of those banks putting their servers with you; you will need a power source, not a generator issue, to keep powering them.
That is going to be major challenges in future because most of them are using enterprise servers that consume power. For now, we are not in that business, because of power.
If power situation in Nigeria improves significantly where generator will be your fall-back, then it will become easy to go into that business. Currently, the public power is the fall-back.
CBN Pulls Rate Cut Trigger, King Dollar Returns
By Lukman Otunuga, Senior Research Analyst at FXTM,
In a move that caught investors off-guard this week, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) slashed interest rates by 100 basis points bringing the MPR to 11.5%. Given how inflation has been above target since 2015, rates were expected to remain unchanged for the rest of 2020 and possibly early 2021.
The question on the mind of many is whether the rate cut will achieve the desired effect by stimulating consumption and economic growth? Ongoing border closures and disruptions created by COVID-19 have pushed inflation to levels not seen since March 2018 above 13.20% while a drop in the production and price of Oil continues to rub salt into the wound. While looser monetary policy could support growth, it may come at the cost of rising inflation and weaker Naira.
Over the past few months, central banks across the globe have deployed unprecedented measures to defend their respective economies against the coronavirus menace. However, fiscal policy has been identified as the sharper tool with governments across the world providing a critical lifeline to keep the wheels of their respective economies rolling.
Outside of Nigeria, King Dollar made a return by appreciating against every single G10 currency. In times of uncertainty, everyone wants a juicy piece of the world’s most liquid currency. As coronavirus cases rise in Europe and other parts of the world, the flight to safety is likely to boost appetite for the Dollar. This is bad news for many emerging markets currencies, especially those with high Dollar-denominated debt.
On the commodity side, Oil prices remain heavily influenced by demand-side factors and the state of the global economy. Prices are likely to remain stuck around the $40 regions in the near term, especially If another round of possible lockdowns hit Oil demand. Looking at the technicals, WTI Crude is under pressure on the daily charts. If prices are unable to break away from the sticky $40 regions, the next key point of interest remains around $38. A weekly close above $41.50 could pave a path towards $43.
NCC Arrests Man for Hacking into DSTV System
Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC), has arrested one Mr Aliu Olalekan, for allegedly hacking into DSTV system and watching the channels free without subscription.
Mr Matthew Ojo, NCC Director in the Lagos Directorate Office said this while speaking with newsmen in Lagos, on Tuesday.
He said that the suspect used to watch DSTV channels free without subscription on his Android phone via an app which he downloaded on google play store.
“This suspect distributed the know-how to his telegram followers and on his blog with the aim of gaining more followers and viewership on his blog and makes more money through google ad-sense.
“The operation was based on surveillance which had earlier been carried out by the Multi-choice team and verified by a copyright inspector, ” he said.
He added that the arrest was made in collaboration with a team of copyright inspectors led by the Head of Enforcement Department, Mr Charles Amudipe.
Others included; a team from Multichoice Nigeria led by Mr Umar Ibrahim and policemen from Lagos Command Headquarters, Ikeja.
Ojo said that the joint team conducted an anti-piracy operation at the premises of the culprit in Amukoko, Lagos.
According to him, the suspect was contacted on phone by a member of the operation team on the disguise of patronising him. “The suspect came out to meet the caller and in the process of discussion, he was apprehended.
“The suspect took the team to his resident. The squad paraded his one-room apartment and recovered his laptop and phones used in perpetrating the ungodly act. “He was arrested and brought to the copyright commission office for further investigation, ” he said.
Ojo said that, on getting to the commission’s office, the statement of the suspect was taken and the inventory of items seized from him taken. He said that investigation on the matter was still ongoing and if found guilty the suspect will be charged to court.
NCC, Digital Encode Support NITRA Innovative Tech Forum On Post-COVID-19 Strategies
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigeria’s telecommunications regulator and Digital Encode, Cybersecurity and Compliance advisory company, have indicated interest to partner with the Nigeria Information Technology Reporters Association (NITRA), the national umbrella body of ICT reporters, as it organizes a forum that will x-ray the industry’s future plans for ICT growth post pandemic era.
The event, slated to hold on October 15, 2020, will seek to discuss the needs for a fortified ICT sector after the COVID-19 era, and the level of preparedness of ICT stakeholders to embrace the challenge of being pivotal to the stability and growth of all other sectors.
A statement from NITRA National Secretariat in Lagos indicates that due to the pandemic and need to observe the COVID-19 protocol on social distancing, the event will be held via a Webinar.
This year’s theme, “Multi-stakeholder Approach To National Recovery Post-Pandemic”, is in line with the annual event’s generic theme, ‘NITRA Innovative Tech Forum’, a contribution by NITRA to the development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) innovations and policies in Nigeria.
Prof. Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman, NCC is expected to deliver the keynote speech at the event and will throw more light on Federal Government’s plans, programmes and policies on post-pandemic strategies using ICT.
Dr. Adewale Obadare and Dr. Seyi Akindeinde, founders of Digital Encode, while accepting to support the event expressed their readiness to offer their expertise in Cybersecurity for organisations to prepare against cyber- attacks with the new normal.
They will also highlight areas that are high risks that need fortification in terms of cybersecurity.
Speaking on the event, Mr. Chike Onwuegbuchi, national chairman, NITRA, noted that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to leave its negative trails across the globe, economic reboot for countries will not only depend on how well they readapt to the new normal, but also more on their recovery plans.
According to him: “While the federal government has consistently expressed its willingness to set all policies in place to engender growth, and accelerated implementation of these policies, private sector firms have also shown great hunger for the task ahead in post-COVID-19 era.
However, the question that needs to be answered is whether all stakeholders are ready for the required task ahead.”
The event will also offer participating companies opportunities to publicize some of their individual efforts at contributing to reacting a soft landing or lifeline for SMEs and other ancillary companies as the pandemic threatens their survival.
Digital Encode is a multi-award winning and leading consulting and integration firm that specializes in the design, management, and security of business-critical networks, telecommunications environments and other Information Technology (IT) infrastructures.
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