By Agnes E. Nantaba
Francis Nkurunungi is the Managing Director of Francom Solutions Limited, an ICT service provider. He spoke to Agnes E Nantaba about their role in the ICT sector in Uganda
What are the key elements in your management philosophy as a manager?
Management seems to be different in the ICT service providers division because we have a bit of laxity unlike in other sectors. It’s more of laissez-faire management style. The strategy is largely about interaction and working as a family rather than a hierarchical approach.
In ICT, one thing of a fact is that even as a manager, you can never know everything and getting to the level of an expert, your role is as a father figure to the junior staff who can help them grasp the skills.
By the time you get to a managerial position, chances are high that you started from the bottom by doing most of the work by yourself. So as a manager, it’s a complex combination of both detaching yourself and engaging depending on the work at hand. However, delegation is a way of life, which makes work much easier and gives ample time to focus on key business options, agreements, expansion policy plans as you don’t get involved in the nitty-gritty of all things.
We however have a big challenge in the ICT sector as the staff have so many opportunities with the various startups. We therefore nurture a culture of appreciation not just as an employee but as a member of the family so that they have a sense of belonging. This helps to retain staff for a longer time and reduces staff turnover.
What is your assessment of the IT services industry in Uganda?
We have come a long away. Back in the day, you could walk up to a client and introduce your services like software and the look on their faces or response was that you can’t do that as a Ugandan company. The thinking was that we are not well-equipped to handle such solutions.
However the trend has changed and we have a good doctrine as Ugandans have faith in Ugandan IT companies. Also the formation of National Information Technology Authority of Uganda (NITA-U) has been of great importance coming up to regulate the industry and push the need for Ugandans to participate in IT. International bodies and companies are also coming in to train young talent in ICT and also pushing ICT at University as a professional course is creating positive change and radiance of ICT services in the country.
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is a growing concept in Uganda. How can enterprises make use of the concept to grow and market their business portfolio?
It is still a challenge because most enterprises have not grown to appreciate the importance and relevance of BPO’s. For instance small and medium sized companies have BPO’s fully integrated and so you can’t put them apart while others don’t relate to the BPO services.
However some enterprises are slowly taking on BPO enterprises like telecoms. There are quite a few service providers of BPO services in Uganda so enterprises should relinquish a little more work onto the BPO’s as they let go of the usual call centers.
Our role remains to work together as service providers to improve BPO performance standards and outcomes.
What are some of the opportunities in the ICT sector that can be explored to expand its contribution to the growth of Uganda’s economy?
In every economy, what propels the growth of any sector is government involvement and in this particular ICT sector, it is not yet substantial. For it to become a pillar of the Ugandan economy, it should be done from the grassroots up the hierarchy. Government has started the roll out of sensitization of ICT to the youths but this is the time to jump to the next level of actual activities. There is a concept of accelerator hubs which big institutions can take on and invite young IT developers within their organizations to utilize and make use of their services to develop solutions. It’s a concept that should be introduced in Uganda to grow the contribution of ICT to a growing economy of Uganda.
Issues of data privacy and protection are emerging key challenges to the ICT sector in Uganda. How are you working to solve this challenge?
It is a challenge although it may be over blown. Anyone who does good work in an ICT business has data protection and security at the back of his her mind. It however calls for concerted efforts and strategies to protect data and ensure high levels of privacy.
What other challenges hamper the steady growth of the ICT sector in Uganda?
Government involvement is critical so for us to achieve utmost growth. Many times, whenever we apply for tenders for provision of ICT services, the requirements are above our capability because some qualifications are attained on job such as ISO certification.
What is your projection of Francom Solutions in Uganda in the next few years?
As ICT service providers, we expect to be at a conglomerate level where we are multinationals that are able to compete with others and be at a state where we are never questioned. So far where we have come from and where we are now, the sector will be one of the biggest revenue generators for the Ugandan economy.
This will however only come with the involvement of the biggest player and that is the government. We also need laws that can favour Ugandan indigenous ICT firms that can enable them work with international firms to provide ICT services as expertise and skills are developed.