Interview with Niyi Yusuf, Senior Director of Accenture Nigeria
What are the trends in Nigeria’s consultancy sector at the moment?
The consulting environment in Nigeria can be broadly categorised in 3 or 4 areas. There is the management consulting aspect. There is technology consulting and there is the outsourcing consulting or operations consulting. In the last 4 or 5 years the growth in the consulting industry has been about 22%, largely driven by technology. Many Nigerian companies and the government are now implementing technology systems. Basic ERP for the back office and HR, Finance, Supply Chain or the CRM applications for the front office and that has driven growth. A number of companies are also looking at management services to outsource their back office, be it IT, Finance or even HR to enable predictable service and that is also driving growth for consulting companies. What you can also look at is the origin of the companies. Some companies are like Accenture – global companies that are present in Nigeria. We are also starting to see a number of local companies owned by Nigerian entrepreneurs, either entrepreneurs that are alumni of the bigger consulting firms or Nigerians that have returned from abroad. It’s a fair mix and a competitive environment.
What are the ratio of the international and the local companies in the sector?
I don’t have any verified facts but from a market share point of view the bigger consulting firms are still dominant. In terms of the number of consulting firms that there are, you will have more local companies but they are smaller in terms of revenue and clients.
For most consulting companies, including Accenture; what we deal with is intellectual property and that is a key function of our people. We have a very rigorous process of selecting and recruiting people to work in Accenture.
We know that Accenture has been in the market since 1989. Tell us about the history of the company.
The history of Accenture is synonymous with the entrance of Arthur Andersen into Nigeria. Accenture was the consulting firm of Arthur Anderson and was established in Nigeria in 1978 and the consulting firm was up and running in 1989. We moved from being the consulting Division of Arthur Anderson to being an independent arm called Andersen Consulting and then in 2001 we became Accenture. The major industries that we provide services for are the financial services, banking and insurance, telecommunications, manufacturing consumer goods as well as within the energy sector like oil, gas and utilities. We also provide services to government and health sector. For those industries we basically provide 3 services; Consulting, Technology and Operations which is outsourcing. Technology will include Security, Systems Integration as well as Digital mobile and cloud computing.
What is the company’s reputation like in Nigeria? What are your strengths? How do you differentiate yourself?
To large extent we leverage on the global reputation and global brand of Accenture. What you will experience in Accenture Nigeria it is very similar to what you would experience in any other Accenture office worldwide. What differentiates us in Nigeria is the fact that we are the only firm that can do end to end consulting. From understanding what issues the client has, coming up with a corporate strategy, transforming HR and transforming the processes and putting in place the technology systems and then maintaining those systems. Only Accenture can do that in Nigeria. Many of our competitors provide some of those services but none of them provide all of the services. What you will then find is that when companies are looking for a consulting company that has the ability to help with all their requests and the reputation to provide it, they will come to Accenture. A good example of that is the creation of the leading payment switch, Interswitch, in Nigeria, that was done by Accenture and I was a member of that project in 2001. We helped the banking industry to create Interswitch which is an online payment platform and that has now led to the revolution that we have seen in terms of payments. The leading credit bureau in the banking industry was also a creation of Accenture. We brought 8 banks together to create the credit bureau agency. Any contract that is more than half a million dollars in the oil and gas industry is processed using the procurement system that was envision, developed and is still being maintained by Accenture. When clients possess a complement of complex problems that requires an end-to-end solution from processes to technology to people to strategy to operations and maintenance, they will generally come to Accenture. Today, a platform that was created by Accenture processes about 325 million e-payment transactions every year. 23 million bank customers use our system and they are still managed by Accenture to assess credit in the bank industry in Nigeria. That is what differentiates us and our abilities will continue to differentiate us from our competitors.
You mentioned Accenture stands behind the creation of the credit bureau in Nigeria. Is there any similar project that you are working on at the moment?
Right now we are working with the banking industry and the central bank to create what we call a shared services platform in 2 or 3 areas. One is the communications network. Today each bank has multiple communication networks to its different branches and to the central bank or some other third parties. We are working with the banking industry to create what is being called NFSN (Nigeria Financial Services Network). It will connect all of the commercial banks with the central bank and with other key operators. That will potentially reduce communication costs. We are also looking at getting the banks to migrate to data centres. Those data centres are Tier 3 compliant and that will increase service availability and business continuity. We are also working on electricity power. Today each branch of a bank will have 2 generators providing electricity. We are working with the banks to think about how they can consolidate and collaborate to provide cheaper and more efficient electricity to branches within the same vicinity. These are some of our on-going projects that will change the banking industry.
Could you tell us more about the human resources in Accenture? Tell us about your staff.
For most consulting companies, including Accenture; what we deal with is intellectual property and that is a key function of our people. We have a very rigorous process of selecting and recruiting people to work in Accenture. We take the best of the best from both local and foreign universities. Recently we have had more staff coming from foreign universities than locally. We put them through a fairly rigorous process of screening, aptitude tests, interviews and at the end they go into a one year graduate training program which is how we prepare them to be ready for the consulting world and to face clients. For those that successfully graduate from the program they join Accenture consulting. The life of an Accenture consultant is an interesting life. A consultant is someone who is at ease with complexity and is willing to take on the biggest problems Nigeria is facing. Consultants are also someone who is willing to talk or chat with clients and be challenged and also challenge clients. We take them through working with clients and working on some of the bigger problems that Nigeria is facing and that give everybody a sense of satisfaction. The same sense of satisfaction I have today, when somebody gets a loan and that loan is processed through a system that Accenture has created or put into place. Our staff are local but on projects if and when we need, we work with other Accenture consultants from other Accenture offices. We are all Consultants working to international standards.
How about corruption and other major challenges associated with Nigeria?
People are concerned about corruption, about bureaucracy, red tape and lack of infrastructure and indeed, those are challenges that are present in Nigeria. Accenture has been here since 1989 and we do face those challenges but we understand the lay of the land. We are also local. We have been able to work around those. One of the things we have done as part of our salary structure is that compensation for staff includes giving them laptops, giving them internet access and paying for it as well as paying for generators that will provide power. That has help to put our staff in the position where they are productive. Despite the challenges companies like Accenture have found the way to navigate the system and to be successful. We are global, but act local.
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