• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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Jake Riley is committed to championing industrialisation in Nigeria – MD

Jake Riley is committed to championing industrialisation in Nigeria – MD

Funmi Ogbue, principal consultant/managing director at Jake Riley Limited, an international consulting firm, speaks with BUNMI BAILEY on the first 10 years of the firm, what it exemplifies, and its impact on Nigeria.

How would you describe the first 10 years for Jake Riley?

Jake Riley is an international consulting firm that started 10 years ago with the ambition to drive public sector reform in Nigeria in the first instance, and then across Africa. The idea was to bring that private sector way of working, where you are more in touch with your customers, employees, and stakeholders generally, in a very efficient and effective manner, into the public sector space.

So, to work with leaders to help them achieve organisational alignment within the ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) that they are responsible for, to help them align and drive their visions and key priorities by adopting technology to make them more efficient and effective.

More importantly, to have accountability charters in place so that everyone knows ‘this is what I’m responsible for and this is what I’m accountable for’ and just get on with it whilst the leader sits there and knows that everyone, even up to the security guard, knows what he or she’s trying to achieve and they are all working in the same direction.

So, the first job that we did was working in the health sector in Nigeria, working with the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, and then we moved on from there to one agency after another; as long as there’s a leader at the top of that agency that wants to be different, wants to make things happen, then we will support them.

The way that we envisioned it at that time was almost like there’s no unique Jake Riley project; it just depended on how we go in and do a diagnosis to find out what the organisation means, what the agency wants, what’s missing from the three main things that any organisation needs to have in alignment: the people, purpose, and the processes. As long as there’s a misalignment in any one of those things, then there’s a problem. So, we go in there and do a diagnostic and then provide solutions, and recommendations and then go about executing alongside the head of that agency.

What are the landmark projects that the company has undertaken within the past 10 years?

We have done many projects. I will speak about two or three that have been impactful for the industries. One is for the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited called Organisational Change Management (OCM). The project was around making the NNPC Limited adopt technology.

NNPC Limited had spent a lot of money on technology and had many tools deployed but the adoption rate was quite low so we were hired to do that work. Today, the adoption of technology is around 100 percent within the NNPC Limited; they don’t travel for meetings anymore or carry files about any longer.

The other one that I’d like to talk about is the Nigeria Oil and Gas Opportunity Fair (NOGOF), which we created in partnership with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB). I am proud of that project because it democratises access in the industry. All of a sudden, there is visibility available to everybody on whatever projects, initiatives, opportunities, and plans by the operators.

These are the things that they didn’t know before but now they have the information and can plan better. It was implemented with support from industry players with zero contribution from the government.

Which of the projects Jake Riley has delivered would you describe as challenging and how have you been able to turn those challenges into opportunities?

Every project that we do is challenging because there is no script or roadmap; it has never been done before. We do a diagnosis to find out what the problem is, and why the projected results for the citizens are not happening. And even that comes from knowing the results that citizens expect from the organisation. For example, when we started working for the Oil and Gas Free Zone Agency (OGFZA), the CEO was appointed and didn’t know what to do.

And the agency was regulating an industry that didn’t want to be regulated; players within the free zone were regulating themselves. So, the CEO wanted government to be more active and we went in there to put all the actors in a room to find out what the issues were. Then, we came up with overarching ambitions, some goals, and work areas; we identified that they didn’t have revenue, had issues with the Act setting up the agency, and there was mistrust between the players.

They wouldn’t have known if we hadn’t done the diagnostic effort that looked into the past, studying the paperwork and providing solutions which we went about executing with zeal. As a result, the agency was awarded the most transparent government agency, and became self-sustaining; they stopped getting subventions from the government, increased revenue by 300 percent and also amended the Act.

How did the company manage NOGOF, organised in partnership with NCDMB, to record the success and growth indicators acknowledged by many industry observers?

The most challenging thing in this line of work is the part that has to do with people. I have a Master’s degree in Change Management and Organisational Development from the University of Manchester, England but many people in Nigeria don’t understand what change management, organisational behaviour, or organisational development entails. It is an emerging area of practice; so getting team members to work with me has been the most difficult part of the journey. So, we bring in external consultants if we need any support in any area; we are never shy to bring in external consultants to work with us on projects.

And the second thing is that we resolve processes and templates. We tend to first of all know what steps need to happen and then put a person at each point and then just monitor. As I said, infuse externals in the middle so that that bit of hand-holding, till people feel comfortable, takes place. It made us proud to be able to put such a world-class conference together on our own, with little external support

What stands your company out among other consulting firms in Nigeria?

Two main things stand us out. The first one is that we are passionate about championing industrialisation; anything that will help you figure out what steps you need to take as a government agency to achieve or support the private sector to industrialise, we’re there. And what that does for us is that because we’re driven by those values and by that passion, we’re bringing the expertise that we have gained over 32 years working in the industry to the table to support you to succeed in whatever your ambition is.

The second thing is because we can bring all kinds of experts to the table, depending on what the assignment is; we are sort of different. Most consulting firms just want to work with their internal resources. But for us now, we go and find it – whatever skill is required for that job or that assignment. Anywhere, we will bring it to the table; assemble that team, and work to make sure that whatever that solution is will be truly best in class, world-class.

What is the underpinning objective behind the Jake Riley Academy that the company recently embarked upon?

The academy is the latest baby of Jake Riley and the bottom line of the academy is professional development. We have a gap in our educational system and our industrialisation journey and the thing that can close that gap is professional development. We think certification and professional development are critical points and that’s what the academy is set up to do. I like to encourage people, based on their abilities to select a profession, develop themselves along the lines of that profession, and then tie them to work – whether it is large-scale projects or individual employers that are looking for manpower.

Apart from the academy, we are also working on something called the talent hub that links qualified professionals to the right jobs. For example, Project Management Institute is one of the professional bodies that we work with so people can come, register with us, do the training, get certified, and work anywhere. We also have the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Professional Evaluation and the Certification Board and the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management, among others.

Many businesses have shut down due to the tough challenging environment. What have been the company’s strengths?

Our strength has been referrals. Every job that we’ve done, we’ve never had to sit and wait before the next one comes. I am grateful to all our clients because they just always refer us and the next job comes. The second thing is that we believe in tendering. So, when opportunities are available, we actively go after them.

We are also regulatory-compliant and we always participate in opening tenders. The third thing is Jake Riley has birthed companies that play in the private sector. We’ve incubated other companies, for example, Zigma Limited is focused on the oil and gas industry and we have Libra Securities Nigeria Limited. That diversification has helped us.

What steps do you think the government can take to help businesses at this tough and challenging time?

The first thing that the government should seriously adopt is the local content philosophy. They should try to patronise private companies here because we’re struggling and government is the largest player in this economy and it is present in different sectors. So, if they patronise these local companies, it would be incredible.

The second thing is training, supporting people, and helping them get jobs. The Jake Riley Academy has been set up to help people gain competence. The government needs to be more intentional about training; they can give us students and we develop them. Lastly, the government should encourage every single MDA to adopt change management, create a strategic leadership structure, make sure they work, and hold them accountable.