In twelve years, iCentra has distinguished itself in providing solutions to complex problems in both public and private sectors, using technology and innovation. TAOPHEEK BABAYEJU, CEO, iCentra Consulting Limited says the company has a track record of transforming organizations and their people for excellent performance. In this interview, Babayeju shares the company’s milestones and future plans with ONYINYE NWACHUKWU, BusinessDay’s Abuja Bureau Chief.
iCentra is 12, give us a background of the company, why it was set up and the journey so far?
The journey did not start with iCentra. It started five years prior to iCentra Consulting Limited with our first company, ICTech, which is an abbreviation for Integrated Circuits Technologies Limited. It was established in 2004 as a technology company with focus on Telecoms and IT services. Somewhere along the line, I realized that I needed more knowledge, so I proceeded to UK Telecoms Academy where I studied Telecoms Network
Engineering. On returning to the Nigeriain 2005, I was invited to join the GSM Operations team at a network operator where I was a project manager for network roll-out. While working in the telecoms sector, I noticed that all the professional services companies came in from Lagos to execute business in Abuja and return. I saw an opportunity there and decided to seize it. In 2009, I resigned to start up iCentra Consulting Ltd to close the gap. Twelve years on, iCentra has consistently transformed organizations, both public and private, helping to drive excellent people and organizational performance.
Who does iCentra serve?
iCentra is a business and technology solutions company providing business consulting, technology solutions and project management services, as well as learning and development. What we do is to transform organizations and their people for excellent performance. We have track record, an array of unique experiences that cut across serving the public, private and development sectors. We have clients in all spheres of the economy, the company also has presence in US and UK, positioned to deliver business and technology solutions to clients across the globe. We have also trained thousands of people across different sectors and have transformed organizations by empowering them with the capacity to execute excellently, through our learning unit, iCentra Academy.
Many organizations have goals but lack a strategy for execution, so they come to us and we help them design strategies for successful execution and to help them turn their ideas into reality. We also work with organizations to restructure their processes, deploy technologies to help them perform better, and to reach their peak performance. Our promise is simple, when you think about solving business problems; strategy, digital transformation, enterprise solutions and information security, PMO set up, outsourcing, capacity development, just think iCentra. We want people and organizations to thrive at their endeavours, it is our focus. iCentra is a place where innovation happens. It is a place of transformation where new opportunities are created for every stakeholder; organization, client, and the society at large. All we want to do is create opportunities by using the tools of transformation.
What does the future hold for iCentra?
The future for iCentra is to become a global African brand that creates opportunities and unlocks different possibilities for Africa and beyond. Our big picture is simple. We want African solutions created by Africans; that is, Africans solving Africa’s problems.
We want to export talents of Africans, not through brain drain but by pushing lofty African ideas to the world. If China could do it and become the manufacturing hub of the world, and if India can be the talent outsourcing hub, then Nigeria can also do the same; these are two countries that have the same DNA with us. However, to achieve this, there needs to be heavy investment in human capacity development. Over the years we have deliberately invested in human capacity development and have done this through partnership with various organizations. We have supported several innovation programs, startups and ecosystem. We started and have consistently sponsored the National Project Management Conference (ProMaCon) in Nigeria, which has transformed the project management practice in the country in the last decade. We have also partnered with LeadPreneur, an organization which seeks to raise a generation of transformational business and public leaders. We have also supported the Creative Entrepreneurs Association of Nigeria and partnered with the British Council. We have worked closely with the Project Management Institute (PMI), as a Premier Authorized Training Partner.
We also work with organizations to restructure their processes, deploy technologies to help them perform better, and to reach their peak performance
The next step is to drive internal initiatives as a company. We are introducing initiatives like CentraHub, which will serve as a virtual hub where we build the capacity of entrepreneurs and startups, to boost their business performance and scale faster. We also have under our Group umbrella an investment company called Centra Capital, which is focused on start-up investments, particularly start-ups with scalable ideas that are mass-market compliant and low-technology adopting. For us as a company, our future is more on giving back to the society. We’re channelling attention and resources towards massive impact investments that will impact lives and transform our society. We believe a lot in people development, and to this end another initiative of our company that is emerging is CareerCentra, a program designed to upskill about 12,000 Nigerians with technology and management skills over the next three years.
Asides being the CEO of iCentra, you are also a respected thought leader in the field of project management, how did you get into the field and thrive?
I discovered project management in 2005 while working for a telecom network operator. As a young officer deployed to the Project Implementation Unit in the GSM Operation Department, without prior project implementation knowledge, I decided to look for a relevant course along my new job role. In 2006, I travelled to Dubai to attend a project management fundamentals training organized by Spearhead.
After the training, I still had hunger for more knowledge in the new and interesting field, so in 2007 I again travelled to the UK to do my Prince2 training and certification, self-sponsored. I returned to Nigeria and became the first and only certified project manager in my organization at the time, adding value, helping in the use of best practice for the network roll-out and service delivery. While working as a project manager at the network operator, I realized that each time I said to people that I was a project manager they thought it was a position and not a profession, because the practice was nascent. So, I thought to check around the world where project management was advanced and I realized that awareness was deliberately created through conferences, seminars, etc. Then I came up with the idea to have a national conference on project management in Nigeria to bring together practitioners, industry experts, Government, Public and Private sector players that handle projects to learn, network and discuss the importance of project management.
There was little to no awareness about the importance of project management and I decided not to wait for government or any other body to do it, I took it as a responsibility to help develop the practice that I had fallen in love with. So, I quit my job at the network operator and brought together people of like-minds to achieve the vision. That was how we birthed the maiden and premier Project Management Conferences in West Africa, in 2009. It initially started as an initiative of iCentra, where we partnered with the Presidency and other relevant government institutions as well as PMI Nigeria.
We sustained the conference for five consecutive years until the initiative transformed into a full-fledged organization, ProMacon Project Management Foundation, then we started another phase of the vision which was advocacy for another 5 years, to grow the practice and the industry. We celebrated the 10th year in 2019. As expected there has been significant increase in awareness around project management today in Nigeria, and we can say Africa, due to the work done by ProMaCon and other stakeholders.
Why Abuja as the base for your business, even after establishing operations in the US and UK?
It wasn’t by design but by providence. I grew up and lived in Lagos until I came to Abuja as a Youth Corps member. This was in the early 2000s and Abuja was pretty young and developing fast. All I saw were possibilities for growth and more problems to be solved and new strides to be made. So, we started and stayed here but serve clients across the nation and beyond. At a point, we were going to establish a physical structure in Lagos to serve our clients there, but with today’s new way of working, a company can serve its clients from any part of the world.