"While being an advocate for local content, it is important to emphasize that ISA does not want to be considered as just a leading Angolan company, but a world-class technology services company that competes favorably irrespective of where the competitors come from."
IT services has been one of the few sectors to flourish during the pandemic. Can you explain how the lockdown has helped Integrated Solutions Angola (ISA) grow in 2020?
In 2019, we made the conscious decision to migrate 100% of our data to the cloud so that employees could have access to our systems when outside the office. Just before the lockdown in March 2020, we spent about a week setting up and testing our systems for employees to be able to work from home. I’m happy to say that we were more than ready to work from home on the first day of the lockdown. The experience has been great for us as a company. Productivity has actually gone up. As a matter of fact, a company appraisal in Q2 2020 revealed that productivity increased significantly from April to June… it is our best quarter in terms of performance in our 15 years of operation. One of the factors that contributes to this is the elimination of the commute time.
What work have you done with oil and gas companies in the last twelve months?
We continue to provide maintenance and support to critical IT systems both onshore and offshore for several oil and gas companies, namely, Total, Angola LNG, Sonangol, etc.
What advice would you give to companies looking to adapt their operations so employees can work remotely?
You really need to check everything. Don’t take anything for granted. Basic things such as proper work table, chair, electricity, reliable internet, computer, etc. We asked everyone what their requirements were. We learned a lot in the process. My general advice is a hybrid solution: Some can work from home, for others it may not be possible to do so. Also, you can’t eliminate the office environment completely. Less experienced employees benefit a lot from more experienced ones by watching them work. The informal interactions facilitate knowledge sharing a lot. So office will always be needed somehow. But there’s going to be a fundamental shift – in the end, I believe it will be a hybrid solution for most organizations.
You have been a strong advocate for companies to migrate their data to the cloud. Are oil and gas companies starting to make this transition?
At least now everyone is starting to talk about it, which is a good thing. It does not necessarily mean they are making big investments into cloud technology right now. We understand the decision making process takes a bit long for many major players in the oil and gas industry. However, ISA has been living this reality for years, demonstrating the benefits of cloud technology from the way we operate. We are here to help out our clients make the transition too.
What are your views on the importance of promoting local content to ensure a strong supply chain?
Local content is a good thing to promote from a business standpoint. First and foremost, having people working in their natural environment has an impact in the communities. Rather than handouts from international companies (called corporate social responsibility), hiring people and giving them good jobs has a more positive impact on local communities.
While being an advocate for local content, it is important to emphasize that ISA does not want to be considered as just a leading Angolan company, but a world-class technology services company that competes favorably irrespective of where the competitors come from. We have international clients, and to compete in an international market such as oil and gas you must measure yourself against the best.
How much of an issue do you think cyber security is going to become in the coming years?
It already is an issue that companies have to take seriously. Generally, crime and concentration of population go together. Think about cities that have a high concentration of inhabitants – they usually have more crime that sparsely populated rural areas. Now consider the situation of the pandemic where everywhere has been shut down and people are now interacting mostly online rather than in person… It is no surprise that cybercrime is gaining some notoriety. For example, due to ‘zoom bombing’, the teleconference giant, Zoom had to invest a lot to tighten security. Loopholes that they took for granted with fewer users, due to a sharp increase in users, such weaknesses are being exploited. Other companies are following suit. If an oil company moves its data to the cloud it is a necessity to protect it, and it is worth speaking to us at ISA. We are here to help out.