Critical IT support in challenging timesJuly 15, 2021
Msuega Tese, executive director of Integrated Solutions Angola (ISA), talks to The Energy Year about the company’s services for energy clients and its plans to expand workforce training. ISA provides IT infrastructure design, system integration, data storage services and virtual computing, cloud solutions, as well as network and security services and onsite support for offshore projects.
As an IT services company, was ISA prepared to face the challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic?
We always take safety precautions seriously, and we continuously fine-tune our processes. To make sure that our workers can work from anywhere, we decided a few years ago to migrate all our data to the cloud. It turned out to be an excellent decision when the pandemic came. We were very prepared for it, at least in terms of remote working.
When the government announced the lockdown in March 2020, we had already rehearsed and were fully ready for everyone to work from home.
In which sector did you see the greatest increase in demand for your services?
With everyone working from home, the demand for critical IT systems to remain up and running increased in all sectors. Our maintenance and support services were generally in high demand, though it was higher in the banking sector.
What services do you provide to companies within the energy value chain?
We provide the hardware, because oil and gas generates a lot of data and that data needs to be stored securely and used for many important decisions. It requires specialised infrastructure. It also requires data security, and protection in the event of disaster. These are the things we do for the oil and gas sector.
Are oil and gas companies migrating their data to cloud storage?
The pandemic was not the time to migrate; it was more about keeping things running. There’s been a lot of talk about the cloud for years, but last year we didn’t see much movement with it because everyone just wanted to stay operational. Companies just wanted to stay safe and keep things running, so that’s what we focused on doing for clients.
What are your views on the new local content legal framework?
The local content policy is an attempt to provide opportunities for local companies who otherwise may not be successful in the industry. For us in ISA, we don’t rely on such policies to win. The fact that we’re a local company doesn’t mean clients should automatically employ our services. We train and certify our staff using international standards. We always compete and win on merit. We always win on merit. Our track record of quality services and timely execution of projects are our main competitive advantage. In other words, a level playing field is all we always need to continue to win.
Where does Angola stand in terms of connectivity?
The various projects such as SACs, WACS, SAT3, etc. have dramatically improved IP Transit challenges in Angola. There’s plenty of bandwidth for international circuits. Thanks must go to Angola Cables for their huge investment, especially in SAT3, which has created a low-latency fibre link to the Americas bypassing Europe. The challenge now is the local fibre connectivity. That has improved over the years but still has a lot of room for improvement. There are still many areas even in Luanda that do not have fibre cables.
Where do you see the company in the next five years?
Considering all the uncertainties, last year, we used the concept of scenario planning and we projected different scenarios for the mid-term, or around three years. In general, we see ourselves growing and providing services in more sectors of the economy. We are confident that our great professional IT services are needed everywhere.
How do you approach workforce training at ISA?
Our focus from the beginning has been on professionalism. In general, we hire locally and train our staff to achieve internationally recognised certifications in the relevant fields. We also have an internal training process that fast-tracks our new hires to proficiency in record time. With these, we’ve implemented all kinds of complicated projects, even during the Covid-19 lockdown. The stoppage of international travels didn’t affect any of our projects. I think that we can make more contributions in this area as we plan to collaborate more with other institutions.
So is ISA planning to venture into training as a new business segment?
In oil and gas, the biggest challenge is the lack of skilled staff. Expats have problems coming into the country now because of Covid-19. A lot of people who were posted here had to be evacuated but business can’t be stopped. We can’t stop work on production. So the country was then exposed due to its lack of skills. This became a huge problem, but we also see it as a business opportunity.
We want to make a special contribution in this sector to prepare young professionals in the various fields. We’ve also been fine-tuning our training programme. We’ve been able to reduce the time it takes for a freshman to become skilled enough to implement a complex project on a production site from one year to six months. Now we are trying to reduce it further to three even as we improve the quality also. We’re trying to see how we can partner with some institutions to deploy on a larger scale the model we’ve tested successfully in-house for the last 15 years.
Does the company plan to provide services in neighbouring countries?
We have always planned for international expansion. However, that hasn’t happened yet. We haven’t given up on the plan and we’re still very hopeful about achieving this mid-term. We’re working now to formulate a more specific plan with dates.
What is the scope of ISA’s partnership with NetApp?
NetApp was one of the first vendors we formed a partnership with 15 years ago. Our relationship has remained strong since then. We use their industry leading storage systems and software in our critical projects. As a Platinum Partner, we have everything it takes to help our clients get the most out of their digital data.