Interview With Echo Kenya MD Kenneth Munyi: Businesses across the world have spent the last two years adjusting to the new reality of working from home due to the pandemic.
While a few companies have reopened their premises and allowed employees to the office full-time, many companies have either gone fully remote or adopted a hybrid model that incorporates a ‘2-3 days in office’ requirement for staff.
The pandemic is shifting the world of work. Globalization and technology are changing our understanding of what work is, and how it should be done. Businesses are having to continually adapt to meet the demands of the future.
In this interview, I speak to Kenneth Munyi, who is the Managing Director at Echo Kenya. The cloud-based ICT company recently entered the Kenyan market and to mark its entry into it announced the launch of its ‘Superwan’ offering, a software-defined network solution, that is particularly suited for businesses with multiple branches and offices, focused on enhancing the client experience.
According to Echo Kenya, the product delivers up to a 100 percent guarantee on its Service Level Agreements, an interactive omnichannel platform where clients will productively interact with Echo Kenya on a continuous basis.
Kindly introduce yourself and your role at Echo Kenya
I am a father, a husband, a mentor, a lifelong learner, a reader, and more specifically for this conversation a business leader with over 20 years of experience in the region. Started my career as an Accountant, before abandoning the ‘bean counter’ line for leadership in line with my natural gifting.
I am currently the MD of Echo Kenya, which really is about leadership, where I lead the team in Kenya, providing strategic direction as well as operational oversight in Kenya. We have a staff complement of 37 in Nairobi and Mombasa that service our customers in Kenya and the Region.
You just entered the Kenyan market. Why is Kenya a very important market for you?
Though Echo Kenya is a new brand in Kenya, its entry was however through the acquisition of iWayAfrica which has been a player in the IT connectivity market for many years. It is however correct to say Kenya is the first market where we have launched the new brand.
Kenya has a great appeal to us, a key market in the continent, the industrious culture of its people, its huge pool of skilled talent, its progressive regulatory regime as well as its strategic geopolitical location in the Region as host of many international /multinational corporations, making Kenya the ideal and automatic base to launch from.
Comparatively, it is also worth noting that the ICT market in Kenya is relatively mature and therefore ready, actually in need of our managed and cloud service offerings.
You are seeking to tap into Kenya’s vast ICT space through cloud-based ICT solutions. What opportunities do you see in this market?
The ‘Cloud’ mantra has been with us for some time now, we have seen many adopt cloud offerings consciously or unconsciously at personal and corporate level. Many organizations have adopted a ‘cloud-first strategy in their technology selection choices, sadly however most environments are not ready to support this aspiration.
Our role, therefore, is utilizing technology options to create the ICT environment that enables our customers to respond relevantly to their context; we see businesses that could be more efficient with better technology choices, problems that can be solved with appropriate technology deployment, businesses that can better focus on their core mandate with the right technology backing.
Certainly, the Covid-19 pandemic has created urgency for businesses to review their models and operational assumptions, in we believe that correctly orchestrating technology can produce a well-harmonized technology symphony, a real competitive advantage in the long-haul for the discerning corporate.
One of the top products you are pushing in this market is ‘Superwan’. Tell us about this product.
SuperWAN is a Wide Area Network with superpowers. It’s built on the Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) technology, a WAN is a connection between Local Area Networks (LAN) which we find in our Offices and ‘Software Defined’ means programmatically configured, making it agile and intelligent, it is the successor to the much deployed Multi-Protocol Layer Switching (MPLS) which after more than 10 years in the market and due to the changes in the customer environment is now not able to adequately address customer needs, a few examples will help; more customers are using cloud powered applications for their business processes, SD-WAN is optimized to support cloud environments; we increasingly see multi-location, multi-system customer environments that can be complex if not well managed and optimized, without the appropriate agility and visibility such environments will be inefficient and messy; despite significant IT infrastructural investments leveraging this to enhance reliability has been a challenge on the back of rigid platforms.
Our SuperWAN solution, therefore, goes a long way in addressing the business IT needs of TODAY.
Your solutions are centered on helping organizations optimize their workforces. What do these solutions say about the future of work?
The world of work is distributed, demographically diverse, and largely information-driven. On any typical day, one can start their day at home, meet and pitch to a customer at a coffee shop, join colleagues for a brainstorming session in the offices, and in between the day is punctuated with the conference calls with other stakeholders.
Technology therefore must support this context seamlessly and securely and thus the need to optimize our workforces, essentially get technology working for them and pushing the boundaries – physically, socially, and thus achieve more.
Given the talent available, the desire for better work-life balance and productivity, appropriately deployed technology because the automatic enabler for the next leap in workplace productivity.
What are some of the things of technologies that will determine the future of work, keeping the pandemic in mind?
This is an interesting question and there are many views on this, but without naming technologies, I see cloud technologies, technologies that leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, ones that enhance security and enable transmission and storing of huge volumes of data as being key both during and beyond the pandemic.
It is important however to avoid the trap of portraying technology as an ‘end in itself’, technology is an enabler, often people think that the latest is the best and get frustrated when some investments don’t make any discernable difference.
We work with our customers to understand their needs and aspirations, design the correct solutions, make the right technology choices, and deploy appropriately so as to realize the promise of technology.
What are some of the questions that leaders need to ask to prepare for the future of work after COVID-19?
It has become critical for leaders to ask questions about their business goals/objectives/ strategies, business environment, and models, how to attract, retain and empower talent, how to attract and grow their customer base.
Only after clarifying where a business is and where it is going can one move to engage the Technology or IT strategy question.
Principally IT strategy must align and be in support of the overall business strategy because ‘IT’ is a foundation that business processes and systems are built on.
Other than ‘Superwan’ which other products are you bringing to the local market?
Echo Kenya is creating an ecosystem of technologies, systems, and partners – a digital services gateway. The breadth of solutions will include connectivity, managed networks, security, IT as a Service, and Cloud, all uniquely tailored for specific customer needs. I must hasten to emphasize that our process of engagement is a consultative process so to ensure relevance. Our focus is thus solutions to customer problems and challenges and not merely pushing products ‘off the shelf’.
The world has proven that individual work can be tackled successfully from remote settings. Workers can maintain flexibility with the support of technology and empathetic leadership. What are your thoughts on this?
Technology creates huge possibilities but how it is deployed must be balanced with the rights of individuals and the respect due to them as human beings.
As a guide therefore the dignity of persons must be respected; technologies and information must be used not only for work-related ends but also how to empower, grow and liberate the worker, good use of technology can help achieve better work-life balance, increase overall satisfaction and productivity.
The adoption of technology can not be viewed in isolation, an environment of trust, supporting processes and procedure, workers’ maturity, and personal responsibility play a big part to making it all work well together.
It is important that we adopt a wholesome view if we are to fully leverage technology.
Any closing remarks?
Our Products and Services are tailor-made for the market and driven by consumer needs, this is one of the building blocks in our business model however the key differentiator is how it is delivered through a consultative process and engagement model for a Superior Client Experience, walking with our customer all the way.