Bold entrepreneur scores big for helping firms transform their businesses.
By Amos Wachira.
When Peter Muya stepped onto a podium in Bangalore, India, to pick a global award last month, he knew that his commitment to become a leading enterprise architect was bearing fruits. The co-founder and managing partner of Pearl Touch International (PTI) Consulting, a leading enterprise architecture firm in Nairobi, was awarded the iCMG Global Business CIO 2016 trophy for his contribution towards the development of Kenya’s Health Enterprise Architecture blueprint, which in itself won the award of Best Enterprise and IT Architecture in Healthcare from the same awarding body.
Defined as a conceptual blueprint that defines the structure and operation of an organisation, enterprise architecture determines how an organisation can most effectively achieve its current and future objectives.
Muya says that enterprise transformation is the entire metamorphosis that an entire enterprise goes through for it to be effective and remain competitive.
PTI Consulting has for the last five years etched a name as a reliable business advisory services firm that advises clients on enterprise transformation, in an industry that is populated by big professional services firms.
In East Africa, enterprise architecture is a relatively new area, but Muya and PTI Consulting are working tirelessly to popularise it. This shows how important the iCMG award was for enterprise architects like him, as well as enterprise architecture firms across East Africa.
The iCMG Global Business CIO award evaluates CIOs based on their leadership in “projects” or “initiatives” with a high degree of business influence and measurable results using Enterprise and IT Architecture. Global CIOs are shifting to “Architecture driven” decision-making process to guarantee sustainable business value. This recognition validates the efforts, over the last 5 years, of Peter Muya and PTI Consulting in maturing enterprise architecture discipline in East Africa as a vehicle for achieving effective, efficient, agile and durable enterprise transformation. It also proves that hard work and resilience pays. Muya and his three partners founded the firm five years ago. For him, it was a defining moment. He had to quit a plum job to do what floats his boat: enterprise architecture.
Floods at home triggered his interest in architecture
Muya’s foray into the field of enterprise architecture kicked off when he was a young boy in rural Muhoroni, Western Kenya. He wanted to become an architect so he could change the lives of people living in the area, where flooding was common. “During the rainy seasons, water would sip into our houses and we could spend the whole night scooping it away. Such was the life. I was determined to get a solution for this, that is why I wanted to study architecture at university,” he recalls.
His dream of ever becoming an architect was however cut short a few years later after he completed his secondary school education at Nakuru High School. Having failed to attain the marks required to join an architectural school, he opted for a business management course at Moi University. Muya studied hard like most of his colleagues at the university, but at some point, he developed passion for computers and information technology. The university was his first point of interaction with a computer. A determined man, he utilised the books at the university’s library and taught himself skills in IT. He ultimately graduated with a degree in business management. To his shock however, getting a job proved a difficult task. This prompted most of his fellow granduands to pursue additional courses in accounting to boost their chances of landing a job.
“I told them that I would not take up any accounting courses. Instead, I started applying for IT jobs even when I knew I did not have the qualifications.
It took him sheer guts to land his first job-an IT job with a communication giant that was setting up shop in the country. With a good grasp of IT concepts, a background in business management and a will to suceed, he got the job, where he implemented their financial system for three and a half years. Since then, he has worked for six more employers over a period of 11 years in different capacities, a good preparation before he got into business.
Identifying the gap
He explains how he started out. “Having been involved in change related projects as an employee, I realised that there was a missing link between what the organisation expects from a particular change initiative and the expectations of the people involved in effecting the change.”
He later realised that there was a way he could do more to fill those gaps when he could occassionally meet his three colleagues, also with an IT background. “We could exchange our experiences from our respective places of work informally when we realised we had a common challenge. We asked ourselves, what can we do about it?”
What followed was a burning desire to get an information technology solution to some of the challenges he faced as an IT specialist. This explains why he had to move from one employer to the other with the hope that he could be more effective .
“All of us came from an IT background and we saw IT as an enabler. We asked ourselves, what if we transformed ourselves to become outsiders who come in and give advise to clients without being boxed in through the hierarchy of an IT department of CIO?”
Seeing that there was a way, Muya teamed up with his three friends and co founded Pearl Touch Consulting in 2011.
PTI consulting sought to change the narrative in the nascent enterprise architecture industry in Kenya. It was based on three key values of quality, guaranteed, delivered.
As is the case with most start ups, getting the first contract is usually not a walk in the park. For PTI, the founders had to wait for their first contarct for over seven months, a period that Muya says tested his patience.
“Before we got the first contract in Septenber of 2011, it was an enduring period. From moving out of employment to starting a business, we attempted to create a name first and to penetrate the market.”
It took them sheer effort to atttract new customers. From attending conferences, going for breakfast meetings to looking for tenders, Muya and his team were determined to make the new business a success.
At some point though, he almost went back to employment. “My former employer came up with a very good offer for me, an offer that could have been a great fall back plan for me in case verything else failed to work, but I found myself decling the offer.”
Strategy is key
To compete well in the market, PTI developed a bouquet of four services. These were business applications, I.T strategy and transformation, Systems process assistance and project management targeting all kinds of businesses.
“We sold them the promise of helping them deliver their I.T startegies and roadmaps so the companies could deliver on their objectives.”
Penetrating the market was one of the main challenges the firm faced considering that PTI Consulting was playing in the same league with seasoned multinational companies, offering almost the same services. However, Muya says that this did not deter the start up from going out and stamping its name in the industry. The services were well received, to a point where the firm could even beat established names to get contracts. One of the key milestones that the firm has achieved over the years is penetrating the public, private, health, financial services and telecommunication sectors.
So far, PTI Consuting has built over six frameworks of transformation for government, models which can be used by the government to build around its transformational initiatives.
One of these is HEAL for the health industry. The firm has used concepts around this model to deliver what the government wanted delivered.
Five years down the line, PTI Consulting is still going strong, if winning awards is anything to gauge success.
Before winning this year’s awards, the firm has successfully participated in iCMG awards since 2014, bagging awards in 2014 and 2015.
iCMG is a pioneer and leader in provision of full service Enterprise and IT Architecture services. The firm has conducted annual awards for the past seven years to honor architects and enterprises whose work demonstrates a combination of talent, vision and workmanship, which are creating successful and enduring systems and enterprises.
“We have created a name because people trust us,” says Muya, who adds that his exposure to enterpreneurship did not start five years ago.
Growing up in Muhoroni, he remebers how his father used to operate a small enterprise, selling household goods and groceries. At other times, he could use an old pick up truck to ferry second hand clothes to the market. As a small boy, Muya witnessed his father grow from a mobile trader to a wholesaler and distributor up until 2007 when post election skirmishes almost wiped out the business. During his formative years, he could ultimately join them in business, selling, talking to customers about new products and learning the ropes of enterpreneurship. “In a way, that gave me dimension on what I wanted to become. I was torn between pursuing business or a core competent course.”
Having run an award winning business, he is not exactly green in matters of enterpreneurship. His advice to young enterpreneurs is, “it takes time and effort to discover a solution. Enterpreneurs should therefore remain patient and have passion for what they do. It is passion that keeps them going when things are not working as expected.”
Considering that not many students pursue enterprise architecture as a career, there are few professionals in this field. For PTI, mentoring a new generation of enterprise architects is one way of popularizing the concept locally.
Incoporating enterprise architecture in learning institutions
The firm has partnered with Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Agriculture to nurture students interested in pursuing this as a career. The firm organises fora where the founders mentor students by sharing with them the trends in the industry, as well as the challenges and opportunities.
As part of giving back to the society, PTI Consulting has gone ahead to organise a contest named ‘Junior enterprise architects challenge,’ which seeks to test the students’ depth of understanding of the subject by giving them case studies.
“We help them think beyond infrastructure, coding, applications and start thinking what that means to investors, stock prices and shareholders.”
Today, Muya still implements the business tactics and lessons that he learnt from the family business.
He and his partners are dreaming of becoming the most trusted advisor on transformation in the African continent.