Friday 1 March 2024

Sipho Mogapi Helps Businesses To Launch Market-Fit Digital Products

Without the help of luck or a silver spoon, it took Sipho Mogapi more than 10 years to find his niche in ?bots?.

By Tsidi Bishop

Business knocked Sipho Mogapi, Director of Lubanzi ICT Consulting, three times, before finding a niche in Robotic Testing Automation (RTA) and Robot Process Automation (RPA). These technologies are specialised technologies used for accuracy testing of software applications before they go to market.

Information Technology (IT) was not Mogapis?s first choice. He wanted to be a civil engineer when that field was popular. But he failed to meet university requirements for Civil Engineering entry. In 2002, he enrolled in Software Development at the Tshwane University of Technology and graduated in 2005. At the time few would have predicted that computerised machines, or voices, would be replacing humans in the workplace.

With his qualifications, Mogapi was able to secure employment in various organisations including Standard Bank where he honed his skills that gave him the edge in automation. This was the foundation for his business venture. After 10 years of sweat and disappointment Mogapi launched Lubanzi ICT in 2018. He diversified the company from training to providing RTA and RPA automation services in a space of two years. Lubanzi writes code to create web robots that perform repetitive tasks of enterprise applications.

?There are different types of robots. Software robots are not necessarily physical robots as we know them. A software is simply an application that is designed to mimic what a user would do when they sign in for one purpose or the other or retrieve information from a computerised system. We interact a lot with Siri on our phones and other ?bots? as they are known,? quips Mogapi.

Lubanzi specializes in an array of automation software testing activities. ?We do security checks on the system?s vulnerability to abuse, both from an application perspective and a network perspective. We then give findings and suggestions from what we see. We also assess if the application can handle the load from thousands of people logging in and making different transactions. We determine how long can the system handle stress and at what point does it crash,? he explains. While unexpected market changes such as business lockdown influenced Lubanzi?s business performance, Mogapi feels his business could be doing a lot better if potential clients, mainly big business, were not directing all their all requests to other big businesses.

This has been an ongoing battle in this industry long before the lockdown. The biggest challenge for small business is that they are not always entrusted with long term contracts. ?You come in as a middle or small player and already there?s a three- or five-year contract with a big player, which makes your chance of entry very slim. The second aspect is the risk element. The small players are viewed as risky because once a company gives you a R10 million deal and you?re unable to deliver, then they can?t recover their cost,? says Mogapi.

It is a situation that many would find deflating but Mogapi remains optimistic. Digital platforms, automated robotics, software applications and artificial intelligence are now a reality. His plan is to find new a way of moving his business forward after being caught off guard by the lockdown. Demand for services offered by Lubanzi will continue to grow and not all of it will be met by big companies. Digital transformation in S.A context is at infancy stage, thus companies are more likely than ever to invest in automation.

A lot of companies are still navigating their way through it. Hence, Mogapi has structured Lubanzi?s workforce for new ways of doing business. Among the five employees there are two data scientists, a software engineer and a salesperson. There are fears that automation and artificial intelligence will result in job losses ? in a country that has already lost 3.6 million jobs due to COVID-19.

Those in the industry acknowledge that reality but believe there is space for both. Mogapi argues that these applications and machines need people to develop them and make sure that they work effectively. There will always be a person teaching that robot to perform a task, installing software, and keeping it going. Where this fails, a worker will take over.

With well-trained IT personnel Lubanzi and having secured contracts from big companies like Telkom and Sasol the firm is poised to reach new heights.


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