DiData CEO sees SA as talent destination amid hiring plans

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 21 Jun 2023
Alan Turnley-Jones, CEO of Dimension Data Middle East and Africa.
Alan Turnley-Jones, CEO of Dimension Data Middle East and Africa.

Dimension Data CEO Alan Turnley-Jones is confident South Africa is an attractive talent destination, as the specialist IT services provider scouts for technology skills to grow its business locally.

In an interview with ITWeb, focused on milestones and challenges encountered since he took the helm of the systems integrator, Turnley-Jones outlined Dimension Data's strategic vision to evolve from an IT solutions provider, to a supplier of key business solutions across Africa.

As the transition unfolds, its global mother company NTT has identified SA as a talent hub for the organisation, he added.

The company appointed Turnley-Jones as CEO of Dimension Data Middle East and Africa last June, replacing Werner Kapp in the role.

One year into his tenure, Turnley-Jones reflected on some watershed moments, and pointed out one of his primary objectives is to ensure Dimension Data has the right people, working closely with clients to understand their business needs.

“My vision is to ensure continued relevance. Dimension Data will become more relevant when we start bringing business solutions to our clients, as opposed to pure IT solutions.

“We are two months into our new financial year, and there are investments going into the front side of our business in terms of increasing the current skills set and also around our front-end sales force. More importantly, technical architecture, workforce architecture and then also bringing in new types of skills, which will specifically be around cloud and applications.

“There's quite a bit of investment going into cloud and applications, and as we identify new trends and new areas, we start investing in those.”

It currently has a workforce of nearly 3 000 (excluding business process outsourcing arm Merchants teams) across multiple offices based in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Durban.

The global relationship with its mother company, paired with local skills, has the potential to ensure Dimension Data continues to grow on the continent, he added.

Localising global solutions

While he did not disclose the number of hires the company plans to make, Turnley-Jones said the approach is in line with its strategy, as it has over the past few months rolled out new solutions from the global NTT office.

These include the Managed Campus Networks portfolio, which addresses networking, security and business management challenges; the multicloud-as-a-service solution; and Operator Connect, which enables organisations to manage their calling capabilities, from within the Microsoft 365 administration portal.

Dimension Data invests an average annual of $3.5 billion in its R&D division, to ensure it keeps up with the latest tech trends, he added.

“We have made a lot of investments in our data centres and telecommunications business, as well as cloud and security business, where we work with Microsoft and Amazon Web Services on some solutions that we have brought to the market. So, there is a lot of focus on launching new services.

“We have to make sure the portfolio we take to market really is relevant to the Middle East and Africa region. Dimension Data places great importance on talent development and has implemented talent development programmes to nurture and train individuals from a young age.”

Reflecting on his tenure to date, Turnley-Jones highlighted the milestone of bridging the gap between Dimension Data and NTT, and solidifying the collaboration of the two organisations to better service the local market.

“Since 2010, when NTT acquired Dimension Data, the company has benefited from NTT’s significant focus on research and development. Exciting new products and capabilities come to us regularly − the most recent being private 5G.

“Our ability to leverage the backing of a global organisation for research and development is helping us accelerate the depth of the solutions we offer our customers in Africa.”

In terms of challenges, he noted the industry is still reeling from the effects of the global supply chain shortage, while load-shedding has also taken a toll on the business.

“Dimension Data has 14 data centres in South Africa, and these obviously house a lot of our infrastructure, which runs our networks and also those of our clients. Keeping the generators running, with the cost of diesel, has been impactful.

“While there’s been a significant improvement in supply chains, this really manifested in the challenges our clients experienced in introducing new technologies and building the infrastructure to help grow their business.”

The company has embarked on a journey to achieve net-zero emissions across all of its operations by 2030, concluded Turnley-Jones.