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Digital transformation is about people – the ALE difference


Johannesburg, 10 Dec 2020
Read time 6min 40sec
Sandrine El Khodry, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise's Vice-President for Middle East & Africa.
Sandrine El Khodry, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise's Vice-President for Middle East & Africa.

The need to transform businesses – digitising their operations and empowering their people with new capabilities – has taken on even greater urgency since the changes experienced during 2020. Numerous organisations have to start their digital modernisation journeys or are looking to build on what they have invested in thus far.

This message is particularly significant for Africa, a region capitalising on digital transformation to help it build a more prosperous future. Indeed, for Sandrine El Khodry, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise's Vice-President for Middle East & Africa, the tenacity and innovative spirit of Africans is something to experience.

"I am always impressed by seeing what different people are doing in Africa. Such powerful people – nothing stops them, and they are willing to succeed."

Her views, though, are not that of an outsider. A native Egyptian with French citizenship, El Khodry hails from the continent and frequently engages with its people and the numerous Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise partners across Africa. El Khodry and ALE share a common vision: people sit at the heart of change and progress, and all technology innovation only succeeds because of people.

As such, ALE's mission is all about this approach: "We promote people based on their skills, knowledge and the value to the company. This is one of our differentiators compared to ALE's competitors. Our employees and our customers are not numbers. They are at the centre of our concern and need all of our attention."

Three pillars to support African transformation

ALE is not a new kid on the block. Indeed, it celebrated its centenary in 2019, marking 100 years of innovation that go back to some of the earliest telephone systems. That pedigree of communication and technology has remained and grown in the organisation, standing alongside the two other pillars of ALE – connectivity and secure cloud solutions.

Yet these pillars don't pigeonhole ALE. On the contrary, it combines them to provide an end-to-end digital transformation journey for its customers. Whether customers want to support popular and lesser-known applications while they improve their technology estate, or expand into cloud environments such as the hyper-scale worlds of AWS, Azure and GCP, ALE tailors strategies and solutions to turn those ambitions into realities.

"We provide the communication, connectivity and cloud capabilities on which other services can then be built or augmented," says El Khodry. "ALE's products are mainly plug and play, by which I mean easily integrated in the infrastructure of any of our customers. The openness of our solutions and platforms allow easy integration with verticalised business applications to communicate easily and to provide tailored solutions to meet customers’ needs."

This approach not only works for well-known and popular applications or workloads. It also applies to exotic and unusual examples. ALE's people focus on innovation and problem-solving, and its global footprint gifts ALE with a large variety of use cases and other experiences – delivered in collaboration with highly skilled regional partners with presences across Africa, including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. Being an indirect vendor, ALE's partners take the lead, supported by its vast and deep skills and product base. Many of these partners in Africa have been with ALE for 15 years or more.

"The majority of our partners have become a part of the ALE family, because they have been working with ALE for a long time. They know our company by heart, they know our processes, they know our tools, they know our products, they are regularly trained and they renew their certifications."

ALE interacts through what El Khodry calls the Direct Touch team, meaning it supports partners and customers in every way it can. This philosophy includes sales teams, engineers, technology strategists and more. All of that resonates with the ALE vision: put people and business first, then technology will be successful.

A multicultural partner for businesses

Many vendors claim they are business-centric and multicultural. Yet these are values ALE cements at the heart of its vision and purpose. El Khodry's appointment as ALE's MEA vice-president underscores this culture. Not only does she stand with one foot in Africa as part of her Egyptian heritage, El Khodry is also completing her PhD on the impact of culture on business, hence her overwhelming emphasis on a 'people first' approach.

This knowledge complements her love and passion for business, a spirit that resonates across ALE: "I am passionate about business and I love challenges – it's in my blood. Business is very challenging, and on top of this, it is about the people – the human element. Meeting and working with different people and discovering new cultures is very enriching. It brings me more value, and makes me more flexible and facilitates learning new things every day."

That flexibility resonates across ALE, which is why it can focus on the three pillars through which it delivers comprehensive transformation solutions to its customers. The approach enables ALE to hold leading competencies in major verticals – healthcare, hospitality, education, transportation and public sector, while also expanding and innovating for other verticals as well.

The five main verticals are distinguished by the numerous solutions ALE already has ready for them. But in reality, through combining choices that involve communications, connectivity and the cloud, as well as ALE's business focus and skilled partners, it can deliver on the expectations of any sector or organisation, from multinational enterprises to SMEs.

One thing aptly demonstrates that ALE is not a limited-focus player. Rainbow by Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, its open standards cloud platform, offers an orchestration launching point for just about any digital modernisation requirement: employee tools such as unified communications or collaboration systems, operational enhancers including Internet of things and artificial intelligence, and integration with other platforms, applications and different cloud providers.

"We are an energised and flexible company. It means that we are able to build customised solutions and adapt to our customers’ needs, thanks to the openness of our solutions."

The Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise difference

If you add up ALE's different attributes, it paints a picture of a robust, flexible yet focused vendor. It exists to support people, business and different cultures, combining its different channels of experience, skills and on-the-ground partners to deliver real digital change.

Africa is a vital part of this culture. ALE invests extensively in the continent, which is a high-growth region for the vendor and a crucial element in its development plan. El Khodry's appointment two years ago – to lead engagement efforts across Africa and several other regions – is a direct result of this strategy. And she and her teams are only getting started: "ALE’s ambition is to become the trusted vendor to our customers. When they have a need, or they have a problem to solve, we'll be delighted to answer and support those requests. When a customer is brainstorming for the right solution, explaining where they want to be in the next few years – how they would like their infrastructure to be – we'll try to define together with them. To help them move safely towards digital transformation through communication, connectivity and the cloud – that is the ALE purpose."

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