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New DiData CEO eager to return to 'winning culture'

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Alan Turnley-Jones, CEO of Dimension Data Middle East and Africa.
Alan Turnley-Jones, CEO of Dimension Data Middle East and Africa.

Alan Turnley-Jones, newly-appointed CEO of Dimension Data, says one of the challenges he is faced with is how to deal with what has been termed the “great resignation”.

In a wide-ranging Q&A with ITWeb, Turnley-Jones says he also wants to bring back the “winning culture” at the systems integrator.

Also on his to-do list is to put to bed the fraud case that hit the company earlier this year in regards to the sale of The Campus, its office park.

The company appointed Turnley-Jones as chief executive officer of Dimension Data Middle East and Africa (MEA) in June, replacing Werner Kapp in the role.

At the time, the system integrator said Turnley-Jones is a seasoned and highly-respected strategic leader who has held various roles over his 23-year tenure at Dimension Data.

On the challenges the company has to face and overcome, he says the key issue is the great resignation, also known as the war on talent.

“We’re not immune to that and so we need to put the right programmes in place to address it. We recently had some staff withdraw their resignations when they saw the opportunities that lie ahead and so I think we need to keep focusing on that.”

According to the PwC Non-Executive Directors report for 2022, published in February, failure by South Africa-based non-executive directors to successfully harness digital technologies to make pertinent company decisions is one of the key factors contributing to SA’s “great resignation”.

Returning to winning

For Turnley-Jones, another headache is the global chip shortage that is impacting Dimension Data and its clients.

“We can’t build the infrastructure our clients need and this is impacting their growth, and so we are putting plans in place to address that [chip shortage], to find innovative ways of responding to the crisis.”

Market research firm IDC anticipates the global chip shortages crisis, which was brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, will spill into 2023.

Turnley-Jones adds that another major challenge is the fraud case around the sale of The Campus that the company is currently addressing.

“This is one of the big questions that I plan to double-down on with the media once we have more detail.”

Dimension Data in January flagged a potential conflict of interest among its top executives when it sold its upmarket office park, The Campus, in 2019.

It said a business review by Dimension Data found certain executives did not disclose their personal financial interests in the sale of The Campus, the group’s business office park in Bryanston, Johannesburg.

“We need to focus on our relevance as an organisation, so our clients know we are the company they can turn to when they want the right support. We used to be a fast-paced race car, now we are slow and monolithic. We need to get back to the speed and the energy, and that’s the foot that I want my role to start on,” says Turnley-Jones.

Asked about what drives him, he responds: “I like winning. This is important to me and something that I feel has been lost a bit at Dimension Data.

“We’ve lost our winning culture and I want to bring this back. Over the years, the company has been perceived as arrogant and over-confident, but I think we can avoid this perception with a mindset that’s confident but committed. As a confident leader, my goal is to bring this to the forefront and reignite this culture.”

A lot of companies have also experienced business disruption due to emerging technologies and the pandemic.

However, the new Dimension Data head sees this as an opportunity.

“I don’t see this as disruption; I see it as a journey. Since NTT acquired the company in 2010, we’ve been moving towards clear strategic goals that leverage the best assets within the NTT Group, while honouring what Dimension Data brings to the table.”

His goal, he says, is to ensure he continues to bring the two companies together in a way that celebrates and uses the best parts of both.

“I also believe we have an important role to play in our market. We have the skills, the people and the passion that allow us to really influence the relevance of the solutions we provide and uplift the communities we live in. Yes, there is global disruption in play but, for me, it’s about how we can harness this and bring things together across job creation, skills development and company growth.”

Short-term shake-up

In the next six to 12 months, the goal is to focus on solutions and services so they are strategic and relevant to the market, says Turnley-Jones.

“We need to sharpen the pencil and go back to the days when Dimension Data was known for specific things and this means a tightening of our focus on services that are strategic, relevant and disrupts the status quo.”

He adds clients must firstly know they are still in a “safe pair of hands”.

The company has been around for years and consistently delivered to its clients and this isn’t going to change, he notes.

“Our clients can depend on who we are and what we deliver. They will also benefit from our strategic vision and what the broader NTT family brings to the table. Until now, we’ve not fully harnessed the global potential of the parent company, but now we are doing just that and I’m really excited about what this means in terms of what we can help clients achieve.

“I want the next stage of Dimension Data’s growth to be focused on what makes our clients tick and helping them go further and do more.”

On a more personal level, Turnley-Jones comments: “I’m a born and bred Capetonian who, my wife would argue, has spent more time on planes and in airport lounges than on home soil. I started working at a relatively young age, was headhunted by Dimension Data in 1999 and have been here ever since.”

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