INTERVIEWS

‘Digital infrastructure helps organisations transform data into actionable information’

John Lombard, CEO, Asia Pacific Dimension Data says Digital infrastructure is the strong roots that are needed to drive digital transformation

In an exclusive interview with Digital Creed, John Lombard, CEO, Asia Pacific, Dimension Data explains why organisations need to take a data-centric approach to building digital infrastructure with the objective of accelerating digital ambitions. We met John on the sidelines of Dimension Data’s Elevate 2018 event in Pune last month.

John Lombard, CEO, Asia Pacific, Dimension Data Digital Infrastructure

DC: Digital Infrastructure is one of the four pillars of your business. How do you define that? 

John: Digital Infrastructure comprises numerous elements. A lot of the infrastructure technology that exists today is very much dependent on engineers going out on site and configuring the network for your organisation. When we talk about Digital Infrastructure, we are talking about network refresh at its core.

Real digital infrastructure is about software. So, it is software-defined networking, software-defined data centres, and of course, software from a security standpoint as well that encompass Digital Infrastructure.

Data is the lifeblood of any digital business and by applying digital infrastructure, an organisation can transform data into actionable information. Making the most of your data requires more than just collecting, storing, and processing information. It’s also about achieving a reliable flow of data across a secure, robust network and turning that data into actionable information. By unlocking the data, an organisation can fundamentally change the way it operates and steer the transformative journey their stakeholders expect. For all of this, one needs an IT infrastructure ready to accelerate their digital ambitions.

In other words, organisations who want to adopt some form of digital, need to start by looking at the underlying infrastructure, because what we see is a lot of companies who are looking at treading on the digital path are constrained by the poor infrastructure that they have. Digital infrastructure is the strong roots that are needed to drive digital transformation. 

DC: A lot of companies struggle with digital transformation today because they have a lot of legacies or it’s a mindset change or it’s a culture change. How is Dimension Data adapting to help these organisations?   

John: Our whole strategy is defined around taking a business outcome approach to these conversations. Unless there is a clear business outcome strategy in place, I think we would really struggle. If you start by just narrowing down on certain types of technologies; for example, the classic ones now — like IoT, Machine Learning, Blockchain etc. – these are all enablers. However, they will not deliver any value unless there is a clear business outcome in mind.

We’re going through our own transformation at Dimension Data. We come from a skill set of digital infrastructures, datacentres, security as was explained earlier. We’re transitioning our skill set to be more business outcome focused. We’re having different types of dialogue and discussions with our clients, reskilling our workforce, the introduction of a consulting team working closely with companies like Nihilent, which is a Dimension Data owned organisation — to really change those conversations. We all get excited about technology but that’s not going to change anything unless it’s providing value by achieving a business outcome.

By unlocking the data, an organisation can fundamentally change the way it operates and steer the transformative journey their stakeholders expect. For all of this, one needs an IT infrastructure ready to accelerate their digital ambitions.

DC: One of the things you spoke about during your keynote at Elevate 2018 was Digital Workplace, and how the next gen workforce will need to prepare for tomorrow’s digital jobs. How are you doing that within Dimension Data? What kind of programs do you have in place for this?

John: We try to practice what we preach. Our office environment uses collaborative technology. We have implemented Digital Workplace solutions that combine various tools such as video meetings, messaging, calling, file-sharing and more, allowing the teams to share, create and collaborate better with each other from anywhere or via any device in a highly secure environment. The idea is to drive seamless collaboration and create an intuitive workplace for the employees to easily add ‘anyone’ to ‘anywhere’ at ‘any time’. Users are a disruptive force today. It is important for organisations to understand that its employees need to collaborate across time zones, and their clients’ need to connect through multiple channels (for example, social media). At Dimension Data we have tried to ensure that our workplaces seamlessly blend mobility, communication, collaboration, and multiple contact channels into a hyperconnected enterprise.

We have something called The Stadium, that has the look and feel of a miniature sports stadium, and often we huddle there just like you do before a game — for our town halls and meetings. The meeting rooms that we have designed cater to both one-on-one discussions as well as the large team discussions. Every meeting room has been equipped with video technology and telepresence technology. Everything uses technology to allow that collaboration. Adding to that, we regularly hold Lunch and Learn sessions wherein we invite our executives to deliver key messages that we are trying to achieve with our end-user computing strategies.

We also host and invite various organisations to our digital workplace. We recently hosted a large fashion brand in our office in Singapore. We did a demo for their CEO on how Dimension Data is leveraging technology to enable a similar workflow that they are trying to achieve in their organisation. We get a lot of organisations coming in who want to look at the way we are working because a lot of companies are now struggling with the adoption of technology to engage the workforce. We can do a consulting project where we understand the different workforce personas and identify the types of work practices that organisations would like to adopt. Through this consulting engagement, we can provide relevant recommendations to help our clients achieve their digital workplace ambition. 

In India, we are part of a consortium of leading IT companies and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), to spread awareness about cybercrime and build a capacity for safety measures for Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and frontline IT staff across government departments. 

DC: How can partnerships with industry and academia help in skilling the workforce? Can you give an example?

John: One of the biggest areas of skill shortage that we’re seeing in the market now are cybersecurity skills; and this is an issue that is pertinent to many countries and we as an organization are very aware of that.

Dimension Data and Deakin University, Australia, have partnered to collaborate on a cybersecurity degree that will help address the requirement for ‘job ready’ graduates to enter the market and meet industry demands. There are other examples wherein we have partnered with universities and industry forums to help initiate learning and development of the required skill set. For instance, in India, we are part of a consortium of leading IT companies and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), to spread awareness about cybercrime and build a capacity for safety measures for Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and frontline IT staff across government departments. 

DC: I see that you are investing in skills development. Apart from that, what are the other areas of investment that you are considering for India?

John: Dimension Data India is one of the largest revenue generators in the APAC region for Dimension Data and is a huge focus. We are scaling our business here; and there are two elements to that. The first element is investing in India for India, while the other is to leverage the skill and talent here for projects outside India.

India is an important hub for us. To illustrate that, we have two Global Service Centres, one in Prague while the other is in Bangalore. In addition to that, we’re also looking at how can we invest further in India to contribute further into the India business.

A large portion of our platform development happens from India. A lot of the IP that you see within Dimension Data, is being driven out of India and Australia. We are looking at significantly growing and expanding our business here. There are high expectations from India.

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Brian Pereira

Brian Pereira has over two decades of technology journalism experience. He is the former Editor of CHIP and InformationWeek magazines in India. During his successful journalism career, he served India's leading newspapers: The Times of India and Indian Express Newspapers. Brian is also an Aviation enthusiast and gadget geek. He likes all things retro (80s). Write to Brian at: brian9p@gmail.com Twitter: @brian9p Linkedin: https://in.linkedin.com/in/pereirabrian

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