David Kruyt, managing director, Dimension Data West Africa has over 20 years experience in the ICT industry.
Kruyt joined Dimension Data in 2003 as customer advocate: sales, operating in South Africa’s Western Cape Province but in his current position, he is responsible for the management of the entire Western African region, from Cameroon to Liberia.
Over the past four years, Kruyt, has been instrumental in establishing Dimension Data’s Nigeria office.
I have taken customers to Cisco to sell them the option of Telepresence. Our biggest challenge in Nigeria is bandwidth, and Telepresence is largely dependent on bandwidth. Companies want to communicate internationally or locally - then Telepresence could be an option. Provided it is international, the bandwidth required to deploy it becomes very expensive. International connectivity here is going to stifle any growth in the Telepresence market. Telepresence is a fantastic product but the problem is bandwidth. If there is enough bandwidth - no problem. The issue is that you have a supply and demand situation here, so as long as the demand exceeds the supply, we are going to have issues. If the bandwidth is good and you can afford to pay for it, fantastic!
Environmental Monitoring Solutions and Businesses
Environmental monitoring can be related to a situation whereby you have a bank which is running multiple branches throughout the country, and they have requirements to keep their operations running at 99.99 percent. For power generation, environmental monitoring helps in monitoring the fuel level or charging the batteries. That and a number of others are the kinds of environmental monitoring solutions we put in place. It could be remote access control – for someone accessing a cell site of a GSM company without the right permission, we can have monitoring on that, whereby we send SMS or e-mail to the company, if it is connected. To ensure that technicians are not deployed to field for no reason, this kind of solution connects you pin-point to business-critical areas and issues are brought to your attention. You can understand sometimes if an ATM at The Palms or some remote village goes down, the priority is to get the one at The Palms up before that at the village. Those kinds of solutions would give you detailed information to make decisions around business.
Dimension Data is an infrastructure company but it has a subsidiary called Internet Solution (IS), which is an ISP. IS leverages the likes of MTN using multiple options. Dimension Data does not provide their own infrastructure, but takes existing infrastructure, carry along on top of that and then maximize it for customers.
Putting in Place Customer Interaction Solutions
It all depends on the business needs. You have different applications around business requirements. If you look at the GSM world, their customers need to get information around their billings and issues concerning the network. In their interactions with their customers, the first touch point is the call centre. Now the call centre is not just about the telephone; it is a multiple channel to get hold of call centre agents whether by voice, e-mail, fax, SMS or whatever. So, the complexity of the solution that the service providers put in place to communicate with their customers, determines the kind of service we can offer such service provider. A call centre that cannot be reached either by e-mail, SMS or phone call has a big problem. As it is, 90 per cent of the call centres are over subscribed – you can never get through and you end up getting an automated message. I think there is a lot to be desired around the management of a call centre. The technology is the easy part; it is only about 10 per cent. Actually, the staffing, training and understanding of customers’ requirements are very crucial in the field. In the banking sub-sector, Internet banking, telephone banking, require a mature call centre agent to understand the needs of the customer and also have a history of what the customer has done. If I have an issue about a money transfer that was meant to have been deposited the day before and my feedback is that it is not in yet and I should call later; if I call the agent later on, he/she would be required to have a history of how many times I have called. The trend worldwide was to reduce the number of bank branches and go to call centres, but I think generally people like to have human contact. You see that in Nigeria now, and that is why you find numerous bank branches scattered all over. There are challenges around call centres per se, but you cannot do without them.
Idea of Good Network Security Solution
Security is not just network security, there is internal security, wider area network security – there is a bunch of stuffs which goes around security. So, I would say that security is something that needs to be monitored all the time, and you have to have a security provider who would actually proactively update from inside the business through the edge of the business, to the external business. Our biggest challenge today is data integrity and people stealing data. There are lots of good solutions coming up to address that issue. Dimension Data has a security business which uses the best of breeds from various vendors, and we put them together to give customers a holistic solution.
What are the implications of using products that have reached end-of-life?
Manufacturers provide support which lasts for a period of time - say 3 or 5 years. Once it gets to end of life, the support either ceases or becomes very expensive. There are certain devices that can run forever and you would never have an issue. The problem is, if you are running mission critical applications say banking, oil & gas applications or payroll, can you afford to run on equipment that are of end of life with no support? I would say no! If you are an enterprise business, you need to be able to provide services to your customers, it is imperative that you ensure you stay ahead of the game because if you do not, your competitors are going to provide a better service with innovations. That is what it is all about. People develop equipment that cannot last forever. Things change, we change; we want more out of our lives while doing it with less.
Strengths of IT as a Service
IT as a service is becoming a real part of our business now. An enterprise with a massive IT department could call on a company like Dimension Data that has a pool of resources in all levels that can be deployed on time required basis. IT as a service is difficult for customers to understand, but we are getting to a stage where we have the outsource and the in-source model - we would be providing manpower to do the job and the customer makes some service level agreements. If the system goes down or if the manpower is not available, we have to provide an alternative. Dimension Data is not a company where we provide services and not meet our service level agreements. We provide 100 per cent service level agreements, and are priority driven. That is a great opportunity for customers to leverage their kind of solutions. So I believe IT as a service is going to grow tremendously in the next 18 months to 3 years as the demand for it increases.
Dimension Data’s Global Services Operating Architecture in Nigeria
GSOA literally is a global services operation which cuts across the entire world. If a call is logged today in Nigeria, that call can be tracked to Europe, America and Asia. If we have an engineer who is based in London, he should able to offer support without stress. So we have become a global support centre. Having said that, Dimension Data does not manufacture anything. We provide 1st, 2nd and 3rd level and sometimes 4th level support. With the right agreement with the OEMs, we pass on the 4th level support to them to sort out. We are in global partnership with Cisco, Microsoft, IBM and a score of others.
Collocating for Best Results?
I am baffled how six operators can lay their own fibre throughout the country while in elsewhere, there are two or three national providers who provide infrastructure and everybody leverages on them. The infrastructure on ground in Nigeria now is non-functional. It could have provided a platform for every GSM and fixed line operator to carry their traffic on. Now with a situation whereby each operator puts his own fibre in the ground, I think there would come a time when all the operators realize that they need to work together, and would cooperate and provide interconnect not just on the GSM platform but in infrastructure, in order to make the best use of it. When two or three more offshore Internet cables come into this country, Nigeria would become like a “Christmas tree” in terms of bandwidth. When offshore cables arrive here, I think we would see a lot of interactions among all the operators – using one another’s fibre to get Internet and voice traffic to the end of Nigeria. So, maybe it is not a bad thing that these cables are laid now, but it is at a cost to the end users of ICT services. Mark my words, when reliable offshore cables come into this country, you are going to see business, education, healthcare and government grow to a higher level. Moreover, the more offshore cables, the better because those would drive down the cost of bandwidth in the country.