Measure Twice, Cut Once: How Dimension Data Is Getting Projects Done Right the First Time


One of the things I’ve always loved about Dimension Data is how quickly we move. It’s who we are; it’s in our DNA. In the first two years here, I learned and did more than in the previous five years combined. There was so much room to maneuver and deliver. As a company, we were rapidly growing during that time due to several acquisitions.

Since 1983, what we’ve traditionally delivered for clients is core networking, unified communication, and security solutions. As technology has advanced so have our client’s demands, and now Dimension Data is using the power of technology to help organisations achieve great things in the digital era. Today, we accelerate our clients' ambitions, and our own, through digital infrastructure, hybrid cloud, workspaces for tomorrow, and cybersecurity.

But even though we move quickly, we don’t let that speed become a hindrance to quality. We make sure we get projects done right the first time. Our focus is to deliver excellence all the time, because if you’re revisiting the same project six months later, that’s not a sign of success. 

As Director of IT, much of my role comes down to making sure these projects come in on time and within that scope of excellence that we pride ourselves on. My job is to guide and advise the country managers—those leading the businesses in 15 countries across Europe where Dimension Data is present. This is a great deal of people to oversee (over 5,500), and it’s also not a traditional relationship—the country managers are essentially my clients. I’m ensuring their needs are met so they can then fulfill the needs of their clients. 

No Do-Overs

A key way we execute projects for our country managers is through a constant check-in process where we validate our alignment. We don’t enforce IT projects on them. We tell them what we’re thinking of doing, and then see if it’s in line with their expectations. If we’re not building what they need, they can’t do their job of delivering to their clients.

Don’t build something no one wants. Listen to your client… and keep listening.

I’m able to deliver these results because of our use of Cisco solutions. Our partnership with Cisco predates my time here. In fact, we’ve been with Cisco for 25 years. We’ve continued to partner with Cisco for so long because they continue to be the market leader in networking, but also because of what they’ve enabled us to do around speed, security, and mobilising our workforce. 

Moving Mountains

Moving an entire office from one location to another is no small feat. Typically, IT is the last to be told. 

Due to the time crunch, we have to deliver temporary solutions because we can’t get permanent ones in fast enough. Temporary solutions, as the name suggests, don’t last. On top of that, they end up creating more work because I’m replacing the old system and installing a new, temporary one. But we don’t have time to wait three or four months for service providers to deliver circuits. We went to Cisco and told them what our process looked like and they recommended Cisco Meraki. With Meraki, we went from taking a month to design a network and another month to deploy it, down to a few days for design and deployment.

Temporary solutions = quick win, long-term cost. It will rarely save you time in the end.

Freeing up those resources gives my team more time to work on other projects. For me personally, using Meraki means I don’t get pulled into some of the escalations we have with service providers. It should be a straightforward task, and now, it is. Meraki was a game changer in simplifying our network and delivering our office moves.

We work with Cisco because not only do they deliver the best solution for our customers, but also because they’re flexible whenever a product is not working correctly for our needs. It’s important to find a vendor that will give you the flexibility you need to deliver to your clients. Out-of-the-box solutions will never be a perfect fit for anyone.

Under the Umbrella

Last October, we embarked on our total mobility journey—a pillar of this was next gen networking and security. It’s a three-year program, which will take us to user-centric computing. We’ve been using Cisco Umbrella to accelerate this project. The main ethos around total mobility is enabling employees to work from anywhere and on any device. For Dimension Data, it's about building a digital-ready infrastructure and improving our IT services, but also turning what we do into an example for our business as to what’s possible. This means country managers know it’s a good product that they can recommend to their clients. Doing projects for ourselves means we can perfect the process before implementing them for anyone else. 

On top of that, it has been a dream for our engineers to work with. I talked to my engineers and asked how they like Cisco Umbrella. One of them is Australian and he doesn’t mince his words. He simply said, “It’s awesome. It’s probably one of the best products they’ve developed.”

Cisco Umbrella is also one of the best products developed from a security perspective. Umbrella has kept us safe in a climate where malware is a constant threat to our whole workforce. As hard as we worked to patch our environments and lock down files, we were still lacking visibility. What Umbrella has given us is a more approachable, intuitive insight into the next generation threats that are out there. 

The next generation of IT threats are out there. Find a system to give yourself full visibility. @CiscoSecurity

Cisco Umbrella also allows us to move faster. A few years ago, we acquired a company called NextiraOne. They were the same size as our European business, meaning we took on around 2,000 new users and integrated them with our existing team. This was a huge undertaking, effectively doubling our workforce instantly. That job fell to my team to integrate the environment. It took two years to fully integrate the infrastructure; if I had Umbrella back then, we would have had visibility of the external network in a matter of weeks. 

Calculated Speed

Looking at how fast we move at Dimension Data, I originally thought I’d only be here for three years. I assumed I’d burn out. But 11 years later, what’s kept me going is the culture. We aren’t moving quickly in a reckless manner—it’s calculated. We’re executing because we understand that shortcuts aren’t very short. We invest the time where we need to, plan our projects, and check in to make sure everything is on track and meeting expectations. 

It’s what our customers have come to expect of us. But it’s also what we’ve come to expect of ourselves.