The path to transformation

On a recent visit to Dubai, we had the opportunity to catch up with Alan Turnley-Jones, CEO of Dimension Data Middle East and Africa, and Burcak Soydan, Managing Executive for the Middle East. We discussed the ongoing transformation and rebranding of the global system integrator.

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What has brought you here?

Alan: We made a leadership change in this region at the beginning of October last year. So, part of my mandate from a Middle East and Africa perspective is to ensure we support Burshak and his team. This is certainly an important region for us.

Are you retaining the Dimension Data brand?

Alan: We will be retiring the Dimension Data brand at the end of March across the whole Middle East and Africa region and adopting the NTT Data brand. So, you’re aware that when NTT Limited was formed in 2019, we kept the Dimension Data brand in this region. But now, with the coming together of NTT Limited and NTT Data globally, we felt it was the right time to rebrand. We’re very excited as this gives us access not just to a rebrand but also to a whole lot of new capabilities.

When you look at Dimension Data, we are quite a horizontal system integrator with a great depth of experience in the infrastructure space. NTT Data brings many application capabilities to the table and, importantly, some very strong industry vertical capabilities. So, we will continue with that system integrator approach, but now we can layer on the application stack and the vertical stacks, whether it be financial services, oil and gas, or retail, with many capabilities. We’ve worked extensively in those areas.

What kind of opportunities do you see in this region?

Burcak: The opportunity lies in how we currently position ourselves in the market. Presently, our offering likely represents only about 20% of our global portfolio, considering the formation of the new company. The remaining 80% presents a significant opportunity for us, as we have yet to introduce these offerings to the market. Alan mentioned some of these opportunities, such as industry-specific solutions. Our current portfolio in the region leans towards technology and infrastructure, but we will expand into the application space, as well as the data and AI domains. This broader scope will align us more closely with our global presence and allow us to fully represent our capabilities in the market.

Moreover, we have the advantage of a rapidly growing market in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, where we are witnessing double-digit growth, even with only 20% of our portfolio. With the introduction of the rest of our portfolio into these regions, we anticipate further growth.

To support this expansion, we are ramping up our human capital, with more than 30 open positions specifically addressing these core areas.

Do you plan to set up a data center in the region?

Alan: So, if we’re discussing physical data centers, we’re currently exploring options worldwide. We’re the third-largest data center provider globally. Therefore, from the perspective of this region, we are assessing what would be most suitable. We already have a NOC and SOC in the region.

The concept of dark NOCs is gaining momentum in the region. Is this something you are contemplating?

Alan: We prefix many of our managed services with a platform-delivered service, leveraging AIOps in our operations. This approach aims to alleviate workloads by utilizing technology. While the concept of dark NOCs and SOCs facilitates this, a human element will always be required. For instance, if you consider our NOCs and SOCs in Saudi Arabia, we extensively utilize such platforms but also have personnel present. Similarly, we have such facilities scattered around the world as part of our global delivery, which complements both technology and human resources.

 

Burcak: Globally, NTT Data spends about $3.5 billion on R&D. Due to this investment, we’re building platforms like Spektra, focused on network management, where we infuse more AIOps and AI into how networks are managed. Now, with all of this transformation, we can offer these services in the region as well. This complements what we were already doing.

What is your cloud strategy?

Alan: Across NTT globally, cloud is an important part of our portfolio, both from the perspective of applications and consulting with clients about their cloud strategies. We aim to demystify some of the hype surrounding cloud technology. We provide implementation and managed services, primarily in the application space, and work closely with our cloud providers. One example is SAP, where we perform cloud migrations from on-premises environments to private or public cloud environments, along with the required modernization activities. Cloud is core to our value proposition, and we have partnered with industry leaders such as AWS, Microsoft, and Google Cloud.

How about AI?

Alan: We’ve home-grown capabilities around AI in the Middle East and Africa region. What we’ve observed from NTT is an increase in the number of AI use cases. These include use cases that can be implemented in a client’s infrastructure and application environment and finding ways to introduce new efficiencies and reduce costs throughout the process. We have expertise in this area, and we’re seeing it become more prominent, especially in the industry verticals I mentioned.

Which other emerging technologies are you excited about?

Alan: We’re heavily involved in edge computing, which includes embracing the concept of Private 5G. If you examine some of the solutions we’ve developed, not only locally but also referring to reference cases in other parts of the world, you’ll notice a significant use of edge devices. For instance, some motor manufacturers have transitioned from Wi-Fi to private 5G, improving efficiencies. This trend is gaining prominence, tailored specifically to each industry’s needs.

I believe the crucial aspect here is taking the concepts of Private 5G, AI, and edge as a service and making them relevant, whether in manufacturing, retail, or other sectors. It’s an exciting area for us, as it allows us to innovate and adapt to the unique requirements of each industry.

We’re also observing the shift towards managed services in this market. Many clients approach us for managed services, which frees up a lot of their time to focus more on the business aspects. Another crucial element is application modernization within the context of cloud. Clients are grappling with traditional on-premises applications that have been built in a legacy manner; you can’t just lift and shift them onto cloud environments. Replatforming is often required. As part of our application business, we extensively engage in this process.

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