When I ask about her experiences in the male-dominated tech sector, Mechelle Buys du Plessis laughs. “We just can’t balance that boardroom, can we!” she says. Buys du Plessis is Managing Director of Dimension Data, Middle East. She has spent 22 years at the global IT services company, working in diverse areas such as marketing, client services and sales management. She became Managing Director in 2015; in this role she ensures Dimension Data remains an equal opportunities employer.
“We need to make sure that we’re attracting and retaining the best skill and to do that we need to make sure that we’re providing equal opportunities to the best of the best,” Buys du Plessis tells me. “To me, gender doesn’t have a part to play when there is a global IT skills shortfall.”
Maintaining talent is important to Buys du Plessis. Dimension Data has a strong reputation to uphold - the company has been providing IT solutions and services since 1983. Buys du Plessis began in 1994, and can remember Dimension Data’s humble South African roots. “Dimension Data was a young company at the time, and we were going through changes in our country [Nelson Mandela became the first black South African president in 1994],” she said. Today, Dimension Data has 31,000 employees, 75 percent Fortune 100 clients; 59.6 percent Fortune 500 clients and a 58-country coverage. In 2015, it received over 100 client, vendor and industry awards and over 50 in the first half of 2016.
What services does Buys Du Plessis oversee? “Dimension Data focuses on four high level areas: digital infrastructure, hybrid cloud, workspaces of tomorrow and cyber security,” she says. “IT-as-a-service is growing across those four pillars…we look at everything from cloud advisory services that help our clients deliver against a clear roadmap, to delivering off premise, or public cloud services; on premise cloud solutions and hybrid cloud solutions’.”
Many clients come to Dimension Data for its cloud services for Microsoft and cloud services for SAP. Microsoft technologies form the core building blocks of Dimension Data clients’ productivity and unified communications and collaboration (UCC) strategies. The companies cloud services for Microsoft focus on reducing cost in achieving this strategy. Likewise, with Dimension Data’s cloud services for SAP, cost control is achieved. All this is provided on a fit for purpose SAP HANA certified public, private and hybrid cloud solution, backed by certified SAP support teams.
Buys du Plessis continues to add to Dimension Data’s service pool. “We offer a OneCloud partner programme, IT outsourcing, consulting and professional services, managed services, managed services for data centres and support services,” she expands.
“Our solutions centre around big data, client computing, cloud, data centres, data centre management & automation and data centre optimisation. This is a very big area for us,” Buy du Plessis says, pausing for breath. “Quite a large spread, it might sound very confusing. It’s not. We basically work with our clients from a consulting engagement, all the way to managing the IT operation on behalf of our client.” Finally, she makes sure to note networking and security, Dimension Data’s original domain.
We ask how security services have developed since the early days. “Security is and always will be big business,” Buy du Plessis explains. “Big dollar figures are quoted in terms of what cyber security is doing to the world.”
“Globally, and in the Middle East, security is enabling digitisation. If you look at fintech or technology businesses, they are leading this charge, and we see this in the Middle East as well. Many of these businesses are asset light, whilst ensuring secure transactions, so we think that security expands beyond the physical perimeter into the cloud environment.”
This benefits businesses; it enables them to have quick deployments across multiple cloud platforms. This process is especially relevant to contemporary Middle Eastern businesses, where according to Buy du Plessis, a large amount of rightsizing, downsizing and mergers and acquisitions take place. She tells us that the Middle East is “very visionary, very innovative…going out there and pushing the internet of things”.
Buy du Pleiss explains how cloud technology contributes to this progressive sector. “We love cloud technology,” she laughs. “We’ve basically acknowledged that for most of our clients there’s going to be both cloud and non-cloud components, but with cloud playing a very strong role. Dimension Data has invested a significant amount of money in our capability over the past five to six years. The strategy is two-fold - one side is for our own organisation to make sure that we are agile enough to serve our clients best, the second is to build the cloud into the centre of everything we do with our clients.”
Two years ago, Dimension Data partnered with ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation) to establish new ways to engage global Tour de France fans. With cloud at the core of our solution, Dimension Data has revolutionised the viewing experience by transforming the way race data is analysed and delivered to the cycling community, which includes fans, the media, the teams and the experts. Dimension Data plans to build on that innovation for every year of its involvement in the Tour, powered by cloud infrastructure.
“As much as it’s a privilege to manage such a successful business, there are things that keep me awake at night. I take personal responsibility for our exceptional employees, and our clients are at the top of my mind all the time,” Buy Du Plessis admits. However, she’s proud of Dimension Data’s growth during the 22 years she’s worked there. Ultimately, the challenges are worthwhile. “My first love has always been technology and how it changes business…how it changes life. I wake up every morning thinking that it’s a hell of a privilege to manage a business with products and solutions that change lives.”