Dimension Data held their analyst day in Boston this week. Six months past the acquisition of Dimension Data by NTT, the day was a blend of catching up on Dimension Data, results of the NTT acquisition, and initiatives in the industry trends of the day – most appropriately, cloud, for example, but thankfully not overhyped.
The event refreshed the feeling that I had about Dimension Data, first fostered several years back, that they are a different type of systems integrator. What I mean by that is they act like a company that develops and deploys their own products, even though they sell, integrate, and implement solutions from other vendors; most notably Cisco and Microsoft. They have their own test labs for those products, extensively use and test them – and push the limits of them – internally as well. Two years ago I talked a lot about Dimension Data’s use of UC, throughout their organization; particularly IM, presence and video, and this has only gotten stronger since then.
It was clear from presentations, but more so from talking in breakouts and at dinner that they extensively use what they sell. More importantly, the company does what real systems integrators do best – take all of that experience and get competing vendors, like Cisco and Microsoft’s products to work together. If you are a shop that has a Cisco network, for example, and a heavy investment in Microsoft, and want to deploy UC? Dimension won’t play favorites. They will figure out which of those two options will best suit your business and make it work for you.
Didata has implemented these solutions on an impressive scale. For example, Didata does most of the big TelePresence implementations for Cisco, having deployed over 350 of the big TelePresence rooms since the product was introduced. In addition, they have deployed more than three million Exchange seats (one third of them in the cloud), and one million OCS seats (including some Lync seats), as well. These were just a few of the statistics we saw at the event, that in total were quite notable.
As for the NTT acquisition, which was three years in the making; I have to say that as an analyst that loves to watch the results of the myriad mergers in the communication space over the years, this one is solid. The two companies now cross sell each other’s products, work on joint solutions to enhance their portfolios, and have focused on how to use each company’s strengths to run things better operationally. For example, they are working on how to start offering clients a seamless end to end service; being able to take a trouble ticket and following it through the whole process.
Both companies were concerned that the acquisition would be a value-added one, with minimal impact on partners, particularly carrier partners, and so they strove to prove to their partners that they would continue to do business as they did before. Both companies wanted to be clear and proactive in their communications with their service provider partners, and this thought was mirrored in the comments made by the two customers Didata had on the customer panel during the event.
The customer panel had three participants; one from Kabel Deutschland and two from Global Crossing. Global Crossing said that they know that Didata has gone through changes, but they don’t have any concerns on their side, that it is business as usual. Kabel said that NTT is such a big player in the market that this isn’t the first time they have been touched by NTT, so they are fine with this.
The panelists had some specific comments on their relationship with Didata. For example, one of the participants from Global Crossing said the three words that come to mind when thinking about Didata are reliability, credibility, and honesty. He said that it is easy to work with them t, no matter what solution is being implemented. For example, they rarely go to Cisco TAC instead of Dimension Data. They don’t have to. He said that they can open a trouble ticket with Dimension Data, and this includes anyone from tech to admin at any level. He said that one of the key issues for Global Crossing is that they just want to open up a ticket, get the information and move on, so one of the biggest things about the relationship with Didata is the tech support availability.
Another person said that they can call in with a question, not have a part number of contract number, and Didata will work with them, and not just ask for a credit card number to bill for a call. In essence, they are really easy to work with.
What makes Dimension Data different, and also has helped the merger work? It’s the culture and people. Although I’m sure they didn’t steal the phrase “great place to work” from the now defunct, ROLM, playbook (GPW as it was called was an essential theme at ROLM), Dimension Data uses that phrase in the same way. Their culture is around making Dimension Data a great place to work, and employee surveys play that out, particularly in the Americas. The attrition rate before and after the NTT deal was very low, and Didata is continually striving to keep it that way.
I know it sounds like I’m crowing about Didata, but in my three years or so with working with them, I’ve found nothing that speaks differently to the sentiment within this blog. If I had three things to say about them it would be GPW, easy to work with, and talented. Finally, I second the thought that Blair had in her summary of the event, in that this was one analyst conference where my BS meter did not go off either.