Dimension Data CTO Offers Perspectives

April 14, 2008
I had the occasion to visit with Dimension Data’s Mark Slaga this morning at that company’s Perspectives event at the Batterymarch Conference Center in Boston.
Slaga, the company’s chief technology officer as well as their chief information officer is certainly someone to chat with if you want to know what’s really going on in the market. You see last week Slaga and his team received a platinum phone from Cisco based on the fact that of the 17 million Cisco IP Phones out there, Dimension Data has deployed 1 million of them worldwide.
Dimension Data is a global IT solutions and systems integration firm, whose 11,000 employees plan, build, support and manage IT infrastructure solutions that help over 6,000 clients achieve their business goals.
According to Slaga, the company grew up on networking and has since moved into converged communications and contact centers, security, and data center technology.
The company maintains a consistent methodology and approach to planning building and supporting their customers IT solutions. The broad experience of thousands of customers has positioned Dimension Data to truly understand how unified communications (UC) is growing and where it’s going.
Slaga explained how VoIP is becoming commoditized, and how Dimension Data views applications such as UC and contact center as differentiators and thus a critically important part of their business.
Slaga’s role as CTO dictates that he spends time with clients and vendors, to listen and to gain an understanding of the market opportunities and challenges they’re facing.
His job as CIO is to take that understanding and make the solutions that he pitches to his customers, work internally at Dimension Data.
Of course, the nature of Dimension Data’s global footprint ensures that they face many of the same challenges that their large customers face.
Among the trends Slaga is seeing, is the continued growth of VoIP. Perhaps more important he sees the opportunity to help confused clients see the light.
As clients adopt applications such as VoIP, UC, instant messaging (IM) they’re starting to see what UC means. Or at least they’re realizing they need to learn more.
Slaga believes that customers are clamoring for information in the following areas: directories and identities tied together across telephony and data; the ability to store and provision them in one place; tying together presence: enriching the information in presence to make it easier for an organization to absorb new forms of communication, such as IM.
That’s where he and his team come in, to help companies develop a UC strategy to transcend multiple organizations, budgets and technologies.
Another trend Slaga sees is the moving of SIP trunking beyond talk to serious consideration. He told me that one-third of Dimension Data’s offices are already taking advantage of SIP trunking and that they’re already saving about 70% primarily due to their ability to rid themselves of expensive PRI trunks.
He also sees this happening in the field. One large Dimension Data customer is looking to network 2,500 home based agents via SIP trunking, minimizing the expense, simplifying billing, and enriching the agents’ experience by making them more a part of the corporate environment.
It’s becoming more and more real, he said.
Slaga also believes that as SIP trunking plays out and people get comfortable outsourcing their trunks, that only then will people accept hosted voice solutions for any sizable large enterprise deployments.
Lastly, Slaga mentioned a developing trend whereby CIOs are grappling with human issues beyond the technology, namely the cultural divide between how people like to communicate, be it via phone, e-mail, and IM. Each group has different communication standards, and CIOs need to manage adoption of these technologies, minimizing user experience challenges.

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