Dimension Data East Africa: Embracing the skills of those born in the cloud

How to mitigate the risk of the massive brain drain that has become a perennial problem in Africa is something that keeps many business and technology leaders up at night. Investing in skills development just to see talent moving abroad is not only frustrating but also costly.

“Organisations across East Africa have embraced the cloud to help drive business growth. They are spending time and money training people and giving them exposure to new technologies and platforms. But because of the global demand for these skills, many are leaving Africa to pursue work in the United States and Europe,” says Andrew Ngunjiri, Practice Manager: Intelligent Infrastructure at Dimension Data East Africa.

Training differently

Those legacy organisations who used to model their businesses around the ‘I build, I own, I run’ approach have realised this is no longer sustainable. More hubs have sprung up that provide young people with access to coding and DevOps skills. In many respects, this is creating a mill for talent seeking their fortunes elsewhere. This exodus is now fuelled by companies refocusing the areas in which they are upskilling and reskilling talent.

“Discussions have turned to how companies can consciously retain skills locally and incentivise people not to be lured to international markets. As such, there has been a surge in home-grown skills development programmes built around this,” says Ngunjiri.

According to Lee Syse, Senior Cloud Solutions Architect for Sub-Sahara Africa at VMware, it has been interesting to see how the types of skills that are in demand have changed.

“Traditional organisations have spent a lot of time focusing on the build portion of the legacy approach. Typically, this consists of people specialising in any of the infrastructure, networking, and storage pillars. Today, there is less of a focus on these areas of specialisation and more of a demand for generalists. Partners like Dimension Data are focused on leveraging these generalists to manage all aspects of the cloud,” he says.

A generalist world

Ngunjiri questions whether African companies are doing enough to create future technologists who can be generalists. 

“I suppose it depends on where in the value chain the organisation sits. Few companies are involved in the building phase as they can merely leverage the cloud environments that have already been created. We see a demand for transferable skills, with coding being a great example. People learn the ability to code as a fundamental skill. They can then transfer that to work on any cloud platform,” he says.

There is also a convergence taking place inside organisations. They no longer have several specialist teams but rather a central team that is focused on delivering a specific organisational outcome. 

“In the cloud environment, it is no longer about speeds and feeds. Attention is now on how to create a platform that enables businesses to reach their objectives. Companies used to value hardcore technology certifications. Now, those individuals with operational management skills are the most in-demand,” says Ngunjiri. 

More adaptive

Syse agrees and says that this is putting pressure on educational institutions to change as well. 

“Talented people who are going through this transformation process are playing a catch-up game. Those who used to be specialists in one area must now start at a basic level in another area. It can be quite overwhelming to move between these stages of development as there is a lot of training to be done in various areas,” he says.

Syse cites AWS certifications as an example.

“It really comes down to just knowledge-sharing as no person can be a specialist in all the AWS areas available. Companies also need to think differently about certification. It is less about the piece of paper a person has and more about their ability to execute on what is required.”

Ngunjiri echoes this sentiment.

“It is no longer about the piece of paper that shows what a person can do. For a future-forward organisation, it is using people with executable skills who can make things work. Of course, the demand for skills is very much guided by the industry sector in which a person operates in. But people will always gravitate towards where the demand is the highest to identify where to upskill themselves,” says Ngunjiri.

Unfortunately, traditionally-minded business leaders are still too slow around this mindset change. They must be willing to look beyond purely academic knowledge and factor in a person’s practical skills. Fortunately, the new generation coming through is born in the cloud. And with them, a new way of doing things will follow.

Skills development

“Much of it comes down to building skills that can cater to future growth instead of simply buying skills in demand. Today’s skills are so diverse they cannot be shopped off the street. Talent must be brewed internally, which makes those people high in demand,” says Syse.

“And with that, the way organisations retain their most valuable skills will be unique to each of them as they continue to fight the war against the brain drain,” concludes Ngunjiri.

www.dimensiondata.com

Vodafone Partners with Oracle to Accelerate Technology Modernization on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure

Oracle and Vodafone, the largest pan-European and African technology communications company announced a strategic partnership to modernize the operator’s European IT infrastructure and accelerate its transition to the cloud.

Under the multi-year agreement, Vodafone will modernize and migrate a large number of its systems to OCI Dedicated Region, a fully managed cloud region that brings all of Oracle’s public cloud services into Vodafone’s own network and data centers. This will provide a dedicated cloud platform for Vodafone to modernize its thousands of Oracle databases as well as to support and scale its mission-critical OSS and BSS systems, including CRM and order management. 

The implementation will also enable Vodafone to build new cloud-based applications faster, and by taking advantage of its geographical scale, launch them in multiple markets at the same time. 

Oracle will deploy OCI Dedicated Regions in Vodafone’s main data centers that manage its European IT and network operations. The deployment of public cloud services directly inside Vodafone’s own network and data centers will enable the operator to flexibly modernize, manage and automate its critical systems using new technologies such as autonomous services, and more easily meet the latency and performance requirements of these applications. 

Vodafone will also have close access to compute resources that enable it to dynamically augment and scale services in multiple geographies according to changing business requirements, while reducing operational costs and meeting data residency regulations.

The partnership supports Vodafone’s multi-year initiative to consolidate and modernize the technology infrastructure that supports its mission-critical systems into a shared, on-premises, open-standard platform capable of supporting and scaling next-generation digital services. It will also help Vodafone further its Tech 2025 goals: reducing time-to-market of its services, providing stand-out customer experiences through always-on services, and reducing operational costs through automation.

“As Vodafone focuses on growth, data is key to how we evolve our business, build new capabilities and innovate to meet the needs of our customers. Our collaboration with Oracle supports our vision of becoming a technology communications company,” said Scott Petty, Chief Digital & IT Officer, Vodafone. “The agreement enables Oracle to bring its entire portfolio of cloud services directly into Vodafone data centers. This includes the same architecture, software, services and control plane used in OCI public cloud. The flexibility offered by OCI enables us to build a robust, secure, and extensible cloud platform in our own data centers, while also providing the operational agility and scalability required to support the growth and diversification of our business.”

“Telecom companies are reimagining their business models to innovate and monetize new opportunities at speed and at scale,” said Clay Magouyrk, executive vice president, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. “Vodafone is at the forefront of this thinking, and we are excited to bring the power of OCI to Vodafone’s data centers to support the company and its partners as they fast-track this vision and deliver the next generation of connected services.” 

“Now more than ever, telecom companies need to quickly adopt new technologies to deliver new innovative products at speed while continuing to meet evolving regulatory requirements. Our partnership with Vodafone is based on achieving this balance, providing a cloud platform that enables Vodafone to modernize and consolidate its existing infrastructure while also building a foundation for a digital future. We are looking forward to partnering with one of the telecom sector’s digital trailblazers as we help shape the next generation of communication services and business models,” said Jonathan Tikochinsky, executive vice president, global strategic clients, Oracle.

www.vodafone.com

www.oracle.com

[Column] Andrew Ngunjiri: The state of the cloud in Africa – A partner’s perspective

The cloud in Africa is undergoing massive transformation and acceleration. There has been a huge uptake in cloud services, especially when it comes to SMEs turning towards hyperscalers. Meanwhile, more prominent organisations and governments have been embracing the private cloud. 

An EY study has highlighted a new wave of investments spreading across Africa centred on companies migrating to the cloud as they look at becoming more efficient while reducing their operational costs. Closer to home, the Kenyan market has always been one of the largest adopters of technology in the region.

Therefore, it is not surprising that there has been a significant interest in cloud services by both the public and private sectors here. Additionally, the public sector and the financial services industry have been vocal about investing in the private cloud to cater to their specific requirements.

This has provided the impetus for many hyperscalers to look at opening operations in Kenya instead of purely relying on their regional offices in South Africa, the United States, and Europe to service the region’s demands for cloud computing services.

 Cloud-enabled

Events of the past two years have made it virtually impossible for people to move around. The cloud has therefore become an essential tool for businesses to survive.

Beyond this, there are three reasons why the cloud has become a critical building block for the region. Firstly, it provides the business agility necessary to remain competitive. Secondly, the cloud helps to address any security and compliance concerns resulting from a rapidly evolving regulatory environment. And thirdly, the cloud injects a level of performance and operational efficiency not previously possible.

Even though public and private cloud models provide benefits, we anticipate the hybrid cloud model to win the race for massive adoption. We are already seeing hybrid becoming the natural progression of cloud adoption in the region, with many organisations and governments opting for this model. 

It comes down to a simple matter of practicality. When one looks at the cloud, applications are a massive driver behind its adoption. However, not every application is optimised for the cloud. This means companies must carefully review which ones make sense to move to the cloud and which ones must be kept on-premises.

Another factor impacting the decision to move to hybrid is the strong drive towards compliance, especially data protection. There has been a massive push in Kenya regarding this, with significant investments being made to ensure companies adhere to regulatory requirements. Having already invested in the private cloud, going hybrid means businesses can leverage shared services and infrastructure far more cost-effectively while maintaining compliance.

Navigating obstacles

This does not mean that companies do not face obstacles when it comes to migrating to the cloud. One of the significant ones relates to adoption and IT transformation. There is a huge challenge when it comes to keeping up with developments in this space. Organisations need to manage shorter development cycles and overcome their concerns around controlling costs and mitigating risks.

Because not all applications are cloud-optimised, going about modernising them can add to the complexity of the migration. There is also a reduction in IT budgets to consider. Across the board, companies in the region are seeing a change in ownership take place when it comes to these budgets, which are now moving from the CIO into the rest of the business. Practically, retaining and attracting the right skills for cloud adoption is an ongoing problem.

Organisations must also be constantly vigilant regarding security and compliance as driven by the various regulatory institutions. Additionally, the infrastructure must meet the performance requirements of a cloud-driven environment. Fortunately, Kenya has seen ongoing investments in infrastructure pay off to mitigate concerns around having access to fast and reliable connectivity.

Another obstacle to consider is how a company can derive the maximum benefit from the data it has at its disposal. With data being the new currency, many businesses need to understand how best to unlock the potential of their data.

Digital building blocks

Putting the building blocks in place for a successful digital transformation plan that can simplify the cloud transition is critical. An organisation needs to have end-to-end service capabilities in place. Discussions around the cloud and digital transformation have all centred on how to enable this service.

Companies also need cloud expertise. Some skills are transferrable, while others are not. A platform approach to discovery, management, and development across multiple technologies forms part of this discussion. It entails balancing between upskilling existing resources and using trusted third parties.

Throughout this, cost optimisation becomes essential if organisations are to be more efficient around their IT spending and reduce the total ownership cost.

Commercial models must become more flexible. The consumption has changed from Capex to Opex. Therefore, business and technology leaders need flexibility both in terms of their mindset and the business’s operational model to fully align to a hybrid cloud model.

 Yet, the cloud has proven its value to the region, and it will only contribute to accelerated efficiencies. But for this to happen, organisations need to be more open and adaptive to change to ensure they can future-proof their operations.

Andrew Ngunjiri is the Practice Manager: Intelligent Infrastructure at Dimension Data East Africa