Case study: How Dimension Data is reaping the benefits of BYOD

Dimension Data Australia has had a BYOD scheme running for two-and-a-half years and has been reaping the benefits of increased flexibility around the workplace.
Written by Spandas Lui, Contributor

There are many organisations looking to jump onto the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) bandwagon, and perhaps they should take some advice from Dimension Data, a company that has made great strides in its BYOD scheme.

Founded and headquartered in South Africa, the IT services provider has over 14,000 employees around the world, with branch offices from Australia to Brazil.

Ian Jansen
Dimension Data Australia CIO Ian Jansen. (Credit: Dimension Data)

Ian Jansen is the CIO of Dimension Data’s operations in Australia. He kickstarted Dimension Data’s BYOD journey two-and-a-half years ago and has not looked back since. Coming from a business background, as opposed to an IT background, he was keen to present a business case for a BYOD scheme at the beginning of journey.

"I thought it would be easy, but when I sat down and thought about this, it was much harder,” he said. “Of course I’m going to say there are financial benefits because we don’t have to buy computing devices for staff, but our risk will go up, our support complexities will go up, and so on.”

"But in reality, all it comes down to for me is: BYOD is the only way I can keep up with mobility."

He noted that the frequency of people moving between devices has increased, not to mention the number of devices they are carrying.

"In our business, the average number of devices per person is around 2.9," Jansen said. "Fragmentation of devices will continue."

Dimension Data currently has over 600 workers at its office at The Rocks, Sydney, with 100 additional workers coming in every year. Despite the fact the office is at full capacity, the company doesn’t want to move to a bigger premises, partly because of the heritage-listed Belgian Bier Cafe is right next door.

Not to mention the cost and disruption of moving staff over to a new place would be prohibitive, according to Jansen, the new office fit-out cost, infrastructure cost, and interruption to working hours are just a few reasons why Dimension Data will be staying put at The Rocks.

Mobility has become a crucial part of making the full office working space sustainable. Hot-desking has become a popular option for Dimension Data staff.

It was the best money we've ever spent on in our business.

"The ability for people to come in and out of the office very quickly is becoming more relevant to our business," Jansen said. "In fact, we have a number of internal IT projects we are running in order to make sure we make do with the space we have."

BYOD is a key part of the whole flexible work environment philosophy for Dimension Data and the first thing Jansen did to get the initiative started was to create a BYOD policy. It was something that he thought would be a quick and easy process, but quickly evolved into something that required a lot of work.

"I'll be the first to admit I went home on a Friday, opened up a bottle of red wine, sat down in front of the computer, and thought 'how hard could it be? I'll have it done by Monday'," he said.

But by Monday, he had walked back to the office empty handed and decided to think through his BYOD approach again.

He decided to post the BYOD policy bit-by-bit on the Dimension Data intranet so staff would have an opportunity to have their say and provide suggestions. People were actually paying attention to this would-be policy.

"I quickly realised how passionate they were about this, and it was something that touched them," Jansen said. "Of course, it was an absolute pain in the bum to sit back and write up the policy based on everybody’s input."

With a BYOD policy in place, which is reviewed on a quarterly basis, Dimension Data proceeded to rollout a Citrix infrastructure inside the business to facilitate the delivery of virtual applications onto personal mobile devices.

"It was the best money we've ever spent on in our business," Jansen said. "What it gave me was a delineation point around where certain elements of IT support would start and end."

For staff that did do BYOD, support from Dimension Data's internal IT team can start as soon as they logged into Citrix. Users also needed to register their personal devices through Dimension Data's mobile device management platform (MDM). The company also adopted Cisco collaboration tools for sharing files between work desktops and mobile devices.

One component of the BYOD policy Jansen was most happy with was to not place restriction on which device workers can bring into the company. Instead, there is only a minimum requirement that devices have to meet.

"It was more luck than wisdom--I didn't think it would be so important," he said. "I have extricated myself from a lot of passionate arguments about some new device that comes out."

While staff have been trusted to integrate their own devices into the business, from February 2013, no device will be able to connect to the Dimension Data network unless granted approval by the IT department.

We're not looking at apps from the perspective of a person sitting on their bum all day in the office.

BYOD has also changed the way Jansen acquires applications into the Dimension Data business.

"We now look at apps from a mobility first perspective--from somebody using a mobile device in the field," he said. "We're not looking at apps from the perspective of a person sitting on their bum all day in the office."

The next phase of Dimension Data's BYOD journey will involve connecting all the mobile devices with the data at the back-end of the business.

"That's when it gets sexy," Jansen said.

Jansen is looking to implement a number of different mobile applications that will aid in faster contract fee collection for the finance department to an easy engineer timesheet tracker.

"We're going to be able to do things we couldn't do before," he said. "Some of the value I'm going to drive in that space is going to be absolutely outstanding."

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