Gijima Holdings (Pty) Ltd: Adapting to customer needs

For many businesses, the prospect of coming to terms with the fast-changing realm of technology and challenging business landscape is a daunting prospect. The question most businesses need to answer is not “How can technology fit to my business?” but “How can I solve my problem?”

GijimaIt is absolutely paramount for technology solution providers (ICT companies) to understand their customers, their industries and the challenges each faces – and to then come up with suggestions or solutions specific to their needs.

This is the fast-emerging approach that Gijima is adopting, as the Johannesburg-based business adapts to changing customer needs and behaviour.

Gijima is a leading, JSE-listed South African Information and Communications Technology (ICT) services group serving a wide range of industries and supporting over a million devices.

Gijima was formed following the merger of The Gijima Group – founded by entrepreneur Robert Gumede in 1995 and now known as The Guma Group – and the JSE-listed AST Group (listed in 1998) to form GijimaAst in 2005. The company later changed its name to Gijima Holdings (Pty) Ltd.

Gijima is the largest black-owned ICT company in South Africa and we serve customers across all market sectors, offering a range of solutions – off-the-shelf and bespoke – and services to implement and integrate with our customers’ existing systems,” says Tony De Sousa, Chief Client Officer: New Business and Products.

Our raison d’être is to help companies build, deploy and manage IT solutions,” states De Sousa. “For example, we have a strong SAP practice that we have taken a step further by helping customers to learn, implement and adapt SAP software. We now operate the largest SAP support hub in Africa,” he continues.

SAP is one of several core partners that Gijima works closely with, providing their diverse client base – including Government departments, mining companies, construction companies, financial institutions, manufacturers and retailers – with IT solutions that help to optimise their business and deliver operational excellence.

In South Africa we have a number of significant clients, including some of the major financial institutions, who operate in all areas of the country. In order to adequately support our customers we have a presence in 82 locations around the country.

We expect the next year will be pretty tough and that organisations will be more conservative with their spending. The key is to ensure that everything we do enables our customers to achieve their business objectives – be that growing market share, entering new markets or optimising existing business processes that contribute to reduction of operational costs.”

This may not necessarily be a bad thing for Gijima, as businesses may focus more on IT solutions that can help reduce costs while delivering a measurable return on investment, as De Sousa describes:

We not only deliver solutions but actively look at ways to add value, whether that provides a short-term return for the customer or a longer-term one, through the introduction say of an ERP system or optimised network or helping organisations embrace new technologies such at cloud computing, mobility or social media.”

De Sousa believes that the big potential across Africa is going to be mobile technology – and with over one billion mobile phones already in use, it is arguable that the revolution is already taking place:

The mobile phone is hugely significant in Africa, where poverty means that people can’t always afford a laptop or broadband but do own a mobile phone. The mobile phone is, in many ways, the “computer for Africa” and there are twice as many in use here as North America. This means that companies and governments are being forced to leverage this proliferation of mobile devices leading to them redefining their business models and the manner in which they interact with their customers or constituents.

One of the most exciting developments in the last 18 months was Gijima’s launch of Africa’s first mobile IT platform to manage mobile applications, mobile devices and mobile users. Ovum have analysed our technology and highlighted it as one to watch by placing it on their “On The Radar” list.

Three key factors in Gijima’s success (the company has annual turnover in the region of R2.56 billion), are understanding clients and their changing needs, its people and its partners. The company employs over 2,500 staff, including 700 client-facing engineers and a large team working in a support centre in Johannesburg.

De Sousa says that skills include all aspects of mobility, data centre infrastructure, networking, storage, virtualisation, cloud computing, ERP solutions,  outsourcing, support if all aspects of IT, but what is absolutely crucial is a deep knowledge of the company’s Tier 1 Partner products:

Keeping up to speed with technology changes remains a constant challenge – we have over 40 partners and these are broken down into three tiers. The Tier 1 companies work with our marketing and sales people and will identify solutions to customer challenges, which gives us a breadth of partners to discuss problems with, and present solutions to our customers’ specific needs.

Our sales teams and engineers have to be certified in our partners’ technologies and our 8 strategic Tier 1 partners – Apple, BMC Software, Cisco, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP – all work with us on an on-going basis on customer solutions and, crucially, training our staff.

Apple is a very exciting prospect at present, as they are only now making inroads into the enterprise market having historically focused on the consumer market. Gijima is currently the only authorised enterprise system integrator for Apple in Africa.”

As a strategic partner to Gijima for a number of years, HP plays a central role in the converged infrastructure solutions around data centre, networking and managed work place offerings Gijima provides to customers. The Gauteng Freeway improvement Project IT infrastructure layer was provided by Gijima based on HP technology and as a long time Gold specialist partner Gijima is one of the most certified HP partners in EMEA.

With Oracle, we are developing a solution for Government’s major land ownership project, whilst with SAP, we have collaborated over the past 2 years to develop an agency refinery solution.

Another example benefiting South African customers is our relationship with BMC, who are working closely with us on Cloud computing solutions. Cloud is gaining more ground but still requires a lot of customer engagement to articulate how it can apply and benefit their business.

Our customers’ environments and business models are changing meaning, in dealing with the business community rather than just the IT department, we have to adapt to ensure we deliver the right technology with the right added value.

Purchasing patterns are changing and moving more towards pay-as-you-use. That suits more customers and the I think the introduction of Cloud will result in big changes in how companies operate many of their systems and their IT spending patterns.

For the next year, our focus is going to be on the reduced number of “go-to-market” offerings – what we call service assets. We have reduced these from 11 to 5 in order to concentrate more on the things that we do very well.

Over the past 18 months we have invested heavily in training and certification with the likes of Cisco, HP, Microsoft and SAP, and we now operate laboratories where we can work with partners and test their new solutions before we take them to market.

We also work with customers on new solutions like an airport simulator we have created for the Government and Airports Company of South Africa.

We want to become a lot more intimate with our customers. We want to be a technology company that understands the needs of our clients and their industry, and delivers innovative solutions to their problems.

We want to be customer-centric rather than technology driven,” he concludes.