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As the associate director – digital customer channels at Datacom based in Auckland, Ben Dakers spends his days enabling Datacom’s customers to better serve their own customers.
This customer-centric approach to using technology is the major change that the IT industry has gone through in the past 15 years, says Dakers, and it has changed the face of Datacom too.
“Datacom was a much smaller and different company in 2001 when I joined,” he says.
Big IT projects were the focus, and computers and server infrastructure were a bigger component of the business. Now the move to the cloud has allowed customers big and small to reduce their need to manage infrastructure and instead focus on solving their customer needs.
We see a lot of great vision in organisations, but they often struggle a lot on the execution. It is trying to break it down into small enough chunks so that they can find a meaningful way forward. That’s what we can help them with.
“The real battleground out there for everybody is the customer experience,” says Ben.
“We see a lot of great vision in organisations, but they often struggle a lot on the execution. It is trying to break it down into small enough chunks so that they can find a meaningful way forward. That’s what we can help them with.”
His stint in the UK included roles at the likes of Accenture, TalkTalk and Redstone, and culminated in him overseeing a digital workplace and collaborative project that saw 160,000 members of staff at Sainsbury’s, the UK's second-largest retailer, moved to Office 365 and Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.
The scale of those UK organisations, and their early embrace of the cloud and Agile methodologies, made the work interesting and challenging.
But he is enjoying the more ‘generalist’ skill set that’s integral to the job now that he’s back home.
“We are expected to take a wider view of it all and make a difference in a lot more areas,” he says.
“That’s an aspect of New Zealand culture as well, but something I really liked about coming back.”
Throughout this pandemic, I’ve managed to see my daughter take her first step, which was a pretty good outcome from what was a pretty challenging situation.
COVID-19 has “flicked the switch overnight” on digital transformation for many companies, says Ben.
“It was Winston Churchill who said, 'don’t let a good crisis go to waste.' It’s got everyone even more focused now on what makes the difference.”
Ben was particularly enjoying his involvement in Datacomp, the company’s annual hackathon which gathers multi-disciplinary teams together to tackle customers’ problems.
“It’s not just about technology. The best teams have got marketers, project managers, data people and designers,” he says.
Ben’s role as a business mentor in Datacomp helps to make sure the business outcomes of each team are well-established and understood by everyone. The programme continues to evolve, with Datacom hosting a value hack, or virtual hackathon, for Southern Cross Healthcare before COVID-19 affected New Zealand.
“In 24 hours, they managed to pitch a product to the judges that was actually working and solved a problem that was very relevant to our current climate as it was all about safety at work.”
Ben's educational journey is also coming full circle. He's currently studying a Master of Advanced Leadership Practice (MALP) degree at Massey University where he completed his undergraduate International Business Management degree over 20 years ago.
He’s enjoying getting back to Queenstown for snowboarding trips after years spent on the slopes of Europe and, with a one-year-old daughter, he is learning to manage transformation at home as well as at work.
“Throughout this pandemic, I’ve managed to see my daughter take her first step, which was a pretty good outcome from what was a pretty challenging situation."