Ian Leslie joined Dangote in the midst of a long-term transformation. The company dates back to the 1970s, when it emerged as a local Nigerian importer trading commodities like sugar, cement, and rice. But in the late-1990s, they pivoted into manufacturing, opening saltworks, sugar refineries, and cement plants.
By the 2010s, the organization was unrecognizable. What was once a small import/export business was now a pan-African manufacturing conglomerate. While Dangote’s sales, marketing, and service teams had matured, one department lagged behind: IT.
People were using Excel and emails to track change requests. Inevitably, messages were going missing and spreadsheet cells were being accidentally deleted. Communication services regularly went down for long stints. Instead of getting mad, employees just shrugged and moved over to personal Gmail and Yahoo accounts. There was an assumption that their IT systems weren’t reliable.
Leslie joined as an IT Business Analyst in the summer of 2013, along with a cohort of other IT professionals. Dangote recruited them with a simple mandate: to fix the IT infrastructure and performance—fast.
Supported by an external consultancy, they launched into a full-scale transformation project. The consultants suggested Dangote introduce BMC Remedy and Leslie agreed to follow their advice. Little did he know that the implementation was destined for failure.
“We were too early in our maturity for the project,” Leslie says, reflecting on the project. “We didn't have a foundation in place to sustain the platform once it became operational.”
Users were confused by the complex user interface. They struggled to log tickets, track resolutions, and find self-service information. On the other side of the desk, engineers fared little better. The convoluted system slowed them down and stopped them from delivering great service.
Ultimately, the transformation stalled and collapsed.
While it was a “tough experience” to work through, Leslie now sees it as a blessing in disguise. It prompted him to go back to basics, fix Dangote’s underlying processes, and set the company on a trajectory for long-term success.
REBUILDING THE FOUNDATION
Leslie inherited a lot of documentation from his IT predecessors—policies, procedures, and processes. Following the failed ITSM platform implementation, he dug into the details. He wasn’t impressed by what he found. Much of the content was outdated—either by industry best practices or the evolution of Dangote.
To drive a sustainable IT transformation, he knew the department needed a strong foundation. That meant overhauling everything.
Collaborating with his team, Leslie rewrote the entire process manual, designing new incident management processes, service request workflows, change management policies, and problem management plans.
With the nuts and bolts in place, he brought in a new ITSM platform—an open-source solution called Spiceworks. For a while, it worked perfectly. But usage grew and more request intakes were added, cracks began to show.
“When we were loading hundreds of tickets a day and thousands per week, the tool started to break down,” he says. “It started to get slow. We’d have to reboot the server a few times to get running. At one point, it crashed and we had to restore a backup. We could see that it had issues with scaling.”
Seeing Spiceworks break down didn’t phase Leslie. He knew the open-source tool was designed for SMEs. With 25,000 employees, including 6,000 knowledge workers, Dangote was firmly in the enterprise category.
“We used Spiceworks as training wheels,” he says. “We used it to get our processes in shape and the team caught up. Once we were satisfied, that's when we started looking at enterprise-level tools.”
NEW TOOLS FOR GROWTH
Although Spiceworks wasn’t robust enough for Dangote in the long term, it provided a proven template. Leslie describes his search for its replacement as like looking for “it’s older brother or sister.” He wanted everything the open source platform offered… and more.
“We needed something a lot more powerful, especially in terms of workflows,” he says. “Change management and approvals were important, too. And we wanted something simple to use with a friendly UI.”
With his criteria identified, Leslie launched into an in-depth procurement process. He devoured Gartner Quadrants and pored over G2 market reports. He tapped industry colleagues, asking for advice and recommendations, and read “a huge range of ‘Top 10’ documents.”
Through his research, one name kept popping up time and time again: Freshservice.
“After having a bunch of demos and different interactions with different teams, Freshworks stood out,” Leslie says. “Their commitment and enthusiasm around the solution itself was great.”
He signed up and began planning the Freshservice implementation.
FROM NOUGHT TO FULLY FUNCTIONAL IN THREE WEEKS
Most of the foundational implementation work was already in place. Leslie had rewritten the process manual and designed a comprehensive service catalog. By shortcutting the design, he was able to condense the implementation to a tight three-week schedule.
● Week one: Environment set up.
● Week two: Workflow migration.
● Week three: Go live.
Leslie says the real work happened during week two. Although he had a service catalog, he’d designed the processes for a simple SME-grade tool. Now he had access to an enterprise-level platform, complete with powerful features and functionality, there was a lot of green space for improvement.
“Some of our processes could scale effectively so we copied them over,” he explains. “Others we decided to redraw to better utilize the Freshservice. It was a matter of going in and customizing, configuring, and migrating each process.”
With a firm foundation and strong support from Freshworks, the implementation was nothing like the ill-fated BMC transformation. Apart from a handful of small snags, the rollout went perfectly.
Following a small-scale test in May 2018, Leslie rolled out the platform to the entire company in June. Dangote had a new ITSM platform capable of supporting them in their next phase of growth.
Reflecting on IT’s service improvements since its launch, Leslie is buoyant: “If I could choose one word to define the change that Freshservice brought into our service management, it would be monumental.”
With carefully designed processes and a powerful platform, Dangote’s average ticket resolution time has tumbled—down 75% compared to 2018. Better yet, Leslie now has access to reams of data for performance analysis. He can see which support desk workers are hitting it out of the park and who needs extra support.
“Seeing ratings from end users has been really enlightening,” he says. “The performance review process has become substantially easier because there's nowhere to hide. The figures are right there. It motivates the whole group to sit up and invest the effort to earn a great score.”
The dramatic improvement in service quality has shifted how Dangote’s IT team is perceived by Dangote’s employees, too. What was once seen as unreliable and inconsistent is now viewed as a dependable partner. Mission accomplished.