Ignition fires up better IT monitoring for less

Read time 3min 50sec

Posted by: Kenneth Dolbey, New Business Development, Sourcing EMEA

Arguably one of South Africa’s best success stories when it comes to business growth, and the IT monitoring that supports it, is Ignition Group. This locally based data, technology and customer experience organisation, delivering leads and conversions for business-to-business partners, has grown strongly in the US and UK markets, making it an around-the-clock organisation. One of its divisions — a South African telco platform with close to a million subscribers — enables mobile consumers to buy bundles, top up balances and fulfil their mobile usage needs. Ignition also has a short- and long-term insurance business as well as a payment platform in its diversified stable.


With all this international growth, and with demanding customers to serve in real time, the pressure to keep critical systems online is enormous. Any downtime equals lost revenue and credibility for Ignition’s customers, so Ignition’s own revenues are dependent on keeping its customers’ businesses up and running at all times. Its own insurance and payment businesses also can’t function without 100% system uptime.

Says Russell Stather, Ignition’s chief digital transformation officer: “Our customer engagement business runs on a risk basis. We only get paid for the sales conversions we complete for our customers, and US customers are especially strict about the SLAs. Delivering them the right number of sales conversions through our night-time means our employees must be connected to their tools. If we miss those SLAs, they can pull the contract.”

Ignition vetted many options and found that the standard market offerings were fine — if your company runs standard software platforms

On the telco side, during any 10-minute period, 500-600 customers are depleting their data balances. Ignition’s systems tell consumers this has happened so that they can buy more data, but also to fulfil regulatory compliance requirements. “If we don’t do that, our customers lose data, and we may also be fined by the regulator if we offend repeatedly. Consumers get charged premium out-of-bundle rates unfairly if they aren’t warned that their balances are depleted.”

Stather says that Ignition traditionally developed and maintained its own delivery organisation to try and ensure maximum uptime. “We monitored our own systems with a substantial delivery team, yet we still often found the first sign of a system going down was a phone call from the CEO telling me our website was down — or worse — our customers letting us know our network was down. This simply isn’t acceptable when you’re supplying 24/7 business-critical solutions, so we started to look around for alternative options.”


Ignition vetted many options and found that the standard market offerings were fine — if your company runs standard software platforms. “We have a substantial development team that builds our applications. If you have bespoke software — especially in the cloud — standard IT monitoring solutions struggle to cope.”

Ignition engaged with other companies to try and do the monitoring as well, but its IT estate is complex, and the company felt other vendors didn’t really engage thoroughly to understand its IT stack or business needs. “That’s why we got on so well with the guys at Sourcing — they looked at our business, not just our estate, and came up with a very sensible commercial offering that works for both sides,” says Stather.

Ignition found a natural partner in Sourcing, which had built its own monitoring solutions and continues to develop them on an ongoing basis. “Within just two or three months, most of our IT estate was being monitored — Sourcing even customised the probes to monitor our custom applications.”


“Because the people at Sourcing got close to our business and spent a lot of time understanding what we are doing, by the time we signed up there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that it was going to be a success from day one. This was about very much more than the technology — it was the people and the implementation team that made sure it was a success,” says Stather.

To hear Stather tell it, Ignition’s monitoring world was completely transformed by the change of monitoring strategy. People’s phones ring from Sourcing’s system alerts now, rather than customers telling Ignition its systems are down. “Alerts always come to the right people, it’s all very clear and all the contact we have with the alerts team is timely and efficient. Together, we achieved all of this in three months, and went into full production in mid-2021, despite the turbulence created by the pandemic. In fact, we’re often the first to give our customers notice of third parties, like their offshore telcos, going down. It’s really grown our credibility with our international customers.

Instead of growing costs, we have a service that’s 10 times more effective at the same cost as an office hours-only in-house support team

Andrew Turnbull, MD of Sourcing, says what really makes the Ignition relationship work is not products or software, but people. “It’s about skills, service and flexibility, not the tools. It’s the operational service side that makes this work. Even the most expensive toolkit doesn’t make a Formula 1 mechanic,” he quips.

Stather confirms that total cost of ownership has improved substantially compared to monitoring in-house. He says that 24/7 support using its own staff would have required Ignition to triple the number of support employees. Ignition’s longstanding ambition to outsource certain technology functions also now stands a better chance of succeeding. “It was going to be an impossible task without monitoring and alerts — but we can now work towards getting an outsourced IT function in place. Instead of growing costs, we have a service that’s 10 times more effective at the same cost as an office hours-only in-house support team. We really have seen improvement across the board,” Stather concludes.

About Ignition Group
Ignition Group is one of Africa’s largest providers of technology, media, telecommunication and financial services, and is built around a powerful purpose — to make life better through innovative technology.

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