WACO Africa looks for technology simplicity in the cloud


WACO Africa is a major player in the southern African construction industry, with subsidiary companies manufacturing and providing scaffolding and formwork products to builders (Form-Scaff and Form-Sure), insulation and industrial painting services (SGB-Cape), pre-fabricated modular buildings (Abacus Space Solutions), and toilet and hygiene systems for events and project sites (Sanitech).


The company was formed in South Africa in 1952 and soon began to spread internationally. A major restructuring in 1990 saw the firm narrow its focus to the core business that it pursues today, and in 2001 a wholly African-owned operation, WACO Africa, was created through a buyout by management and an investment capital firm. This resulted in the separation of the local operation’s management and back-office activities from its US and UK operations. It also meant some fairly rapid de-linking of technology systems, particularly the Lotus Notes messaging system that was the worldwide standard. WACO Africa wanted to move to Microsoft Exchange for messaging, but was also looking for additional availability, disaster recovery and backup capabilities.

“We had divorced ourselves from the UK, cut dependence from their systems and were putting in our own services,” explains Ivan Caldwell, Head of ITC at WACO Africa. “We were converting the company from Lotus Notes to Exchange and didn’t want to spend a lot of money on infrastructure. We didn’t really know yet how we were going to address the issues of backup and archiving. WACO Africa’s IT was a bit of a mess, and we had slowly started putting in plumbing that would provide the necessary architecture.”

The company has 700 email users across 45 branch offices in the sub-Saharan region, with an additional 20 or more project sites on the go at any one time.


Caldwell prefers to follow a strategy of outsourcing, using Software-as-a- Service (SaaS) and cloud computing where it makes sense and where it can add meaningful value to business process and reduce the demands placed on technology team. “So I was quite enamoured with the idea of working with a company like Mimecast,” he says.

The business case for the migration meant the IT team needed to prove that Exchange was a better solution than Lotus Notes, from a cost as well as a best-practice perspective. Because of the limitations of the old infrastructure, the team was very aware of the burden with respect to legislation like the ECT Act and other laws governing long-term document retention and risk.

Using Mimecast meant that at a stroke Caldwell could cut over to Exchange and at the same time make use of a ten-year email archiving solution that includes disaster recovery and high availability, with added anti-virus and anti-spam to seal the deal.

The best part was that there was no need to invest in additional hardware or software infrastructure.

After seeing the Mimecast sales team’s presentation, WACO Africa’s management team took just a week to decide to go ahead with the solution. Implementation was just as fast and easy. “It was seamless and the cutover was really smooth. It was marvellous!” recalls Caldwell.


Because WACO Africa’s staff includes many engineers and technical people, change management can be something of a challenge – employees are often happy with the way they already do things and don’t like to adapt. Mimecast requires no significant alterations to systems or user behavior. WACO Africa’s staff members can continue using familiar email clients, and if they want to they can use the archive search functionality, through either the Mimecast services for Outlook add-on, or the intuitive and secure web-based console, the Mimecast Personal Portal.

The company has seen some advantages in reducing bandwidth usage by large email attachments (particularly images and CAD files) going to external domains, and it is looking at ways to bring these savings into the internal network.

The company is also very interested in Mimecast’s Continuity Service for the BlackBerry Wireless Solution that brings Mimecast’s archival and availability advantage to the mobile environment, and expects to have it live by the first quarter of 2011.

WACO Africa Case Study
Sector: Engineering, Construction
Size: 700+End Users
Location: South Africa
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