From geek to guru

The changing role of IT managers promises to link technology and business more closely than ever before.

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By  Sathya Mithra Ashok Published  April 28, 2007

These are interesting times to be in the Middle East region.

Last month, I witnessed three different events - apart from the NME Awards ceremony - which brought together some of the most prominent users and vendors of the region. While two focused on carried based technologies, the third concentrated on changing enterprise networks.

All enforced the fact that the IT or network manager of today is not what he or she used to be. Today, the senior IT officer is more often to be found at the boardroom table, discussing strategy and policy for the business and analysing how technology can provide a helping hand in achieving organisational goals and targets.

Unlike other parts of the world, this step is fairly recent in the Middle East. With maturity and increased adoption of standards, enterprises expect IT to perform as a unifying and catalytic tool to excellence across the company. With it, a new level of performance is expected of the IT manager, who in turn is creating fresh ways of interacting with end users and technology vendors.

This issue of NME devotes quite a few pages to bring forth some of these trend setters.

The NME Awards, which honour some of the best IT managers and their teams from across the region, is a case in point. Many of the winners exemplify this new breed of IT and network managers, who have made technology work for their respective businesses. Especially Michael Dobe, the CIO of UAE University, winner of the Networking Professional of the Year award. Dobe reconstituted his IT department to turn it into an active element in the effective performance of most of the other departments in the university.

This month's edition of NME also traces the work patterns of two other significant IT managers - one from a premier luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi and the other from one of the larger universities of the region in Sharjah. Both emphasised the need for new age technology heads to link user requirement and experience to both the choice of technology and the way it is implemented.

Such business-aware IT managers are also setting new models of discussion, with the vendors bringing to the table not only technology knowledge but also organisation-oriented negotiation skills to get the most relevant solution.

What does all this mean in the larger scale?

As IT managers become more business managers they are bringing to the region a slew of projects that make for an entirely new and interesting era in operations and technology, with its concurrent lessons and socio-cultural change.

The NME awards is again a case in point as the winners often came from these novel projects that constantly challenge the lines between IT and business.

You will read about them more in this issue. NME will also continue to highlight in the next few issues some of these winner- projects as we track the transformation of the IT manager and bring forth what he has learned to share with other IT heads in the Middle East.

Feel free to write in and share your thoughts on how the regional IT industry is changing, if at all.

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