Fast forward

Vendors say users need to adopt new technologies or get left behind in the dust. However, Colin Edwards finds that sometimes a wait-and-see strategy is best.

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By  Colin Edwards Published  May 31, 2007

Despite the common perception that the Middle East is investing heavily in the future by adopting tomorrow's technologies today, the on-the-ground reality is that just as the rest of the world, the region must keep one eye on costs and justify the business benefits of implementing high technology and the other on growth and being able to scale existing technologies.

Talk about high technology such as virtualisation, optimisation, enterprise wi-fi, video conferencing, Web 2.0 and voice over IP (VoIP) and many companies will say they have these latest and greatest on their wish lists. A few will say they are planning to implement in the future. A very few will say they have, or are about to have their next-generation network up and running and are looking to the next step forward.

It is important to plan at the beginning when looking into investing in new technologies to ensure they cater to business needs.

But as Philip Klingensmith, CEO of TSI Compass says, enterprises that wait and see get left behind in the dust. Enterprises that take the leap which meets their needs will reap exponential benefits in productivity and efficiency.

On the other hand, Samer Halawi, vice president, Inmarsat, Middle East, Africa & Asia Pacific, believes that a measured wait-and-see strategy is better unless an enterprise does not have a legacy system and needs an instant solution that necessitates the leap.

The word ‘needs' is key. Some managers in the Middle Eastern region make costly decisions because they are pushed and pulled by large companies which are product oriented.

"Unless a manager has an engineering or technical degree, that manager is unable to distinguish between the design promised with the product purchase and an infrastructure design provided by a Registered Communications Distribution Designer - Outside Plant Specialist (RCDD/OSP)," says TSI Compass' Klingensmith.

"Furthermore, some managers cannot make a connection between the products purchased and the needs they have. In the future, managers should ask RCDDs to perform needs assessments, then to design open architecture infrastructures into which all standards compliant products may be integrated in order to perform the applications these managers need," he adds.

Most industry veterans believe that enterprise attitude to look at technology for technology's sake is better avoided until everything else works properly.

"It is important to plan at the beginning when looking into investing in new technologies, to ensure they cater for the business needs and will actually reduce costs. Networking is now more sophisticated," says Hamed Diab, Middle East country manager, 3Com.

Gone are the days when companies tended to adopt technology for technology's sake as Halawi says: "Enterprises should invest in new technologies when it makes economic sense and when the value of such an investment has a measurable and justified return on investment."

And he adds that in terms of overcoming the arguments of non-technology managers who are often resistant to change that it is "precisely when network managers can prove to their superiors the financial benefits and the business case that ensue from investment in new technology that such investments would be welcome."

Diab says one should never adopt new technology without clear benefits, however, "enterprises are usually earlier adopters as they tend to want to try new capabilities. There is no real danger as long as the company has done the preparation to ensure return on investment and that it is matched to its needs.

"But it is not always the case that network managers make the business case to non-technical managers. Sometimes the vendor's power of persuasion makes it difficult to reject the charms of implementing the latest technologies," Diab says.

The sway that some vendors might have in influencing high technology spends cannot be underestimated. Too many customers, says Chris Moore, regional director MEA for Extreme Networks, are simply accepting the latest "upgrade" from their existing vendor rather than reviewing their business needs and updating their network to meet those needs.

"Some vendors promote cheap solutions on day one and thrive on upgrade revenues," he warns, suggesting that buyers investigate how the network is used and what is needed, instead of looking at the fastest and latest technology.

"It is wise to monitor the new developments in technology, but don't let it lead the decision. The decision should be led by business needs and if consultants are required they should be impartial and not over-directed," he advises.

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