Microsoft argues business automation or bust

Microsoft Business Solutions predicts 2003 to be the year in which Middle East companies, large and small, must address business automation

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By  Justin Etheridge Published  December 24, 2002

One of the key trends for Middle East businesses in 2003 will be increasing business automation, as companies look to streamline internal processes like finance, accounting and human resources. That’s according to Microsoft Business Solutions at least, who argues Middle East companies must now transform external functions through customer relationship management and e-commerce.

While ITP.net has reported on many such instances, particularly in the banking, telecommunications and aviation sectors, Microsoft Business Solutions now expects to see the trend spread to small and medium enterprises.

“Initially, business automation was seen as the preserve of large organizations in the Middle East,” says Venkat Raman, channel director, Microsoft Business Solutions.

“However, we’re starting to see more small and family-owned businesses begin to adopt business automation solutions. Typically, they’re looking to reduce paper-based administration, speed-up and improve reporting and decision-making processes, and improve their relationships with customers and suppliers.”

Internally, many small-to-medium enterprises are turning to intranets or migrating paper-based processes online, but externally too there is a rise in the number of organizations implementing online exchanges for partners and suppliers and introducing customer relationship management applications.

“What changed in 2002 was that some of the barriers preventing companies from investing in business automation have been removed,” adds Raman.

“Many companies were reluctant to invest because of uncertainty over their specific business needs or because they felt the technology was too expensive for companies of their size. The market has now matured sufficiently, so that there are now skilled consultants who can advise companies about the most suitable type of technology and there are affordable automation solutions on the market for companies of all sizes.”

“From a return-on-investment perspective, many Middle Eastern companies have found that they recoup their investment in business automation much faster than they anticipated, because they are leaner, more effective and customer-focused businesses,” Raman concludes.

“One indicator of the importance of business automation has been the willingness of governments across the region, which face no competition but which can benefit significantly from greater efficiency, to introduce automation technology.”

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