Top 10 IT managers of the year

2003 has been an unpredictable year for chief information officers and IT managers throughout the Middle East.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  December 23, 2003

|~||~||~|2003 has been an unpredictable year for chief information officers and IT managers throughout the Middle East. The year began with many still struggling to free the purse strings that had been snapped shut during 2002, as the global economic slowdown finally reached the Middle East. Just as many had finally managed to pry their financial officer’s fingers loose, the region’s political stability came into question as war broke out in Iraq. Once again, big projects were shunted to the back burner and consolidation became key. Moving into the second quarter of the year, the market began to pick up. As political unrest limited itself to Iraq and sporadic instances in Saudi Arabia, those implementations that had been put on hold were picked up once again and others began in earnest. Looking forward to 2004, the political and economic situation can only improve, which will lead to greater investment in information technology. This, in turn, will lead to greater automation and transparency across the Middle East, both of which the region requires if it is to deliver on its loft ambitions of playing on the global stage in non-oil related areas. However, unlike the ambitious projects of the past, CIOs and IT managers alone will no longer govern these implementations. Because, as the need for consolidation and project prioritisation reared its ugly head again at the beginning of the year, many local companies discovered that tight knit teams of both technical and business staff created better results. 2003 was the year that many local organisations crossed the threshold into a more sophisticated world of service provision. Some even signalled the change by ditching the IT department moniker and instead bearing the ‘business systems’ badge with pride. The IT managers saluted in the following pages have all delivered on this new business model in someway or another. No longer are they, or many of the Middle East’s other information officers, the geeks that nobody understands. They are, instead, the driving force behind many of the modern business practices being introduced to the region, all of which are designed to enhance internal efficiencies, raise customer service levels, lower operational costs and ensure that their organisation’s competitive edge is as sharp as it can possibly be.||**||Tariq Sultan|~|tariq-sultan_200w.jpg|~|Tariq Sultan, assistant vice president of IT, Gulf Air|~|Company: Gulf Air Position: Assistant vice president of IT Project: A resurgent Gulf Air has put information technology at the very heart of its operations as its looks to improve customer service across the board. Projects completed included the introduction of SMS flight notification, self-service check-in kiosks and a customer contact centre. Gulf Air has unveiled a host of IT inspired initiatives during 2003 to boost customer service levels for its passengers. Projects completed included the implementation of an SMS flight notification system, self-service kiosks across the airports it serves and the creation of a worldwide contact centre. The US$39 million customer contact centre is housed at Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) in Oman. It utilises Cisco technology that was implemented and customised for the airline by HP. The solution includes IP telephony, intelligent call managing systems, an internet service mode, network interactive response and e-mail integration. The centre is governed by Cisco 5400 gatekeepers, which manage bandwidth and act as a point of control for user authentication, call authorisation and accounting. The centre is designed to give customers a seamless experience. As such, it uses intelligent call managing software to recognise customers by their telephone number. Automatic call dispatching then patches the user through to a specialist operator team. Historic data, which was transferred to the new system from Gulf Air’s legacy applications in Bahrain, tells the operator the customer’s preferred seat, class, food and route. Faxes are recognised by headers and e-mails by address. Both are dispatched in a similar way to calls. Furthermore, if a customer logs onto gulfairco.com and starts to work out a route, the contact centre is automatically informed and an agent calls the customer. The agent can then create a pop-up window on the customer’s screen to demonstrate other cheaper or quicker routes. “We have given them [Gulf Air customers] a single shop where they can go for everything. This whole initiative has been about making services better for the customer,” says Tariq Sultan, assistant vice president of IT, Gulf Air. In addition to improving customer service levels, Gulf Air has also generated cost savings through the use of IP technology at the contact centre. The operator used to foot the bill for international freephone calls from 60 sales centres around the region, but these are now routed through lines using IP telephony on bandwidth leased on scaleable rates. The airline’s SMS notification system, which was introduced at the beginning of 2003, also enhances customer services. Developed with Sabre, the solution provides passengers with proactive information about their flights from between three days and one hour before the flight. Among its numerous features are reminders to passengers that have yet to collect their tickets, as well as messages informing them of any delays to their flights. “We wanted to go the extra mile for our customers,” says Sultan. “For the last year, our focus [has been] on customer service and what we can offer the customer. So, thinking of these applications was really a by-product of our strategic thinking,” he explains. Elsewhere, Guf Air’s self-service check-in kiosks have been implemented at Gulf Air’s three home airports in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Muscat. The system is primarily targeted at regular business travellers and it relies on frequent flyer cards or credit cards to identify the passenger. “We really need to offer them [frequent business travellers] a little bit extra by giving them a service where they don’t have to queue for the agent at the ticket counter,” comments Sultan. Once a user has accessed the system, they are able to check in themselves and select preferred seating. To make the system as user-friendly as possible, the kiosks combine touch screens and a graphical user interface (GUI). They are built around IBM PCs and they are monitored using IBM’s Kiosk Manager software, which allows all of the units across the various locations to be managed from one central point.||**||Amir Afzal|~|afzal_200w.jpg|~|Amir Afzal, executive manager of IT, Commercial Bank of Dubai|~|Company: Commercial Bank of Dubai Position: Executive manager of IT Project: Commercial Bank of Dubai has replaced its core banking system and moved to a new headquarters, in which it has created an advanced data network. The bank has also begun to deploy solutions such as business intelligence and has been proactive on the security front through the creation an independent security division. Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD) has spent the past two years overhauling its core banking system. At the same time, the finance house has built an entire network infrastructure at its new corporate headquarters, rolled out a Business Intelligence (BI) solution and created one of the Middle East’s few standalone IT security departments. The bank’s Phoenix core banking solution has replaced CBD’s existing Banker 80 system. Although the legacy application is currently running in parallel to the London Bridge solution, it will be turned off on January 1 2004. The new core banking system runs on HP Unix servers and a Sybase database. It has been implemented to enhance CBD’s service levels, both for existing clients and potential customers. For instance, it will allow tellers to double the number of customers they handle due to the increased availability of information. The solution also provides the platform for a fully integrated e-banking solution, which is scheduled to go live in early 2004. Those within CBD’s new headquarters will access the Phoenix system over a Cisco infrastructure, which was built during 2003. The data network comprises local area and wide area networks, as well as the installation of a wireless infrastructure in selected locations. It has been configured with Cisco’s Catalyst 6509 switches at the core, a mix of Catalyst 3524 XL and 2650 models distributing traffic to the edge and virtual networking capabilities to enhance user flexibility. Each floor of the headquarters houses two switches, which are connected to the communications centre on the third floor and supported via a fibre backbone. In addition to providing users within its headquarters with a robust and reliable solution over which it can run its banking applications and customers services, the infrastructure forms the heart of CBD’s call centre and ATM network. The Cisco-based infrastructure also provides a greater degree of control for the bank’s network administrators, as it has improved monitoring and traffic prioritisation. It also reduces downtime as it is set up to give early warning about any potential network problems and high speed fibre connections allow power users to get the connectivity they require. The network and CBD’s core banking application are both protected by the bank’s security and quality assurance department, which was created towards the end of 2002. Since then, it has been working towards BS7799 certification through the creation and implementation of numerous security policies, each of which has to be communicated to staff and enforced. “It is important for CBD to have a separate security person that operates outside of the IT framework because the independence of this person should not be compromised,” says Amir Afzal, executive manager for IT at CBD. “If it is, the security of our information assets and the confidence of our customers will be compromised,” he explains. In addition to its core banking project, network overhaul and security initiatives, CBD has been looking to drive growth through the use of a BI solution from Business Objects. The software facilitates greater data analysis to enhance the bank’s reporting prowess, which in turn improves decision making, optimises operational efficiency and drives customer satisfaction. Furthermore, CBD has also joined online business-to-business marketplace, Tejari.com, to expand its supplier base and cut costs through more efficient buying cycles.||**||Nasser Bayram|~|nasser-bayram_200w.jpg|~|Nasser Bayram, IT director, Zahid Tractor & Heavy Machinery Company|~|Company: Zahid Tractor & Heavy Machinery Company Position: IT director Project: Zahid has slashed its technology infrastructure costs by 25% with a comprehensive Linux implementation. To get the go ahead on the project, the company’s IT team had to build a proof of concept centre and carry out its own R&D. Zahid Tractor & Heavy Machinery Company has slashed its technology infrastructure costs by 25% with a comprehensive Linux implementation. By replacing its existing Microsoft Windows 2000 server environment with the open source operating system, the Saudi-based organisation has also boosted security and enhanced its scalability. Before actually migrating to Linux, the company went through a lengthy proof of concept stage. Carried out in Zahid’s own open source research & development lab, the project began in early 2001 and was designed to established Linux’s commercial credentials and help convince the company’s senior directors that the move away from Windows would work. In addition to persuading senior management that Linux could cut costs and boost scalability for Zahid, the R&D lab was also used to train the inhouse IT team on the open source operating system. “We invested in training our own people, who were Microsoft administrators, and they now love Linux. The MCSEs that were running the Windows platform are now running the Linux platform,” says Nasser Bayram, IT director of Zahid Tractors. The migration itself was completed at the end of Q103. It has seen the tractor firm implement Linux Redhat 7.3 server on a collection of IBM x-Series machines. The hardware, which is connected via a wide area network (WAN), runs the Saudi Arabian organisation’s web services, file/print and messaging software, as well as its Lotus Domino based business applications. In addition to lowering Zahid Tractor’s total cost of ownership (TCO), the move to Linux has improved system reliability. According to Bayram, this was key as the company’s centralised IT team is responsible for providing critical business systems and maintaining the flow of financial and inventory information between a network of 30 branches around Saudi Arabia. “We investigated Linux as a solution to our cost, security and performance problems, and found that it presented a very compelling solution,” he says. Moving forward, the Saudi Arabian tractor company is already testing Linux applications such as OpenOffice, StarOffice and Xpde for the desktop and it hopes to have one of the open source apps up and running sometime in 2004. Furthermore, the Saudi firm is looking to leverage the continued R&D investment of its board to develop open source business applications that will allow it to become not only a user, but also a contributor of business focused freeware.||**||Claude Tonna-Barthet|~|tonna_200w.jpg|~|Claude Tonna-Barthet, business systems manager, Almarai|~|Company name: Almarai Position: Business systems manager Project: Almarai has overhauled its computing environment with the creation of a network infrastructure, the implementation of new hardware and the deployment of SAP R/3. It has also deployed a mobile computing solution and achieved BS7799 certification for its IT division. Almarai went live with SAP R/3 in October 2002. Deployed to bring greater control to the dairy company’s supply chain, keep track of daily sales information and essentially improve Almarai’s efficiency by automating its planning, manufacturing and financial processes, the enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite has since proved to be the cornerstone of the Saudi firm’s IT operation. For instance, it has allowed the dairy company to roll out Intermec Technologies 700 Series handheld devices to improve forecasting and reduce wastage for the dairy company. The hardware is integrated with the main R/3 application through a SAP mobility engine. The deployment of R/3 also led Almarai to work towards BS7799 certification. Attained earlier this year, the process improvement project has seen practices within the IT department improved to an extent that it can now guarantee 99.5% uptime for business users. “The business needs [of Almarai] have grown and with our integrated system portfolio, we now [have] to provide a 24x7 operation,” says Claude Tonna-Barthet, business systems manager at Almarai. “It is critical to ensure availability of information systems to support [our] complex operations and BS7799 certification proves that our services and processes are of a world class standard,” he explains. A key part of the BS7799 project was understanding the risks and vulnerabilities associated with an integrated ERP package, as compared to its existing legacy applications. Once identified, these risks were plugged and controls implemented to ensure they did not resurface. Furthermore, to ensure users are less likely to infect their PCs and harm the business systems division’s chances of maintaining its 99.5% service level, an information security steering committee and a management team was formed. Consisting of all divisional general managers and working with the blessing of the Almarai’s CEO, the group developed an information security policy. Key to the successful implementation of this policy was the creation of security awareness and end user training. This was done using posters, flash cards, e-mail messages and classroom sessions. The policies are enforced and monitored through Almarai’s remote PC diagnostics package, which allows the business systems team to audits users’ computers and identify what software packages they are running. Concurrent to the implementation of R/3 and the work needed to attain BS7799 certification, Almarai overhauled its hardware infrastructure and created a resilient telecommunications network. Without such an infrastructure the company would have been unable to draw together its business critical information from around the region. The network uses satellites, leased lines and a number of virtual private networks (VPNs) to create a wide area network (WAN) that connects over 32 sites that are scattered throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. This infrastructure is also being used to run IP telephony, so that even Almarai’s remote agricultural facilities can stay in touch. For instance, the installation of 30 Cisco 7940 and 7960 series IP phones at its Todhia Valley farm has not only allowed Almarai to simplify the complexity of its existing communications environment, but also overcome the coverage and resilience issues that have beset the property in the past. Almarai intends to replace its aging PBX and key systems with IP telephony as and when appropriate. Moving forward, Almarai’s overhauled IT infrastructure and investment in new technologies will allow the dairy company to keep a check on its ever-expanding business. The network, IP telephony and handheld devices will ensure that its disparate workforce is always contactable, the HP/Compaq Unix servers will ensure it has a scalable computing environment to grow effectively, and SAP will enable it to keep a tight rein on its supply chain and collect the business data that will form the basis of future business decisions. Furthermore, the rigorous six monthly testing that BS7799 accreditation requires will ensure each part of the IT infrastructure is available 99.5% of the time. As Tonna-Barthet says, “Almarai is facing the new millennium with optimism as it seeks to implement its five year expansion strategy based on organic growth and new product introduction... However, the only way to manage the complexity this brings is to improve our levels of integration and cross-functional processes, which is where technology is key.”||**||Saji Oommen|~|sajioommen_200w.jpg|~|Saji Oommen, group IT manager, Al Batha Group|~|Company name: Al Batha Group Position: Group IT manager Project: Al Batha Group has automated its field operations by arming its sales force with Symbol handhelds and integrated the devices with its SAP software. As a result, it is able to track customer buying patterns more effectively. Batha Group has deployed a mobile computing solution to automate its field operations and sharpen its competitive edge. By arming its sales force with Symbol PD 8000 handheld terminals that run RouteTrac, a route accounting application, the company has been able to track inventory more effectively, develop more detailed customer profiles, and harvest competitor data for comparative analysis. The sales team collects the data on the handhelds as it travels around the UAE. At the end of the day, it is uploaded at any one of Al Batha’s warehouses or sales offices. The information is then sent over a wide area network (WAN) to the company’s SAP R/3 application. Integrating its handhelds with R/3 and ensuring that data retains its integrity was the biggest challenge for Al Batha, especially as information has to flow both to and from the Symbol devices. The problem was solved modifying RouteTrac to match the functionality of R/3. The company also deployed Microsoft’s Biz Talk Server so that when a sales person docks their handheld to upload information, the data moves via the group’s application server in XML format to Biz Talk server. It then gets sent to a SAP adapter, where it is converted to IDoc format, before it is submitted to R/3. Although the sales team’s data should be accurately reproduced in SAP, the enterprise resource planning (ERP) application will sometimes reject information if it does not fulfil certain requirements. If this happens, the system generates an alert so that the sales person concerned can correct the error. The entire mobile computing solution, which took ten weeks to implement, has helped the company maximise its productivity. Key to this has been its integration with R/3, which has helped the company achieve several tangible and intangible benefits, such as automated journey planning and end of day stock and cash reconciliation. This, in turn, allows the company to maintain tighter controls of stock, cash and promotions. It also optimises van and outlet stocks based on consumption history. “With the deployment of this solution, we have experienced a 30% reduction in the time taken for daily settlement per route and significant savings in the time transaction processing takes per stop,” says Saji Oommen, group IT manager at Al Batha Group. As for the sales team, it is now able to get instant access to data held in the company’s ERP suite, such as customer records, product specifications and pricing details. This accelerates the sales process and boosts customer service, as sales people are able to make decisions on the spot based on customers’ inventory, buying patterns, stock off-take and credit standing. The Symbol handhelds are also equipped with barcode scanners that allow users to gather information at the point of sale. This means the sales team no longer has to enter data at the customer site and then re-enter it at the sales office, which minimises errors and accelerates data collection. Furthermore, they can complete the sale at the customer site by generating an invoice from the handheld. “Now that this entire process is automated, our sales people have more time to focus on their customers and their call rates have increased dramatically and we have a much better idea of our customers’ buying behaviour,” says Oommen. Moving forward, the Dubai-based company plans to further empower its employees by giving them GPRS connectivity. This will ensure that sales staff are connected to the ERP suite at all times, even when they are at remote locations. This means that they will be able to log into the SAP system to check the credit of a customer, or see if there is stock available in the warehouse before committing a particular sale order. Again, this will improve efficiencies and boost sales further.||**||Dr. Abdullah Bataineh|~||~||~|Company: King Abdullah University Hospital Position: Hospital IT director Project: The healthcare institute has implemented a healthcare information system and integrated it with Oracle Financials to improve patient care and internal efficiencies. It has also upgraded its hardware and carried out an intensive training programme. King Abdullah University Hospital (KAUH) has deployed Medicom’s healthcare specific information management solution to improve its operational effectiveness, enhance patient safety and mitigate errors in care delivery. The software’s integrated workflow capabilities replaced existing manual processes within the Jordanian hospital. It also addresses areas in which the institute required additional functionality and a better management overview, such as ordering, prescribing and patient charting. Implemented in two phases, the first stage of the project saw a number of patient care applications deployed, including operating theatre, radiology, pharmacy and laboratory. It also included the roll out of patient registration for out patients, which meant that all registering, appointment making and patient indexing could be done online. The second phase of the project dealt with labs and radiology, as well as addressing order entry so that the hospital could place orders via PCs. The healthcare solution runs on a number of high end servers from Sun and NT based application servers from HP. It is accessed via 600 PCs that are scattered throughout the hospital and connected to the centrally hosted application by a Cisco switch based network. To ensure that confidential patient information remains secure, each doctor and nurse has been issued with a password that enables them to log into the system, see the results and print them out. KAUH’s IT team has also created rigid profiles so that doctors can only access the files pertaining to their patients. In addition, it has implemented ‘track & trace’ software so that the system logs which employees have accessed a patient’s records. Since deploying the Medicom solution, KAUH has experienced increased accuracy and speed in registration and scheduling. For instance, its queue management capabilities have significantly reduced patient waiting time and the software’s automated workflow has accelerated patient turnover. In addition, KAUH has been able to accelerate the labs process, as reports no longer have to be physically shuttled around the institute. Accuracy has also been increased because lab teams can access the system directly. Standards of care throughout the medical institute have improved due to the system’s ability to generate warnings over excess dosages, repeat ordering, conflicting exams and patient sensitivities. This capability has also helped the Jordanian hospital reign in its drug spend and improve its supply chain, as the system tells doctors if the drug they have prescribed is in stock, or if there is a cheaper option. By eliminating the physical aspect of prescribing drugs and generating reports, the hospital has reduced the amount of storage space it requires for printing supplies, as well as reducing its costs. The Medicom system has further impacted the hospital’s bottom line by helping it keep track of patients’ insurance status. This has been achieved by integrating the software with KAUH’s Oracle Financials application. Moving forward, the Jordanian hospital plans to integrate its healthcare system and Oracle back office applications yet further. Topping the agenda is closer links between the Medicom inventory and Oracle procurement modules, as this will bring greater automation and reduce the costs associated with purchasing. When complete, the combined Medicom and Oracle solution will provide the Jordanian hospital with a massive clinical data repository that will allow it to accelerate information access and improve patient care yet further. “KAUH is ushering in a new era of healthcare and creating an environment that is patient centric and knowledge driven,” says Dr. Abdullah Bataineh, hospital IT director at KAUH. “It delivers the highest levels of efficiency and effectiveness possible,” he adds.||**||Hatem Al Sibai|~|hatem-al-sibai_200w.jpg|~|Hatem Al Sibai, IT manager, Al Ghurair Group|~|Company name: Al Ghurair Group Position: IT manager Project: Al Ghurair migrated its enterprise software, including its ERP suite and messaging applications, from Windows NT to Linux to consolidate its computing environment and boost reliability. Ghurair Group migrated the bulk of its enterprise software from Windows NT to Linux earlier this year as part of its ongoing efforts to consolidate its computing environment. In addition to facilitating platform consolidation, the switch to Linux has boosted reliability and system scalability. The UAE company’s switch to the open source operating system began two years ago, when it ran its internal web server on Linux and noted that it rarely required human intervention. Since then the company has migrated its e-mail and messaging applications, internal portal and Oracle E-business Suite to Linux. The company runs its Oracle enterprise resource planning (ERP) application on Red Hat Advanced Server, which in turn runs on Intel servers. This combination reduces hardware costs for Al Ghurair Group, as well as creating a more stable computing environment for its mission critical applications. Although Linux support from vendors has been conspicuously absent in the region, Al Ghurair has overcome this by building its pool of open source skills inhouse. A 15-member IT team completed the ERP migration project, including planning, testing and implementation, by itself within a three month period. Despite the swath of activity required by the migration, which included the exporting the entire Windows-based database to Linux using Oracle export/import utilities, the IT team had to ensure end user service levels remained the same. As such, it made sure sequences, synonyms and profile option values were carried into the new environment. “Our affection for Linux has grown. Today, it runs our e-mail and messaging applications, our ERP solution as well as our internal portal and we believe it is a very attractive platform in terms of reliability and scalability,” says Hatem Al Sibai, IT manager, Al Ghurair Group. Following the migration of the E-Business Suite to Linux, Al Ghurair installed general public license (GPL) solutions for file/print servers and e-mail content filtering. The company is using Samba for its file/print serving and Spam Assassin for content filtering. The latter is a rules-based platform, which can work with applications such as Outlook, and scans both the header and content of messages to detect signs of spam, as well as checking against a blacklist of known junk mailers. The solution has already reduced the time and money spent dealing with unnecessary and unwanted e-mails. The group has also migrated to an open source caching proxy known as Squid and integrated it with a firewall from Red Hat to improve both security and internet performance levels. It has also migrated its time server to a Red Hat version to improve reliability and synchronicity between its multiple servers, which in turn optimised its backup and storage processes. Moving forward, Al Ghurair is looking for ways to use an open source router, which would be run over a PC, as well as investigating other open source initiatives. Eventually, the company will migrate its entire computing environment to the Linux platform. “Linux is at the heart of our IT strategy and, like the rest of the corporate world, we recognise it as a low-cost high performance business platform,” says Al Sibai. “However, moving to Linux is a maturing process that a business has to go through. It is a long transformation process and there is no shortcut to enjoying the benefits of GPL and the open source community. However, in the end it is definitely worth it,” he adds.||**||Dileep Somani|~|Dileep3.jpg|~|Dileep Somani, group manager for IT, Oman Trading Establishment (OTE)|~|Company: Oman Trading Establishment (OTE) Group Position: Group manager for IT Project: OTE Group has replaced its flat Layer 2 network with a Foundry solution to run its SAP R/3 software effectively. The ERP application itself went live in earlier in the year and was deployed to create a platform for the company's future growth, boost integration and sharpen OTE's competitive edge. Oman Trading Establishment (OTE) Group went live with SAP's R/3 enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution in March last year. The software replaced the trading group's mix of inhouse developed applications, which had grown in an incremental fashion over time and were characterised by poor user-friendliness and limited integration. The company opted for a 'big bang' implementation and switched the entire organisation onto SAP in one go. This required extensive training - more than 14,000 hours - to ensure that all the end users were ready to use the system from day one. OTE Group is running R/3 on Windows 2000 servers and a SQL database, which sit on HP servers. The Omani firm also implemented a storage area network (SAN) to simplify the management of its data and a Foundry Network's FastIron chassis with Gigabit and Fast Ethernet modules to ensure its network was capable of delivering both the high availability and performance R/3 requires. In addition to improving the resilience of its network, the FastIron chassis has boosted security for the trading group as it facilitates the running of a virtual local area network (VLAN) environment, which means users and production data are transferred separately. A key aspect of the ERP project was the implementation of SAP's automotive specific application, as 70% of OTE's operations are geared towards automobiles. Deploying the specialised automotive module has allowed OTE Group to automate a host of management tasks within the organisation. For instance, the system tracks inventory levels and simplifies the ordering of new supplies, including both routine deliveries and occasional one-off orders. This, in turn, allows the company to control its supply chain more effectively and enhance its profitability. Unlike its legacy back office applications, R/3 allows OTE to collate masses of data. The company has implemented SAP's Business Intelligence module to ensure its decision makers get the most out of this information. It allows them to quickly generate a host of reports about all aspects of the business. "You spend a lot of money to implement an ERP, but unless you have an analytical system that lets the management see all of the information, you don't get the real benefit of the implementation," says Dileep Somani, group manager for IT, OTE Group. "The management gets the real benefit here as they can measure their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and they can see any information in the way they want to see it," he adds. Moving forward, OTE Group's technology team will improve the redundancy and management of the network and continue to bed down the R/3 system. "We have expanded a lot in the last five years, both in terms of volume and in terms of the size of the organisation. We now have a reach across Oman and to monitor the business we need to have a proper business solution that can handle everything for the mangers. By deploying R/3 we have achieved this," says Somani.||**||Sina AbdulAziz Khoory|~|sinaabdulazizkhoory_200w.jpg|~|Sina AbdulAziz Khoory, IT director, Dubai’s Department of Health & Medical Services (DOHMS)|~|Company: Dubai’s Department of Health & Medical Services (DOHMS) Position: IT director Project: DOHMS has rolled out a number of e-services as part of Dubai e-Government’s various initiatives. It has also addressed its own internal technology requirements with the roll out of a healthcare information system. DOHMS was at the forefront of Dubai Government’s various online initiatives during 2003 as it became one of the first departments to offer a fully functional portal and e-payment system. It was also a pioneer for the M-Dubai project, which allows citizens to receive messages through mobile phones, PDAs or the web. The DOHMS portal allows individuals to acquire or renew health cards electronically and apply for medical fitness certificates. Businesses can renew staff health cards and apply for medical permits for new and existing establishments through the site. Additional services available through the portal include an online query system, an ‘ask the doctor’ feature and an informal online meeting place for parents and doctors. The portal has been designed to not only improve services but also reduce the physical contact citizens require to use DOHMS’ services, something that is key to the department’s plans to boost its internal efficiencies. Although the portal is fully integrated with Dubai Government’s content management system (CMS), DOHMS is able to customise its offering to suit user requirements and modify content on the department’s website. By using the government’s existing infrastructure, the health service removed the need for replication, thereby reducing costs. According to Sina AbdulAziz Khoory, IT director at DOHMS, the portal is already being well used and even during its soft launch phase 8% of its corporate renewals were being done online. Moving forward, DOHMS intends to add to the portal’s transactional services so that it can reduce over the counter contact yet further. “We want most of the transactions, where a customer doesn’t have to be present, to be done online. We want all the paperwork done through online services,” says Khoory. In addition to playing a full role in Dubai’s e-government initiative, DOHMs has also continued to address its internal technology requirements with the roll out of an integrated Healthcare Information System (HIS). As of November 2003, the government body had completed the first two stages of the project, which it is carrying out with Al Babtain Group. Phase one included the deployment a patient management system, while the second has seen the implementation of a physician order communication and lab system. The lab solution is driven by Misys Laboratory’s Lab information system and allows DOHMS to manage specimen data from requisition entry to final cumulative report production. A total of 44 lab instruments are interfaced with the system and the software has been parameterised to meet the government body’s requirements and ensure technicians no longer have to programme instruments manually. The final stage of the project, which will focus on the clinical side of DOHMS’ operations, has already begun. In addition to the HIS project, the government body is also deploying an asset performance management solution. Scheduled to go live during 1Q04, the Datastream software will improve DOHMS’ inventory & maintenance tracking, therefore enhancing its ability to manage its assets and execute preventive and corrective maintenance.||**||U.V.K Kumar|~|uvk_kumar_200w.jpg|~|U.V.K Kumar, head of IT, Doha Bank|~|Company: Doha Bank Position: Head of IT Project: The finance house has implemented a number of customer centric services, ranging from a contact centre to SMS banking. It has also enhanced its internal operations through the deployment of a business intelligence application and a workflow solution. Doha Bank has completed a number of information technology projects over the past 12 months. These have ranged from customer-focused initiatives to internal implementations. While the former encompasses projects such as a new web site, the creation of e-branches, a contact centre and SMS banking service, the latter has included the implementation of a business intelligence (BI) application, a work flow solution and a fixed assets system. In parallel to these deployments, the finance house has also addressed its business processes and operating practices through an information system governance initiative. This has also included work surrounding Doha Bank’s IT security policies and procedures. The greater integration between the finance house’s IT department and business users is best demonstrated by its implementation of Business Objects’ BI software. Deployed to strengthen decision support capabilities, the integrated report/analysis application and web-enabled business intelligence tool has been rolled out to most of Doha Bank’s business groups so they can analyse transaction volumes, business trends and market analysis. Rather than submitting report requests to the IT department then waiting for the results, users are now able to access the information they need on the fly. “We are empowering the users and making them more tech-savvy. They now have the data in their hands to manipulate it how they want so that they can develop products and marketing strategies,” says U.V.K. Kumar, head of IT at Doha Bank. “Our users understand the data and make better business decisions. By doing that, we can better serve our customers,” he adds. The implementation of an electronic workflow solution has also encouraged Doha Bank’s business users to be more IT aware. Rather than shuffling papers from one desk to another, the software has reduced paper consumption and streamlined internal workflows, thereby accelerating its business processes. On the consumer side, the finance house unveiled a SMS banking service earlier in the year. The initiative was launched ahead of an internet banking solution to tap into Doha’s massive mobile market. “We gave SMS banking priority because if you look at the volume of mobile users [in Qatar] then it is growing exponentially. We built a lot of convenience into the solution and for a bank to proactively get back to customers it is a very convenient tool,” says Kumar. The follow up to Doha Bank’s SMS service is a full internet banking offering, which was scheduled to go live at the time of going to press. It features generic enquiries, fund transfers and utility payment, as well as additional services for corporate users. The e-banking service has been built on an iPortal solution and Meridian middleware from Misys International Banking Systems. It allows the bank to integrate its diverse range of delivery channels, while retaining a corporate look and feel for its internet service. During 2004, Doha Bank will continue to enhance its customer centric services while carrying out yet more internal projects, such as treasury and investment initiatives and server consolidation. The latter will see the bank’s current server farm, which boasts multiple machines for its core banking and other applications, reduced to just one main server. At the same time, the finance house will better define its three tier architecture to make it both easier to manage and more secure.||**||

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