Satisfied customer

Tareq Raslan was so impressed by an IT solution he deployed across his group of businesses that he became a distributor. Daniel Stanton finds out more.

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By  Daniel Stanton Published  February 27, 2006

|~|graham200.jpg|~|Graham: Aims to get information to the people in an organisation that need it to fulfil their work. |~|Selling an IT solution is one thing, but it is a mark of success when one of your customers is so impressed with their purchase that they become a distributor themselves.

That is exactly what happened when Tareq Raslan, the owner of the Saudi Group of Medicine and Pharmacology and Al-Fayed Commercial, bought report-mining software from Datawatch. After deploying Monarch Pro v8 and Monarch Data Pump, two software products that manage and search the information created by other systems, Raslan applied for a licence to sell them in Saudi Arabia.

The Monarch products are designed to work on top of existing systems to extract relevant information from what could be a confusing mass of reports and data produced by other programs.

Raslan has applied it to his own diverse businesses and finds Monarch a perfect fit. "It covers a wide range of sectors so it depends on what you want to apply it to," he says.

"We have a media company, we have a pharmaceutical company and a medical company, an agricultural equipment company, an interior design business, and we found it very effective on all of our businesses."

The Monarch software is intended to simplify complicated or numerous data, so that information can be accessed directly by the people within the organisation that need to access it, without requiring an IT professional to put it into a presentable format. Monarch Pro allows information from reports to be turned back into live data and merged with others from different sources, while DataPump can be used to automate repetitive tasks.

"The accounting department doesn't have to wait for the IT department to get the information," says Raslan. "Even if they use a different system they can just get their own reports and print them.

"In the past this just didn't happen. Each department had to ask for the IT department to do the business for them, to get the information for them, and the IT department gets overloaded. So they work 10 times as much for something that's very simple to do."

The Datawatch solutions work on top of existing systems, so staff do not require additional training to use them. There are additional savings because the software is simple to implement and install, meaning that the cost of deployment is low. Raslan says that he even installed his own Monarch products.

As well as being simple to use, the solutions also compare favourably with their rivals on price, with a cost of around US$800 per user. Raslan believes that the Monarch products make financial sense for the group because they are used in addition to the existing systems, meaning that he has not had to replace any hardware or software.

"It will pay for itself when you don't have to replace systems over years and years," he says. "Once you install this, no matter how many updates you make it can never cost as much as changing a system."

The software is particularly popular with large organisations that have invested large amounts of money in their technology and would rather run their systems better than replace them at additional expense. "If you want to change a system in let's say a bank in Riyadh, one firm can have as many as 50 branches in the same city," says Raslan. "Whether it's one branch or 10 branches, it's a very expensive thing to do."

Now, Raslan wants to be the one to spread the benefits of Monarch to other users in Saudi Arabia. "I have been so impressed by the manner in which these tools have enhanced our business that I have decided to launch a new division to market Datawatch products in the region," says Raslan. "My team know and demonstrate every day to me that they work. That is surely the best reason for such a business step."

As a distributor, he has already detected a demand for the project in the Kingdom.
"With such a large area like Saudi there is a lot of attention for the product," he says. "A lot of government sectors are going to be using it."

Raslan is the third distributor of Datawatch products to be appointed in the Middle East, after eDocuman and Total Technology & Solutions. He also has the option to sell in regions beyond Saudi Arabia, which he says he may later take up.

"I suppose it's a bit like the American guy who said 'I liked it so much I bought the company," says Rob Graham, who runs Datawatch's Middle East division in Dubai.

Reaching new markets in the Middle East is a natural progression for the company, which has seen its products adopted by many major companies internationally. "80% of world banks are customers of Datawatch, 90% of the Fortune 500 companies are customers of Datawatch, and we've around 500,000 users globally in over 20,000 organisations," says Graham.

"We don't know of any system in the world that our products won't take data from. What our range of products help companies to do is to extend the life of their existing systems, not invest in new systems, and allow the people in the organisation that need information to fulfil their work."

Graham puts the success of Datawatch's products down to the simplicity with which they allow users to manipulate data from many different sources.

He says, "What our products do is allow non-IT professionals to input those reports and in a Windows session turn them back into live data, and not just that but also merge information from more than one report - up to nine with Monarch - including from PDF files."

Datawatch's report-mining products are particularly attractive to banks and other financial institutions that need to demonstrate compliance with regulations such as the Basel II accord, to be enforced in 2007, which specifies the particular information that institutions should disclose about their financial risks.

"The Basel II accord is a big thing," says Graham. "It could take away your livelihood, take away your good name, it could even take away your freedom. When you sign off these reports, who would you rather have generated them: your IT director, or somebody who knows about compliance?"

Datawatch's slogan is 'information made easy'. As a growing number of users in the Middle East are finding out, the easy option can also make sound business and financial sense.||**||

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