Start me up

Madar Holding came into being with a number of offices - but little in the way of IT infrastructure. Eliot Beer reports on how the firm got up and running from a standing start.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  December 16, 2007

An established start-up is something of a contradiction in terms - but it was the situation the newly-formed Madar Holding found itself in when it began operations in 2006. A fully-owned subsidiary of Saudi Arabia's Al Fozan Group, Madar Holding covers all of Al Fozan's operations outside KSA, and covers a number of different industries, including manufacturing, logistics and real estate.

Selim Edde, corporate IT manager for Madar Holding, explains how the company came into being: "Initially the approach was that whatever offices Al Fozan opened outside Saudi Arabia was considered a branch office of the group in KSA. It was a very basic setup, with small servers installed in each branch - that was the approach.

"In the beginning of 2006, the idea of Madar Holding was established. Beginning of 2006, Madar Holding began operation - it started gathering its staff - managers, directors - and they built the holding company, which manages all the Al-Fozan business outside Saudi Arabia," says Edde.

The go-live date was so tight that we had to work continuously for two weeks – our guys and Raqmiyat’s guys were working almost 24 hours a day.

The original regional offices of Al Fozan - in the UAE and Qatar - gave Madar Holding its initial start, including a minimal IT infrastructure consisting of a few servers. Edde says the next step was to put together the new firm's IT strategy, building on this existing base.

"I joined the company in May 2006 when it was starting up - Madar Holding had no IT operations, but still it had had operations in place for five or six months in countries such as the UAE, Qatar, Sudan and Jordan. With such operations across the region, the best option was to go for a datacentre model, to host all IT services," he says.

One of the critical choices - of ERP system - had already been made for Madar Holding. It continues to use the Orion system implemented by Al Fozan, which was already licenced and installed. Edde explains that, by keeping the same ERP system as the parent company, both firms will be at the same pace of development.

"Orion was inherited from Al Fozan, along with licences, so it was a quicker launch for us - we didn't have to go through a new ERP installation, it was there already, so we took advantage of that. Eventually we're going to have to change that - by the end of 2008, we're going to have to look at other solutions," Edde says.

"This will be a change across both companies - there's a process at the moment looking at products such as Oracle E-Business Suite and SAP. If we'd started now with a new ERP solution, Al Fozan would not have been ready to change with us - we'd rather change together when the time is right for both."

Along with Orion, Madar Holding also inherited a strong preference for HP hardware, thanks to past experience with the vendor, according to Edde. This meant the critical choice for Madar Holding's team was which implementation partner to use for the US$400,000 project.

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