Field day

Challenges may be few with a greenfield implementation, but it is still requires considerable planning, as RAK Free Trade Zone found when building up its technology from scratch.

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By  Brid-Aine Conway Published  May 31, 2008

Challenges may be few with a greenfield implementation, but it is still requires considerable planning, as RAK Free Trade Zone found when building up its technology from scratch.

A greenfield site gives an IT team a clean slate, leaving them free to choose what they feel will be the best possible infrastructure and systems for their business.

For Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone (RAKFTZ), that infrastructure had to feature totally integrated applications and have real estate software at its core, just as leasing and licensing is the core of its business.

We didn’t have a centralised system before so whenever we were looking for information for a particular client, we had to go and check all over the department and all over the organisation – it was difficult!

"We wanted the real estate application to be the core of our solution landscape and have the related services revolve around it," says Prashant Murthy, information system officer at RAKFTZ.

"If you really look at it, all of our leasing procedures, all of our maintenance activities, all of our accounting, everything is linked to the rental objects. And the application has enabled us to build a very strong customer rental object, leasing-related relationship."

The first step for the company came two years ago when it set up the infrastructure on which it would build the integrated application structure.

"Around two years back we were focused more on the office infrastructure of the Free Zone, we were setting up our own datacentre, and so on," says Zainab Abbas Qambar, information system manager at RAKFTZ, "Then because we were greenfield we didn't have a system.

So we had too much data and we were planning how to put all this together.

We are in a business where we have lots of clients and employees and we need to manage all that information and use it to help us retain our investments.

"We have moved from a situation where we did not have a proper legacy system, we just had a simple accounting system which only the finance department was using," adds Murthy, "So rather than getting into focusing on specific solutions, we wanted to have an integrated solution landscape.

That was our focus. If you look at the kind of business we are in, we are providing an environment for setting up businesses in this region, and the infrastructure we provide forms a very important aspect of the kind of environment we can provide."

Setting up all its applications at once was no mean feat for RAKFTZ, and a significant amount of detailed research went into ensuring it had the right vendor for the job.

"We have a team made up of an in-house consultant, the IT director and the project manager.

We prepared the request for proposal (RFP), we distributed that to the main ERP providers, we had an evaluation, we asked them to provide us with demos of each module separately and the integration to find out which would best fit our requirements.

This exercise went on for more than two or three months.

We had technical evaluations, functional evaluations and end user feedback of course, because it's very important for them to tell us if this will meet their requirements," says Qambar.

The deciding factor, however, was the real estate application, as this is what lies at the heart of the services RAKFTZ provides.

"The end result was that most of these vendors were quite close to each other, but we found that SAP had something within the solution itself which could meet our requirements.

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