The wheel of change

Last month, what was claimed to be the region's first independent IT end user organisation made its start in the UAE. The CIO Club, organised by events company Distree, had its first meeting and started the process of electing officers, setting agendas and so forth.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  July 5, 2008

Last month, what was claimed to be the region's first independent IT end user organisation made its start in the UAE.

The CIO Club, organised by events company Distree, had its first meeting and started the process of electing officers, setting agendas and so forth.

This marks a small but significant step in the evolution of the region's market. Up until now, IT decision makers have relied on informal get-togethers at conferences or exhibitions, or else have expressed their views through the media - ACN and its competitors.

For specific vendor interest groups, there have been well-established events such as the SAP User Group MENA (SUG-MENA) and its Oracle counterpart - but these have always been heavily predicated on the involvement of the vendor in question.

Now, CIOs and other senior decision makers will be able to come together without any vendor involvement - and, more importantly, in a reasonably exclusive and high-level setting.

And while we in the trade media might hope for some dramatic pronouncements or condemnation of particular vendors' practices, the reality is much more likely to be informed, reasoned discussions about issues that matter - as it should be.

When I arrived in the Middle East just under three years ago, it wouldn't be quite fair to say that the idea of an independent CIO-focused organisation was unthinkable, but it was certainly a pipe dream.

At that time SUG-MENA - or SUGAr as it was then - was busy failing to engage the interest of SAP Arabia. Around the same period an IDC CIO event comfortably fit into one of the small upstairs conference rooms at Dubai's Jumeirah Beach Hotel.

Now of course IDC's last event in Dubai took up the whole of a large hotel's ballroom - and SAP Arabia has paid the price for failing to listen to its customers (although of course its owners have been extremely well compensated).

Events such as the ACN Arab Technology Awards (www.itp.net/arabtechawards - nominations now open) and similar awards from other magazines have alternately energised the end user community and - more significantly - revealed an increasing interest among IT professionals for interacting with the market.

Right now, the region's IT community is at its highest level of engagement and coherence for some time - and, if the community seizes the opportunities presented to it, it can climb even higher.

Amid the risks of recession and maturing markets in the West, vendors and service providers around the world are taking emerging markets ever more seriously - and there won't be a one of them not looking at the petrodollars flowing into the Middle East with acquisitive eyes.

This is a chance for regional end users to make vendors take them seriously - make them listen to the Middle East's requirements, make them provide talent and resources on the ground, make them treat regional enterprises as valued customers, not as afterthoughts.

The actions of organisations such as the CIO Club - and the other gatherings that will become its contemporaries and successors - will be critical in making this happen.

End users need to seize the moment, and grab the wheel of change as it turns towards the Middle East. Then, we might see something remarkable.

Logging off

Wheels of change are also turning within ACN, as this is my last issue as editor. I'll be moving on to other things - but I'll be keeping my eye on the enterprise IT community.

It's been a much more fascinating and engrossing journey than I could have imagined when I started - so thank you for keeping it interesting.

Eliot Beer is the editor of Arabian Computer News.

3384 days ago
Mohammed Ali

I think all of us in Saudi would like to see more coverage. I think I'm right in saying that Eliot was here once, and the previous editor never came here. Let's please see a change in this regards. After all, you serve the region yes? Has anyone ever been to Kuwait? To Bahrain? To Qatar? If ACN cannot do this, then it isn't a pan-regional publication... Let's hope this changes and soon!!!

3387 days ago
Mohammed Ali

We need more user groups across the region, and not in Dubai. And I do hope that ACN brings on an editor who will note this and travel rather than being sent PR thanks from PR people... Editor's reply: ACN is a pan-GCC publication and its reporters regularly travel the region - the past editor, Eliot, visited Riyadh in April. We do work closely with PRs who serve a function in disseminating company information, but we are also directly in touch with businesses across the region. We also rely on our readers to let us know about their issues, through forums like this website. And as for User Groups, there's only one lot of people that will make them succeed or fail - the users themselves.

3390 days ago
Samer Costantini

Sad to see you go Eliot .. ACN won't be the same. Good luck

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