Unity is strength

With the new IT forum, CIOs can set a fresh agenda for vendor-customer relationships in the Middle East

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By  Sathya Ashok Published  July 16, 2008

On Thursday last, something that I had working towards for a very long time came true.

Network Middle East brought together a group of prominent CIOs from the UAE, who decided that it was about time to form a vendor-neutral community that is driven by IT managers and whose agenda is promoting end-user interests, in the UAE and across the Middle East.

The benefits from the formation of an IT forum are multiple. As the CIOs pointed out during the discussion the group can become a lobbying front by becoming a collective voice for IT managers, it can provide credible information on vendors and their products to the Middle East, it can present customisation and product requests to vendors with much more strength and demand more from vendors in terms of support and service.

And this is completely apart from all the knowledge that can be shared between end-user members themselves, who can become each other's best consultant on solution selection, implementation challenges, operational issues, management constraints as well as standards and best practices.

We made some headway with the forum even at the first meeting. It was fascinating, watching these CIOs swap stories on ERP software customisation, which vendors were willing to do it and which ones turned down requests and how some of them shied away from certain elements of service and support, pointing out that it was not cost effective for them to provide the same to regional customers.

It was a revelation of sorts on the power that big vendors can exert on an IT manager in the region.

In a bid for consistency, seamless integration and lesser management hassles, many CIOs tend to pick solutions from one vendor across various IT systems. It is not uncommon to see entire datacentres housing servers, storage, security, applications and software, and sometimes even networking equipment from one single vendor.

This does have its advantages. However, this also means that the vendor exerts enormous influence over the end-user. So much so that an end-user is often unwilling to speak out even when he has continuing problems with the provider, since he is scared of ruining the shaky relationship and does not really want to invite an infrastructure re-do for the organisation.

This is especially true for end-users who are restricted to their organisation, because of time constraints and huge workloads, and find it nearly impossible to get together with other CIOs in the region. In isolation, these CIOs can become especially easy to handle for big IT companies who often set the pace of the relationship.

It is only when IT managers share stories and experiences with each other do they tend to realise that the problems they have been having with vendors can sometimes be universal, and with that knowledge comes strength to deal with the situation suitably.

The first meeting of the forum was evidence that CIOs can add to each other's knowledge base enormously and grow powerful in their unity. Together, IT managers can set the new agenda for vendor-customer relationships in the region and move the market to higher maturity levels much sooner than otherwise.

So what are you waiting for? Come and join us at the forum!

If you are an IT manager or CIO in the region, you are welcome to join the forum's next meeting on 22nd July 2008 at 6pm. For details on the venue and agenda, and for any clarifications you might need, please feel free to get in touch with Sathya Mithra Ashok, Editor, Network Middle East (sathya.ashok@itp.com/04-4356187).

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