Enterprising times for integrators

Enterprise organisations in the region are spending massive sums of money on IT as they scale up to meet their expectations. This development represents an opportunity for the channel, but it means Middle East systems integration firms are going to have to start living up to their name — and a bit more.

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By  Andrew Seymour Published  August 16, 2008

Enterprise organisations in the region are spending massive sums of money on IT as they scale up to meet their expectations. This development represents an opportunity for the channel, but it means Middle East systems integration firms are going to have to start living up to their name — and a bit more.

If you take a snapshot of the enterprise sector in the Middle East you’ll find an awful lot of medium-sized companies that have expanded in terms of business and headcount, coupled with larger organisations have spread geographically and opened multiple operations inside and outside the region.

What you’ll also find is that many have been managing their growth on a phased basis, especially when it comes to their IT strategies. For most corporates, the typical approach has been to scale their IT department and IT infrastructure as and when this growth happens.

This is all very understandable and logical, but it has also created a situation where the IT departments within these companies are overloaded with different technologies and applications; legacies of each phase of corporate development if you like.

One of the major challenges facing the enterprise environment is how to integrate these technologies in a way that benefits the organisation, rather than constricts it. IT managers and CIOs contemplating how to govern their disparate collection of technology want to know how they can ensure effective communication, business process management or workflow management within their companies.

These are exactly the kind of areas where systems integrators experienced in the enterprise environment can add immense value, particularly if they are focusing on technologies that facilitate information processing and communication.

Data from research firms strongly suggests that the EMEA market will soon overtake the US market in terms of IT spend. With the Middle East becoming an increasingly important part of an EMEA territory estimated to be worth US$95 billion within three years, it is inevitable that one of the puzzles integrators must solve is not only how they go about providing services, but how they deliver an excellent support framework that caters to the customer over a longer period of time.

The overall theme for the business community remains the delivery of value added services and that is possible only through the latest technology and an outstanding support package.

Some integrators, of course, are doing a commendable job of this, but overall there is a sizeable gap that I think most channel players would acknowledge. Organisations in the corporate and public sectors are chucking vast quantities of cash at their technology infrastructures, but finding state-of-the-art solutions — as opposed to products — remains a dilemma.

Integrators consequently need to approach the segment differently otherwise it is going to be very difficult to survive in the market. As end-users grow in size and stature, they will raise their demands and expectations further. The aspirations of enterprises will hinge on achieving greater efficiency and ensuring that all business operations are streamlined according to their corporate objectives.

For a number of reasons, the outsourcing model is not that mature or prevalent in the Middle East — but this actually presents an opportunity for integrators willing to adapt their style. SIs really need to sit with the end-user, provide a comprehensive explanation of how they can deliver a solution that facilitates organisational performance, and help them from phase one when the requirements are being defined.

A greater degree of education has to be afforded before charging in and trying to sell an implementation. Most systems integrators that fail in their endeavours do so because they exhaust themselves trying to push a specific solution or product-set, rather than providing exactly what the customer is looking for — which is essentially a strategy for change management.

How to change the culture and allow people to integrate and adopt technologies are the most important considerations for today’s enterprises in the Middle East. Integrators need to accept that the days of the hard sell are numbered. Taking care of the client’s business needs throughout all phases of the engagement is what really counts.

Andrew Seymour is editor of Channel Middle East.

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