Calling all the heroes

Deep into the second quarter of 2009, we have to yet to see the emergence of regional IT leadership with solid solutions for the current market situation.

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  June 21, 2009

As a journalist, I’m constantly being bombarded with information. Whether it’s from a corporate RSS feed, Twitter ‘tweet’ or even a Facebook status update, information is constantly searching for new avenues to reach us, much like the way rivers cut through land in search of the ocean. While it can be more than a little overwhelming at times, what it does provide is the opportunity to detect trends – or more correctly in this region, the absence of trends.

To be more precise, there’s very little in the way of data to suggest that things are looking either up or down. At present, all our data on the state of the IT economy comes to us from the more “developed” markets, so we have precious few reasons to be cheerful or depressed. It doesn’t help – and I’ve bemoaned this time and time again – that few of the region’s big enterprise players are entirely unwilling to let slip details of their IT projects, until those developments reach maturity.

For some, that’s a conscious choice and it may have its roots in the Middle East’s general desire for privacy. For others, however, it’s simply a case of CIOs not being aware of the power of positive publicity. Take for instance, Oasis Hospital in Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates. I recently went down to have a chat with the hospital’s director of information systems who revealed that’s he’s revamping the firm’s infrastructure, installing a new ERP and even adding virtualisation to the mix.

From the perspective of the region adopting advanced technology, this is great news – but unfortunately, it’s only one of a handful of announced virtualisation projects. I’m absolutely positive that more are taking place, but without anyone coming forward, there might be as well be none happening at all.

And that doesn’t bode well, especially for the IT professionals of tomorrow, who might be considering a career in the industry but lack the kinds of positive role models that Silicon Valley is positively awash in. The history of the American tech industry is littered with winning partnerships – Wozniak and Jobs, Gates and Ballmer, Brin and Page – inventors and businessmen who combined their skills to make technology both affordable and accessible for businesses and consumers alike.

Out here, it seems, we seem to have only businessmen wearing IT hats. And while I’d normally argue that this is a good thing from the point of view of an enterprise’s bottom line, it does also lead to the fact that our regional enterprises are not focused enough on the act of innovation.

As one well-known integrator put it to me recently, many enterprise CIOs in these dark days are focused on the one-dimensional act of building up infrastructure through the procuring of yet more systems or ‘buying-in’ technology. If they cut costs, it’s through outsourcing processes and functions, rather than exploring automation options. Few are prepared to devote the time and resources to investigate more in-depth solutions such as enterprise architecture and even fewer would think about doing them in-house, preferring to leave implementation to yet another vendor consultant.

Last year at the Arab Technology Awards , we honoured the region’s best and brightest for their work in IT – and project innovation was high on the agenda. Work has already started on this year’s edition of the Awards, but it’s clear that for enterprises to succeed, they’ll need to be at the top of their game. Otherwise, we’ll fail to inspire the CIOs of tomorrow, while simultaneously reinforcing the notion of the Middle East as a region of consumers.

We’re halfway through the year – and I’m waiting to be impressed.

Imthishan Giado is the deputy editor of Arabian Computer News.

3532 days ago

Dear Giado, Can you explain more what did you mean with "we seem to have only businessmen wearing IT hats". As what seems to me is IT leaders looking to impress businessmen about the real benefits of IT solutions while trying to implement them in the right way. Besides that, businessmen are more close to outsourcing things than making solution leaders in-house, which is actually a cut-off from an IT team's opportunity of being experts in new technologies. What do you say?!!..

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