Smart moves

In the Middle East, enterprise architecture management is a relatively unknown term. Imthishan Giado spoke with Hungarian firm AAM Technologies during a recent visit to London to discuss what value these systems can add to enterprises

Tags: AAM TechnologiesEconomic crisisHungaryUnited Arab Emirates
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Smart moves LAKHEGYI: The Middle East was picked because we have contacts there and spent time in the region and EAM is not known so well.
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By  Imthishan Giado Published  August 8, 2009 Arabian Computer News Logo

As the world continues to reel from the effects of the first recession of the current century, most vendors are back-pedalling on their efforts to expand into other regional markets. Budgets are slashed, office expenditure is curtailed, while staff nervously work at their desks, hoping to avoid the dreaded reaper's scythe of redundancy.

It's rare then to find a company that has a healthy balance sheet and feels confident enough to consider a move overseas to increase its customer base. It's even rarer to find a vendor that has identified a target market, met with potential customers - but then holds off on the actual move.

Now say hello to AAM Technologies, enterprise architecture management (EAM) software vendor and consultants. The Hungarian firm is currently drawing up plans to establish a presence in the Middle East, but insists that opening an office is not part of the initial arrangements. Many would question what a firm with experience in Central and Eastern Europe would be doing in the Middle East in the first place.

György Lengyel, managing director of AAM closes some of the gaps: "Hungary is the same size country as the [entire] Gulf region and I think there are a lot of similarities between the two regions: Central Europe and the Middle East. That's why we've decided to expand abroad and one of the directions is the Middle East."

Péter Lakhegyi, AAM's business development manager, elaborates: "The reason why we chose the Middle East was that we've already felt that there is a sort of economic downturn in 2008. 75%-80% of our revenue comes out of banking and they've basically stopped spending. We already had plans to expand abroad and we believe that our products and what we do is borderless, so you can sell it anywhere."

"The Middle East was picked because firstly, we've got some contacts in the region. Second, we've spent some time there; we went there as an exhibitor to see if our products are well received and if the customers have similar kinds of problems or issues as our customers in Central Europe.

We found that maybe enterprise architecture management as a term might not be known in the Middle East but once we started talking about it, within two minutes the problem is there and the issues are there," he continues.

Unfortunately for companies like AAM, that's the first and not-significant hurdle - explaining what enterprise architecture management means and how such a system can benefit organisations.

For the uninitiated, enterprise architecture seeks to describe and document the entire structure of an organisation - the applications, systems and processes in use - and their relationship with each other. In the hands of a skilled enterprise architect, it can be a highly useful visual aid to understanding the workflow of an organisation and how IT and business goals can be aligned, while also allowing deep analysis of possible inefficiencies and how to correct them.

Gábor Vinczellér, AAM's head of product development says that the tools of these frameworks are targeted at upper management: "A CIO can use this information to show the business how the application landscape looks like. How many applications do we have, how are they related to each other?

He can express the complexity of what happens if the business needs a solution to be implemented in two days but doesn't understand what it implies on the IT side. He can show that it in fact takes two months, because one change affects several other branches.  On the project level, the system architects who design the particular solutions can use this software to see what is the current architecture right now in the focus of this particular project."

AAM first visited the region in February 2009 to exhibit at the MEFTEC conference in Bahrain. For its initial foray, Lakhegyi says the firm is looking for customers from the Kingdom, as well as Qatar and the UAE, with the idea being that AAM first lands some high-profile customer wins.

"We're not considering short term things here because we believe that when you go to a region, the first thing you need to know is, are you capable of understanding the people there? It will take time because this is a different culture

 Decisions are based on an emotional factor but there are many differences. We need to learn a lot and this can never happen in six months time. So we're looking for possible business partner companies as well. We have contacts and are progressing with them," he states.

Initially, the firm plans to work with consultants which specialise in business continuity planning and disaster recovery. This may strike some as an odd choice for a technology vendor," adds Lakhegyi.

"This is because on the technical side, our projects are not very heavy on technology. You need to create the culture within the enterprise to enable the enterprise to get benefits of our products. There's always business consulting to ensure that it's well received and tailored to the company's environment," explains Lakhegyi.

Another part of the puzzle that has to fall into place before AAM can consider establishing a presence here is ensuring that companies have teams which can make use of technologies like enterprise architecture.

One of the more oft-repeated statistics from the EAM conference stated that over 40% of enterprise architecture projects fail. Lengyel has some suggestions about why this is the case.

"Sometimes there is no clear focus or aims of a project. They have not discovered correctly the connections between the systems. When the project started, they find new connections which require more and more effort and money. Then the project fails to meet the deadline because of a low budget," he posits.

And that, after all, is the main point of any IT project - budget. At the end of the day, any implementation needs to either add functionality and preferably save money while doing so. In theory, a good enterprise architect will over time manage to do just that. AAM provides EAM tools with a licencing cost, coupled with the use of consultants to help design the structure of an organisation.

A typical implementation can range from US$500,000 and $700,000 and takes in the region of three months to complete. While it's not an inconsiderable amount, Lakhegyi claims that it's because EAM typically requires more human than technological input.

Inevitably, much of an enterprise architect's time is spent identifying individuals within an organisation who can provide the correct data about the data and processes. Lengyel states firmly that this is the approach he aims to take with AAM's eventual entry to the Gulf.

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