Plain and simple

Shumon Zaman, CIO of the Bukhatir Group, suggests that sharing common IT functions in a single unit will allow businesses to function far more effectively in the uncertainty of the current economic climate

Tags: Bukhatir GroupEconomic crisisUnited Arab Emirates
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By  Shumon Zaman Published  August 8, 2009 Arabian Computer News Logo

Businesses today are facing unprecedented challenges on how to increase revenue and grow without having to increase staff numbers and additional costs that ultimately cuts into their bottom line. With the current global credit crisis, businesses now really do need to “do more with less.” As we hear so many analysts reminding us that “cash is king” and we need to take a firm handle on our costs and reduce head count, wherever it makes sense to do so, but in reality how is this really possible?

In this climate, how can businesses still operate with minimal staff? For example, reducing the size of your IT team would certainly cut costs but your company would still need people to ensure your e-mail was working or your ERP was still able to process your data and provide information for decision making and so on. Businesses still need to carry-on despite having to shed jobs and in some cases drastically reduce their head count.

How is all this possible? Well, in my experience the answer lies in shared services. The way the concept works is that in place of having multiple functions within a group of businesses, you basically share the common functions such as IT, Finance, Procurement, HR, etc. Irrespective of the nature of your business or the industry it belongs to, you would still require these back-office functions to support the core business.

For an organisation that has more than one business unit it makes sense for them to consider this concept since this would immediately reduce duplication of functions and reduce unnecessary costs. For a single company that may be either too small to even consider having these functions they would be better served by outsourcing these to a service provider that can deliver these services at a fraction of the cost, compared to them building a team internally, if that obviously made business sense to do so.

In my experience, our shared services function has allowed our group to ride this economic storm very well. Today, over 25 business units depend on the shared service functions. Some of our companies are big heavy weights but we also have lightweights that are able to punch with the same power as our bigger companies since they have the same technology powering their business.

As the need arises our business units are able to reduce head count from their core business areas such as sales based on the volume of business but are still able to function as normal since the back-end services are provided by the Shared Services Centre to all organisations in the group.

In our own group, we have an Oracle ERP system that powers our business. The integrated nature of the application allows us to service every part of the organisation and its systematic workflow engine ensures that things which need to be done, get done on time and by the right people. Our shared services team undertakes the procurement function for our group companies and our HR and finance do the same – IT basically provides the vehicle to ensure all these functions work in a smooth and seamless manner.

One of the major benefits of utilising a tier one ERP system is its ability to transform an organisation and force it to standardise and streamline business processes. As an example, the look, the feel and the standard business processes of Oracle are the same if a company is using it in the US, Europe, or in the Middle East.

This makes it easy for organisations to cross-train employees in utilising this type of application irrespective of their location.

With good integrated technology, an employee can be trained to do more on an individual level by undertaking multiple tasks that perhaps were done by many people before – while companies are able to reduce head count by relying on a shared services unit to provide the necessary back-office support. This is irrespective of the size of an organisation, as it grows and perhaps – under these turbulent times – needs to down-size and contract. During which, the main back office functions still stay intact.

Doing more with less is possible but organisations need to lay the right type foundation that allows them to adapt to changing economic conditions. Investing in a shared services model and having the three core essentials – people, processes and technology, in my opinion, is the key to realising that dream.

Shumon Zaman is the CIO of the Bukhatir Group.

Bukhatir kicks off $5 billion sports city in Tunisia

The Bukhatir Group have been busy little bees of late, with the latest activity coming in the form of the US $5 billion Tunis Sports City. The 256-hectare project will act as the flagship for Sports Cities International - a Bukhatir Group company.

Located in Tunis City, Tunisia, the new real estate project will combine residential towers, business centres, shopping malls, sports complexes, schools, hotels, sports clinics and an 18 hole golf course from architect Peter Harradine.

“We at Sport Cities International are delighted to enter this exciting new market, and are grateful to the Tunisian government for their confidence in us, lending their support and enabling our vision for Tunisia,” said Abdul Rahman Bukhatir, chairman of the Bukhatir Group.

According to a statement released by the company, other development opportunities are currently being considered in Sri Lanka, South Africa, Morocco, India and Vietnam by the upper management team at Sport Cities International.

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