Electric technology

Utilities management might not seem like a place that you’d find the cutting edge of technology being used. But as its VP-CIO Marwan Bin Haider reveals, everything from billing to generation is benefiting from his department’s forward-looking approach to IT.

Tags: Apple IncorporatedDubai Electricity and Water AuthorityGoogle IncorporatedMicrosoft CorporationSAP
  • E-Mail
Electric technology
By  Ben Furfie Published  December 14, 2010

Utilities management might not seem like a place that you’d find the cutting edge of technology being used. But as its VP-CIO Marwan Bin Haider reveals, everything from billing to generation is benefiting from his department’s forward-looking approach to IT.

The smile said it all. “This really means a lot to me and my team,” beams CIO of Dubai’s Electricity and Water Authority, Marwan Bin Haider, holding DEWA’s Arab Tech Award. As the head of IT at the emirate’s sole energy generator, he and his department hold the keys to one of the most critical IT departments, not just in the Middle East, but throughout the world. Dubai’s reputation as a centre for finance, technology and media rests on the shoulders of DEWA, and as such he has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. Despite that responsibility, the organisation isn’t content with setting an example for its neighbouring energy providers – it is determined to take the lead in eServices across the Middle East.

“Being under the leadership of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his vision for making Dubai a global economic hub built on a technical basis, the government of Dubai is a pioneer in setting the bar high, especially when it comes to providing high level [public] services utilising the latest technology.”

With such an emphasis on leading the transformation of the UAE’s eServices from the front, it should come as little surprise that the organisation possesses one of the largest IT departments in the region. “IT is split into five main departments,” reveals Bin Haider. “These can be broken down into further specialised sections. We have a total of 154 employees in the IT division. The biggest is our operations and business support department, which accounts for 30%, while a further 21% work within our infrastructure division.

“14% work within the office of the vice president CIO on issues ranging from governance and strategic planning through to general management, while another 7% are our project and key account managers,” he adds.

Reflecting the organisation’s drive to lead the charge when it comes to eServices, Bin Haider reveals that the team behind its iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry applications is one of the largest, consisting of over a quarter of the entire IT department. “Our applications division has 28% of the total IT department, which reflects the importance that we have put on web and software development and enhancement,” he adds.

The size of the department also reflects on Bin Haider’s approach to outsourcing. When asked how much of the company’s IT infrastructure and service provision is outsourced, he states: “Nil. As of today, we manage our various commitments through our internal resources in a cost-effective manner. There are some critical sources that we absolutely have to manage ourselves.”

Despite that stance, he is quick to stress that while that it suits the organisation at the moment, it doesn’t rule it out. “That doesn’t mean that when the time comes and it is economically feasible, we won’t outsource some of our non-critical services,” says Bin Haider.

“The decision [to develop the applications in-house, for example] was made based on the principle of ‘to be, or not to be’. We wanted to prove to ourselves that we are competent enough to exceed our own expectations. This is in line with HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s belief that “the most successful leader is the one most capable of motivating his people, encouraging them to strive harder and be more creative to distinguish themselves”.

“Moreover, by doing it ourselves, it gave us the freedom to customise the applications based on our customers’ needs.”

However, the development of its smartphone and tablet applications isn’t the only thing DEWA’s IT department has been busy focusing on this year. “We have invested a lot of our time in SAP over the past 12 months, and we expect it to continue being a major focus for the next 48 months,” he reveals. “We have just successfully completed the first wave of the SAP rollout over a 10 month period, covering our customer service and billing infrastructure.

“We’re currently in the process of implementing the second wave, which will cover our financial systems (DARAHIM), water and electricity supply (BARQ), human resources (KAWADIR) and material management (MAWAD).

The rapid expansion of its IT infrastructure and the huge success of its mobile and tablet applications has led to DEWA facing a possible shortage in processing power. However, the company is already one step ahead, as Bin Haider reveals. “We have just commissioned our third datacentre, which will empower our infrastructure and enable our disaster recovery plan.”

However, despite this need for a new datacentre, the organisation sees little worth in slowing down. “DEWA has placed at the top of its priorities the acquisition of the latest technologies and solutions, and to apply them to the different parts of our operations,” says Bin Haider. “This is so that DEWA will be in line with the Dubai Strategic Plan as laid by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, which aims to promote the emirate’s role as an international, economic and financial pole.

“One example of our success is shown in the ePayment Gateway offered by Dubai eGovernment. In the first nine months of 2010, it processed over AED 1.8bn ($490m) from 1.3m transactions, of which a significant part was down to DEWA bills.

“The main strategy of the plan is to set up a balanced and effective electronic infrastructure, one that can enhance the march of eTransformation and DEWA’s efforts to deliver the best eServices to its customers.”

While most IT departments have struggled to get an appropriate budget over the past two years, Bin Haider suggests that hasn’t been the case for his when asked how much he has to work with a year, especially with the investment in eServices.

“It’s not a matter of amount, but rather having enough for what you can achieve in a year,” he stresses. “So far, we are fortunate that we have the trust from our management; hence we get the budget that we desire. Indeed, we don’t spare any funds for the sake of cost savings.”

However, despite the lack of budgeting constraints, he jokes that some things never change whether you’re in the private or public sector. “There are always new software licences and their corresponding renewals [to eat up budget],” he jokes.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code