Challenges facing CIOs in Saudi Arabia today

Devoteam managing partner Osama Ghoul takes a look at the many issues facing Saudi Arabian CIOs working in the Kingdom today

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Challenges facing CIOs in Saudi Arabia today
By  Osama Ghoul Published  May 17, 2011

Devoteam managing partner Osama Ghoul takes a look at the many issues facing Saudi Arabian CIOs working in the Kingdom today.

With the rapid growth of the IT market, CIOs in Saudi Arabia encounter many challenges that vary from making day-to-day simple decisions to taking strategic directions that will affect the future success of the organisation.

As the role of a CIO is becoming less technology focused and more strategy oriented, CIOs in Saudi Arabia are becoming more engaged in setting strategy, enabling enterprise change, and solving business problems, as well as IT problems. Additionally, leading finance professionals have begun to recognise that well-managed IT organisations are not just cost centres, but valuable business partners that can drive both operating efficiencies and top-line growth.

This recent shift in the CIO role emphasises the importance of adopting modern IT approaches that guarantee more efficient business processes, through innovative and visionary use of new technologies, such as cloud and virtualisation, enterprise content management, social media, and proper SOA.

This paradigm shift adds a major challenge before the CIO to balance between the various business objectives, like introducing new technologies, maintaining business agility, being responsiveness, achieving quality of service, cutting cost, and promoting innovative thinking. Each CIO is facing different realities and factors that impact the decisions about how to balance between these business differentiators.

Although cost reduction is not on the top of the list when it comes to the Saudi public sector IT spending features, the calculations of the IT investment ROI remain one of the challenges that CIOs face in justifying their investment.  The emerging technologies are deemed to be the major challenge that requires enormous efforts from the CIOs in assessing these technologies and valuate its benefits against the expected cost.

Among the emerging trends that most CIOs have to confront and introduce within their organisations are that most of IT infrastructure is being commoditised, and most of the horizontal applications are being shared or consolidated, the distinction between internal and external collaboration is being reduced by time, information management is now dealing more with internal and external information as a continuum.

In addition, the confluence of information, operational and consumer technologies will create a new wave of transformational opportunities similar to what is currently named ‘Government 2.0’, the transformation towards enterprise service management, as a full spectrum IT governance, and the introduction of enterprise architecture management are having an impact.

Alongside with the transformation towards adopting and activating new trends, CIOs within the Saudi ICT market find themselves dealing will challenging key issues including balancing the need to influence business strategy with the need to provide top-notch IT support, balancing between cost reductions and enhancing service provisioning, keeping up with the continuous change of the technologies followed to achieve the transformation towards the new trends, and the maturity, availability, and ability of the service providers to fulfil the requirements of the Saudi market.

In addition, they are having to worry about introducing new trends within the organisation to get stakeholders buy-in, developing a surrounding ecosystem that will incubate the transformation process from all aspects, even up to the level of the ethical codes and social policies needed to ensure interoperability, catering for the overlapping roles of service recipients.

Osama Ghoul is managing partner of Devoteam’s Middle East operations.

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