Holding all the cards

After years of rapid expansion across the Gulf, building supplies firm Madar Holding had found itself with a disparate IT infrastructure and a lack of consistency in the strategy and solutions used.

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Holding all the cards
By  Ben Furfie Published  January 25, 2012

After years of rapid expansion across the Gulf, building supplies firm Madar Holding had found itself with a disparate IT infrastructure and a lack of consistency in the strategy and solutions used. Hussein Ali, head of IT infrastructure at Madar Holding explains how the company turned to Dubai-based eHosting DataFort to help get its house in order.

The tale of Madar Holding is a cautionary tale. It’s also one of it never being too late to not only correct something that is impacting at the heart of a company, but use that challenge as a source of momentum to catapult yourself to the forefront of the market.

Formed in 2004 as part of Saudi Arabia’s Al Fozan Group’s international expansion plans, Madar Holding soon found itself spread across the region. The building materials business saw spectacular growth as a construction boom rivalling that of Europe’s recovery from World War 2 saw demand for its products go through the roof.

Indeed, the company’s success was largely down to its determination to maintain its focus on service, quality and value to both its customers, and its shareholders. However, that rapid expansion had a downside – one that many companies across the region have experienced at one time or another.

By the end of 2010, each of the company’s subsidiaries was responsible for managing their own IT infrastructure, with fragmented IT teams managing each operation. The situation was  a recipe for disaster.

“We had separate IT teams, and they worked in silos, with each of the acting as a separate entity for the various subsidiaries,” reveals Hussein Ali, head of IT infrastructure at Madar Holding. “We realised that if we were to remain competitive, we needed all these teams to work cohesively as a single IT department.”

That realisation was an important one, and according to Ali, resulted in a fundamental change to the way that the company structured not only its IT teams, but the way it approached IT entirely.

“We recognised that there was a need for us to revamp the IT infrastructure in order to centralise the datacentre at a central location, and to provide a technical solution that matched the size and nature of the business,” says Ali. He also said that the company was acutely aware that it would need to be agile enough to enable it to grow rapidly, and flexibly in the future. “It was necessary to enable us to connected seamlessly to our current regional offices in Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, Syria, Oman, and Sudan, as well as any future regional offices in the MENA region. It also needed to ensure that we had complete redundancy of servers and infrastructure.”

The solution the company settled on was to outsource much of its IT infrastructure to Dubai-based eHosting Datafort. “The project with eHosting Datafort helped Madar Holding to centralise our IT from its previously decentralised model. The result has been we now host critical business applications, such as ERP, communications, and security at its Dubai datacentre.”

According to Ali, the need to remain competitive was the key driver in the company’s decision to overhaul its IT infrastructure. “In our industry, it is challenging to find a competitive edge,” says Ali. “We are all trading in the same commodity. The product type and the origins are the same. Madar Holding sets itself apart from the competition by providing superior customer service based on the highest quality standards.

“A strong IT infrastructure lies at the backbone of such a setup,” he asserts.

After the company had identified its IT operations as requiring an overhaul, the next stage was for the company’s IT department to sit down and settle on an appropriate strategy, before taking its advice to the board. According to Ali, the Madar undertook a complete analysis of its present operations, as well as the plans it had in the pipeline. The result of this analysis was to move towards an external datacentre.

However, the next step – finding the right partner – was not as straight forward. “The selection of a partner was not an easy task for Madar Holding,” Ali reveals. “As part of the selection process, we shortlisted a number of service providers, but eHosting DataFort managed to take the lead.

According to Ali, eHosting DataFort’s role at first was to provide the hosting environment for Madar’s IT infrastructure. However, over time, the company became more and more impressed with the technical knowledge of eHosting DataFort’s staff. As a result, the company expanded its service provider’s remit, eventually switching to a managed services solution. The most crucial aspect of any deal, Ali explains, was the ability to get it up and running rapidly, with minimum disruption to the businesses’ other functions.

“After choosing the software and hardware providers, the project plan was finalised,” he adds. “ This is the time where eHosting DataFort showcased its qualities as the ideal managed service partner. Its technical team did an excellent job and ensured that they clearly understood our requirements. After every implementation, there was detailed testing and a comprehensive deployment plan developed, and executed for every subsidiary.”

He points to the some of the benefits the business as a testament to its decision to work with eHosting DataFort. “Since the beginning, it has clearly understood the vision of the company, and its IT and business requirements,” says Ali. “The solution designed for us was based on our unique requirements. It met these with through the datacentre model in terms of the specification, security, speed, bandwidth, and 24/7 support.”

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