No such thing as a typical CIO

The wide range of projects in the region reflect the different organisational needs and approaches of CIOs

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No such thing as a typical CIO (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  November 14, 2012

In the process of putting together this month’s magazine, and in conversations with a number of different CIOs from different sectors, I was struck by the sheer range and scope of projects that are under way in the Middle East.

In compiling the Trends section of the magazine (see page 41) it was good to get an insight into what projects are underway, and what CIOs are looking to in future. From pragmatic projects to control costs or improve specific business processes, through to long-term open-ended projects, there’s no one focus or trending technology that is dominating the market.

Companies are looking to address specific pain points - they are looking to better efficiency and alignment with business imperatives, and in some cases they are considering some of the more emerging technologies, but as a rule, they are looking to a proven solution rather than chasing the technology.

That’s not to say there are not organisations working on the edge. The UAE’s Ankabut educational network stands out as a project with a wide remit, including hybrid cloud, high performance computing and more, and it is certainly a project with the scope to make a difference to a lot of users.

There are some areas that are getting a bit more of the share of attention than others. Speaking to several CIOs at Global Business Event’s CIO event, it became clear that security is becoming a much higher priority, particularly those in the public sector or energy. It was interesting that both the mindsee the depth of understanding that many of these CIOs have about the state of security. There is an awareness that the game has changed, and that their existing solutions won’t cut it. That awareness matches with what the vendors are saying, and what the vendors are selling, but it is good that the maturity of the sector is showing through, and that the IT decision makers are thinking for themselves.

Cloud computing also appears to have gradually soaked into regional organisations. This month we feature TIME Hotels (page 68), which has gone live with its implementation of Microsoft’s Office 365 productivity suite, enabling it to make a major cut in costs, and to help it with expansion in future. Bahrain Air also announced that it has gone with the rival Google Apps suite – it might not mark a huge move to the cloud, but it is interesting that companies are adopting software-as-a-service for day-to-day operations. There are also more private clouds starting to go live, and while public cloud solutions are still not so prominent, service providers such as eHosting DataFort are making aggressive moves to launch shared services.

Finally, to consider our cover feature this month, with Emirates Flight Catering, (page62). The company has a mature ERP solution that is key to managing a highly automated and intensive business, but the EKFC IT department is not content to just keep the lights on. Rather, it has embarked on a project to consider the ‘next layer’, building new levels of efficiency from a broad scope of new technologies. It is a great example of the innovation that can be found in the region –innovation that is closely aligned to business processes, and innovation with no illusions about the need to justify IT expenditure, but innovation that is still looking to IT to deliver a competitive edge. There may not be a typical IT project in the Middle East, but the skills and the guiding principles of CIOs in the region, to innovate while bringing value to their organisation, hold strong through all.

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