The ICT doctor: Deyaar's VP of IT takes on a host of projects
Deyaar’s new vice president of IT goes about renovating the real estate development company’s IT department, adding value and saving money
Established in 2002, Deyaar is now one of the leading real estate development companies in the Middle East. The company floated with an IPO in 2007, with a share capital of AED 5.78 billion. It is one of the largest developers in Dubai’s Business Bay, but its real estate ventures also span major growth corridors and prime locations across the emirate – including Dubai Marina, Al Barsha, DIFC, Jumeirah Lake Towers, IMPZ, Dubai Silicon Oasis and TECOM.
Deyaar’s current project portfolio includes iconic residential and commercial tower developments, though more mega-projects are on the way, including a new development called Midtown, which is the company’s biggest project yet. Deyaar’s operations are divided across four business units — property development, property management, facilities management and owners’ association management.
However, over the course of the last decade, Deyaar’s IT strategy had fallen somewhat behind its ambitious business strategies. So much so that, by this time last year, many of the company’s systems were not aligned with the business, and were running risks by being outdated and out of support. Alok Srivastava, vice president of IT at Deyaar, was brought in in January 2015, with a remit to rejuvenate the IT department and to create value through technology.
“When I joined I never expected the kinds of challenges that awaited me. In a way it is good, because if you have problems and challenges then you also have an associated opportunity. And that is what I saw at Deyaar, an opportunity to drive business-IT transformation.” Srivastava explains.
“For the last six to seven years, IT was in a sustenance mode — more investment was needed to improve the IT department. In my first month, I just did a study in terms of where we are lagging and what are our risks and challenges. Then we had a steering committee meeting in early March, and that’s where we presented our complete case study in terms of IT strategy and what projects we needed to do as part of the IT transformation roadmap.”
Srivastava has already made a name for himself within the local IT industry, having consolidated and optimised Abu Dhabi-based Masdar’s IT department, saving tens of millions of dirhams in costs during his tenure as head of IT at the company. Looking for better opportunities and challenges, he joined Deyaar, setting in motion a string of projects that would help the company’s IT department to align with business needs and drive value.
When Srivastava conducted his study upon joining Deyaar, it quickly became clear to him that there was much to do. The application portfolio could not meet the company’s growing business demand, and there were fragmented solutions that couldn’t talk very well to each other. What’s more, the company’s core Oracle ERP was close to being out of support, with incremental costs due to keep it supported.
There was a planned upgrade of Microsoft Exchange on the cards, due to the fact that the company’s Exchange 2003 was end of support. There was no operation and patch management system in place. There was no DR site. The customer portal was in critical need of attention. The infrastructure needed rejuvenating, with storage and server consolidation for a virtualisation-driven infrastructure. And the printing system was a key concern, occupying up 60% to 70% of the small IT team’s time. What’s more, because of the fact that technology was reaching end of life, and due to the immense costs associated with the other problems, these issues needed to be fixed straight away. Srivastava and his team had their work cut out for them.
“That’s where we realised we need to do a lot. What we needed to do typically takes two or three years, in a typical organisation. I would have loved to have had that kind of luxury of time, but I didn’t have that. We just had to jump in and start stretching ourselves, so a lot of initiatives started coming up in parallel,” he says.