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CIOs to set up IT group

In the first NME CIO Power Luncheon, select IT managers from the UAE decided to form a community to promote end-user interests

In the first NME CIO Power Luncheon, which was held recently in Dubai, select IT managers and CIOs from across the UAE decided that it was time to form a vendor-neutral IT community that was driven by CIOs.

According to them, the group is essential to encourage change and growth in the UAE and the larger Gulf region, as well as tackle the challenges faced by end-users in the region including the limitation of knowledgeable consultants, vendor reluctance to customise solutions for end-users and the premiums charged for service and support.

"It is all about protecting your investment. A group is needed to support the local IT community and promote end-user interests. There are several things such a group can do once it is established, including demanding more and getting more from vendors operating here," said Ahmed Al Mulla, CIO of Dubai Aluminium.

The group will include in its ambit every aspect of information technology (software, hardware, service and support) and it will work to build influence and to continuously add perspective to vendor-customer relationships in the Middle East.

The group, which is being spearheaded by NME and ITP, will include a certain number of core members, who will dedicate time and energy to the running of the group. It will also boast a larger member base from the UAE and the region, which will be involved in achieving stated objectives and will benefit from its strength.

"In terms of timing, right now is a good time to form the group because the Middle East is in everybody's radar. Growth is slowing in other parts of the world, budgets are in difficulty, so people who wouldn't give us ten minutes of their time before are more than willing to come, to talk to you, to listen to people who have some influence. So I think it is a great time to form a group that can strengthen our position further," stated Ramesh Cidambi, director of IT and logistics at Dubai Duty Free.

In heated discussion, the IT managers pointed out that the group, however small, could give end-users enormous power to demand more customisation from vendors, demand better support, set benchmarks for service provision, certify vendors and products for other end-users and work to increase awareness of best practices across enterprises.

"Compliance will be the next big thing here. Financial markets are growing and other requirements are coming up, but we are very behind with this here. Our IT group can build awareness on this and other governance concepts," pointed out Bassem Aboukhater, MENA regional IT director at Leo Burnett.

"Standardisation and benchmarking should be some key objectives of the IT group apart from lobbying," said Lami Kaya, IT centre director at Sharjah University.

"We have to build recognition with vendors and organisations and the government itself at the end. Once other people in the region see the benefits of the group, more of them will come to find you. To get there we need another six months to one year and we need dedicated people," added Abdulsalam Rahma Al Bastaki, director of IT and services at Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority.

"If everything goes well, we might be able to do something special to coincide with GITEX Technology Week, which will bring to the UAE several IT heads from across the region," said Mohammed Thameem Rizvon, group IT manager at retail chain Kamal Osman Jamjoom.

The IT managers agreed to set down a clear mission as well as short and long-term objectives for the community in their next meeting, where they will also discuss the team's GITEX initiatives further.

If you are an IT manager or CIO in the Middle East, you are welcome to join the next meeting of CIOs, which will be held on the 22nd of July 2008 at 6pm in Dubai Internet City (DIC), Dubai, UAE.

For any clarifications and further details on the venue and the agenda, please feel free to get in touch with Sathya Mithra Ashok, Editor of Network Middle East (sathya.ashok@itp.com/ 04-4356187).

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