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Microsoft Business Solutions relishes challenges

Company says the market provides unique opportunities and difficulties

Microsoft Business Solutions relishes challenges
Tamer Elhamy, Business Solutions lead in the Gulf region says that Saudi Arabia has one of the highest growth markets in the Gulf.

Microsoft Business Solutions is relishing the rapid market expansion in the Middle East and Africa regions, but Microsoft EMEA chiefs say the region poses specific problems that can both challenge and benefit the company.

Microsoft Business Solutions is the arm of the company that deals with Microsoft's ERP and CRM enterprise software solutions.

Khaled Al-Dhaher, general manager for the MEA region said that the current tumultuous political situation in many of the countries across both the Middle East and Africa, such as Libya, Egypt, Syria and Bahrain, is making the situation both difficult and beneficial to the company.

"There are of course the political challenges that effect all the industries including the IT industry, but these challenges create a lot of opportunity, for example in Egypt we are seeing a lot of interest now in technology, to make sure companies are able to reach citizens, are able to understand more what is happening with the people and how they can connect with the government. So that is a big challenge on the short term. I think on the medium term, it is going to be good for us," he said.

Other challenges for the IT industry and, in particular, Microsoft's Business Solutions include the challenge of the readiness of IT ecosystems within each country and ensuring that the existing ecosystems can support rapidly growing market demands, according to Al Dhaher.

"We are happy to see Microsoft partners are investing a lot into industry expertise to make sure they meet customers' demands. A big challenge is availability of resources, making sure people have the right level of expertise to make sure they are meeting customers expectations, and Microsoft is developing more programmes to make more of these resources available for our partners and customers, but still it is a challenge as the market is growing fast and the demand is significant," said Al Dhaher.

Microsoft is currently investing a lot on the product side of the business to make sure its products are properly utilised by customers in the MEA region to ensure the maximum benefit to the customer's business and the full integration of Microsoft solutions with other products.

Another large challenge facing Microsoft's Business Solutions in the MEA region is that market readiness may vary widely from country to country.

"One of the biggest challenges is that there are a lot of variants in terms of the readiness of the markets in terms of telecoms structure, computing infrastructure, these are also challenges, but also opportunities. In Africa there is a great demand driven by the public sector, by retail which really drives a lot of the business solutions. But the more solutions, the demand on the infrastructure is higher," said Benoit de la Tour, vice president Dynamics EMEA, Microsoft Business Solutions.

De la Tour said that another challenge in the MEA is how a single company is covering so many countries.

"We have a lot of thinking around regional rules, covering multiple countries and we are spending time and money on identifying and ranking up the right channel partners that have a strong presence in those countries," he said.

Tamer Elhamy, Business Solutions lead in the Gulf region, said that just one of Microsoft Business Solutions' sub-regions covers 44 countries, covered by a small team. He said that one of the difficulties is developing a strong ecosystem.

"That is really again part of the challenge, to make the ecosystem is able to reach these 44 -45 different countries and actually more countries are being added. When southern Sudan got independence, within the week we started to get a lot of demand from that particular country, so it is really interesting to see that growth and we really need to make sure our partners throughout this region are also able to meet that demand and what we see now is investment from the partners to achieve that," he said.

These Microsoft executives do agree that the region that has the most potential and is showing the most growth is the Gulf region, with Saudi Arabia and Qatar having the biggest enterprise market.

"I think throughout the region the Gulf region including Saudi has one of the highest growth rates from a business growth point of view, but also from the market growth. The market itself is also growing significantly, driven by certain industries; public sector, financial, distribution, retail, so specific industries are driving growth and with that growth, demand for technologies and specifically business solutions has been significant. Of course the value of Saudi is the size of the market, with the government IT spend in Saudi at almost $5b, so it is quite a significant market," said Elhamy.

He added that in the Gulf, Dubai and Qatar have been significant investors in technology, using it as a competitive advantage, providing services to citizens and to customers.


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