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Regional CIOs 'looking beyond' traditional IT consultants

Landscape shifting as service providers take consultative approach, says IDC

Naqshbandi: Many organisations expect their IT service providers to act as advisors
Naqshbandi: Many organisations expect their IT service providers to act as advisors

Middle East CIOs are looking beyond the prestige of well-known consulting companies and are beginning to consider IT consultancy services from systems integrators and value-added resellers, according to Hamza Naqshbandi, senior research manager at IDC MEA.

Speaking to ITP.net, Naqshbandi said that the IT consulting landscape in the Middle East is becoming more competitive due to service providers offering a more consultative approach. He said that this is playing well with CIOs because these organisations also have implementation capabilities.

"Business consulting companies offer a variety of consulting services [including] IT strategy, product evaluation, request for proposal development, sourcing [and] offshore advisory, but very few of them actually offer, or have the skills to offer, technology consulting - for example, infrastructure assessment and readiness for a project, or core technology consulting," he said.

"CIOs are gradually opening up to looking beyond the ‘prestige' of consulting brands. This is making the consulting landscape market more competitive as progressive SIs and VARs with implementation capabilities tap into competitive advantage of approaching customers with a consultative approach."

Naqshbandi added that SIs and VARs are benefitting from the fact that most consultancy service deals are relatively small. He said that they were using this to their advantage by selling big-ticket systems integration deals in which consulting can be included.

However, Naqshbandi did admit that acquiring consultancy services from service providers may not be the best way to go about things for some organisations, given the fact that service providers are incentivised to chase after sales.

"Many organisations expect their IT service providers to act as advisors and guide them in making strategic IT investments. The problem is that service providers generally take an opportunity- or project-based approach, wherein everything is connected to billing rates, and providing non-billable advisory impacts their profitability," he said.

"It is important for service providers to realise that regional customers are still rather low on the IT maturity curve and that they need a great deal of support from their providers."

Naqshbandi said that traditional consultancy firms can still help in this regard, particularly if they have already built up a good relationship with their customer.

"Nothing replaces a personal relationship, especially in this region," he explained.

"Hence consistency, transparency and a candid analysis of a client's state of affairs go a long way in creating that goodwill."