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ACN INVESTIGATES: People, processes trump technology

Business processes should drive technology adoption, says conference's keynote speaker

Zaman: You need to first make sure that the right business processes are in place
Zaman: You need to first make sure that the right business processes are in place

People and processes are more important to achieving great customer service than technology is, according to Safdar Zaman, head of IT strategy and governance at Nakheel.

Speaking at yesterday's ACN Investigates event, the first in a new series of Arabian Computer News conferences, Zaman said that IT leaders tend to consider technology first, and try to use the technology to drive people and processes. However, he opined that this was the wrong way of thinking about things, and that people and processes and should drive technology implementations.

"People and processes are more important than technology," he said.

"To achieve good customer experiences, you need to first make sure that the right business processes are in place, and then make sure that your people follow those processes. After that, you need to find the right technology to support the people and processes."

Zaman was delivering the keynote speech at the first ACN Investigates, which focused on maintaining customer experiences through IT. In his presentation, he explained that there are six key factors to enhancing customer experience - business processes, providing a personalised experience, unifying customer service channels, reducing customer effort, using big data, and pursuing other technologies that impact customer experience.

Later on in the day, Zaman reiterated these points in panel discussion moderated by Mustafa Faisal Ahmed, co-founder and CTO at Saletab.com, and lecturer on E-Commerce and Digital Strategies at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. Other panel members included Madhu Pajeer, team leader for service delivery at Masdar, and Samir Khan, regional information systems manager at African + Eastern.

The panel's first point was to do with how focused IT should be on their businesses' customers. In general, Ahmed said, businesses are encouraged to be "obsessed" with their customers, though that obsession often gets diluted as the organisation expands and operations become more complex.

Pajeer and Zaman both agreed that IT should be as obsessed with the customer as the rest of the business. African + Eastern's Khan, however, had a different take. He agreed that customer service should be held in high regard among IT leaders, though he also advised taking a more considered approach. He said that it would be prudent to focus on improving operations, and making sure that IT does a select few jobs very well, rather than trying to take on everything, including when it comes to customer service.

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"When you talk about customer service, there are so many things you can do, so many things to implement," he said.

"So you have to be careful about what you choose to do. You should decide, with the business, what works for both you and your customers, and work on improving that."

Khan provided some examples of pilot schemes that African + Eastern is pursuing, and explained that they were being done to improve customer satisfaction. However, he pointed out that these initiatives were not the be-all and end-all of the IT department's responsibilities.  

Moving onto another discussion point, Zaman said that organisations needed to view IT as an enabler, rather than a support service, when it came to delivering good customer experiences. He claimed that CIOs should have a say in their businesses' strategy. However, Pajeer pointed out that many of the current customer service applications available now are resource-hungry, and demand a lot from the IT department.

Following the panel discussion, there were presentations from Hany Maurice, regional channel and alliance leader for the Middle East at Eaton Power Quality, and Ali Kassab, CEO for the Middle East, Africa and Asia at Vocalcom. Later in the day, two case studies were delivered. First, Dr Jassim Haji, director of IT at Gulf Air, explained how the company's recent hybrid cloud deployment had not only improved customer experiences but also provided many operational benefits.

Afterwards, delegates heard from Dr Husam Yaghi, CIO at Alhamrani Group, and Nadien Yaghi, director of sales and business development at eSahara, on how eSahara's technology-enabled business helps restaurants improve customer service.

The ACN Investigates Maintaining Customer Experience event was sponsored by du, Vocalcom and Eaton Power Quality.