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Staffing dominates regional CIO challenges: IDC

By Sathya Mithra Ashok

Staffing issues, including recruitment, retention and development, will remain the biggest challenge for regional CIOs in 2011, according to the most recent IDC Middle East CIO survey. At a press conference preceding the Middle East CIO Summit, Jyoti Lalchandani, IDC’s VP and regional MD for the MEA at the research firm stated that nearly 60% of the CIOs involved in the survey named staffing as their top concern for the year. This reinforces Computer News Middle East’s (CNME) recent findings on IT staff challenges as voiced by IT heads at its exclusive CIO roundtables.

This major staffing issue was closely followed by IT project control and management, change management and measuring ROI of IT investments, as faced by CIOs.

The IDC survey also states that more than 84% of the polled CIOs named virtualisation (across servers, storage, network, desktop/client) as the main technology they would be scoping for projects in 2011. BI and analytics (more than 60%), unified communications and/or video conferencing (just less than 60%) and mobility technologies (at 50%) were other technologies that were named by the CIOs as potential for their interest in technologies in 2011.

“Market recovery and mood seems to be shifting to a cautiously optimistic mode. Around 56% of the surveyed CIOs stated that the sales activity in their organisation were growing and another 42% said that the activity was rather stable. Only 2% said that the sales activity was shrinking. Altogether this indicates better news for the market,” stated Lalchandani. The survey reflects the statements of the top 100 CIOs from the region, qualified by their IT spend budget.

IDC also stated that the projected IT spend for 2011 in the Middle East would be $19.8 billion, indicating a growth of 10.3% from the previous year. Two thirds of this spend will go into hardware components and building infrastructure, and only one third will be spent on software and services. KSA, UAE and Qatar will remain the strongest growth markets for IT spend this year, according to IDC.

“We believe that the market is evolving and the relative percentages of spend will change based on the maturity of the market. By 2013, we believe that nearly 25% of IT spend in the region will go into services. This includes everything from basic fix-it services, to value addition like outsourcing and managed services,” said Lalchandani.

A panel comprising of the whos-who of vendors in the Middle East industry added their comments to the IDC findings and highlighted the areas that they would be focusing on during the Middle East CIO Summit, which starts on Sunday.

Asked about the persistent after-sales service and support issues faced by CIOs, as raised during the exclusive CIO roundtables conducted by CPI in the recent past, the panel enforced that vendors are constantly working to provide customers with the knowledge and support they require.

“IBM sees around 50% of its business coming from emerging markets in the near future. And we are investing in the skills necessary to facilitate and support this growth in the relevant markets. We are constantly working to improve our vertical-focused knowledge by hiring more vertifcal-specific people. For eg, we have a doctor in the IBM offices here in order to talk with more familiarity and understand better the issues faced by the healthcare industry here,” said Bashar Kilani, territory manager for the Gulf and Levant at IBM.

Mohammed Amin, VP and GM – Turkey, emerging Africa and the ME for EMC agreed with Kilani, adding that the situation with support has improved tremendously over the past five years and EMC was striving to keep improving these metrics.

Steven Frantzen, senior VP for EMEA research and MD for the CEMA region at IDC pointed out, “There are several challenges that vendors face when it comes to support and service in emerging markets. Some of them are related to the skills shortage. The same issues that end-users face with hiring the right staff affect the vendors as well. The second is related to scale. Most sales and support in emerging markets is also still very relationship-oriented. Therefore, due to the cultural elements of a region, they might not be very willing to understand or consider remote support.”

While echoing these words, Eyad Shihabi, MD and enterprise business lead at HP ME said, “You have to keep in mind that there is always room for improvement. We are trying constantly, but no system is perfect and there is always something more that can be done.”

The IDC Middle East CIO Summit will take place from the 20th to the 21st of February 2011 in Dubai.

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