Innovation to celebration

It’s been a year of sheer brilliance from the IT sector. In response to the strongly recovering economy, CIOs all over the region have transformed IT from a simple enterprise necessity, into a critical, value-adding business enabler. 50 of which were recognised as the outstanding performers in 2012 by industry.

At most IT forums and presentations we tend to focus on the challenges facing the industry, and although these challenges were addressed at the CIO 50 Awards and Forum last month in Dubai, the major players from the Middle East IT industry also had the chance to revel in the glory of a highly successful 12 months.

12 months which saw companies embrace social media, tap into big data, strategically deploy BYOD policies and seamlessly migrate to multiple mobile platforms. 2012 was a storming year for the Middle East – strong collaborations, fully virtualised legacies, and cloud adoptions were among the highlights for many IT teams which have strived to prove the business value of IT to their companies.

“We saw a demand from customers who are embracing technology,” said Joe Tasfai, CIO, Atlantis, The Palm.

“These customers wanted to use their smart devices everywhere, so IT had to deliver. We did that, through increasing bandwidth, providing mobile app solutions, and more. Customers would come to us and say we can’t upload photos at Sandance (Atlantis’ beach located music festival), so we worked to provide a stronger service to cover that area. Now everyone is connected, all the time, and during the day that’s just a regular beach. It’s brilliant.”

Tesfai, one of the winning CIOs, centred his keynote speech on the consumerisation of IT in hospitality, a booming market in the UAE. The consumerisation of IT has been another major trend over the past year and IT teams all over the region have been finding innovative ways of embracing it and translating it into value.

Ali Almazrooei, CIO at Emal, a home-grown aluminium company based in the UAE, also believes that IT has enabled stronger business. During his presentation at the show he provided strong examples of how IT can help organisations to overcome business challenges.

“Today, IT faces many challenges, but every challenge is an opportunity to innovate,” he said.

“But for all new information technologies, we see new business challenges, things like cloud computing, in-memory computing, pervasive mobility. These bring challenges like cost efficiency, security, new skills, and health and safety.”

But Almazrooei explained that Emal has supported the IT team strongly and together the company has recorded an impressive past 12 months, despite these technological challenges.

Major vendors have been supplying businesses with key solutions for dealing with and embracing new technologies, but it’s been the CIOs and their respected teams which have recognised the needs, built the strategies and applied the solutions.

Many of the CIOs present at the awards have been responsible for massive implementations in the last 12 months and many of them travelled from all over the region to network with their industry peers and be honoured by CNME.

But challenges still remain, and one of which Emirates Flight Catering CIO, Arun Tewary believes needs to be looked at is how IT teams convince their respected organisations that they’re entitled to healthier budgets.

“In the Gartner S&P 500 companies list, all IT related costs amount to only 3% of revenue,” he said.

Pointing towards Almazrooei, Tewary then pointed out that metals was the worst off, with a predicted spend allowance of only 1.2% of a company’s revenue.

But when these challenges are overcome, powerful IT collaborations can result in great things. As Ali Sajwani, CIO of Emirates NBD well knows. Sajwani discussed at the event the processes undertaken by the bank during the acquisition of Dubai Bank back in 2011.

Sajwani has swooped numerous awards during his time as CIO at the bank and continued to do so as he, along with all the other speakers, took home an award.

Despite the humble buzz surrounding the region, many IT teams will be facing new challenges over the next year, and the CIOs which show intuition, innovation and key decision making will no doubt be back again at next year’s CIO 50 Awards.

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