RME: How has the year 2010 been so far for Al Taqnyah Business Solutions?
UZ: From the start of fiscal year 2010, we have experienced positive vibes in the Middle East region and we have seen great response from the clients. What we are seeing is that projects which were earlier considered low priority are top of the agenda this year. With the growing number of opportunities, we have expanded our operations across other regions in Middle East including Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Oman, Egypt and Pakistan.
RME: How would you describe business in 2009, a year which saw IT spending being cut by most SME’s and enterprise organisations in the Middle East?
UZ: We did witness IT spending rationalisation last year, which pertained to the overall business scenario across the globe. This year has been more promising and as per the published statistics the total spending on IT in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is expected to rise 50% to US$45 billion by 2010, up from $30 billion in 2006. We envisage that this will rise further in 2011.
RME: How did you manage to stay afloat last year when the global economy was experiencing a downturn?
UZ: We have been one of the few system integrators (SI) in the region that has not only sustained its business in 2009 but secured major breakthroughs across various verticals specifically in the public sector. Enterprise organisations were always looking for end-to-end mission critical solutions which can bring value to their businesses and can enable them to achieve their business goals and objectives. Commitment to our clients, even during the crisis period helped us to get repetitive long-term business from them.
RME: What will be Al Taqnyah Business Solutions’main focus for this year in the Middle East region?
UZ: We have been known for bringing best of breed solutions which are focused on mission critical business issues. The Middle East region has been always open for innovative ideas and adopting new solutions. Building on this trend, we are aggressively moving towards other markets across the region. Enterprise application integration (EAI) and business process management (BPM) are two core areas where we will be focusing more to provide value-added services to our potential clients.
As a system Integrator with expertise across various sectors of the IT industry, what sort of business trends are you increasingly seeing in the Middle East?
UZ: Cloud computing, data and information security, EAI, information governance, process streamlining and service delivery has always been the most important agenda for enterprise organisations here and will continue for the next couple of years.
RME: What initiatives are your vendor partners bringing to the market as IT spending begins to show signs of rebounding in the region?
UZ: We have been working very closely along with all our technology partners, so as to align their strategy in sync with market response in the region. Being a local SI company, with international partnerships and domain expertise within the Middle East, puts us in very convincing position, both for our clients and partners. We have some great initiatives for Q4 this year and 2011, which we shall share shortly.
RME: Most organisations are touting Saudi Arabia IT market. What are your views about this market?
UZ: The current statistics reveal that the total value of IT security spending for the region is estimated to touch US$9.3 billion by 2010, with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain the top five investors. The market seems promising as IT spending in KSA is expected to rise by $5.6 billion by 2013, a compound annual growth of rate of 11%. Apart from these E-government initiatives have been high on the agenda of the Saudi Government. We see a great potential in the market. Al Taqnyah is in the process of finalizing channel partners in KSA Region.
RME: Is this an important market for Al Taqnyah Business Solutions?
UZ: We have been working with our partners for service delivery and yes we see a great potential in the market.
Which countries in Middle East and North Africa will you be focussing on second half of 2010.
UZ: We are closing our third quarter of this year. The last quarter and first two quarters of fiscal year 2011, we will be focusing on UAE, Oman, Qatar, Pakistan and KSA by direct consultancy and channel partnerships.
RME: Where do you see growth coming from for Al Taqnyah Business solutions this year?
UZ: We have secured fair number of projects within public sector within the region, which in fact has been our core focus this year.
RME: A lot of vendors have been urging SIs and solution providers to embrace services. What’s the scope of your services offerings in the ME market?
UZ: When we closely look at official statistics published, the companies opening new and closing ratio is almost same. We wish them all the best in their businesses and are open to assist them and join hands with any SI within the region, should we find synergies with them. Notwithstanding the fact that we are very focussed on solutions selling for specific verticals and indeed specialise in those verticals as well.
RME: Managed services has been talked about quite a lot in the region. In your view, has managed services taken off in the Middle East region?
UZ: No doubt managed services has seen a huge growth in the past two years. CIOs are keen to manage their IT operations with minimum investments and by using best technologies.
RME: What do you see as the most pressing IT and business issues for Al Taqnyah the Middle East region?
UZ: Data security, integration and IP protection has been among the top challenges and in fact a key concern of organisations, along with IT proposition alignment with key business pains. We continue to build our expertise across eServices, EAI, ECM, enterprise integration and portal management. Whenever we start automating business process across any organisation in the Middle-East a major challenge is change management. Al Taqnyah has introduced best practices for implementing change management programmes to educate different layers of management and end users interacting with automated systems.
RME: As demand of skilled IT professionals is at an all time high in the Middle East, how is Al Taqnyah Business solutions managing to retain highly qualified professionals?
UZ: Right resources build an organisation and that has been our core belief from the very inception. We try our level best to keep the team spirit high, giving all the liberty of expressing their views which in turn adds up to their confidence on themselves, their role in the company, the organisation and services.
RME: Amidst of all the issues surrounding the lack of skills, how important is certification and specialisation that various vendors are offering to channel partners?
UZ: Investing in training is always investing in the future. We encourage our human capital to keep themselves up to date in their areas of specialisation. This is always better for their personal and professional growth. At the same time, this is one important step towards our value commitment to our clients. We seek to provide them with experienced and well-trained personnel for any given project.
RME: What would you describe are your key strengths that have made Al Taqnyah Business solutions to be a force that it is today in the Middle East?
UZ: Our areas of strength for IT security include enterprise governance, risk/business compliance, risk assessment and risk management and IT compliance services (security solutions for Credit Cards and payment industries)
RME: What would you like to see happening in the IT industry in the region that didn’t happened last year?
UZ: Many organisations in the Middle-East need to develop strong IT strategies along with policies, standards and procedures to make sure that any technology they source has integration capabilities so that it can truly maximum return on their investment (ROI).
Reseller Middle East talks to Dr Usman Zafar, MD at Al Taqnyah Business Solutions on the solution provider?s channel plan for the region.