Interviews, Magazine, UAE

CNS: A Titan in the Middle East IT Ecosystem

CNME Editor Mark Forker spoke with Hatem Hariri, Managing Director at Computer Network Systems (CNS) to understand how the tech-centric company has managed to sustain its remarkable success over three decades within the ultra-competitive IT industry of the Middle East.

Hatem Hariri, Managing Director at CNS.

Hariri has enjoyed a distinguished career in the ICT sector and held executive positions across the world, starting from North America to EMEA, MEA, and across the globe at Nortel, Avaya, and Juniper Networks before joining CNS Middle East in 2018 as managing director.

He has watched the IT fabric expand across the Middle East since 2008 and, during that time, positioned himself as a true visionary for IT within the ecosystem of the region. According to Hariri, the rock-solid market reputation of CNS made his move there a ‘no-brainer’.

“CNS had become a legend in the IT industry for its long, rich history – in terms of championing and pioneering new technologies. While the company was formed 33 years ago, its ability to adapt and evolve has ensured it always remained a market trailblazer. I was, of course, excited to join and guide their journey further.” said Hariri.

CNS is already present in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Kuwait, and the company has expressed aspirations to expand its operations to Saudi Arabia and Iraq. He explained how CNS is backed in part by a well-known local group of companies that provided a strong market access, a very powerful and experienced team of professional engineers who are capable and agile, and the financial foundation upon which to grow.

“CNS is part of the Ghobash Group, which is a well-established, diverse group of companies operating across a range of different industry verticals such as healthcare, energy, and real estate—to name a few. CNS operates at the head of the Group’s technology cluster. The Group’s conservative ethics prescribe that CNS also operates under a similar set of principles; employee engagement, and customer satisfaction are in its core value, we’re in a healthy position financially, and our reputation with financial institutions across the region is solid,” said Hariri.

CNS has traditionally operated in the government and banking sectors, but following his appointment as the new Managing Director, Hariri was eager to restructure the company and created three new business units to gain market share in other industry verticals.

“The first business unit focused on IT solutions, and we called this our Innovation and Technology partner. The second unit was specifically designed for banking and focused primarily on ensuring our banking clients achieved their digital transformation objectives. The third unit was IT outsourcing and managed services. We now have two state-of-the-art network operation centres that are based in Abu Dhabi and Dubai,” said Hariri.

The almost immediate success of these new business units drove Hariri to add even more customer verticals to its overall business portfolio.

“I believed that there were several other customer verticals that we could still pursue, so we focused on establishing business strongholds in the Oil & Gas and Healthcare sectors. It paid off as we secured major contracts in the Oil & Gas industry of the UAE and Sultanate of Oman. We will also be making a proud announcement along with the Ministry of Health very soon following the completion of a recent landmark project,” said Hariri.

He added that CNS is refocusing its attention on the defence sector—historically, an essential market for the company. After a slowdown, the company will now re-energise their focus to partners within this vertical and service their needs. CNS has already put into place a new strategy to grow the market.

CNS’ new internal motto for this year is ‘Together we create new solutions,’ a statement Hariri was delighted to mention as it reinforces their mission—that being to serve clients with best-in-breed technologies that are specifically customised to their business needs. He attributes the company’s sustained success over the last 33 years to this customer-centric model.

“In this current digital era, customer satisfaction is a No.1 priority for businesses. We have customers that have been with us for 20 years, a reward for our dedication to delivering the best results and outcomes for our clients. Customer-centricity is at the core of what we do. But we’re not just customer-focused in the sense that we’re trying to satisfy them with good support. We want to be their partner. We want to be active with them at every stage of their journey, to help them overcome challenges and celebrate their goals,” said Hariri.

Digital transformation has been the dominant buzzword in the IT industry for a few years now, and it is yet another area in which CNS excels, helping clients achieve their transformation objectives.

“I’d say that 60 or 70% of our work involves consulting clients on the benefits of embracing digital transformation. Our team shares extraordinary knowledge and expertise with our clients, covering new technologies that have emerged within the IT ecosystem. It’s not difficult to get attention because, for the most part, our clients appreciate the need to transform. Technology is moving so fast that delivering the best customer experience is becoming increasingly complex, but you must succeed, or it could seriously impact the performance of your business. Businesses are very aware that investments in technologies mean staying relevant and competitive, and that is where we come in—to guide them on the best path for their needs,” said Hariri.

Another specialisation that CNS has used to gain market share is cybersecurity. After identifying prevalent problems within the sector, and unique solutions, Hariri has helped position CNS as a significant market leader in this field.

“We have been handling cybersecurity for years, but it was mainly concerning the networking and infrastructure layer. We’ve since added consultancy around cybersecurity as part of our efforts to create a greater awareness of the risks at play. CNS has seen a significant increase in the sophistication of cyber-attacks. More than seventy percent of cyber-attacks, as we know, are created from social engineering. Security awareness is critical for the company as we’re differentiating ourselves by increasing our focus on forensic security and ERP security. These are niche areas for many businesses, but very important. Being able to help companies defend themselves from all active and imminent threats is another arrow to our quiver. The combination of our holistic portfolio will ensure we continue to be a huge success in the IT industry of the region, and beyond.”

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