When Business and IT meet



International Data Corporation (IDC) has recently hosted the Middle East CIO Summit 2015 in Dubai under the patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Culture, Youth & Community Development in the UAE.

The event brought together CIOs and ICT professionals from different countries who gathered to gain insight from industry experts as well as real–world experience from CIOs on critical business and technology issues. Over two days, participants were able to explore the latest IT and business trends that will help shape and benefit their business as well as help them drive IT Initiatives in the right direction all year long.

Examining the most pressing issues and cutting technology paradigm shifts underpinning the technology driven evolution of collective business environment, this year's edition was under the theme 'IT Meets Business'. This strategy aims at assisting organizations in the implementation of true digital transformation.  


During the launch of the global ICT consulting firm's new 'IT Meets Business', Stephen Elliot, Vice President of Research, IDC affirmed that security and mobility have now firmly established themselves as the top two strategic investment areas for CIOs operating in the region. This is because of the increasing engagement of organizations across the Middle East in 'mobile-first' approach to business. He also explained that the proliferation of mobility is heightening the customer privacy agenda to such an extent that by 2016, security will not only be a concern within the IT department but also a top-three business priority for 70% of global enterprise CEOs.


Moreover, Steven Frantzen, Senior Vice President for EMEA, IDC, and Jyoti Lalchandani, Group Vice President for META, IDC explored the opportunities and disruption being brought by the unprecedented rate of digital transformation occurring in today's forward-thinking Middle East enterprise. "Customer relationships, business models, workforce dynamics, and marketing channels are all undergoing irrevocable change at the hands of digital transformation," said Jyoti. "The technologies making all this possible are revolutionizing the IT landscape, and while the path to true digital transformation may not always be a smooth one, CIOs looking to maximize the potential of these emerging technologies must take immediate action."


Majed Al Suwaidi, Managing Director, Dubai Internet City also spoke at the press conference, focusing primarily on the critical role that innovation and infrastructure play in the creation and enablement of vibrant communities that effectively leverage the very latest technologies in their quest for operational excellence.



To get more details about this year’s event, we got talking to Abdulaziz Al-Helayyil, Regional Director for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain, IDC who said,Based on our surveys at IDC, we know that while governance and compliance are the most important things, we still find that around 44% of CIOs are still facing challenges in aligning business with IT. Moreover, we can see that CxOs are influencing decisions, however, CIOs are still the ones taking the final decision.”

Stressing on the importance of innovation in today’s world, he affirmed, “The Middle East has very high potential in being innovative as companies in the region are more focused on innovation than the worldwide average.”

When asked about security and mobility, he confirmed that there is no doubt that security is a strategic investment area for CIOs in the Middle East. “The current political situation worldwide as well as the situation in the GCC highlight the importance of security, especially cyber security.” He continued, “Mobility has become very important as companies are focusing on it more and more since it is capable of pushing the process of business forward. This is why we expect the Chief Innovation Officer to be replaced by Chief Information Officer, because mobility comes from innovation minds more than operation minds.”



A minute with Robert Brower, Vice President of Worldwide Customer Support and Training, CommVault


Could you please tell us about your participation in this event?

The IDC conference allows us to highlight what we are offering to enterprises in the Middle East - a unified data management platform called Simpana. We are market leaders and most analysts subscribe to the same view. Gartner, Inc. has placed us in the Leaders segment of the Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Backup Software and Integrated Appliances for four consecutive years.

The Middle East is a very key target market for CommVault. We are investing heavily in the region and are looking to extend our partner community, as well as increase our customer portfolio of large enterprise customers through our strong value proposition of not just streamlining operations, but demonstrating a solid Return on Investment (RoI) and saving costs.

This exhibition is one of the signature IDC events for CIOs with an aim to spread awareness across stakeholders in both the Gulf and the UAE communities. CommVault has been in this market for a while; however, our presence is stronger than ever now in the region. We have regional coverage and want to make sure that customers are aware of our presence.


What are the various metrics you put in place to gauge customer satisfaction and what does CommVault do differently in terms of customer service that ensures that the company consistently outperforms industry averages?


There are two main factors. Innovation and personnel.

From an innovation perspective, our product is more modern than many of the other products in the market. This allows us to proactively identify customer issues before they occur. We have a series of performance indicators that lead us to assess problems before they affect the customers. Instead of customers calling on us to complain about an issue, we are contacting them saying that we will help them in solving the problem before it affects the organization. That works out very well and we continuously refine our processes.

From a personnel perspective, we have a single support system network that comprises of four global support centres all working in tandem 24/7. We offer support in 29 languages, and our personnel have an average tenure of 3.6 years. Market and industry standards say that a call centre will change its staff over 50% each year; however, our average is 3%. We have good people that like working for us and that is reflected in the way they treat our customers - with respect and professionalism and a high degree of technical capability.


From your experience, how can regional enterprises build and enhance customer support services?

An organization like ours will do its best to align with market requirements in terms of language support as well as cultural understanding, awareness and ability to provide “local boots on the ground” with our regional presence.

For a company to maintain its presence in a market, it has to invest in its partners, channels and customers themselves as well as engineers and technical sales personnel. CommVault is making a full effort to succeed in this region. Any organization coming to this market has to have a local presence, personable support, excellent technologists and a regional commitment.

CommVault also has a solid partner landscape. We focus heavily on partner enablement and we are pushing hard to ensure that our partners are enabled from both, a technology as well as a sales perspective.


What are CommVault’s plans in this area for the coming years?


We are planning to continue our journey of identifying key partnerships in order to build a broader channel. There is partner enablement investment, continued investment in additional personnel as well as continued investment in supporting our customers that we have today.

We have added a great number of staff to our team in the region. The UAE is a hub for us. We also have offices in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and South Africa and are looking to expand into Qatar. Thus, as we continue to grow, our investments will grow in parallel.




A minute with Ray Kafity Vice President - Middle East Turkey and Africa, FireEye

Could you please tell us about your participation in this event?

IDC’s CIO summit is a great platform for us to present our market strategy and intention to build our presence in the Middle East. More than 300 major CIOs from the region participate in this event, which gives us a chance to engage with them and exchange ideas.

We are displaying a security platform for major organizations, financial companies, banks and governments. This platform embodies three pillars, security technologies, expertise as well as cyber-threats intelligence. Advanced cyber-attacks are gaining momentum on a daily basis. In order to provide a workable security solution that protects companies from this, we need to have security expertise behind the technology to take the cyber threat intelligence caused by those solutions and outline how to make a process to eventually protect companies and networks from this menace.


How do you asses the status of cyber-crimes in the region lately?

Cybercrimes are thriving in the Middle East due to three main reasons. The Middle East is a traditionally rich area in mineral resources. From an industrial and competitive point of view, we can notice that the oil and gas sector is continuously targeted by cyber-attacks. Moreover, the region is abundant in financial resources and money attracts both physical and cyber criminals.

Additionally, the Middle East is in a political turmoil, which is creating a massive cyber content from different parties. Therefore, this is affecting political instability and appealing to cyber attackers.


How is FireEye helping enterprises detect and respond to advanced attacks?

We believe that traditional security solutions currently available have proven their infectivity in catching, alerting and defending against cyber-attacks. The reason is simple. Advanced cyber attacks have made a name for themselves because they were bypassing signature based technologies.

Advanced cyber-attacks don’t have signatures associated to them or a fingerprint to identify their activities as attacks. Signature-based solutions can detect that because there is no signature. Therefore, there was a need for a new way or technology to detect unknown attacks. FireEye came up with the virtual execution engine, which is not a signature-based solution but a new technology that enables detection and allows repairing the cyber-attacks in a few minutes.


What can we expect from the next wave of cyber-attacks?

We expect them to be more complicated, more polymorphic and more dynamic. Cybercriminals will consider innovative ways to bypass any traditional or security layer in order to get their objective, which is fueled by money. Thus, there will be an increased need in the market for solutions like FireEye’s solution to detect the anomalies. This is what we do by alerting enterprises about any potential cyber-attack and fixing it in less than 7 minutes in case it occurred.


How do you plan to move forward with this sector?

Statistics show that an attack stays within a company for an average of 229 days before somebody detects it, and once they discover it, it takes them between 30 to 60 days to fix the problem. Our mission at FireEye is to reduce this period to less than 10 minutes. However, in order to shrink 6 – 7 months into a few minutes, there is a need for a powerful security solution, a new way of detecting attacks.

Furthermore, we plan to become number one in this sector. Nothing less, nothing more.


A minute with Sa’di Awienat, CTO & Global Services Leas, EMC Gulf


Could you please tell us about your participation in IDC CIO Summit this year?

EMC has been always keen to participate in IDC conferences. This is our seventh participation as we value such events where we have a great opportunity to meet with CIOs and collaborate with them on many levels. This year, we are focusing on hybrid cloud, one of the current trends in the industry. It is a platform that allows customers to gain the benefit and the value of private cloud that they build on premise, where they apply all their security measures and policies. At the same time, it enables them to gain some of the benefits available in the public cloud services.


Who is requesting this solution the most?

Such solution fits the needs of most of the customers from different sizes and industries. Even large enterprises have been interested to consume some of the services on the public cloud. Most of their workload and data being confidential and mission critical, they prefer to keep them in their own data center, their own private cloud. However, a great portion of that workload and data can be placed on the public cloud and consume services from the service provider.

It is also beneficial for SMEs and startups that are keen to start shipping everything on the public cloud. But, as they start growing and their data and operations start getting complex, they become keen on bringing back some of the workload to their premises, and this platform enables them to do that.


What are the main challenges that EMC is addressing in the Middle East?

We believe that IT customers nowadays are under a huge pressure to cope with the changes happening in the market. There are mega trends happening in the cloud, big data or with issues related to security, and they are required to cope with this kind of megatrends. This puts a lot of pressure on them because at the same time they have limited resources and limited budgets, so they are keen to collaborate with companies like EMC to help them overcome these challenges. Our mission is to help customers on their journey of transformation. We provide them with the right set of technologies that suit their requirements as well as the expertise that we have acquired by dealing with thousands of customers all over the world. Therefore, we bring those best practices to the customers so we can accelerate their transformation journey and ensure they are ahead of the wave of change that is influencing everyone.


What are the main solutions / services that you will be launching this year?

EMC is always launching new solutions. We are focused on innovation, our commitment to customers is to hear about the latest innovations first from EMC. This is why we are dedicating and allocating more than 10% of our annual revenue on research and development, we are spending extensive amounts of money to acquire niche technology companies that would complement our portfolio and extend our capabilities to fill the customer’s needs.

There will always be innovation, new solutions, new technologies coming from EMC mainly around flash, software defined, data centers, big data, analytics and similar hot topics.


What is your take on the current IT situation?

I am very excited about the current situation of the IT industry. We are in the middle of a mega transformation. Things are accelerating unexpectedly. In the coming few years, we will be seeing new mega players stepping into the market. It is all about innovation and commitment to the customer’s need. It is a very interesting period and we are very keen to play a vital role in this transformation.




A minute with Jonathan Duncan, ITB MEA Director for Integrated Solutions & Data Center Applications, Schneider Electric


Could you please tell us about your participation in this Summit?

IDC is a key partner for us around the globe, we engage with them on a global level through all their events, which bring all technology leaders together. These events allow us to convey the way we see the IT industry evolving to our partners and their business associates. At the same time, it is an opportunity to learn from other like-minded professionals in the industry and to gain access to markets that we are not really aware of.

At this event, we will be discussing infrastructure and efficiency and the readiness to next generation data center. Today, we see the uptake of cloud computing accelerating, it is a game changer. We will see this putting challenges on data centers. The majority of legacy data centers are not capable of handling the high compute requirements that will be associated with cloud computing.


What is Schneider Electric doing differently in this industry?

Schneider Electric is heavily focused on infrastructure and infrastructure management. We are defining world-class solutions and highly focusing on efficiency. One of our key drivers is to optimize energy, reduce wastage and get maximum performance from capital expense.  


What are the projects that Schneider Electric is currently working on in the region?

The GCC is a major location for us. We have many projects in the UAE with different parties such as the department of transport and Etisalat.

Moreover, in Saudi Arabia, we have many projects with STC, Mobily and all the key telecommunication companies that are looking at developing their operations.

How do you plan to grow further?

At Schneider Electric, we devote almost 5% of our overall revenue turnover to Research and Development. We always interface with other big OEMs like CISCO. We work with them to learn about their new technologies and how we can embrace it to get the data center future proof. Therefore, R&D is the key commitment that we make to this industry.



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