Dubai’s Kentech kicks off digital transformation drive

Energy and industrial support company will go live in Oracle’s cloud next month

Energy and industrial support company Kentech is one of many Dubai-headquartered organisations to migrate to the cloud and, with most of the project done, it plans to switch over to the cloud in the first month of 2020.

Following the arrival of the first Oracle datacentre in the Middle East this year – in Abu Dhabi – Kentech chose to partner with the US software firm to execute its cloud ambitions.

Founded in 1994, Kentech offers engineering, construction and maintenance services and wanted to streamline its IT to support expansion. According to the firm’s newly appointed group IT director, Damian O’Gara, Kentech was “carrying a lot of technical and process debt” before he arrived in January this year.

“My role was created to help grow the company as we are expanding our business,” he said.

O’Gara has a track record of building and leading high-performance international IT departments, with experience in sectors such as healthcare, retail, defence and media. He joined Kentech from OSN, Dubai’s satellite TV network.

Kentech currently employs about 5,000 people and has projects and offices in several countries, including the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, the Netherlands, Australia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Mexico and Russia.

In his first few months at Kentech, O’Gara set about assessing the firm’s global IT systems – including infrastructure and applications – and created a tech roadmap into the future. “We’re now on a digital transformation journey,” he said. “We’ve got a datacentre that’s old and hasn’t been refreshed, so we’re taking a digital leap and moving to the cloud.”

Read more about digital transformations in the Middle East

According to O’Gara, enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a critical part of the company’s modernisation programme and he is also keen to transform and update its financial and HR systems. “We wanted to get a cloud-based SaaS [software as a service] platform that is industry-recognised,” he said. “Kentech has suffered with poor IT adoption partnerships in the past, so we needed something that was world-class. We wanted something that our business would love and use.”

Kentech launched its tendering process early this year and by July it had selected Oracle as its cloud partner.

“During the tendering process, we found that our business was closely aligned to construction,” said O’Gara. “Some of our requirements were quite complex, especially when dealing with reimbursable and fixed-price work – they can chop and change on a daily basis. We found that Oracle could meet those complex requirements.

“For us, it was the ERP and budgeting models that were the differentiator. We’ve now started implementation and we’re going to go live at the end of this year with the first phase. We’re a project-based business, so we need to be able to scale up and down very quickly. The cloud model suits us perfectly as a business because we can be flexible, rather than going all out and saying ‘I need 10 more servers’.”

Cloud modules

Kentech is currently rolling out the Oracle Procurement and Oracle Financials modules, to be followed by Project Planning and Control and Human Capital Management in the coming months. “This is all part of a modernisation phase,” said O’Gara. “We then want to look at more innovative technologies, like IoT [internet of things] and blockchain. We haven’t got an analytics programme yet, but next year we’re going to focus on this ­– we have the option to go with Oracle Analytics or Microsoft’s Power BI.”

The cloud initiative is being implemented with caution, he said, because it is important for the cloud plan to be accepted by Kentech’s employees.

“We need to make sure we identify business champions, get them aware of the project, and get them trained,” said O’Gara. “The technology implementation itself may be quick, but it’s still a huge business change.

“Some employees have been with the company for 20 or more years, so this means they’ve had to adapt their way of thinking and processes to fit the problem.”

Configured commands

Kentech selected a configured system, not a customised approach, which means staff had to be educated on cloud systems. “It was critical that we had a product that fitted our business and that the processes would be adopted out of the box,” said O’Gara.

The IT director is currently heading up a team of 20 to push the project through, supported by additional supplier and partner teams.

Going forward, O’Gara sees less need for in-house software development. “The IT team is small,” he said. “It’s a business-led project. We’re more focused on app configuration on the back-end of the cloud than technology skills.”

O’Gara said he is “solidly optimistic” about Kentech’s digital transformation plans. “We’ve made a great start with a great team,” he said. “With the partners that we’ve got on board, we’ve got a high chance of success. Our go-live date for cloud is 6 January 2020. After the first cloud phase comes more cloud with Oracle.”

O’Gara said the firm’s tech budget could “possibly double” next year as it looks to add more cloud modules and functionality.

“First we’ll get the basics in place and then we’ll see where the gaps are,” he said. “If there’s a process that needs to be automated that hasn’t come out of the cloud delivery, then we may bridge that gap with automation technology.”

O’Gara said Kentech’s initial cloud migration will principally bring flexibility and scalability benefits. “We don’t need to worry about how to scale,” he added. “We’ll leave that to the experts so we can focus on our business.”

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