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The drive to transform digitally is changing the role of managed IT services in Middle Eastern organisations.
While demand for traditional services such as networking, storage and software continue to be high, other areas emerging such as managed print services, managed security services and managed network services.
Ensuring services are connected and complementary requires a change in the services offered in the Middle East, according to BT Middle East vice-president Wael El Kabbany.
He said BT has invested in its network managed services to offer customers additional tools and infrastructure designed specifically to meet digital transformation goals.
“Network, voice, security and customer-premises equipment [CPE] portfolios, combined with value-added services, form a commercially and technically enhanced core managed services strategy,” said El Kabbany.
In the Middle East, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi was one of the first companies to sign a contract with BT to provide managed end-to-end networked IT services.
Furthermore, BT and Oracle recently collaborated to make it easier for Middle East firms to move to the cloud. With BT Cloud Connect for Oracle FastConnect, customers in the Middle East can use a private connection based on BT’s IP Connect VPN service, which is designed to exchange large volumes of data between the Oracle Cloud and their own on-premise environment.
As business demands continue to rise, it is vital for every organisation to digitise its IT operations, said El Kabbany. But a lack of effective end-to-end services and tools means Middle East organisations struggle to take new opportunities created by the digital wave, he added.
El Kabbany believes managed services will play a key role in the region by reducing the complexities arising from traditional siloed IT operations.
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According to analyst firm IDC, the Middle East is transitioning to embrace new technologies and trends, and CIOs are grappling with the challenge of prioritising digital transformation initiatives amid tightening budgetary constraints.
A deep understanding of the business is critical, as well as a good understanding of the change management issues of aligning business and technology strategies, said IDC.
“A slow economy presents the perfect opportunity for enterprises, both large and small, to re-evaluate their existing productivity and effectiveness, and to align their business strategies accordingly,” said IDC's regional director for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, Abdulaziz Al-Helayyil.
“Alliances with key players in the managed services arena are critical,” he added.
Analyst firm Frost & Sullivan anticipates managed services providers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states to grow business from $1.07bn in 2012 to $3.11bn by 2018. And while early interest in the managed services provider model has been limited to large enterprises, much of that is likely to be fuelled in the near future by strong interest in cloud-based infrastructure services among small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
For example, for smaller organisations without a massive installed technology base, the shift towards cloud services appears to be a “no-brainer” business decision. The absence of infrastructure headaches frees up CIOs or IT managers to focus on delivery of business services.
El Kabbany at BT said that security managed services is another area seeing increasing demanded in the Middle East, as cyber criminals target organisations in the region.
For instance, cyber criminals are targeting the energy and utilities sector – the malware attacks on Saudi Aramco and Ras Gas are an example.
El Kabbany said the IT threat landscape in the Middle East is evolving rapidly with cyber criminals having an upper hand in some cases.
“The urgency to protect data corresponds to the value of the data, and there is need to deploy comprehensive and fully integrated protection programmes that can analyse security lapses, detect anomalies that permeate through loopholes, and reduce volatility and exposure to risk to a minimum,” he said.
El Kabbany added that many organisations implement managed services to accelerate the digitisation of business processes. But he said few Middle East IT organisations operating either on a global or regional level have managed to evolve their IT operations from a cost centre to revenue generator.
According to El Kabbany, some organisations have managed to evolve their in-house IT departments into service providers with varying degrees of accomplishment.