In recent years the Middle East has seen significant growth in many different markets but few as dramatic as in the information technology sector. This has been facilitated by the region encouraging private companies, as well as a more hands-off approach by local and federal governments, allowing for ease of foreign travel.

With business getting done easier and over wider markets, corporations in the Middle East are looking at their internal IT infrastructures to determine the best ways to bring products to market efficiently, provide the best services to their customers and protect internal and external data. These are especially key areas of focus when concerns about broadband capabilities are replaced with a stronger mobile and IT convergence shift.

The chief concern for Marwan Al Siddiqi, IT director at Al Rajhi Investment Group, had been experiencing unacceptable internet speed which hampered the ability to grow. This has now transformed into the need to identify the technologies and trends that will drive greater efficiency in the delivery of IT. As a result he will be looking at the appropriate technologies to accomplish this at the CIO Summit MENA in Abu Dhabi in November.

As telecoms and IT move closer towards convergence, the ways in which organisations use the communications components to support business activities continues to change. The old days of telecoms players expecting users to fit their business needs into a rigid, expensive highly technology-focused set of services is being challenged. Instead of hiding behind technology, telcos and their partners need to hide the technology while exposing the services and how they relate to the business within which they are being used.

This has been accentuated most recently by the current news that Intel will be acquiring McAfee for $7.68bn in cash. This will be beneficial to most CIOs and IT directors when utilising Intel servers due to the added level of security and management systems that will become inherent in the imbedded Intel hardware. Graham Titterinton, principal analyst at Ovum, explains that: “McAfee’s products extend beyond IT security into governance and aspects of systems management, and so this acquisition will increase Intel’s exposure to the CxO level executives in the world’s largest organisations.”

These executives will discuss the need for appropriate CRM software needed in a region predicted to experience annual compound growth in CRM software purchases of 12 to 13 per cent until 2012. This becomes a gain or loss of competitive advantage if competing companies are lacking in an effective way to communicate and provide services to their customers.

More and more companies in the Middle East are becoming interested in deploying high-end technology to gain competitive advantage while at the same trying to keep their IT infrastructure costs to a minimum. As a result, the IT services market in this region is predicted to grow rapidly over the next two years, reaching $3.5bn by 2011 with exceptional growth expected in outsourced services, particularly in managed network and desktop services. However, can the quality of IT services delivered to end-users in the Middle East keep up with and challenge the standards seen on a global basis?

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