Technology is making organisations more competitive and agile
In an exclusive interview with The Edge, Soubhi Chebib, general manager for Gulf Business Machines (GBM) Qatar, talks about trends and challenges in the Information Technology industry. He also discusses how technology solutions provided by GBM are transforming business functions and changing the way companies interact with their customers.
Tell us about your role at GBM and your previous experience?
I came to Doha in 2012 as general manager for GBM Qatar, with the aim of building a team known for its thought leadership. The goal at this office is to enable our clients to be leaders in their respective business sectors, and contribute to the development of IT in Qatar. Previously, I was in Dubai for 11 years as regional director for IBM Systems and Software. In addition to my work in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, in my 30 years of professional IT experience, I have also worked in Canada, France, Kuwait and Bahrain in different management roles.
I have been working in management with IBM and GBM for the last 20 years. In my opinion, good management is about sound judgement, delivery on commitments and agility to adapt to customer needs. I am blessed to work in a profession that I am passionate about.
Can you tell us about the services GBM provides and the industries you work with?
We operate across many industries. Our major customers are in banking, government, healthcare services, oil and gas, airlines as well as media and telecommunications. We also serve many other sectors, as IT is everywhere.
We have a large portfolio of services supported by highly certified teams, and we continue to innovate based on market trends and our customers’ requirements.
GBM recently launched a mobile app for its customers that allows them to open an incident, track the resolution of problems and even measure the quality of service.
How is IT transforming business functions?
For a long time, the primary role of IT was to automate a function or a process to improve efficiency and customer service. Then, integration technology made it possible to connect different applications and systems within, and even across, organisation boundaries. Because of integration, systems can now speak with each other, providing more valuable services and improved productivity.
Today, mobile technology is putting IT services in people’s hands, bringing them closer to their business and increasing efficiencies. Analytics are helping businesses understand customer needs, predicting future requirements and, in some cases, enabling profitability.
Several technological advances – the Internet, interconnectivity, smart devices, smart computing, and big data – are allowing us to rethink existing systems and processes.
Now, we can look at the bigger picture, with smarter solutions for government, utilities, building, traffic, banking, media, schools, healthcare and so many other sectors. The advanced capabilities of middleware software and computing systems allow business leaders to look at challenges more holistically, delivering far better experiences to end-users.
Do you find companies in Qatar willing or interested in making that change?
It depends on the priority of each organisation and its leadership. Without active leadership and commitment, this progress cannot happen. We are witnessing institutions adopt the latest technologies related to mobility; this has allowed them to acquire a higher level of efficiency and improved customer loyalty.
What are some of the challenges you see in the market?
The alignment between business architecture and information architecture, along with all supporting infrastructure, remains a challenge. What worked a year ago might not be the best approach today. Certainly, access to qualified skills and resources also remain a key challenge. As IT is part of the fabric of business, new challenges arise every day such as system integration, data quality, system availability, and business continuity despite disruptive events. All of these factors need to be addressed while improving the return on investment. Furthermore, it is crucial to ensure that the steps we are taking today do not create additional problems in the future.
What is the major driving force in clients adopting technology?
The driving force in adopting new technologies varies. In the public sector, the focus, typically, is to provide citizens with better services, improve government transparency, better security, modernising government services and improving efficiency.
In other sectors, customers are looking at adopting new technologies to innovate new products and/or services, increase profitability, and improve security or customer service. Technology is also widely adopted to make organisations more competitive and agile in the marketplace.
Are those companies in Qatar deploying big data generating actionable insight from data and seeing a return on their investment?
Yes, many of our customers are focusing on big data. It is unlike the traditional business analytics approach because with big data, it is possible to collect, process and analyse structured and unstructured data within organisations and outside their boundaries. Organisations in Qatar are now looking to combine the strength of their internal data, with social media and other sources to gain intelligence that will assist them in growing their businesses.
Where do you see the highest interest in technology to improve business functions and efficiency?
We are working across various industries, and all of these sectors have different priorities in terms of technology deployments. However, we are seeing a growing interest in the areas of banking, public sector and sports.
Talk to us about the Internet of Things. What are the possibilities networked devices communicating with each other can offer a city such as Doha?
The Internet of Things is a network of smart devices connected to the Internet. These devices contain embedded technology that interacts with systems to automate and optimise operations. When we have so many of these interconnected smart devices, the speed in which decisions are made, along with how they are made, changes.
Doha can benefit from smart city and smart traffic programmes to optimise its resources, reduce bottlenecks and improve planning.
What does the role of a system integrator entail and what are some of the challenges you face in this space?
The role of a system integrator is a complicated one. However, we have been playing this role for almost a quarter of a century. The challenges are big – bringing together multiple systems and subsystems, while ensuring that the all components function together and work seamlessly with existing legacy systems, is no easy feat. While many challenges are technical in nature, many others are management-related, especially when working across multiple organisations, in change control and management.