With IT departments increasingly being asked not only to expand the reach and roster of their services, but also innovate in terms of how these services are delivered to citizens, more and more Middle East government CIOs are approaching IDC with questions on how to meet these twin demands without pushing complexities to unmanageable levels. And with end-user expectations and service delivery requirements ratcheting up by the day, that task is not becoming any easier, so which technology investments in particular are they focusing on? (Originally published October 9, 2014)
Of IDC's four pillars, it is fair to say that enterprise mobility is way ahead of the rest, with interest slowly growing in the implementation of Big Data/analytics, cloud computing (where private cloud continues to outpace interest in public cloud services), and social media/social business solutions. Working together, these 3rd Platform solutions drive optimal IT performance by enhancing system availability, increasing asset utilization, enabling connectivity, optimizing applications portfolios, and facilitating a more mobile workforce, so the attraction is there for all to see.
As already mentioned, enterprise mobility continues to enjoy strong traction in the Middle East, more so than any other 3rd Platform technology. In my discussions with public sector IT decision makers it is clear that the main motivating factor behind this trend is their quest to increase workforce productivity/effectiveness and enhance the citizen experience. However, to date, these efforts have largely been ad hoc, with very few institutions having a comprehensive mobile enterprise strategy in place that outlines desired outcomes and specifies a roadmap for reaching these targets in an optimized manner.
The focus of government investments to date in this area has largely been on providing various corporate smart devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) and enabling VPN connectivity for them. There has also been some effort to mobilize enterprise applications. While I expect these to continue being areas of focus over the coming year, I envisage a much greater emphasis being placed on the development of wider enterprise mobility strategies and relevant supporting policies and frameworks (covering BYOD for instance). The implementation of comprehensive mobile threat-prevention measures will be prime among these efforts, while I also see mobile device management (MDM) solutions taking on a much greater priority.
Such developments are sadly long overdue. IDC continuously receives feedback from public sector CIOs in the region citing concerns that enterprise mobility implementations are putting their smart device-bound data at risk and potentially opening their corporate networks to unauthorized access via mobile devices. The current informal approach does indeed increase the risk element exponentially, but it has long been my opinion that the execution of a coherent, all-encompassing enterprise mobility strategy will go a long way to appeasing these fears.
In the realm of Big Data/analytics, query and reporting business intelligence (BI) tools, and data warehouses will slowly make way for mobile BI, dashboards, predictive analytics, and metadata management solutions. These solutions offer the twin benefit of lower costs and faster implementation/deployment of IT resources, and I expect them to become increasingly popular in the public sector as government organizations become more educated on the importance of gaining clearer, more actionable insights into their operations.
And it is here that the relevant vendors need to step in. While there's no doubt that some 3rd Platform solutions are proving more popular than others, what they all have in common is that confusion reigns supreme. And nowhere more so than in the governments of the Middle East. Whether they are grappling with the merits of public or private clouds, worrying about the security implications of enterprise mobility, or struggling to comprehend the relevance of Big Data to their industry, IT decision makers in this sector are in urgent need of a guiding hand.
Given the myriad challenges that exist and the undoubted confusion that surrounds the potential solutions, it is clear that tech vendors need to better educate government customers on how various technologies can best be leveraged to achieve their non-IT related mission objectives. And from their side, I encourage end users to demand successful case implementations when engaging vendors and zero in on the demonstrable (and realistic) gains that can be expected from their prospective investments. Armed with such tangible evidence, they will find their quest to satisfy increasingly complex needs through true organization-wide innovation that much easier to achieve.
- Mukesh Chulani is a Research Manager for IDC Middle East and Africa