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revolution How the American University of Beirut is putting students at the heart of its fiveyear plan for technology transformation

TOP10 Most expensive restaurants in the Middle East

REDHAT Bringing together the open source community


Abu Dhabi

FOREWORD WELCOME! THIS MONTH’S Middle East edition of Business Chief is a bumper issue packed with some the biggest names in the region. Our cover story features an interview with CIO Dr Yousif Asfour of the American University of Beirut who discusses its highly successful digital transformation programme. The relentless march of digitisation also features heavily in our leadership feature with Lee Mills the General Manager for MENA of software company Red Hat: “The CEOs of some of the world’s prominent banks have said ‘we will be becoming a technology company’” he explains, “and that’s a clear indicator.” Elsewhere, we have profiles focussing on leading figures at Cerner, Gulf Bridge International, Dabur International Ltd, Kunooz Oman Holding SAO, University of Bahrain and BT Al-Saudia. Data infrastructure falls under the microscope too as we detail the benefits of effective analysis and we also catch up with GM regarding renewable energy. Michelle Boucher from Colonial Life talks about effective use of office space, while Abu Dhabi steps forward as our city in focus. Last, but not least, we list the top ten most expensive restaurants in the region.

Enjoy the issue!


10 L E A D E R S H I P & S T R AT E G Y



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Why getting data infrastructure right is vital for modern businesses 4

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Reframing company culture for better workplace diversity







The most expensive restaurants in the Middle East




American University of Beirut TECHNOLOGY


Gulf Bridge International TECHNOLOGY

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University of Bahrain TECHNOLOGY



Dabur International Ltd SUPPLY CHAIN

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Kunooz Oman Holding SAO MINING


L E A D E R S H I P & S T R AT E G Y

BRINGING TOGETHER THE OPEN SOURCE COMMUNITY Red Hat’s Lee Miles tells us why digital transformation in the Middle East has proved to be an ideal marriage with the software company’s ethos Writ ten by STUART HODGE


L E A D E R S H I P & S T R AT E G Y FOR THE UNINITIATED, the open source software movement can be a slightly confusing concept to wrap one’s head around. Programmers contribute to the open source community by voluntarily writing and exchanging programming code for software development. The philosophy is that no one can discriminate by not sharing the edited code or hinder others from editing their alreadyedited work. The approach allows anyone to obtain and modify open source code, with no money changing hands or trade taking place. The movement started 20 years ago when Netscape released the source code for its Netscape Communicator web browser, in what was then, very much, an unprecedented move. From there, the number of contributors to the community grew and in the two decades since, the world has massively benefited from the myriad of programs and software which have been developed as a result. Five years prior to that movement even starting, Red Hat was born as a software company with “a vision for developing better software”, and it has now grown into the world’s leading provider of open source 12

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enterprise IT products and services. According to Lee Miles, General Manager for Red Hat in Central Eastern Europe, CIS, Middle East and Africa, the company’s ethos and culture remains very much aligned to that of the open source movement itself. Now, the company wants to try and bring that community of developers together even more cohesively to spawn innovation and communication. “One of the tasks that Red Hat takes upon itself is to be a catalyst for the open source communities within different regions,” says Miles. “That’s something that I feel we’re now in a position to do: to bring people across the region together a little bit more frequently to discuss the latest trends, topics or to even get into some of the details from a technical and developer level. We know there are a lot of operators – they’ve just never had a forum to come together, so Red Hat’s going to try and be the catalyst for that. “If you look at the acquisitions that we’ve made, without exception we put every piece of code back into the public community. We don’t own a single piece of IP as an organisation. We have that ethos as a company that software should be free to the public, and then,

Lee Miles, General Manager, Red Hat

L E A D E R S H I P & S T R AT E G Y

Red Hat bases its company culture on open source principles of course, we do our due diligence and our testing to make it stable and ready for enterprises – that’s our business model. We’re true to that and always have been. We’re 25 years old this year and that principle hasn’t changed at all. “We have an open decision framework we operate by: the idea of having freedom to come forward with ideas and the courage to speak freely are two of our values. Being accountable for that is really important and a meritocracy means the best idea wins. That’s an ethos that we take very seriously. “Many companies are restricted by how much of their revenue they can 14

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invest in R&D, or how many people they have available to them to be able to invest in certain products, whereas we don’t have that restriction. We contribute a lot of code to the open source solutions but we’re not exclusive in that, so we’re getting inputs from hundreds and thousands, and maybe even millions of people who are developing the software. In that sense, we can differentiate the way in which we go to market because of the speed at which we’re developing our software and the innovations that come with it.” Miles believes a lot of the software industry is envious of Red Hat’s business model, and it’s fairly easy

“We have that ethos as a company that software should be free to the public, and then, of course, we do our due diligence and our testing to make it stable and ready for enterprises – that’s our business model” LEE MILES General Manager, Red Hat

to see why. People want to be able to subscribe to the software that they use and they want to be able to pay for whatever they’re using at any given time, as opposed to paying large fees upfront for software that they may well not use. Red Hat’s model, based on open source principles, allows them to do exactly that. “We’ve always been delivering on a subscription basis and delivering a service, and I think those things really do differentiate us in the marketplace over a lot of our competitors,” Miles adds. “We have a passion behind the open source movement and I think that comes through to a lot of our customers in how they perceive us; they perceive us as being passionate about the software that we’re trying to sell, but also passionate about the way in which that software was developed for us.” Growth in the Middle East Red Hat first expanded into the Middle East over a decade ago and has grown incrementally, but the company’s growth in the region has accelerated considerably over the past few years. In fact, since 2015, the workforce in this part of the world has 15

L E A D E R S H I P & S T R AT E G Y tripled and the company is reporting growth figures above the company’s mean of 22%, making it one of Red Hat’s hyper-growth regions. Miles is proud of that, and his energy and passion is palpable as he speaks about the “great opportunities” here. “If we look at some of the projects that are ongoing in the region around smart cities and what Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are now trying to do with digitisation, it’s quite exciting,” says Miles. “I think it comes partly from the fact they don’t have a lot of the legacy, so they can kind of skip generations of technology and really push the boundaries. But also, I think, when they’re looking at the overall experience for the citizens and experience for other organisations in those countries, they’re trying to make that experience a really forward-thinking one. I enjoy that personally as a civilian in the country but also, in industry and in business, it’s an exciting environment to work in. “Red Hat itself is growing very strongly, quarter-on-quarter and yearon-year. In the Middle East, we’re experiencing growth which is higher than the company, partly because of the way we’re expanding in terms of 16

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our touch points across the region, which we’ve never had before, but also because the pull from the customers is there, and the demand is really high.” Which key areas does Miles feel the bulk of the company’s success in the region has come from? He emphasises the telecommunications industry and the financial sector, saying that the Middle East has some of the best examples globally of telecommunications companies preparing their networking environments for the future. Red Hat has been and still is, in some cases, involved in many of those projects. It seems the ever-changing nature of both of these sectors of industry, particularly in this part of the world, dovetails perfectly with what a company like Red Hat, which specialises in helping businesses take advantage of open source innovation, can offer. On a more general basis, Miles reckons that the digital transformation, which all companies are being forced to undergo as a result of the continual evolution of technology, is also a key driver in Red Hat’s success. He also feels that change is causing other industries and even government to look at how they can better work with

“We’re getting into a lot of conversations now that we weren’t necessarily getting into five or even three years ago. We’re now being invited into all of these companies to talk about their strategy” LEE MILES General Manager, Red Hat


L E A D E R S H I P & S T R AT E G Y and develop technology. This often sees them turning to the open source movement for answers, which is ideal from Red Hat’s point of view. “The CEOs of some of the world’s prominent banks have said ‘we will be becoming a technology company’ and that’s a clear indicator,” Miles argues. “If you look at the likes of Facebook and Google and what they’re trying to achieve in some other industries, not necessarily their own industry, then it also shows technology companies are coming to the forefront of a lot of industries. “This digital transformation companies are having to go through is playing a very important part in Red Hat’s success, first off. But also, when I think of the success that we’re having in the Middle East, I see that companies and even governments are starting to look at ways in which they can innovate better, and want to use open source as a first choice. If you look at the governments within the Middle East, they are doing a lot around smart cities, they’re doing a lot around customer or citizen-centric services. You only have to look at the Road Traffic Authority in Dubai, or at the fact that KSA wants to set up a whole new ‘smart-connected’ city as examples. 18

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“There are lots of those types of projects that are being prototyped and are in full swing. Locally, I think the governments are really pushing the boundaries on what the possibilities are within the Middle East, and I think that will continue to drive a lot of the innovations that the industries, as well as ourselves, are having to look at. We’re benefiting from that foresight of a lot of the public sector organisations saying ‘we have an open source first policy’. We’re not the only open source company in the region, but we are by far the largest, so we’re getting into a lot of conversations now that we weren’t necessarily getting into

“Companies and even governments are starting to look in ways in which they can innovate better, and they also want to use open source as a first choice” LEE MILES General Manager, Red Hat

What you should know about digital transformation

five or even three years ago. We’re now being invited into all of these companies to talk about their strategy.” Red Hat is set to open its first office in KSA later this year as it looks to cement that growth Miles speaks of, and it also spent $250mn in February this year acquiring CoreOS, an innovator and leader in the Kubernetes open source application and container-native solutions. Miles is confident that the acquisition will supplement Red Hat’s existing infrastructure and help the company consolidate its position as the open source market leader. “It just

really fits hand-in-glove to the strategy that we’ve been pursuing now for the last three or four years in developing our container strategy,” he adds, talking about the purchase. “It reaffirms what we’re trying to do and is responding to what our customers are telling us in terms of ‘it’s great that we can build these containers, we now need to continue to automate that process’. The speed with which you’re developing and then putting into operation is the critical part of it, and that’s what CoreOS is allowing us to do.”


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WHY GETTING DATA INFRASTRUCTURE RIGHT IS VITAL FOR MODERN BUSINESSES Stuart Hodge speaks to experts from SAP, Cisco and Warwick Analytics to outline how quality, effective data infrastructure can help optimise a company’s business processes… Writ ten by STUART HODGE

TECHNOLOGY ONE OF THE most important hires for companies across most sectors these days is that of the data scientist. As data analysis and technology strategy expert Q Ethan McCallum observes on his website, there is no point in hiring a data scientist until you have the correct data infrastructure in place. Doing so would be akin to hiring Lewis Hamilton for a racing team, but providing him with a car liable to break down before the finish line. “To invest in such a data infrastructure is to invest in the longterm success of your firm’s data science activities,” Q McCallum notes. The principal challenges with data come mainly from the volume, the plurality of sources and types, and the discrepancies in how it is gathered, processed and ultimately used. Sven Denecken, Head of Product Management and Co-Innovation for SAP’s S/4HANA business suite, embraces the challenge of navigating the ever-changing tides when it comes to data. “As a product manager, I’m like a kid in a candy store. I want to use that technology. I want to use that data. I want to use those concepts, but my job is to bring it all together with an actual business process. Big 24

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“You cannot know exactly what your customers want tomorrow, but you want to predict it as much as you can” SVEN DENECKEN Head of Product Management and Co-Innovation for SAP’s S/4HANA

data is more important than ever and the technology is there to compute it in vast amounts and with great speed. The more you can virtualise and put into in-memory speed computing, the better you will be able to adapt your business processes. You cannot know exactly what your customers want tomorrow, but you want to predict it as much as you can.” That’s how companies can ensure proper enterprise resource planning, and that is what the SAP S/4HANA suite does: a real-time

enterprise resource management suite for digital business built on the company’s advanced in-memory platform, SAP HANA, deployable in the cloud or on-premise. Denecken, not unexpectedly, describes it as “the best enterprise resource planning software on the cloud” barring none, and he was happy to break down what he sees as the prerequisites for any company to succeed when it comes to structuring and interpreting data. “I would argue infrastructure as a

service, security, and the availability of the data are three key ingredients you need to start with,” he asserts. Whether talking about unstructured, structured or semi-structured data, Denecken is adamant these different types need to be combined if a company hopes to optimise its business processes. Everyone talks about big data. “I’m actually more a fan of the right data. Big data’s the starting point. It’s a commodity. The right data is bringing you a competitive advantage. 25


“The trick is to analyse 100% of the right data in the right way” DAN SOMERS CEO Warwick Analytics


March 2018

“We need to realise that data itself is the new gold. It’s a case of the more data the better, in whatever shape or form: unstructured, structured, or semi-structured; we need to collect much more. The key question is how a company deals with it. For example, text messages, audio, semi-structured data, are much less voluminous… I want to make sure that we process this in the right way. This is where process knowledge and data knowledge need to come together.” This is also where a lot of companies tend to fall down, according to Dan Somers, CEO of predictive analytics firm Warwick Analytics. “Less than 1% of data is analysed. This in itself is bad, but there are also a lot of types of data which are not very informative. The trick is to analyse 100% of the right data in the right way. Mostly, people are just deploying analytics for visualisation. Unstructured and text data are very poorly analysed and form the majority of data today. Much of the time there’s a ‘so what’ at the end of analysis because people are asking the wrong question. “One example is analysing voice of customer data for topics and sentiment whereas the better

analysis is to validate (remove trolls and statistically validate across all customers removing skews) and then isolate the topics and sentiment which drive customer churn and/or loyalty, as these are the things that predictively make the difference. “Start with the right question and analyse the right data,” Somers advises. “Then, once you start from there, find the tools that can help, don’t always just do what the data science team is capable of. It must fit the business and be flexible enough to be updated and ‘live’ as things inevitably evolve, rather than bogging the data science team down in curation.” Being able to do all of these things requires a strong and robust network, or at least one which is attuned to a business’s own requirements and needs. That is very much the ‘domain’ of David Goff, who is Head of Enterprise Network for UK and Ireland for world networking leader Cisco. “What my team is there to do, and what Enterprise Network is there to do, is to find ways that we can drastically simplify the network or actually make the network intuitive,” he explains. “To make it intuitive – that means to be able to see, 27

to think, and to act itself, without manual intervention requires data. “Then it’s about how we use visibility of data to be able to inform the network and to ensure that the network is something that adapts and has the rigidity that business needs to be able to capture transitions on IAP, cloud and mobility.” But from a network point of view, it’s less about looking within the data itself and more about how its transportation can be facilitated. All of the factors outlined so far need to be considered when it comes to how to structure data, but what 28

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also needs to be remembered is that technology is constantly evolving and that the playing field is always subject to disruption and change. Goff says he expects “ongoing innovation, creating ecosystems” and Denecken agrees that there is further room for disruption in the data space – in fact, he expects it, saying that anyone who manages to marry “the combination of big data, AI and business processes” will be on to a winner in that regard. He acknowledges that more and more processes are going to become streamlined

TECHNOLOGY “I’m not going to hire a consultant to dig at that for a year – but I will rely on certain market data to sense it, and then based on that sensing, drive my business processes or my automation” DAVID GOFF Head of Enterprise Network for Cisco in UK and Ireland

or automated thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning. “There will be always niches where experts and very bright people will find an even better way or will fill in holes,” he adds. “Already today, what we can do with process robotic automation disrupts many business processes. So, would I, today, invest into a short service centre company to outsource labour tasks? Personally, I wouldn’t. I think those tasks will be automated first. “On the other side, a lot of opportunities will be created. There’s a lot of discussion about things like

access to big data, access with algorithms to make it more intelligent etc., but the closer you get to the business process, the more you will own that piece of the data. The further you go away, the more you will rely on third-party resources. Maybe also to pre-empt it, to pre-condition it, to pre-extract certain data. If I want to know what my customer base is doing, I’m not going to hire a consultant to dig at that for a year – but I will rely on certain market data to sense it, and then based on that sensing, drive my business processes or my automation.” 29








Business process outsourcing and the digital revolution




Most expensive restaurants



Andres Cubero, the Jetro Restaurant Depot’s firstever CIO on recognizing the importance of digitization


Reframing company culture for better workplace diversity Michelle Boucher, Vice President, Global Talent Management at Colonial Life advises how creativity can be fostered in the workplace



Google spent $265mn on a datadriven diversity programme 83% of Vodafone employees say flexible working has helped improve productivity

Boston Consulting Group’s stunning New York office

MOST OF US would agree the greater the diversity of minds in business, the greater the diversity of perspectives, talents and creative solutions. However, progress of achieving workplace diversity has been surprisingly sluggish. For example, Google’s data-driven diversity program cost $265mn to implement, but still failed to significantly change the composition of its workforce. Such results imply money isn’t everything when it comes 34

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to implementing diversity initiatives. However, with the right internal strategies and robust planning, there are steps any organisation can take to help its business embrace diversity.

REASSESS TRADITIONAL WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENTS From interview processes to decision making, most of our workplace environments are built around eye contact, noisy group work and

generally overstimulating settings. But traditional workplace environments and routines may not be for everyone. By adapting your workplace to cater to a diverse array of age groups, personalities and work styles, you can drive better efficiency and performance. For example, consider offering the option of open office spaces versus quieter, private working space for your employees, so they can pick an environment where they’ll be most

‘It’s valuable to move the culture of your business away from being dominated by how many hours employees work in the office’


PEOPLE 5 tips on how to improve your creative space… • Allow employees to have a choice of which environment they will be productive in, for example between an open workspace and a quieter, private working space. • Remember the workspace needn’t be the office and if your organisation offers flexible working, employees can choose their own space, with work from home options proving popular. • If necessary, make use of virtual technology allowing users to remain in an environment they find comfortable, especially for interviews. • Subtly encourage collaboration by making sure your office space has ample space to connect and chat, even if this may be in a break area. • P rioritise organising employee affinity groups; communities within corporations that encourage people with similar experiences and backgrounds to connect. Adobe’s Lehi offices boast an indoor climbing wall and is part of Adobe’s wellness initiative 36

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productive. Individuals with autism or hyper-sensitive personalities may need different workplace accommodations, such as changes to lighting or headphones to prevent auditory overstimulation. Team meetings and brainstorms are central to many workplace routines, but not everyone excels in these conditions. In fact, research by Harvard shows some employees worry about other team members’ views and when they perceive others have more expertise, their performance declines. This is especially challenging for introverted or less confident individuals. Encouraging a subtle collaborative environment can prevent employees from feeling forced into sharing ideas and concerns. Simple ways to do this include integrating mentoring into everyday practices and modelling collaborative behaviour from the top down.

CONSIDER INDIVIDUAL STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES What if we created tailored roles to really benefit from each employee’s unique talents and contributions?

‘Could your interviews be conducted virtually? Some candidates may interview better in surroundings that are familiar to them’

Some in the business world are already beginning to think this way: A PricewaterhouseCoopers 2030 report entitled ‘Workforce of the future’ discusses the benefits of workplaces that focus on individual talents to compete in the race to give consumers what they want. Business leaders can tap into this by developing non-traditional roles that maximise individual strengths and are less reliant on linear thinking. For example, recent ground-breaking research from Johan Wiklund revealed many individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are great at solving certain types of complex issues in isolation because they become hyper-focused on a problem capturing their attention. The research also discovered many 37

PEOPLE individuals with ADHD enjoy improvisation, so high-pressure pitches and shifting strategy may be less emotionally and cognitively taxing for these workers. If nurtured in the right way, these skills are extremely effective in business. While it’s fine to set individual tasks, ensure non-traditional roles still include a collaborative element. Encourage teams to share ideas and feedback on other workplace projects with each other to ensure everyone feels part of a team and no one becomes too isolated.

PROMOTE FLEXIBILITY AND TRANSPARENCY In a global workplace survey by Vodafone entitled ‘Flexible: friend or foe?’, 83% of respondents said adopting flexible working had helped improved productivity and 61% said it helped increase company profits. That’s why it’s valuable to move the culture of your business away from being dominated by how many hours employees work in the office. You can do this by writing flexible policies with work-from-home options and encouraging employees to use that time. Not only does this show 38

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Instagram’s Silicon Valley office

willingness to support individual needs, it’s a good way to alleviate the additional stress that comes with commuting or having to work overtime. Help people understand the nuances of their jobs, too. We want to celebrate employees’ unique offerings and diverse perspectives, but we also want them to understand how their individual routines, what they do and why they do it, contribute to overall business success.

About Colonial Life

‘Encouraging a subtle collaborative environment can prevent employees from feeling forced into sharing ideas and concerns’

CHALLENGE TRADITIONAL RECRUITING PROCESSES Employee Benefit News reports it costs employers 33% of a worker’s annual salary to hire a replacement if the worker leaves the company, so recruiting and retaining the right person for your business is vital. However, the behaviour of some individuals may run counter to common notions of what makes a good employee. This doesn’t mean solid communication skills, being a team player, emotional

Colonial Life is a market leader in providing financial protection benefits through the workplace, including disability, life, accident, dental, cancer, critical illness and hospital confinement indemnity insurance. The company’s benefit services and education, innovative enrolment technology and personal service support more than 86,000 businesses and organisations, representing 3.7mn of America’s workers and their families

intelligence and the ability to network aren’t all important skills to have in a workplace. But focusing only on traditional criteria may systematically screen out individuals with unique special talents. Think about ways you can adapt your hiring policies to encourage diversity. Could your interviews be conducted virtually? Some candidates may interview better in surroundings that are familiar to them. Or would it be better not to hold a traditional interview at all? 39

PEOPLE CREATIVE SPACES AROUND THE WORLD… What makes a creative space? Good design from the outset certainly helps. Fortune has mentioned some of its favourite offices around the world and these include…

Hyland Software

Adobe Systems – the company’s Lehi office features a rock-climbing wall so employees can take a break but stay motivated to make it to the top. The adaptation is part of Adobe’s wellness initiative and the idea was put forward by staff themselves. Autodesk – the company’s California office features a green space with deckchairs and hammocks so employees can take a well-earned rest or nap. This is part of a sleek, fresh design. Hyland Software – the company’s offices feature an onsite barber offering a relaxing wet shave in a comfortable chair. Boston Consulting Group – the company’s New York offices have 40

March 2018

Zappos office a photo wall which employees can decorate with their own snaps. This touch of personality encourages employees to “own the space” but remains in keeping with the sleek wooden design. – the Zappos Family office is bright and airy with an eclectic mix of styles and playful features, including a ball pit and stuffed camel.

‘By adapting your workplace to cater to a diverse array of age groups, personalities and work styles, you can drive better efficiency and performance’

Autodesk’s San Francisco office Adapting how the interview process is structured was a key action taken by Willis Towers Watson in its bid to attract colleagues on the autism spectrum. Company research revealed a work trial or test can often be a better way to assess someone’s suitability for a role.

CREATE CONNECTIONS While diversity is about celebrating and leveraging differences, no one wants to feel so unique they’re isolated from peers and adrift in the workplace. Prioritise organising employee resource and affinity groups – communities

within corporations that encourage people with similar experiences and backgrounds to connect. By providing such avenues for networking, socialising and mentoring, you demonstrate that diverse individuals are not only finding success within the company, they’re willing to help others succeed as well. With tools like these at their disposal, employees are far more likely to feel part of a diverse yet inclusive workforce. After all, what really matters is your workforce feels secure in an accepting work environment, allowing them – and your business – to thrive. 41






General Motors’ Global Manager of Renewables Rob Threlkeld says right now is the most exciting time to work in sustainability – Business Chief finds out why Written by STUART HODGE



or a company like General Motors (GM), sustainability is now a vital cog in its global operations. With businesses now working towards objectives set out in the Paris Agreement on Climate Action, there is now not just an incentive, but an imperative to work towards the goals delineated in the strategy, which aims for a global low-carbon economy by 2050. Companies have been aware of the need to take a more ecological outlook for a number of years now, well before the agreement was submitted to the UN. A byproduct of this has been an exponential increase in the pace of innovation we’ve seen 46

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General Motors World Headquarters

in the renewables space across all industries. It’s particularly true for GM, which has signed up to the RE100 agreement, outlining how the world’s most influential companies are committed to 100% renewable power. That pace of innovation is something that is only set to continue, says Rob Threlkeld, Global Manager of Renewables at GM. He believes it will only get quicker as time goes on. “You’ve definitely seen it rapidly

“From a company standpoint, we’re always looking for the most economic source of generation that we can procure and sometimes getting it to our facilities can be a challenge” – Rob Threlkeld, Global Manager of Renewables at GM

- Detroit, MI, USA

increase in the last five years,” he says, “especially with smart meters and other applications that allow you to choose when you use certain types of electricity – whether it’s green or not – and what the costs actually are. “It’s also in the transportation sector. Five years ago, there was not a lot of talk around autonomous vehicles. Electrification was starting to just start to come around. We only had the (Chevrolet) Volt at that

time. We’ve now got the Volt and the (Chevrolet) Bolt. But you can see this massive switch to where autonomous vehicles are definitely part of a future with zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion components. You’ve seen this technology revolution in both the utility and transportation sectors. You’re going to see more change in those sectors in the next five years than we’ve seen in the last 50-100 years.” 47

BREAKING DOWN GM’S FOUR-PILLAR RENEWABLES STRATEGY… ENERGY EFFICIENCY GM knows that reducing its overall energy consumption, as a company, has a direct correlation to its renewable energy percentages. Whether it’s something as routine as switching out lights to LEDs, GM looks at how it can optimise its energy management systems around its production and manufacturing sites, in particular, to become energy efficient.

SOURCING RENEWABLES Finding out the cheapest and most efficient means by which renewable energy sources can be secured is vital to any company, particularly a global enterprise like GM. The main two methods GM uses to do this is through power purchase agreements or onsite generation.

ADDRESSING VARIANCE AND INTERMITTENCY On the automotive side, this can mean looking at what the company is doing in terms of its advanced transport operations, whether it's battery storage, electric vehicles, fuel cells, etc. On a more general basis it refers to what the company is doing to address the intermittency of renewables on the grid by innovating when it comes to, for example, using new storage technologies or electrification efforts.

IDENTIFYING OPPORTUNITIES The final pillar is essentially how GM really leverages policy and scale to look at green tariffs, opportunities with utilities, and working with regional transmission operators. The company always looks to address the technology transformation that's going on in a way that has a “broader value” to the communities it builds manufacturing facilities on, as well as consumers.


March 2018

S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y ENERGY DEMAND Despite these disruptive changes in mentality and attitude, there are still plenty of concerns around where these efforts are ultimately headed. In the US, which remains GM’s primary base of operations, a recent report from the Wind Energy Foundation identified a serious gap between corporate America’s near-term demand for renewable energy and the electricity grid’s ability to meet that demand. Threlkeld says the issues cited in the report are simply part of the natural progression of change. “I think it’s just part of the evolution of the process,” he says. “Going back five years, as we looked at how corporations such as GM could scale up the use of renewables, it was more around what the companies really need to do in this space to engage with each other. The next logical step was: how do we gauge the utilities, which are really the natural potential owners of the renewable energy assets? That’s where we started to take off as we looked at green tariffs in the US and what utilities were starting to offer. “The last component in this natural progression is the issue of moving this

low-cost electricity. From a company standpoint, we’re always looking for the most economic source of generation that we can procure and sometimes getting it to our facilities can be a challenge. How do we now engage relevant stakeholders – the regional transmission operators or the independent system operators in this process – as technology drives the future both in utilities and transport? It has to be in a way that ultimately benefits all the customers. We don’t want to do unnecessary upgrades should technology supersede our work.”

ELECTRIC CARS AND THE FUTURE OF TRANSPORTATION While GM has grown to much more than just an automotive enterprise, it makes sense to scrutinise the sustainability of the company’s vehicular operations. The technological transformation of cars into electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and fuel cells has completely changed the way the organisation now looks at its automotive strategy. “Where we used to be more worried about the price of a litre of gasoline, it’s now focused on the cost of electricity, 49

S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y and when the consumer actually utilises that electricity,” says Threlkeld. “You can see transformation with a lot of our efforts in energy efficiency and renewables in support of our manufacturing side of the operation that now impacts the product side. From a competitive standpoint, they’re really linked together in a way they weren’t before, even a few years ago. “Last October, we announced 20 new electric vehicles between now and 2023 as we march towards that all-electric future. The ‘zero emissions’ component is an important part of our product messaging and sets a competitive opportunity for us to look at how we viewed manufacturing in the past during our previous sustainability efforts. We’ve always focused the company in that direction. We’ve now got it both on the manufacturing and the product side when you look at the mobility component associated with the future of transportation.”

EFFECTIVE STRATEGISATION AND A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE GM’s four pillar sustainability strategy is fairly straightforward in terms of the goals it sets out and its implementation, but every 50

March 2018

decision the company makes is thoroughly considered and well thought out. Threlkeld says it is therefore important to stay on top of what’s happening with regards sustainability and renewables more widely. “I think it’s very important to strategise,” he affirms. “As a person who has always been educated by what’s going on in the industry, I like to read a lot of different articles on what the industry is doing. I need to feel the pulse of some of these technological changes and how they have an impact on the broader efforts in electrification, whether it’s transportation or renewables. It’s really about gaining that knowledge and then being able to strategise


HOW ARE THE EFFORTS GOING? “I think it's progressing well,” answers Threlkeld. “I just recently signed two 100-megawatt wind power purchase agreements to supply 100% of our load for seven of our manufacturing facilities in Ohio and Indiana. Those two were some of our largest deals to date and will actually get us to 20% of our electricity being matched with renewable energy by the end of 2018.”


around all the changes taking place. Another change that Threlkeld has seen is a move away from simply considering the environmental, operational and potential PR consequences of any decisions regarding renewables, to a situation now where sustainability efforts are as much motivated by financial considerations as the other factors. “In every project we do, we look at it from the financial perspective and obviously pull all the additional intangible benefits, 52

March 2018

environmental attributes, the right things for the company to do in our efforts towards sustainability. Everything we’re looking at is purely driven by the financials now.� The renewables space, like any other, has its daily ups and downs as demand increases and decreases, despite the generally increasing need for it, and it works similarly on a month-to-month or year-toyear trend. Threlkeld feels that the process of learning when the peaks and troughs happen is an important

“I think battery storage is definitely going to be a disruptor in this space, as well as blockchain and artificial intelligence” – Rob Threlkeld, Global Manager of Renewables at GM

component of integrating the proper generation sources at the lowest cost possible. He is also aware that, when it comes to technology, it’s an ever-changing landscape, and is in no doubt as to where the next disruption may be coming from. “I think battery storage is definitely going to be a disruptor in this space, as well as blockchain and artificial intelligence,” asserts Threlkeld. “How do you leverage all the technology and what is going on in the systems, whether it’s the grid or an individual

solar array or your home? How do those all integrate together to move the system in a much smarter way so it could deploy generation assets when needed as well as reducing generation assets when not needed, such as charging electric vehicles when the grid is actually requesting you to do so. With those questions in mind, I think artificial intelligence, blockchain, and those efforts are going to be key for us going forward to really leverage this technological transformation.” 53



Seque rest volorum aute velestio intem illibus es qui ut alit et, sita iuntur? Writ ten by AUTHOR



ECONOMY ABU DHABI IS situated on an island just off the west coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Home to about 1.5mn people, it is the UAE’s second most populous city after Dubai. Although Dubai has the reputation of being the epicenter of economic and business activity in the UAE, Abu Dhabi offers unparalleled advantages that support development and growth. The city is the home of the President of the UAE, is the location of its governmental seat and the site of the country’s federal government offices. As the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi is the core of the country’s industrial, commercial, political and cultural activities. It also makes up about two thirds of the country’s $400bn economy.

‘Abu Dhabi is the core of the country’s industrial, commercial, political and cultural activities’ 58

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ABU DHABI AND OIL THE UAE’S ACCESS TO OIL gives the country one of the world’s highest gross domestic products (GDP) per capita. Abu Dhabi is the largest producer of oil in the UAE and owns about 92% of gas and 95% of oil. The country produced approximately 2.9mn barrels of oil per day as of November 2017. Abu Dhabi is the largest producer of oil in the UAE.  DIVERSIFICATION  SINCE 2009, THE UAE government has undertaken an economic plan focused on diversification. Currently, the GDP provided by non-gasand-oil interests contributes about 64% of the country’s GDP. As the capital of the UAE and the country’s largest producer of oil, Abu Dhabi has seen significant benefits from the government’s decision to invest in other sectors such as real estate, retail, industry and tourism. 

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque





ACCORDING TO FORBES Middle East, the following companies are not only leaders in Abu Dhabi but also in the UAE as a whole: • ETISALAT Etisalat is a communications company offering a variety of services, plans and devices to help its customers stay in touch. With a market value of about $22bn, Etisalat posts annual revenues of more than $9bn per year.  WEB • FIRST ABU DHABI BANK First Abu Dhabi Bank is the largest lending bank in Abu Dhabi and the UAE. The company posted assets of about $175bn in September 2017 and $26bn in equity. Headquartered in Abu Dhabi, First Abu Dhabi Bank also has a presence in 17 other countries.  WEB • ABU DHABI NATIONAL ENERGY CO. Etisalat is a communications company offering a variety of services, plans and devices to help its customers stay in touch. With a market value of about $22bn, Etisalat posts annual revenues of more than $9bn per year.  WEB

March 2018

Aerial view of a bay in Abu Dhabi, UAE with Etihad Towers buildings and luxury hotel visible

1.5mn $400bn 4.9mn POPULATION





THE FUTURE THE MASTERCARD GLOBAL Destination Cities Index named Abu Dhabi the fastest-growing destination city in Africa and the Middle East for 2017. Based on figures from 2016, the city showed a growth rate of nearly 19%. That year, Abu Dhabi welcomed 4.4mn visitors while the number for 2017 is expected to reach more than 4.9mn people. 62

March 2018

According to a study commissioned by Google and carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), it is predicted that all of the UAE, and Abu Dhabi in particular, will see the digital component of its economy grow more quickly than other sectors in the near future. At the Department of Economic Development in Abu Dhabi, the lead author of the study predicted growth

‘It’s expected that the region’s e-commerce sector will double by 2021 to reach a value of $48.8bn’

Aerial view of Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi, UAE in the digital landscape of at least 3% or greater over the next five years. Currently, the UAE’s digital economy comprises about 4% of the country’s GDP, while in comparison that figure is about 8% in the United States.  That figure is likely to see soaring increases if the statistics are any indication. Online payments in the Middle East as a whole

increased by 22% in 2016 while the EIU study learned that 40% of the UAE’s smartphone users make in-app purchases. The global average for such purchases is around 10%. It’s expected that the region’s e-commerce sector will double by 2021 to reach a value of $48.8bn. This sector is currently growing more quickly in the Middle East than anywhere else.  63

T O P 10

The most expensive restaurants in the Middle East Looking to impress high-profile clients? Expect no shortage of caviar, as Dubai aims for a clean sweep of stupendously-priced restaurants throughout the region. Only one, however, proved fit for a king Writ ten by SAM MUSGUIN-ROWE

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10 SOCIAL BY HEINZ BECK Dubai website link

Michelin three-starred chef, Heinz Beck, brings his prestigious blend of contemporary Italian to the Dubai culinary scene. Menu highlights include dover sole ($80) and marinated veal ($60), but the indisputable star is Beck’s tasting menu, which for $225 includes tuna with wasabi mayonnaise, lobster medallion, fagottelli carbonara and fillet of veal, plus strawberry and white asparagus sorbet to finish – all served with drinks.


March 2018


Dubai website link There are now more than 30 Nobu restaurants around the world, yet securing the inaugural Middle East outpost in 2008 was a tremendous achievement for Atlantis, The Palm. Visitors to Nobu can expect delectably rich Japanese fusion with an Arabic flourish, and can sample the Grade A9 Australian Wagyu Beef ($220), anticucho style, as well as a sushi assortment ($100).




Come for the steak (anything up to $200), stay for the lobster ($110), or the caviar (up to $200). Joining a whole host of celebrity chefs in the region, Marco Pierre White made his Middle East debut with his prestigious steakhouse, inside the Fairmont Hotel. Beyond the food, its wine list won a Wine Spectator Award in 2015.

08 70

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Dubai website link The indecisively-minded may wish to feast on the ‘Seafire Experience Platter’ (featuring short-ribs, sirloin, lamb cutlets and black leg chicken, for $135), however, considering its beef is all natural grain-fed and hails from the exclusive Atlantis farm in Australia, this house is all about the steak. The 700g Atlantis chateaubriand, though $200, serves two, although those diners wishing to go it alone may opt for a 350g tenderloin fillet for the succulent price of $270.


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The clue’s in the name, really. Whether you’re opting for the grilled langoustine ($135), salt-crusted cod ($130) or dried aged tomahawk ($200), you’re bound to have a delicious, but expensive time at this contemporary Japanese establishment. Real billionaires wishing to live up to the name may wish to order 125g of Oscietra caviar ($525) on the side.

LA CANTINE DU FAUBOURG Dubai website link

What was once a bank now houses one of Dubai’s most iconic and fashionable food destinations. More than just a restaurant, La Cantine professes to be “an artistic rendezvous, a lifestyle statement”. With a heartfelt pledge of “modern Paris on a plate”, the fusion bistro is best known for its whole king crab leg ($175), Beluga caviar ($540 for 30-grams) and irresistible side of foie gras at a paltry $16.



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Doha/Dubai/Abu Dhabi website link Though much of the menu at this modern Cantonese restaurant is sensibly priced, its signature dishes are both a joy to behold, and killer for the bank account. From Peking duck with Beluga caviar at $560 to braised abalone with truffle at a sensational $485, your wallet won’t enjoy the splurge, but your stomach absolutely will.


March 2018

AT.MOSPHERE Dubai website link

Located on the 122nd floor of Dubai’s tallest and most famous building, the Burj Khalifa, At.mosphere maintains the sense of high class with its extraordinary food offerings. The seven-course ‘Signature Experience Menu’ is just shy of $500 when paired with wine ($250 if not), while its ‘Indulgences’ menu features prices that shoot as high as the Burj itself, with 100g of Prestige caviar available for the small fortune of $885.



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CAVALLI CLUB Dubai website link

At this key party destination, the Swarovski chandelier, fashion show projections, golden bathrooms and zebra print walls might be a decadent distraction, but the food at Cavalli Club is worthy of full attention. The wagyu grade 9+ New York steak is a whopping $680, but the red prawn carpaccio doused in Aperol Spritz is arguably just as tasty, and some $640 cheaper.


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March 2018


Dubai website link “These are the best oysters” reads Pierchic’s menu, an obvious yet necessary statement beneath the title of the appetiser: ‘Best Oysters’. For $1,630, you’d certainly hope so. But don’t be surprised, this is the same restaurant that created ‘The Royal Pizza’ – a $211,500 pie made for the royal family that featured black and white truffles, foie gras, Beluga caviar and two ounces of gold leaf. Another rarefied menu delight is the ‘Shellebration platter’ ($350) – an assembly of Spanish prawns, Canadian lobster, US diver scallops, Australian Chilean sea bass and Danish langoustine. Feeling thrifty? You can always opt for the ‘Signature Testing Menu’, which is (just) $200.


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AUB’s digital transformation with the student at heart Written by Dale Benton Produced by Craig Daniels

Through a five-year digital transformation plan, the American University of Beirut is redefining its entire IT infrastructure with the ultimate goal of enriching the lives of its students


he role of the CIO is evolving. IT has traditionally been viewed as operating almost as a separate entity when placed within the wider context of a business strategy. But over the course of the last decade, the lines between the two functions have begun to blur more and more, to the point in which it could be argued that IT is actually informing the business strategy entirely. This is most certainly the case for the American University of Beirut (AUB). Currently undergoing a five-year digital transformation, one that will significantly improve the IT functionality of the institution, AUB can call upon the leadership and guidance of Dr Yousif Asfour as CIO. Over the course of an extensive career, Asfour’s professional life has taken him from electrical engineering and developing hardware and software for large scale technology companies, right through to the role of CTO and CIO. It’s fair to say that Asfour has lived and breathed technology and this has provided him with a key understanding of how technology can support and drive wider strategic thinking.


March 2018

Technology innovation Technology innovation that fosters business that fosters business transformation. transformation. Innovation That Fuels Growth

Hewlett Packard has Growth been in the innovation Innovation That Fuels businessPackard for more than in 75the years. Our vast Hewlett has been innovation intellectual property portfolio and business for more than 75 years. Our vast global research and development capabilities are intellectual property portfolio and global part of and an innovation roadmap designed to research development capabilities are part help organizations of all sizes transition from of an innovation roadmap designed to help traditional technology platformsfrom to traditional the IT organizations of all sizes transition systems of the future delivering breakthrough technology platforms to the IT systems of the technologies pioneering revolutionary future deliveringand breakthrough technologies and research. Our ideas and technology fuel the pioneering revolutionary research. Our ideas nexttechnology generation teachers, and fuelofthetechnologists, next generation of physicians and artists. technologists, teachers, physicians and artists. Technology That Fuels Transformation Technology That Fuels Transformation We help customers use technology to slash We help customers use technology to slash the to to turn ideas intointo value. In In the time timeitittakes takes turn ideas value. turn, industries, markets and and turn, they theytransform transform industries, markets lives. cient, lives. We We make makeITITenvironments environmentsmore moreeffi efficient, productive fast, flexible productive and andsecure, secure,enabling enabling fast, flexible responses changing competitive responses to toa arapidly rapidly changing competitive landscape. organizations to act landscape. We Weenable enable organizations to act quickly by by delivering infrastructure quickly on onideas ideas delivering infrastructure that that can can be beeasily easilycomposed composedand andrecomposed recomposed to lead in in to meet meet shifting shiftingdemands, demands,sosothey theycan can lead today’s marketplace of disruptive innovation. today’s marketplace We the Acceleration Business WeAre AreInIn the Acceleration Business We enable organizations to accelerate innovation We organizations to accelerate innovation and and time time to tovalue valueby bytransitioning transitioningtotoHybrid Hybrid IT IT deliver new apps and insights from dataand to to deliver new apps and insights from data and powering the Intelligent Edge to create powering the Intelligent Edge to create a new ageneration new generation of digital experiences. of digital experiences.


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Digital transformation Digital transformation in in Education and&Healthcare Education Healthcare Education andand healthcare can’t get on by on Education healthcare can’tby get bandages forfor IT IT anymore. Digital transformation bandages anymore. Digital transformation is aismust to continually deliverdeliver the quality a must to continually the services quality that are demanded, both student services that arerevolutionizing demanded, revolutionizing and patient experiences; andexperiences; HPE is a technology both student and patient and HPE partner with a record of success help.of success is a technology partner with a to record HPE partnering with AUB to accelerate to are help. digital HPE transformation, are partneringmodernize with AUBtheir to IT accelerate infrastructure with the right mix of platforms digital transformation, modernize theirfor IT apps and data, leveraging digital infrastructure with the right mixtechnology of platforms for advances anddata, forward-looking flexible apps and leveraging best digital technology IT advances practices. and The AUBMC transformational forward-looking best flexible IT EPIC HospitalThe Information project is EPIC practices. AUBMC System transformational yetHospital another milestone in this cooperation. Information System project is yet HPE has delivered solutions to education another milestone in this cooperation. and healthcare for decades, withtothe vision and HPE has delivered solutions education and expertise for to create the right AUB and healthcare decades, withmix theforvision specifi c digital use cases. This mix combination expertise to create the right for AUB specific of digital the right and This the right experience will right usemix cases. combination of the accelerate mix and the right outcomes experiencefor willAUB. accelerate the right outcomes for AUB.

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“In many ways, I grew into IT from the bottom. In moving from hardware design to software development to business consulting, I think it gave me two things,” he says. “First, a deep appreciation for how technology is designed and built. It also helped me understand how technology can be used to improve business. So, one of my strengths, I feel, is being able to translate between the two worlds of technology and business.” AUB was founded with a clear mission, to provide excellence in education, to participate the advancement of knowledge through research, and to serve the people

of the Middle East and beyond. In order for the university to achieve this and to deliver on that vision, Asfour believes that technology will play a crucial role. “Our mission in IT is to partner directly with the academic and administrative units within AUB to help transform teaching, research, student life and patient care,” he says. “The way we do that is by creating a flexible ecosystem, by partnering with the faculty and the students and the administrators. IT has to be a leader and a service broker and a partner with all the stakeholders within AUB.” As a technologist, Asfour

“Our mission in IT is to partner directly with the academic and administrative units within AUB to help transform teaching, research, student life and patient care” Dr Yousif Asfour– CIO


March 2018



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understands technology as well as anyone else in the institution, but in order to successfully integrate, develop and implement an IT and technologically led transformation, he concedes that there is huge significance in the early stages on communication. “Communication, and helping those who aren’t as technology minded as yourself, is critical,” he says. “I tell my staff on a daily basis that IT is not about technology, it’s actually about understanding what the faculty do, what the students need and then finding the solutions for them using technology.” Asfour describes the current transformation as a shift in conversation. Whereas at the moment, the conversation centres around what people need and how technology can support that need, Asfour wants it to be much more service user defined. “Tell me about the research you do and tell me how you run your lab,” he says. “Then the conversations become much more beneficial for



both parties. We can understand to understand not how they can what the researchers are doing use technology in different ways, and then propose to them a way but how technology can be used that they could do it better, more to change the way they do things. effectively, through technology.” And that’s a large part of what With a transformation of the size we’ve been doing at AUB.” and scope that AUB is undertaking, AUB is currently in year three of its challenge is inescapable. One of the five-year transformational journey, most significant challenges that so to have come this far is a proof any digital transformation point that there has already must overcome is a been some considerable cultural one. After all, success along the way. AUB was founded Asfour actually believes The year that AUB in 1866 and over the this year, year three, was founded years, employees is one of the toughest past and present years as he feels that have developed a the first phase was spent particular culture and way “getting the wheels on the of working. To transform that, track”, and now is the time particularly with technological to really begin implementing. advancement, is no small feat. However, he can point to what he “There are challenges everywhere, believes is a sure sign of success. but the biggest challenge is the mind. “Only recently, I was at a strategic The technology is easy, says Asfour. retreat with the senior staff at AUB, “It starts with stakeholders. With and I got stopped probably four technology comes risk and a belief or five times by senior members as to why should you change a way of the organisation,” he says. of working that works and is proven. “They complimented me about “It’s about making people begin the team that we have, about how



March 2018

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responsive they are, about how they understand their business, and how valuable they’ve been. “To me, that’s a huge success. That doesn’t happen typically in IT organisations, and given the history of what we went through here, that’s a nice bonus.” One other, more tangible, data-driven achievement has been the growth of the network bandwidth at AUB. Asfour has overseen an expansion that has more than tripled this connectivity,

providing students with some of the best networks in Lebanon. All of this was achieved against a rather challenging backdrop. “Normally, a university would upgrade its network, its systems and its infrastructure. All of this would happen one step at a time with considerable amounts of money behind it,” he says. “For us, we did all of that with limited budgets and within three years. That is a huge success.” To wind the clocks back to the



March 2018


“It’s about making people begin to understand not how they can use technology in different ways, but how technology can be used to change the way they do things. And that’s a large part of what we’ve been doing at AUB” Dr Yousif Asfour – CIO




FACTS AUB has around 800 instructional faculty and a student body of around 8,000 students. The University, which was granted institutional accreditation in June 2004 by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools in the United States and reaffirmed in 2016. It has a 350-bed capacity medical center which holds Joint Commission International accreditation. Includes six faculties: Agricultural and Food Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Health Sciences, the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, Medicine (which includes the Rafic Hariri School of Nursing), and the Suliman S. Olayan School of Business. Offers more than 130 programs leading to the bachelor’s, master’s, MD, and PhD degrees.

very start of this journey, Asfour and AUB recognised it needed to reorganise the university’s IT team to make it more aligned with the digitisation strategy. This saw a new IT function develop, one made up of multiple sub teams. There is the service delivery team, the “face to face” operation that meets with the faculty, students and administrators. Asfour describes its main role as the “field support”, what people would typically think when it comes to IT. Then there is the IT management group, or the “mini CIOs”. This level sits with the different faculties and departments and communicates with the dean and with directors to understand their IT strategies and business strategies in order to define their technology alignment, and ensure it aligns with AUB’s wider global strategy. In the beginning, Asfour was heavily involved with the running of these teams and this new IT function, something he feels was crucial in developing trust.


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“I’d be in there playing a lot with the weeds, going up and down from the bottom level right up to the boardroom,” he says. “After a couple of years, we gained the trust of the organisation and now I can spend more time working on the leadership teams, focusing on strategic directions and building relationships with our deans, our executives, our board and our vendors.” When discussing technology, IT and digital transformation, it’s easy to forget that underneath all of this process and all of the

strategic realignment is one core driving force. The student. “The way I think about this and looking to utilise and implement technology is quite simple,” says Asfour. “We need to look at how we can directly impact not only the life, but the success of our students and how the faculties can use the technology in order to do this better and more effectively.” While this transformation has a set deadline, technology will continue to evolve. Innovation will continue to change the

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“We can understand what the researchers are doing and then propose to them a way that they could do it better, more effectively, through technology” Dr Yousif Asfour – CIO technology of today and of tomorrow and so in reality, it will be a journey that will only continue to define AUB far beyond that five-year plan. Asfour acknowledges this, with technology advancing further and further, so too does the student. “I think technology has become integrated into our fabric. It used to be that technology was an enabler. I think now technology is a bare necessity in order to survive,” he says. “The key, though, is not in the technology, but rather in how you use it. Our students now sleep and wake up with their phone in their hand. They’re connected 24/7. “I’m somewhat biased as a technologist, but I firmly believe that technology, if used right, is going to force us to change not just what we teach, but how exactly we teach it.”


Clients presenting at the 2017 Cerner Middle East Collaboration Forum

THE HEALTHCARE VISIONARIES Cerner, technology and the road to connected, personalised care Written by Tom Wadlow Produced by Stuart Shirra


The Middle East, in particular the UAE, is uniquely positioned to deliver a smart population health management system, with Cerner set to play a key role in linking up institutions and their pools of data


ome 30bn devices will be connected via the Internet of Things by 2020. In the space of five years, the world will have doubled its connectivity capacity in this regard. Come 2024, this will have doubled once more. The world is more connected than ever, and companies in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region are beginning to take advantage. According to SAP, MEA firms spent


March 2018

$8bn on IoT in 2017. Services, from retail and transport to utilities and finance, are becoming more connected and personalised in smart city initiatives such as that being rolled out at breakneck speed in Dubai. “Healthcare has to become personalised too,� comments Michael Schelper, general manager for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait for Cerner Middle East & Africa. “We are used to personalised

Client winners and finalists of the 2017 Cerner Middle East Achievement & Innovation Award

services in almost every aspect of life. You can hail an Uber instantly at the touch of a button, so why should it be different with healthcare? If I want a consultation now, then I should be able to get that service on demand, and not have to wait until tomorrow or next week. “However, the question is how new technology can make this happen – does the consultant have to necessarily be a human being?

New technology is completely revolutionising healthcare and healthcare management.� Schelper has been part of this journey with Cerner since 2009, moving from consulting roles in Germany, Austria and Switzerland to a leadership position in the Middle East four years later. His role is to ensure that public and private sector clients hit their targets while collectively developing the


LOSE THE INTERFACE, COMPLETE THE CYCLE HEI’s solutions are fully integrated with the Cerner Millennium platform which reduces the need for any other third party Revenue Cycle systems. A unique approach that reduces errors, streamlines workflows and increases patient satisfaction.

HEI Global Health is a strategically aligned team of healthcare information technology professionals offering a robust suite of software solutions and services regardless of geographical region or clinical venue while helping our clients meet rigid government and regulatory requirements.

COMPLEMENTING CERNER THROUGHOUT THE PATIENT JOURNEY HEI Global Health is a healthcare IT software and consulting firm that specialises in Revenue Cycle, access management and clinical implementations, customisations, data flow processes and best practices. HEI Global Health has been directly involved in these areas globally for the past 12 years. The majority of the associates in our company are former Cerner Associates (engineers, consultants, and managers) in the Revenue Cycle (Patient Accounting & Charge Services) and Access Management (Registration, Scheduling, Eligibility, EMPI, Medical Records (HIM), & Benefit Management) solution areas and have an average of 15-plus years’ experience in the healthcare industry. Our associates have directly contributed to Cerner Millennium® implementations and innovations in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. HEI can additionally provide a uniquely global perspective to any project, regardless of geographical region or clinical venue. HEI Global Health’s expertise with Cerner Millennium® and its associated software solutions and architecture is unparalleled in the consulting industry. Armed with the depth of knowledge that can only be accumulated through years of experience, HEI can prepare an organisation to thrive in today’s health care information technology environment. JACY CONLEY, PRESIDENT, said: “In today’s ever changing healthcare environment the need to stay ahead of the curve is quintessential to the success of HEI and our partners. HEI utilises our industry knowledge, global experiences and our best in class solution architecture to ensure our clients have the appropriate tools to manage their organisations financial obligations successfully.” HEI and Cerner have worked very closely throughout the years to ensure their combined knowledge and solution offerings exceed the needs of their clients.

HEI was able to successfully implement Cerner’s largest patient accounting client (SEHA – Abu Dhabi Health Services) in the world that produces on average over 30,000 claims a day. HEI’s functionality allows Cerner’s patient accounting solution to work globally and provides the flexibility to adhere to any regional insurance and government regulations. HEI’s offerings within the Revenue Cycle workflow, complements Cerner throughout the entire patient journey by utilising integrated applications and components that provide enhanced functionality within the patient accounting and patient access solutions. HEI’s Revenue Cycle solutions are fully integrated with Cerner Millennium’s architecture which removes the need for any separate thirdparty applications and additional interfaces. MICHAEL POMERANCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF CERNER MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA, said: “HEI is and has been part of Cerner’s core strategy to bring state of the art Revenue Cycle solutions to the marketplace. Over the years working with them, they have brought Revenue Cycle expertise and seamless solutions which complement the existing Millennium framework giving end users the ability to work from a single user interface versus having to jump between applications.” Over the next few months, HEI and Cerner will be working diligently to ensure their two software platforms are able to communicate more seamlessly by utilising new services to increase their capabilities and offerings. With this innovative approach they will also be able to work with other disparate systems to communicate, exchange and utilise vital clinical and financial information. Moving toward the future, HEI will be expanding their capabilities of their software platforms by utilising artificial intelligence as well as data from Cerner’s population health platform to actively predict patient financial outcomes. |

healthcare systems of the future. “Healthcare is being disrupted, and we have to ensure we are the disruptors and not the disrupted,” he adds. “We have extremely visionary leaders among our clients and I am honoured to work with them and make that a reality.” A landmark year Cerner is a vital conduit in the journey towards smarter, consumer-led

“Consumer centricity will be an inevitable focus for healthcare. We need to make sure that the right information is available at any point in time to provide the best care” MICHAEL SCHELPER General Manager for UAE and Kuwait, Cerner Middle East and Africa 110

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healthcare provision in the Middle East. For more than 25 years it has connected people and systems at organisations of all sizes, supporting key clinical, financial and operational needs. The Cerner Millennium® electronic health record (EHR) stores data for tens of millions of people across the region, provisioning a single patient database that can be accessed instantly by participating healthcare providers.

“We live and work in the countries we serve, so we are all the more determined to transform healthcare for the better” ALAA ADEL General Manager for Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Cerner Middle East and Africa

Last year, the Kansas City, USAheadquartered firm continued to grow its MEA footprint. “We’ve had a busy 2017 with our clients and our client list keeps growing, both on the public and private sector side,” explains Alaa Adel, general manager for Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Cerner Middle East and Africa. “For example, we added Kings College London UAE and also had a huge engagement with the Ministry of Defence in Saudi Arabia. We are very

proud of what we have helped these and other clients achieve over the past year, and look forward to hitting objectives for this coming year too.” Like Schelper, Adel is also a company veteran who joined in 2009 and is bringing valuable experience from Cerner operations in other parts of the world, notably the “mothership” in Kansas City, where he spent five years. Adel believes that private enterprise will, ultimately, lead the



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way in terms of MEA’s healthcare innovation and help governments realise this segment of their various visions for the future, whether it be UAE Vision 2021, Saudi Arabia vision 2030 or Egypt Vision 2030. “It is crucial that private companies and governments work together in making this happen,” he says. “I think that private sector innovation will be absolutely key in helping governments to get the best value from their healthcare expenditure. Public Private Partnerships are already proving to be a model of success in the countries we are working in.” From volume to value Another observation Schelper makes is that, generally, the regional healthcare space is moving from a volume to value-focused proposition. Sound financials, value delivery and patient outcomes now interoperate – this is no better demonstrated than by the widely-accepted view that clinicians need to spend their time on delivering best-in-class care and not be burdened with administrative tasks.

“In this respect, technology is absolutely the foundational, transformative vehicle,” Schelper states. “The UAE is in a unique position because its IT infrastructure is already very far advanced, and the mindset is there to take it a level higher. It is this foundation which will allow information to flow freely – we have the public sector on board and medical organisations are putting credible systems in place.” Indeed, the UAE is currently implementing a National Unified Medical Record, a central database that will allow institutions across the country to share medical data. “Consumer centricity will be an inevitable focus for healthcare,” Schelper adds. “We need to make sure that the right information is available at any point in time to provide the best care.” Trust in technology The requisite technology to deliver the likes of UAE Vision 2021 and Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 already exists. The largest obstacle to overcome,


PROJECT SPOTLIGHT UAE MINISTRY OF HEALTH AND PREVENTION A major conundrum facing medical institutions around the world is the rise of antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) bacteria. Helping to combat this threat in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO) is the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP), which needed to increase the quality and quantity of its antibiotic testing. Enter Cerner’s ITWorks team. By adding new interfaces to its already-installed PathNet system at MOHAP’s Al Qassimi Hospital, clinical processes used to test antibiotics are now automated, saving the need to manually input data. Now, according to Cerner estimates, it takes just three to four minutes to run an AMR test. This has more than doubled Al Qassimi’s AMR testing capacity. Before the new interfaces the hospital tested on average just over 2,000 results a month. After implementation, that number jumped to a monthly average of more than 4,700 results. Such increases in testing capacity will allow MOHAP and its institutions to share vital information on AMRs, which could prove pivotal in achieving the WHO’s goals.

according to Schelper, is trust. “Trust is a hugely important word,” he says. “There is currently a sense of paranoia that we need to overcome about health data if we are to achieve this vision of a totally personalised, joined-up healthcare system. We cannot lock data away in a vault that nobody has access to.” The next step is for governments and health institutions to make the case for data sharing and convince consumers that their data will not only be safe, but could be the difference between life and death in an emergency. Schelper and Adel refer to how the likes of Apple have integrated biometric security layers into its products, like facial recognition and fingerprint scanners. This is highly sensitive data that consumers trust smartphone companies to manage – now is the time for that trust to be carried over to healthcare. “Without that, we cannot move forward,” Schelper insists. “We want world class healthcare, but what does it take to build up credibility? For me, it is transparency. At the moment


“We have to overcome the paranoia that surrounds data governance and establish that trust in order to make this a reality. This will allow us to connect technologies and bring healthcare management to the next level” MICHAEL SCHELPER General Manager for UAE and Kuwait, Cerner Middle East and Africa

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March 2018

there are discussions about who should own this data. It should be you. New technology such as blockchain will play a key role in ensuring that human beings own their own data and know where it is being shared.” Unrivalled expertise Cerner looks set to play a pivotal role in establishing the level of trust required to fully realise the benefits of new data sharing health systems across the region. Central to this, and what Adel calls the cornerstone of the business, is a pool of medical expertise both in-house and in partnership with clients. “Cerner has been around for nearly four decades,” he says. “We are leveraging all of the experience we have across the company to ensure our clients, both public and private, hit their objectives. We have a large number of clients that we are proud to call partners, and that network is helping to transform healthcare in the region. Cerner wants to make these government visions a reality.” Not only does Cerner provision


PROJECT SPOTLIGHT KING FAISAL SPECIALIST HOSPITAL & RESEARCH CENTRE (KFSH&RC) Cerner’s association with KFSH&RC dates back as far as the late 1990s, when the Riyadh-based centre was investigating the need for a new Hospital Information System. Since then, the two parties have continued to pioneer in the space of healthcare technology. Indeed, KFSH&RC was the first client to implement Cerner Millennium® in 2000, and has since worked with the firm on several more phases, impacting areas including nursing and physical documentation, surgical departments, ICUs, radiology and a 300room upgrade called the Smart Room project. The Smart Room programme represents a continuation of 20-plus years of work. Designed to make hospital rooms serve as an extension of patients’ homes, the project involves granting access to care, information, entertainment and healthcare services at the touch of a button. The partnership has yielded significant benefits to date. Cerner Millennium® has helped to make diagnosis documentation more efficient – for instance, the number of positive Fecal Occult Blood results increased by 300% in three years, leading to lifesaving implementation of preventative cancer care.


March 2018

its own EHR, its consultants’ analytical prowess also supports clients to make the most of the data contained within both its own and other providers’ systems. Among its 24,000-plus personnel are doctors, nurses, engineers, pharmacists, technicians and more, with over 300 expert associates stationed in the Middle East. But how is such an extensive network maintained? “This is best demonstrated by the fact that our attrition rate is under 3%,” Adel remarks. “We have offices around the world, and if someone has been at the company for 18 months they are given the right move all over our offices, whether it be the Middle East, UK, USA, Germany or Australia, to name a few. This is a big commitment and investment from Cerner, and a big incentive for employees to stay with us. We live and work in the countries we serve, so we are all the more determined to transform healthcare for the better.” Schelper agrees that local presence is what sets Cerner apart


from other providers, facilitated by a recruitment policy that, over the past five to seven years, has strongly favoured locals over expats. The future of healthcare Asked what the coming years have in store, Schelper is adamant that the future of healthcare in MEA is extremely bright, not only for the citizens that benefit but also medical tourists, who will continue to provide important revenue streams for various countries. The vital next step is to apply intelligence to the mountains of data being gathered by EHRs and other systems. For the UAE, already an artificial intelligence pioneer and front-runner with IBM Watson, technologies like blockchain can provide the answer, and Schelper believes this will be in play by 2020. “At the moment we have a lot of health entities that contain data, and over time we need to connect those and bring them to the next level to inject intelligence into that


March 2018

data collective,” he explains. “However, in order to reach the consumer we need a platform on top of the platform, what we call the Internet of Health and Life. This will provide the personalised experience that is so important. I want to be notified when my next vaccinations are due; that information should be integrated into my calendar. Further still, I want a drone to come to my office and drop off anything I need at a time that works for me. This may sound extremely futuristic and a bit like science fiction, but the technology to make this happen is there today.” Cerner has a unique opportunity in the MEA region, and Schelper and Adel’s next task is to help knock down the trust barrier that could stand in way. “We have to overcome the paranoia that surrounds data governance and establish that trust in order to make this a reality. This will allow us to connect technologies and bring healthcare management to the next level,” Schelper concludes.

A special event, in 2017, for associates celebrating 10 years of service with Cerner Middle East

Cerner Middle East raises 20,000 AED to provide Iftar dinner for 2,000 labourers in Ramadan 2017


Breaking down barriers with global connectivity Written by Catherine Sturman Produced by Craig Daniels


Ranked among the top five IP providers in the Gulf, GBI’s CEO Amr Eid discusses how its smart network is a benchmark for the future of connectivity


stablished as the carrier of choice for telecoms operators, internet service providers (ISPs) and governments throughout the Middle East, Europe and Asia, Gulf Bridge International (GBI) is responsible for the development of a connectivity network like no other. The first subsea cable to offer 100G, the company provides a system capacity of up to 10 terabits per second in some areas of its network to support SMEs and enterprises on a global scale. Remaining one of the most technologically advanced networks in the world, GBI continually looks to develop its services and cater towards this increasing demand for connectivity. Developed with financial support from several multiple shareholders, the cable network spans almost 42,000km, crossing 26 countries. The extensive loop system connects all the countries


March 2018

in the Gulf, then spans eastward towards Singapore, and westward towards Europe. However, GBI’s ability to remain agile throughout its exponential growth has been key to its continuing success. “We realise that we’re not an incumbent operator but the market has changed. We have always believed that agility is one of the most important factors in the telecommunication industry,” explains Chief Executive Officer Amr Eid. Strenuously working to connect enterprises both inside and outside of the Gulf, almost 25% of the internet in the region is now routed through GBI either directly or indirectly. Its submarine and terrestrial network houses a complete range of International Private Leased Circuit capabilities (IPLC), which connects businesses securely, transmitting data through the use of fibre optics.


Whether people like it or accept it, we have influenced the way that telecommunication services are being exchanged in our part of the world AMR EID CEO of GBI



















GBI North Route GBI European Network

Multi-Services POP PoP Inter Connect point CLS AS 200612 126

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Additionally, it houses ethernet over SDH competencies (EoSDH), allowing traffic to travel over SDH networks. This is supported by the use of Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) technology, where strands of fibre are able to carry a number of optical signals. This has enabled data to travel in many different directions within the network. Such technologies have therefore enabled GBI to increase its capacity and flexibility. Its commitment to its customers and subsequent technological investment has led GBI to become the sole neutral carrier in the Gulf, and the sole provider of a direct network when connecting users all the way from Europe to Singapore, at a bandwidth and capacity fit for customer needs. Sustaining values “Whether people like it or accept it, we have influenced the way that telecommunication services are being exchanged in our part of the world,” Eid expresses confidently. From its IP services, managed hosting services and extensive capacity services, GBI has worked

to fully disrupt the Middle East telecommunications industry, placing it ahead of the competition. Developing strong links with stakeholders, customers, suppliers and its partners has seen the business develop solutions which will bring longterm value both to the Gulf region and its global customer base. “We believe that most of the innovations and advancements in technology happen because of people who are driven, people who are willing to challenge their own talents and own taboos,” Eid says. “I think in light of the roadster Tesla car revolving around the earth, that same person worked on PayPal years ago. Everybody thought he was crazy, but it ended up with a Tesla revolving around earth, didn’t it? So, we are driven.” Increased flexibility Catering to both enterprises and leisure users, GBI’s Internet Protocol (IP) services encompass a premium broadband solution, sold specifically to enterprises to ensure minimal service disruption, in addition to high download and upload speeds through



a low average hop count. This has consequently given GBI an edge over other Tier 1 providers in the Gulf region. Its managed services further provide a comprehensive solution by enabling businesses to fully connect on a global scale at reduced costs, with connections to the largest IP exchanges within Europe, alongside regional internet exchanges in the GCC. By introducing what GBI has coined ‘liquid connectivity,’ Eid explains that this is a new concept which has been offered to both customers and government users to support its competitive pricing strategy. “You can buy capacity on the network, and users can transfer this from one point to the other based on their needs,” he says. “Our software-defined services and

micro-verse services across the network are now being used by enterprises. With a click of a mouse, users are now able to actually change the direction of the traffic, ultimately providing flexibility.” Furthermore, its Connect ME solution supports SMEs, governments and various corporations by providing hybrid or cloud connectivity between overseas offices. Merging GBI’s international Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) network (wholly owned submarine and terrestrial assets) with an affordable and secure local IP access link, GBI provides 24/7 support, including the management of the local Customer Premise Equipment (CPE), which is backed by stringent availability and latency Service Level Agreements (SLAs) across its operations.

We believe that most of the innovations and advancements in technology happen because of people who are driven, people who are willing to challenge their own talents and own taboos AMR EID CEO of GBI


March 2018




Security and control However, acknowledging that crossing a large number of countries can present a number of regulatory challenges, GBI’s cloud optimisation has allowed the business to enhance its connectivity capabilities within its end-to-end service operations. It has also led the company to further explore ways to enhance the Multiplexed Transport Layer Security (MTLS), covering security, confidentiality of data, alongside data distribution, and various other complex security barriers within its network. GBI is in the process of developing products to support the SDN platform, enabling it to become an IP provider of choice, which has ramped up its security and control, particularly surrounding the upstream connectivity requirements across each specific region. This is further supported by GBI’s Optical Transport Carrier solution, which houses several layers built to serve the needs of its customers. However, with an aim to ensure its cables and latency usage remain utilised at 100%, the company has faced a number of challenges, as a number of countries house low-latency routes, such as Iraq. To counteract this, the company has worked to eliminate the latency within these specific lines, which in turn has strengthened its relationships with cloud providers, where enterprise users can now migrate to the cloud.


March 2018


GBI STATISTICS • The first subsea cable to offer 100G, GBI provides a system capacity of up to 10 terabits per second in some areas of its network • GBI houses one of the most technologically advanced networks in the world • Almost 25% of the internet in the Gulf is now routed through GBI, whether directly or indirectly. • GBI is the only neutral carrier in the Gulf, and the sole provider of a direct network when connecting users all the way from Europe to Singapore • At the end of 2018, GBI will look at M&A activity to grow the business.



Distributing connectivity By strengthening its security backbone, GBI’s T3 certified data centre hosting within its Gulf hub has seen it provide managed hosting and premium IP transit services. Eid compares GBI’s services to that of the shipping industry, where it is distributing connectivity and enabling future scalability: “I view what we’re doing as a shipping business. The only difference between us and Maersk, or any of the other shipping container freighters, is that they ship your belongings in metal containers. We ship it in digital packets,” he notes. “That’s the only difference. You look for speed, the protection and privacy of your contents, and you look for accurate delivery of the product without any loss. We have the same thing.” GBI can also offer mass scale. “We are now able to implement the software-defined boxes at the customer site, which enables the customer to always have unlimited connectivity. This is also why we’ve been chosen by cloud providers to become their direct connect partner,” Eid adds.


March 2018

The rise of streaming services has also sought to influence GBI’s service offering. For example, its cloud capabilities have seen it deliver exceptional gaming services by placing a specific layer within its network for this target audience. The use of weekly, in-depth analytics will further enable GBI to increase the value of its services, as well as gain greater awareness of the trends within its connectivity usage. Whilst one day it could be Netflix, the next day it could be Instagram – all its findings will allow the company to look at new ways to support and drive customer demand. Additionally, with a long-term aim to further grow its social network visibility, the use of analytics will also allow GBI to capture the pulse of the market and assess its market share, something it has never looked at in previous years. Increasing value The emergence of a global sharing economy will continue to further impact GBI’s operations, where its customers want value for money but at lowered costs. This, of course, has not only ramped up competition, but has also


Amr Eid, CEO of GBI, right and Onno Bos, Sales Director, AmsIX (image showing one of many GBI’s partnerships)

2016 The year that GBI joined the Amsterdam Internet Exchange

led to a shift in consumer consumption and the use of technology within the telecommunications industry. “Today, nobody buys their own server, they are now rented. If consumers aren’t using it, they can put it back to the cloud or bring it back. Customers are moving away from private lines, towards Network Trust Link Services (NTLS) and the public internet,” observes Eid. “However, the issue with the public internet is the mixed issue between privacy and local regulations. The government operators will provide you with the internet with a contention meter. It’s a non-committal internet.”


Being supported by our shareholders, restructuring our debt will also allow us to go even further to increase future capital in GBI and develop future services AMR EID CEO of GBI 134

March 2018


Long-term goals Although GBI houses social network caching and technological advances within its internet systems, it might face a number of uphill battles with competitors. “We are David in a Goliath industry. I’m sure all of us know the challenges that David faced,” he adds wistfully. “I always ask the question, ‘in our world today, what’s a license? What’s a border?’ We all have cloud services; most of us don’t actually know where the physical photos of our families are located. So, part of the challenge we face is change. How can we convince incumbents to change or to adapt to new services?” Despite this, GBI continues to see exponential growth of up to 50% per year, operating in an industry which is growing at up to 10%, reflects Eid. With increased pressures and demands for its services, the company will continue to remain humble, smart, trustworthy, and guarantee increasing value of its services, keeping in mind that the region could need a similar cable in future if the demand for connectivity continues to grow.

With a long-term goal to earn the title of best network, as well as the best submarine network in the region, GBI will also continue to develop its cloud services, in order to support small contract-based applications and cloud-based applications. “You will hear very soon that we are merging with more data centres worldwide in order to provide true software-defined networking. We hope that we are going to win prizes as a software design network provider or as a cloud enabler very soon,” concludes Eid. “At the end of 2018, we’re looking at merger and acquisition activity to grow our business. We are touching the quarter of billiondollar mark. Being supported by our shareholders, restructuring our debt will also allow us to go even further to increase future capital in GBI and develop future services.”


How the University of Bahrain is technologically tailoring its campus Written by Sophie Chapman Produced by Craig Daniels

Cameron Mirza from the President’s Office at the University of Bahrain reveals how the campus is going digital


he University of Bahrain is injecting technology into its campus, not only to keep up but to lead the way. A regional pioneer on the tech front, the campus focusses on tailoring itself to students’ lifestyles and keeping its position as one of the greenest campuses in the world. The ultimate outcome is effective efficiency and skills development, both for students, academics, and partners. The university’s mission is “to contribute directly to the economic growth and development of Bahrain supported by leading edge teaching, technology and research. Our values are to be innovative, student-centred, technology-driven, proactive, and transparent.” With technology at the university’s core, the establishment is focusing its efforts into promoting innovation, teaching advancement, and increasing capacity to enable a digital


March 2018

transformation into a smart campus. As the University of Bahrain’s Head of Transformation, Cameron Mirza is charged with making this happen. “The smart campus is about being efficient, it’s about being effective, it’s about giving students an experience which is not only defined by what they learned in the classroom,” he says. “It’s about being predictive and understanding how the campus can be better managed in terms of population, classroom management, and data usage. For example, to give students a more personalised experience by understanding their strengths and weaknesses, we can predictively personalise both learning and the campus environment.” The university is utilising data from technologies like smart gates and e-portfolios for early interventions. By tracking the students’ presence on its grounds through smart gates


“Our values are to be innovative, studentcentred, technologydriven, proactive, and transparent” – Cameron Mirza, Head of Transformation, University of Bahrain


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26,000 students

attend the University of Bahrain and detecting and collecting the data through motion sensors and IoT, the university can monitor activity and predictively customise its campus for optimum productivity levels. “With data from 26,000 students we have volume, variety and velocity – we’re creating real value from our findings, allowing us to enhance the student experience far more than we have ever been able to,” Mirza adds. The university stores huge quantities of data in the cloud, which has the benefits of being cost-effective – as the establishment pays for what it uses – and spatially efficient due to the lack of servers. Students are also benefitting from the insertion of technology directly into their academia, with software such as One Note, Office 365, and Google Docs.

The digital implementation is allowing for easier access to learning, and is creating a “collaborative culture” between students and teachers. “What we’ve focused on is developing capacity around technology, for both students and faculty,” Mirza adds. “So, I think one of the failings of technology education in the region is the lack of focus on building teaching capacity to understand and better deploy technology. We are focusing on skills development with our faculty. To do so, we have initially responded by having a deeper relationship with employers. We need to understand their problems and required skills in order to co-create.” The university has stressed the importance of not only utilising



online software, but teaching it. For the University of Bahrain, the advancement of technology is about making the lives of those using it easier. Academics are soon to benefit from the integration of artificial intelligence into education, Mirza states. “The future is going to be heavily influenced by artificial intelligence. AI will be developed enough to understand student information and test them. I think the biggest impact AI will have on our campus will be helping students through peer to peer review,


March 2018

collaborative learning and also in terms of assessment. Teachers will be freed of basic tasks, such as marking work. Through AI we’re able to understand the student’s behavioural patterns, and with this knowledge, we can tailor their curricular design to their interests. Machine learning is geared around giving a potentially deeper, immersive and personalised experience to students.” The implementation of AI on the University of Bahrain’s campus can catalyse additional technologies like blockchain, which has the


“The smart campus is about being efficient, it’s about being effective, it’s about giving students an experience which is not only defined by what they learned in the classroom” – Cameron Mirza, Head of Transformation, University of Bahrain

potential to connect students and teachers directly. AI-driven analytics could be introduced to the establishment to produce feedback to students in real time. The university has noticed a significant impact through the technology already in use on the campus, which will only accelerate with additional technological advances. The campus has contributed significantly less to environmental damage through the installation of solar panels, and the reduction of paper usage

through e-systems. The online nature of the campus has also led to efficiency in terms of workflow and simple tasks. Students are experiencing better allocation of schedules and accessibility to resources. For academics, marking has become more accurate as plagiarism is easier to detect. “For both students and teachers, their experience is probably deeper than it’s ever been. The university has extended their contact opportunities. There’s the classroom experience, there’s the online experience, there’s



the ability to personalise the education for young people, and there’s the ability to communicate, even using social and digital media. The university experience has been revolutionised from the origins of just turning up to a lecture – the future of learning is definitely omnichannel and lifelong.” The President of the University, Professor Riyad Hamzah, confirms the ambitious but functioning scheme on a wider scale, addressing the university’s goals to impact its region. “Over the past two years we have been working on a transformational plan to modify the university into a world class and leading establishment, not only in regards to teaching but in research and innovation. We want our university to have an impact on the economy in Bahrain and the region. The transformational plan highly depends on using technology in our operations and in our teaching – in both classrooms and curriculum,” Professor Hamzah notes. Ultimately, the campus is technologically leading the way and advancing for multiple reasons. From green benefits to personally educating those yet to fully adopt the latest innovation, the establishment understands where it is heading: “The future is about looking online. It’s about efficiency, effectiveness, and energy,” Mirza concludes.


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The university features in the top 400 universities in the world for green metrics


DRIVING DIGITAL TRANSFORMATIONS IN THE KINGDOM Written by James Henderson Produced by Stuart Shirra

Al Saudia



imes are changing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. After years of relying on hydrocarbon revenues, the country’s leadership has stated its intention to diversify its economy as part of its wider ‘2030 Vision’. Key to that transformation is establishing the country as the region’s leading digital power, with businesses in both the public and private sectors benefitting from huge leaps forward in technology. In January, it was revealed that the country is investing tens of billions of dollars to connect business, schools, and hospitals with super-fast 5G, which in turn will power a rapid uptake of technologies such as AI, IoT and automation. BT Al Saudia, a leading services provider and system integrator in Saudi Arabia, is adapting to this transformation enabling local businesses to embrace the next generation disruptive technologies. As a reliable and robust IT partner, BT Al Saudia provides professional and managed services to organisations of all sizes, in all industries, helping them focus on their core business and to be more productive, efficient and innovative. “Thanks to our partnership with BT, we combine their global strength and our reach with local knowhow and operations to help customers thrive


March 2018

Mazen Tfaili Head of Products and Alliances, BT Al-Saudia


Technology Showcase Room

in this changing era of digitisation and contribute to the realisation of the country’s 2030 Vision and NTP,” says Mazen Tfaili, Head of Products and Alliances at BT Al-Saudia, which services a sizeable portfolio of private and public clients. “BT is one of the largest technology investors in R&D with global development centres around the world. This sets us apart from other ICT players in the Saudi market as we bring this global knowledge with our long-standing local experience to implement and support services across leading edge technology that perfectly meets our clients’ needs.


March 2018

BT Al Saudia has around 200 staff in the Kingdom, which complement its substantial vendor network and alliances. Tfaili says that our knowledge base and team of talented engineers spread across three regional offices are able to help businesses improve their digital standards in line with the leadership’s 2030 Vision. “We’ve studied the local market and perceived challenges in cloud adoption. Customers are concerned about vendors’ business capabilities, losing control of their data, cost and complexity of migration and privacy issues. We made sure that we tackle all of these complications when launching


“Thanks to our partnership with BT, we combine their global strength and our reach with local knowhow and operations to help customers”

our cloud services in Saudi Arabia. We have invested to build our cloud node in a Tier-4 data centre in the Kingdom to comply with local laws and legislations providing a more secure and efficient offering to customers. We are continually investing to be the cloud services integrator of choice for organisations who want to make the most of the cloud to be successful, fast, agile and secure. BT’s ‘Cloud of Clouds’ portfolio strategy is a new generation of cloud services that allow organisations with diversified IT environments to connect easily and securely to applications and data, independently of where they are hosted,” he comments.

MAZEN TFAILI Head of Products and Alliances, BT Al-Saudia

In addition to cloud, new disruptive technologies like IoT, blockchain, AI etc. are changing the way people are interacting with businesses. The real value comes from using technology to empower organisations to be resourceful and competitive. “Our channel partner BT invests heavily in innovation to make these technological advancements possible. BT recently issued a patent to prevent malicious attacks on block chains, and partnered with the leading vendors to develop industrial and enterprise IoT



March 2018

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Mazen Tfaili

Head of Products and Alliances at BT Al-Saudia

Mazen Tfaili joined BT Al Saudia in 2012. Based in Riyadh, Mazen heads Marketing, Products and Alliances across the Kingdom and is part of the management team responsible for driving the transformation strategy of the company. Tfaili leads the marketing direction and product strategy for BT Al Saudia’s portfolio and services offering. He manages partner relationships and alliances ecosystem supporting services and initiatives launched in the Saudi market. He has been involved in a number of new local product development efforts and has been closely aligned with customer needs and requirements.

Prior to this role, Tfaili was based in Iraq and West Africa working in the Telco and ICT domain. Coming with an experience of more than 13 years in the IT industry, he moved from a country to another establishing needed entities and agreements to promote and sell services in the MEA region. Tfaili holds a degree in Computer and Communication Engineering from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. Tfaili is married with one kid. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, doing sports and reading.


“We have invested to build our cloud node in a Tier4 data centre in the Kingdom to comply with local laws and legislations providing a more secure and efficient offering to customers� MAZEN TFAILI Head of Products and Alliances, BT Al-Saudia

BT Al Saudia Data centre


March 2018


solutions. In the Saudi market, customers are getting acquainted to these concepts but are hesitant to adopt due to inexperienced local ICT players. BT Al Saudia provides reassurance with our proficiency, helping customers understand, utilise and benefit from the inevitable IT evolution guiding them through this journey to achieve business goals,” says Tfaili. A large part of that effort is part of the country’s wider battle against cyber-crime; Saudi Arabia has found itself in the unenviable position of being a prime target for hackers and cybercriminals, with around 50mn attacks in the past year alone and this is increasing significantly each year. “We are working hand in hand with both private businesses and the government to help them secure their data and networks,” says Tfaili. “BT is a global leader and trusted brand in security and we understand the customer challenges and pain-points. BT Al Saudia introduced local 24x7 managed security portfolio to the Saudi market, and it has been effective in allowing customers to proactively detect, respond and mitigate imminent attacks. It’s very important the customer moves from the passive state to a proactive mode. We have tailored the solutions to match our customers’ needs providing them on-premise and as well as managed security services and were the first to do so in the Kingdom, which makes us a leader in the field.” The effort is integral to the country’s goal of



establishing truly ‘smart cities’, which forms a substantial part of the effort the leadership believes will further to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence drive innovation and investment in on oil, diversify its economy, and the Kingdom. To that end, Saudi develop public service sectors. Arabia has also announced a “The smart cities initiatives coming smart megacity called “NEOM”, from the government, including which aims to become a hub for NEOM, will attract new technologies innovation and technology transfer. and experts, enable connectivity and The $500bn project will operate innovation, magnetise new investments independently from the and capitals and thus existing governmental lead to the evolution of the framework with its own economy and country. tax and labour laws That is all in line with and an autonomous Number of staff the vision to move away judicial system, and at BT Al-Saudia from oil being the main


BT Al Saudia SOC


March 2018

BT Al Saudia in-line with Saudi Vision 2030

income for the Kingdom,” says Tfaili. “Looking ahead, the largest budgets are being assigned by the government in the security and defence, education and health sectors. We have been serving these industries for the past decades through our strategic alliances to leverage new trends in technology to better serve the end customer with a real desire to make them ‘smarter’, a transition in which BT Al-Saudia is well positioned to be a hugely important part,” Tfaili says. BT Al Saudia aims to be the trusted services provider exploiting BT’s vast network and services

platforms fitting the customers’ requirements seamlessly with sustainable growth and positive contribution to the community. “We’re positioning ourselves as the main integrator and platform hub to connect the different entities within the Kingdom. Our goal is to be the trusted service provider for these new solutions for the public and private sector and to be a key player in contributing to the country’s national transformation programme. That’s our main focus for the coming years,” Tfaili concludes.

Al Saudia


How emotional and artificial intelligence transforms procurement Written by Ben Mouncer Produced by Heykel Ouni


Raman Singh, Global Procurement Head at Dabur International, reveals how a blend of emotional and artificial intelligence is powering a transformation in the company’s global supply chain


orldwide expansion can be the defining achievement for a business – but such success doesn’t come easily. Conquering each corner of the globe presents major challenges for every key stakeholder in a company, and those in the procurement division know better than most about what it takes to ensure efficiency in very different markets. Technology is a major help for supply chain leaders. Recent innovations have led to most procurement operations becoming obsolete only after a few years. With businesses in the midst of confronting the inevitability of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) is now mission-critical for the compatibility of a supply chain. As Global Procurement Head for Dabur International, the global expansion arm of Dabur Group India, Raman Singh is overseeing a technology-driven transformation of the company’s procurement strategy. Yet, while


March 2018


RAMAN SINGH Global Procurement Head at Dabur International

he is in no doubt about the impact AI has and will continue to have on his team’s work, Singh also values a different type of intelligence when it comes to taking the business and its suppliers to new shores. “Emotional intelligence is also becoming very important,” explains Singh in an exclusive interview. “A person working in Egypt will have a very different work culture than a person working in India, a person working in Europe or a person in the United States. “When you are operating on a global scale, each country, each culture is different to another and they have to be respected in the same way. You have to build confidence with them, within your team, and with your supply partners. “What you are doing here or what is right here may be wrong there, and vice versa. Each of them will be different so they need to be treated differently. They need to be respected differently. EI is now a very important tool – it’s what can make



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you succeed in global business today.” Singh’s transformation plan for Dabur International’s procurement started 18 months ago, and there are a number of technological innovations that are already up and running. As part of the division’s fullyintegrated e-procurement platform, key processes are completely automated. Product demands are shared on the platform, supply of vital components for Dabur’s wide range of products is managed under one channel. This efficiency model saves valuable time and money while creating the potential for microanalysis of every step on the e-procurement journey, generating data which can help inform Singh in his decision making. “Our procure-to-pay system is completely digitised; there is no manual intervention in our procureto-pay process,” he adds. “It automatically gives you the small and big listings and details of what you have been doing with your procurement, giving you the scope and areas of improvement to work on.

“When you are operating on a global scale, each country, each culture is different to another and they have to be respected in the same way” RAMAN SINGH Global Procurement Head at Dabur International “I would say a decade ago, nobody had even thought of digitisation in procurement, or the role of e-procurement. Today, artificial intelligence in procurement is everywhere and e-procurement has become a much bigger platform than what somebody would have thought back then. Procurement has transformed; it is more intelligence, analytics and strategy based “In the future, AI will play an even bigger role in procurement. It will



help you crunch data in real-time and and Kohler followed before he became give you the input and an overview Head of Packaging Procurement on what’s happening today, and then for Reckitt Benckiser’s South Asia how it’s going to affect you tomorrow. business, a role that provided the Based on that, you’re going to necessary experience for make your decisions.” him to take on global It’s evident that procurement for the procurement Dabur International. landscape has altered He currently immeasurably since manages a team Singh began his of 25, but how has The number of career nearly 17 years the importance staff working for ago as an executive of supply chain Dabur Group in vendor development management to a at LG Electronics. From business changed over there, he became an associate the past two decades? manager in supply chain at Electrolux. “CEOs are now looking at CPOs to Senior positions at Bausch + Lomb support them in terms of the overall



March 2018


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business success. They are looking at a strategy wherein CPOs are playing a really important role in terms of achieving the overall goals of the business. “CPOs and CTOs (Chief Technology Officers) have never worked so closely as they have been working in the last four or five years either. The CPO goes to the CTO and says, ‘these are the things which I want to change in terms of the making it more technology-driven’. Today, they are working together to make important changes in the processes, methods and everything else.” Dabur International, which is headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, manages a global portfolio of over 1,000 natural health and beauty products. Capitalizing on its strong reputation as an established company of over 130 years trading in its market, it has successfully seen the growth of its brands in over 80 countries across all five continents. Established overseas markets include Africa, where it has seen particular prosperity in countries such as Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa. To make procurement effective in business expansion, Singh believes it to be essential for Dabur International to work on building meaningful and long-standing partnerships with its suppliers, so they can stand side-by-side with the company on its journey to worldwide growth. Singh focuses on two aspects of the relationship to develop a sustainable business that will benefit both

“Procurement has transformed; it is more intelligence, analytics and strategy based” RAMAN SINGH Global Procurement Head at Dabur International



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“Technological transformation and partnership development are the two key things for me for the next five years” RAMAN SINGH Global Procurement Head at Dabur International 168

March 2018


in the long term. Firstly, he emphasises that ‘the cheapest cost is not the best cost’, preferring to measure the ‘total delivered cost’ when choosing the right partner. Secondly, it’s crucial that the partner’s ambitions complement with those of Dabur International. “Their growth and your growth have to go along,” he says. “You cannot grow and let them not grow, or you cannot grow at the cost of their growth. That will not be sustainable. “At Dabur International in the last two years, we have drastically filtered our list of partners. We had been working with 200 or more suppliers, so we made a core group. In the core group, we have identified

15 or 20 who would grow with us. We have taken a challenge that in next year-and-a-half at least 15 of 20 will be growing just like us. “With these suppliers, we work very closely, and then we formed a ‘we’ kind of structure, wherein we are investing in the goals which we have for both of us. Partnerships are more about ‘it’s not me, it’s we’. “Technological transformation and the development of these partnerships are the two key things for me for the next five years.”

Dabur International is headquartered in Dubai, UAE’


Sustainable value in mining, sustainable development for Oman Written by Dale Benton Produced by Robert Gray


Following consolidation and incorporation in 2014, Kunooz Oman Holdings Group is aiming to establish itself as a key player in Oman’s mining market through creating sustainable value


unooz Oman Holding’s vision and mission is simple – to bring natural resources to the world to support the sustainable development of Oman by creating sustainable value. In 2014, Kunooz was incorporated following the consolidation of five subsidiaries and two associates within the mining, quarrying, transportation and construction materials sector. The ambition? To become a public company. “The strategy involved ramping up and optimising our current operations


March 2018

and balance sheet,” says Dean Cunningham, CEO of Kunooz. “We will identify new opportunities and new acquisition targets in order to become a key player in the bulk commodities sectors in Oman.” Cunningham, whose career has taken him through the South African investment banks, private equity with a focus on the mining industry through to joining Kunooz in 2014 as the company, considered list on the Muscat Stock Exchange. Over the course of his career,


he has worked extensively on the preparation for divestment and listing, mergers and acquisitions, organisational change and most importantly, risk management and problem solving. This, he feels, is key as the company continues to diversify and become that major market player. “I think my experience has influenced my understanding of project management, building financial models, budgeting, and understanding local and global markets and how to strategically position the company for expanding and contracting cycles,” he says. “The combined skillset of mining and project management has

“We will identify new opportunities and new acquisition targets in order to become a key player in the limestone, gypsum, marble and gabbro sectors in Oman” - Dean Cunningham, CEO




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“Centralising will get us better pricing as we can then begin to leverage off the volumes required, specifically in transportation costs such as diesel and tyres. It is a key part of maintaining and managing our cost structure going forward” - Dean Cunningham, CEO


March 2018

influenced my management of greenfield or brownfield projects right through their various phases to commercialisation.” In the quest to become a fully public company, the founding Al Rawas family members have disinvested 20% of their shareholding to the Oman Investment Fund (OIF). Cunningham believes that having OIF as a significant shareholder will increase investor confidence in the company, lend credibility to the company’s ambition and only prove to strengthen this transition. Currently speaking, close to 60% of Kunooz’s revenue is contributed by subsidiaries and associates that are operational with export activities. “Our business is currently exportdriven and is aided by both global urbanisation and infrastructure development,” he says. “Given that we operate in related industries and sectors, our businesses are able to benefit from substantial synergies.” Kunooz is currently looking at a potential dolomite project, with scoping studies to date showing great potential. The firm is planning an


exploration campaign with the hope of moving further into a feasibility study and then commercialisation but all this will be based on the outcome of a bankable feasibility study, fingers crossed that we can get there. This is a key development for the company as, through its mission of bringing natural resources in order to support the sustainable development of Oman, Kunooz is aiming to diversify away from low price high volume products – with dolomite falling into this category. This diversification however, does not strictly mean moving away from existing projects. Cunningham sees it more as a case of adapting to the market, becoming more vertically integrated by pushing out to into a diversity of products based on our raw materials pool, which combined would create what he describes as a “number of high value products”. “It’s a difficult balance,” he says. “Diesel, for example, makes up 50% of our costs, but over the last 18 months we’ve seen the price of diesel rise around 70%. This has really forced us to look at our cost

and restructure our business, and I’d consider the last 18 months to be a real achievement for us.” Add to this that the company is targeting projects and exploration developments that are incentivised by being located strategically in order to reduce those costs associated with transportation. “We really are looking at minimising the expenditure costs liked diesel and placing ourselves as close to the market and to the customers as we possibly can,” says Cunningham. As part of his role as CEO, Cunningham works closely with the management team to seek out and implement solutions with the various subsidies and companies that work under the Kunooz umbrella, in order to deliver on the strategic vision of the company and continue to drive down costs. This provides its own unique challenges that are, again, driven by the current market. “High quality skills are expensive and getting more expensive as commodity market starts to perform, so we try and maximise these skill sets across the group through internal


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Processing a Kunooz marble shipment

engagement between subsidiaries on a regular basis,” he says. This collaboration proves key for Cunningham. “It allows us to look at the detail, apply a long-term view and take a collective approach to maximise the opportunities for all stakeholders,” he says. “As a company, we look at ways of supporting the industries as a whole, training, educating and improving skills. In doing this we increase the skills pool which will over time uplift the entire market here in Oman.” Operating across multiple

sectors and industries requires a significantly robust and agile supply chain and logistics model in order to succeed and deliver on the company’s promise. Per year, Kunooz invests heavily in consumables and services across all of its sector activity and hence the creation of a centralised procurement function. “Centralising will get us better pricing as we can then begin to leverage off the volumes required, specifically in transportation costs such as diesel and tyres,” says Cunningham. “It is a key part of maintaining and managing our cost structure going forward.” As one of its core values, Kunooz



“It’s probably the strongest marketing team that anyone has in Oman for any one commodity. It’s a small team that is dedicated to engaging with partners and customers, confirming and providing the required product both in product and to the highest of quality” – Dean Cunningham, CEO aims to create sustainable value for its investors, for the people it invests in and the environments in which it works. This extends to the partnerships that the company creates, develops and fosters in order to successfully service its customers. This is an area that Cunningham plays an active role in – working closely with the Group General Managers to establish relationships that will deliver true value for both the partner and Kunooz itself. Cunningham points to the company’s Gypsum business as a strong example of how Kunooz engages with its partners to better serve its customers. “The Gypsum business extends as


March 2018

far as India to New Zealand and down the east coast of Africa,” he says. “It’s probably the strongest marketing team that anyone has in Oman for any one commodity. It’s a small team, but it is one that is dedicated to engaging with partners and customers, delivering what the customer requires and to the highest of quality.” Over 600 people are directly employed across the Kunooz Group, stretching from a mining workforce to middle management and finance teams right up to head office. As the company seeks to enrich Oman, it looks far and wide for talent. “Our employment strategy looks for people across all cultures and from different geographical


Kunooz Readymix plant




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locations,” says Cunningham. “We deliberately strive to create a mixed work force to create a competitive environment, one that encourages people to think outside of the box.” This falls in line with the company’s approach to sustainability. Cunningham feels that the key to long term success requires discipline and the rolling out of strategies and processes that make no individual irreplaceable, including himself. “Our company is about pushing people. They have to feel confident in themselves to deliver and surround themselves with these smart thinkers who challenge them and push one another, including upper management and myself,” he says. “This will only enhance the business and if channelled correctly, it will add significant value to the business. It’s been a continuous process, and it’s been challenging, but we are achieving it, and we are growing.” Since the consolidation of Kunooz’s subsidiaries in 2014, it has been a journey of transformation and realignment. As it continues to grow and expand and establish

itself in the mining market, Cunningham understands that this is a continuously evolving process. This includes diversifying its logistics operations away from simply supporting the mining subsidiaries, and into a fullyfledged logistics operation. But, the main goal remains. “We will continue to grow and diversify our offering in the mining industry on a local level,” Cunningham says. “Once we’ve fully established ourselves, then we will look at the international mining market and look to transfer what we call the Kunooz way on a global scale to truly become a global company.”



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Business Chief - Middle East Edition - March 2018  
Business Chief - Middle East Edition - March 2018