GAIN­ING IM­PE­TUS

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Soft­ware as a Ser­vice (SAAS) is rapidly chang­ing the IT land­scape in the Mid­dle East.

Soft­ware as a Ser­vice (SaaS) is rapidly chang­ing the IT land­scape in the Mid­dle East. Ap­pli­ca­tions and pro­cesses that have tra­di­tion­ally been on-premises are now be­com­ing ex­ter­nalised, pro­vided by third par­ties

and so­lu­tion providers via the cloud but where do op­por­tu­ni­ties lie for re­sellers? By MANDA BANDA

Soft­ware as a Ser­vice (SaaS) is rapidly chang­ing the IT land­scape in the Mid­dle East. Ap­pli­ca­tions and pro­cesses that have tra­di­tion­ally been on-premises are now be­com­ing ex­ter­nalised, pro­vided by third par­ties and so­lu­tion providers via the cloud. While this ul­ti­mately brings many ben­e­fits in terms of cost, space and ef­fi­ciency, tran­si­tion­ing to this new re­al­ity can be tu­mul­tuous for IT man­age­ment.

For so­lu­tion providers with the right skills and busi­ness model, the SaaS mar­ket in the Mid­dle East is of­fer­ing them end­less op­por­tu­ni­ties as the re­gion shifts to­wards ser­vices and soft­ware.

Ac­cord­ing to an­a­lyst IDC, or­gan­i­sa­tions of all sizes are em­bark­ing on dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion jour­neys, chang­ing their op­er­at­ing mod­els and even their busi­ness mod­els in the process. To suc­ceed, said IDC th­ese or­gan­i­sa­tions need to re­think their tech­nol­ogy strat­egy and build a solid dig­i­tal core.

The re­search firm said this has led to the em­brace of cloud com­put­ing and soft­ware as a ser­vice (SaaS) be­cause or­gan­i­sa­tions need flex­i­ble, ag­ile soft­ware sys­tems that are con­fig­urable, con­tin­u­ously up­dated, quick to im­ple­ment, avail­able any­where and any­time, and highly scal­able.

IDC added that part of the beauty of SaaS and cloud-en­abled soft­ware is that rel­a­tively heavy con­fig­u­ra­tions can be made and soft­ware ex­ten­sions (cus­tom apps) can be added with­out the core prod­uct be­ing af­fected.

Zakaria Haltout, head, Global Chan­nels and Gen­eral Busi­ness, Mid­dle East and North Africa (MENA), SAP, said the Mid­dle East’s SaaS mar­ket is rapidly grow­ing, with or­gan­i­sa­tions in­creas­ingly run­ning cloud-based ap­pli­ca­tions for real-time vis­i­bil­ity and in­sights to op­ti­mise costs, col­lab­o­ra­tion, and ef­fi­ciency.

Haltout noted that the big­gest shifts have seen Mid­dle East or­gan­i­sa­tions work­ing with chan­nel part­ners to de­velop cloud-na­tive ap­pli­ca­tions, and to adopt a cloud-first ap­proach with SaaS along­side plat­form-as-a-ser­vice (PaaS) and emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies such as blockchain as a ser­vice.

“Chan­nel part­ners should first iden­tify the busi­ness chal­lenges that SaaS can meet,” he said. “Chan­nel part­ners need to rapidly change their own busi­ness mod­els to move from merely selling and build­ing so­lu­tions, to de­vel­op­ing dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion roadmaps, bundling so­lu­tions that can meet a cus­tomers’ spe­cific busi­ness use cases, and ex­chang­ing skills to help the cus­tomers’ staff to sup­port the projects.”

Savitha Bhaskar, COO, Condo Protego, said the Mid­dle East has passed the early adopter phase for SaaS, with or­gan­i­sa­tions proac­tively tak­ing a cloud-first ap­proach, es­pe­cially with tech­nol­ogy ven­dors of­fer­ing more SasS op­tions than ever be­fore.

Bhaskar said Mid­dle East so­lu­tions providers should not be afraid of SaaS, but should rather take a cus­tomer-cen­tric ap­proach that sees them un­der­stand cus­tomer is­sues and build so­lu­tions that help them meet th­ese needs, and con­sider the en­tire ap­pli­ca­tion life­cy­cle. “From a so­lu­tions provider per­spec­tive, SaaS, even if not on-premise, is sim­i­lar to on-premise de­ploy­ments, with im­ple­men­ta­tion and sup­port still needed,” he said.

Ahmed Sousa, re­gional man­ager and so­lu­tions ar­chi­tect, MEA and Turkey, Poly­com, said SaaS so­lu­tions are in­creas­ingly be­ing of­fered in more flex­i­ble plat­forms thanks to man­aged ser­vices and cloud plat­forms.

Sousa said with up to 95% of busi­nesses in Dubai fall­ing into the SMB cat­e­gory, SaaS so­lu­tions are a per­fect match due to their rel­a­tive af­ford­abil­ity and easy im­ple­men­ta­tion in ex­ist­ing en­ter­prise net­works. “With more en­ter­prises in var­i­ous in­dus­tries in­vest­ing in soft­ware so­lu­tions to en­hance pro­duc­tiv­ity, there is a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity for the ‘as a ser­vice’ model in the re­gion,” he said.

Given that chan­nel part­ners al­ways cite skills as one of the bar­ri­ers in­hibit­ing their progress in the SaaS space, how are ven­dors guid­ing them on the skills path?

Condo Protego’s Bhaskar said the big­gest chal­lenge among re­sellers is that most of them are still pre­dom­i­nantly box movers. “Re­sellers in this bracket need to build their con­sul­ta­tive ca­pa­bil­i­ties and be­come more so­lu­tions-fo­cused. In build­ing a suc­cess­ful SaaS prac­tice, so­lu­tions providers need to take a cloud-first strat­egy, and with an un­der­stand­ing of how SaaS can meet busi­ness needs, avail­abil­ity, and per­for­mance,” she said. “Cloud is not a threat to their busi­ness, but rather an op­por­tu­nity to­wards greater lev­els of pre-sales and post-sales con­sul­ta­tion.”

Ac­cord­ing to so­lu­tions providers do not face a ma­jor SaaS skills chal­lenge, as SaaS de­ploy­ments have the same skills set re­quire­ment as on-premise de­ploy­ments. “Condo Protego con­tin­ues to take a con­sul­ta­tive ap­proach. When­ever we work with cus­tomers, we of­fer them a SaaS op­tion along­side on-premise so­lu­tions,” she said.

Sousa added that re­sellers and sys­tem integrators need to en­sure that the so­lu­tion fits the busi­ness chal­lenges so the en­ter­prise has both fi­nan­cial and busi­ness ben­e­fits from any SaaS de­ploy­ment. “They need to bear in mind that the pro­cesses they are work­ing with are usu­ally mis­sion crit­i­cal and so de­ploy­ment needs to re­flect this,” he noted. “It is cru­cial for chan­nel part­ners to be able to of­fer the level of sup­port that cus­tomers need, so work­ing with a ven­dor that has strong cloud­based so­lu­tions in place be­comes es­sen­tial.”

With se­lect­ing the right ven­dor or cloud dis­tri­bu­tion part­ner cru­cial for any chan­nel part­ner that want to win in this sec­tor, pun­dit say

it’s vi­tal for so­lu­tions part­ners to choose ven­dors and dis­trib­u­tors with the right SaaS cre­den­tials.

SAP’s Haltout said as the field of SaaS changes rapidly, chan­nel part­ners should align with lead­ing SaaS ven­dors in gain­ing the knowl­edge and prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence in de­ploy­ing SaaS projects. “SAP’s Part­nerEdge chan­nel part­ner train­ing pro­gramme is see­ing strong Mid­dle East growth in en­abling chan­nel part­ners in the lat­est SaaS trends,” he said. “To sup­port the Mid­dle East SaaS adop­tion and na­tion­wide dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion, we re­cently launched pub­lic cloud data cen­tres in the King­dom of Saudi Ara­bia and the UAE to adopt SaaS so­lu­tions lo­calised to 25 dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries.”

Guruprit Ahuja, CEO and co-founder, RackNap, said the key to suc­cess as a SaaS provider lies in un­der­stand­ing the needs of your cus­tomers and pro­vid­ing them with an easy-to-use so­lu­tion.

Ahuja said this should not be a one-time task, but the ser­vice provider needs to make con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ments based on feed­back from the cus­tomers us­ing their SaaS ap­pli­ca­tion. “En­sur­ing that the cus­tomers are al­ways hav­ing a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence with the so­lu­tion will help ser­vice providers in build­ing suc­cess­ful SaaS busi­ness mod­els,” he said.

Ahuja said the ad­vent of cloud has paved the way for growth of the SaaS mar­ket and in fu­ture, al­most all IT so­lu­tions will be de­liver us­ing the SaaS model.

Sousa said Poly­com works closely with and of­fers a lot of sup­port to sys­tem integrators and re­sellers. “The Poly­com Choice Part­ner Pro­gramme pro­vides a sim­ple frame­work for part­ners to in­vest and grow in,” he said. The pro­gramme gives knowl­edge, sup­port and tools to help integrators de­ploy their so­lu­tions. In ad­di­tion, part­ners are rewarded with more ben­e­fits as their com­mit­ment to Poly­com in­creases.”

With the SaaS mar­ket gain­ing im­pe­tus in the Mid­dle East, it’s vi­tal for so­lu­tion providers that want to suc­ceed in this seg­ment to iden­tify the right ver­ti­cals where they can de­velop do­main ex­per­tise.

Yasser Zeineldin, CEO, eHosting DataFort, said with ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in the cloud in­fra­struc­ture busi­ness since 2001, the com­pany has seen a tremen­dous growth of the SaaS mar­ket in the re­gion.

Zeineldin said the digi­ti­sa­tion across the Mid­dle East which is be­ing spear­headed by gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives is one of the most sig­nif­i­cant fac­tors that is push­ing the growth of SaaS. “Along with that, most tech­nol­ogy ven­dors are of­fer­ing SaaS based so­lu­tions to cater to the grow­ing need of ac­cess­ing data any­where any­time,” he said. show­case their use of IT ad­vance­ments. Nicolai Solling, CTO, Help AG, said for many sys­tems integrators and VARs, as­sum­ing the role of a man­aged ser­vices provider could be the best start­ing point.

Solling said the typ­i­cal ar­range­ment here would be for the chan­nel player to pur­chase sev­eral sub­scrip­tions from the cloud ven­dor and then add its own ser­vices and mar­gins be­fore of­fer­ing this to the cus­tomer. “This will al­low the chan­nel or­gan­i­sa­tion to pro­vide the cus­tomer ser­vices with­out the has­sle of hav­ing to build a plat­form from scratch,” he said.

Solling said that with cloud ser­vices, it is the on­go­ing sup­port that is crit­i­cal to long term suc­cess. “One of our dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing fac­tors at Help AG has been our tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance cen­tre with ad­vanced 24 by 7 tech­ni­cal sup­port ser­vices,” he said. “We con­stantly fine-tune this of­fer­ing and our cus­tomers can not only open ser­vice re­quest tick­ets via phone, email and web, but also, they can avail of our on­site ser­vices around the clock with a 2-hour re­sponse time within the UAE.

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The big­gest chal­lenge among re­sellers is that most of them are still pre­dom­i­nantly box movers. Re­sellers in this bracket need to build their con­sul­ta­tive ca­pa­bil­i­ties and be­come more so­lu­tions-fo­cused.SAVITHA BHASKAR, COO, CONDO PROTEGO

Digi­ti­sa­tion across the Mid­dle East which is be­ing spear­headed by gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives is one of the most sig­nif­i­cant fac­tors that is push­ing the growth of SaaS.YASSER ZEINELDIN, CEO, EHOSTING DATAFORT

SaaS so­lu­tions are in­creas­ingly be­ing of­fered in more flex­i­ble plat­forms thanks to man­aged ser­vices and cloud plat­forms.AHMED SOUSA, RE­GIONAL MAN­AGER, SO­LU­TIONS AR­CHI­TECT, META, POLY­COM

For many sys­tems integrators and VARs, as­sum­ing the role of a man­aged ser­vices provider could be the best start­ing point. With cloud ser­vices, it is the on­go­ing sup­port that is crit­i­cal to long term suc­cess.NICOLAI SOLLING, CTO, HELP AG

The key to suc­cess as a SaaS provider lies in un­der­stand­ing what the needs of your cus­tomers are and pro­vid­ing them with an easy-touse so­lu­tion.GURUPRIT AHUJA, CEO & CO-FOUNDER,RACKNAP

Chan­nel part­ners need to rapidly change their own busi­ness mod­els to move from merely selling and build­ing so­lu­tions, to de­vel­op­ing dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion roadmaps.ZAKARIA HALTOUT, HEAD, GLOBAL CHAN­NELS & GEN­ERAL BUSI­NESS, MENA, SAP

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