Business Driven By Technology

Abdulaziz Al Nuaimi, IT Director, Information Technology DirectorateAbdulaziz Al Nuaimi, IT Director, Information Technology Directorate, talks about a transformation in technology that is designed to equip QF for the future.

The strategy of Qatar Foundation (QF) has considered investment in technology and the transformation of Qatar’s economy from being hydrocarbon-based to being technology and knowledge-based.

This is why QF’s Information Technology (IT) Directorate is making the shift from simply being a service delivery and operational body to being a strategic body: managing investment in technology, reviewing it to ensure it falls in line, and maximizing the return for QF and its stakeholders.

Several years ago, QF announced a new business model, through a decision by its Executive Management, with the emphasis on strategic planning, governance and standards as well as application support services. The aim is to ensure the milestones, deliverables and objectives behind our technology road map are met. The business model is based on streamlining QF’s resources. We need to avoid double investment in operations and service delivery.

The decision was made to leverage QF’s investment in our strategic technology provider, MEEZA, a joint venture established to provide IT support to Qatar’s development process, through a shared services principle. MEEZA provides IT services to the QF community, from desktop services to back-end IT solutions. It manages data centers and monitors the pulse of our IT network and its security, through both a network operations center and an information security operations center, to protect our technology investments.

Application support services are the fruit of technology services, and we did not immediately release this part of IT operations to MEEZA. We believed we needed to evaluate this relationship and reach a fuller understanding that will lead to a transformation of this service.

We have a wide range of applications, ranging from performance management and business intelligence to services relating to education, library management and financial transactions. There are applications in Facilities Management, such as those for air conditioning and monitoring consumption of electricity and water; there is the Smart Building system being implemented in QF Student Housing; and there are many others.

QF’s IT strategy has been laid out in accordance with Qatar National Vision 2030. One of its objectives is to deliver a five-year integrated IT strategy plan. We engaged most QF stakeholders and developed a baseline approach to understanding the organization and what our technology road map should cover.

We approached highly respected businesses in the market with a focus on technology strategy, conducted exercises to research the market, and qualified Booz Allen Hamilton as information technology expert consultant to our team, reaching agreement several weeks ago. We have started meeting stakeholders to set expectations about what is to be delivered.

The coming phase will be to engage various QF business entities to establish a communication channel, through which we can gather analysis and information for building an understanding of QF’s current technology status. We will then be able to determine future expectations, bridging any gaps with our implementation plan.

We engage with other QF areas and their strategies and objectives, such as the Education, Research, HR, Shared Services and Strategic Planning Directorates. We must work in harmony to address the higher objectives and concerns of the organization.

We will set expectations and establish requirements. We refer to this as ‘gap analysis’: what we are right now, what we aim to be in the future and how we can link the two. It will anticipate the challenges in our path, determining business impact and a risk management plan. An organization like QF, with highly diverse functions and a high growth rate, would be expected to conduct such a business management exercise many times.

We don’t only want to look at hurdles to implementation. We need to research the market and find the best products from many perspectives. We need to look at business solutions, the scale of the economy, an after-sales support model. And we need to ensure QF’s investment is utilized to the maximum.

Twenty years ago, we were talking about technology driven by business. This has evolved to the point where we are now talking about business driven by technology. Business needs technology to ensure it addresses its efficiency and effectiveness targets, and technology must discover new means of improvement. It is a double-edged relationship. At QF, we are looking at both sides of it.

QF is a unique business but, at the end of the day, it is a business, with objectives and targets that must be addressed. The IT Directorate used to serve QF as a traditional department, with hands-on technical and operational services. The emphasis has been transformed to a model many staff were not familiar with, so we needed to expose their roles to new techniques.

Delivering a technology road map for 10 years is a big challenge, as technology develops very quickly, so we have a five-year strategy that will be continuously reviewed. The emphasis is on the needs of the business over the coming five years and beyond, and many of the major technological requirements that will emerge during that time are clear today. These initiatives will require a lot of infrastructure, and a great deal of work and effort, to integrate them.

This road map will highlight the technology required for each area of the business and our interests, streamlining our technology strategy with the overall QF strategy. We will look at individual business needs, qualifying and investing in the right technology backbones of QF, and simultaneously building a solid enterprise architecture bus.