OVER 400,000 STUDENTS TRAINED

Saudi Arabia 2018-19 | TELECOMS & IT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ahmed Jaber Al-Faifi, SVP & Managing Director of SAP Middle East North, on Saudi Arabia's first public cloud data center, regulatory changes, and the Internet of things.

What is your vision for the recently opened first public cloud data center in the Kingdom?

This is part of our commitment to Vision 2030, and the digital hub was an initiative to enable the digital transformation across the public and private sectors. There are four components to the digital hub, and the data center is the core of it. Already, we have connected a government entity, which will help speed up and expedite transformation across different government entities. One of the most important elements of the government's transformation is continuous change, and the government continues to develop its regulation to make the business transformation work. With our support for the digital transformation, the regulatory changes will be implemented more smoothly. For us, it is extremely important to have a solid infrastructure for digital transformation on the ground that is tailored and designed to follow and support the transformation.

Have you seen a strong understanding from the government to discuss with the private sector the regulations that are needed?

When a ministry wants to privatize part of its operations, it will focus on the regulations and find a private party to outsource its services to. This, then, completely changes the operating model, and it now only regulates, monitors, and supervises, while there are KPIs with the private contractor. With such transformations, a localization partner such as SAP will run the process engineering and ensure a smooth and fair transition. For us, such policy changes are just upgrades to a live system, with the government as main issuer. Great localization is embedded and is part of the investment in a digital partner. For SAP, it is a major investment, and we need tailor-made solutions for our clients.

What IT services can be provided to guide the digital transformation in healthcare?

Healthcare is among the 25 industries we are focused on, and we are progressing well. Some programs are pure operations, some are on an outsourcing model, and others are quality and analytics focused. Our challenge is to connect all outcomes to one platform. It is great for the healthcare ecosystem to turn digital, especially because there is a great deal of in-house development in the sector. In any industry, if there is a great deal of in-house movement, it lacks the capabilities and strength that helps the industry to transform. In such a context, SAP can develop a common strategy. For healthcare, we have a core system enabling operations and strategy called H.I.S. support hospitals with their patient interactions. We work with the Ministry of Health on this, coordinating the outsourcing of certain operations to the private sector and to meet their KPIs. This is certain among the most interesting and comprehensive industries to work with for us.

What expertise does SAP bring to the Kingdom to accelerate IoT services?

SAP works with anything related to resources to optimize the actualization of these resources to make them more available. Whether they are natural resources, people, or machines, the entire idea of IoT is using sensors and other tools to improve interaction between humans and machines, react on the basis of the data, and provide better services to citizens. Secondly, these solutions help to improve security, manage traffic, and coordinate city maintenance. In Saudi, we have done a small version with regards to traffic estimation. Such a system can function as a smart hub for city governments, while also providing commercial value to the private sector. Insurance companies can look into road safety and optimize their services. Building a smart city is a process, and one cannot go fully digital overnight. It starts with putting in place the right infrastructure and applications and then implementing the intended solutions. The traffic project has been live for two years, and we now have multiple projects in the pipeline with the city authorities of Riyadh.

How are you working with young graduates and getting them excited to work in IT?

In 2012, we began building the ecosystem of partners and local talent to work with advanced technology to support customers and government. To date, we have trained more than 400,000 students. With our YP program, we continue to graduate every quarter for the last five years. These graduates have moved on for many different companies and organizations. With SAP Saudi Arabia, we have a 50/50 male-female team, and we employ 40% Saudis. Around 37% of our staff is under the age of 30. We recently appointed the first female Saudi manager, which we were extremely pleased with in a globally male-dominated industry. We work with 28 university partners, and we have two academies ourselves for talent development. In the future, we aim to develop more training centers, especially to deliver short courses.