MUDAR AL-ANI

Saudi Arabia 2021 | TELECOMS & IT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mudar Al-Ani, CEO of Beyond Technology Al Saudia, about technology's role in the pandemic response, public versus private contracts, and changes wrought by COVID-19.

How has your firm dealt with the pandemic and the shift of technology to the center of the conversation in Saudi Arabia?

As a technology company we have went through a transformation two years ago and we have uplifted our portfolio of services to focus more on managed services, mobility, security, collaboration, cloud and much more. These technologies witnessed a major demand and spike throughout the pandemic and our teams were resilient and were able to support our existing customer base.
All enterprises needed urgently to extend their services and applications access to their teams and their end customers and this was our core business for some time now and we were able to support on different levels to ensure business continuity of these businesses.

Have you seen a boost in your business?

We have witnessed three types of customers since the beginning of this situation. The first type where already in their digital transformation journey and wanted to speed up the process to ensure their businesses will not be affect, and this is where we have seen a major demand and spike. Second, the customers who were heavily affected and have been in the front lines fighting this pandemic like Education, Government and Healthcare. These types of customers shifted budgets and wanted to support the different initiatives they have in the pipeline throughout the pandemic. Lastly are customers who are in the early stage or didn't start the journey wanted to wait and ensure they keep the lights on they shuffled their budgets waiting for things to settle down before having a clear vision on how to proceed.

How has the government's response and spending impacted your business in recent months?

Definitely there has been an impact. The IT expenditures dropped down where most of the businesses were focusing on the critical projects now on top of others. The Government measures as well were in place to support the economy and ensure the situation fades out with least possible effect on projects and businesses. We have seen the government went on budgets cuts but were keen to continue extending and digitalizing their services to serve the populations at home rather than governmental agencies. On the other hand, we have seen some budgets shifted to the healthcare sector to support with the different initiatives. Our portfolio and partnership with British Telecom positioned us in a good spot with these Government insinuations and efforts where our teams were able to support in several strategic projects.

Does the majority of your current work come from the public sector?

It's balanced between both. We used to have 70% of our work coming from the government and 30% from private. We are sensing an interesting move for signing business with the public sectors toward OPEX models, and we are seeing a huge move toward managed services two- or three-years contracts with pay-as-you-go model across many industries and products, whether for videoconferencing solutions or cybersecurity. It is completely managed services, and this is where the many clients are heading to; however, we see it happening at a much quicker pace in the public sector than before.

Moving forward, what projects are you interested in working on, and where do these fall in terms of services?

We are focusing on three areas of services: global and local connectivity; financial services, cybersecurity; and unified communications, while ensuring the backend from the data center to the cloud infrastructure would be able to support these type of technologies in the best way possible. We have partnered with leader vendors in the market and our team has been certified to implement complex projects across all these technologies. Working with our great partner BT in cybersecurity will help brining a world-class capability in Saudi Arabia in leading financial solutions and cybersecurity. With Digital-shifts we always see cybersecurity as key element to be promoted and compliance in line with NCA & CITC regulations.

Which changes that have occurred over the pandemic are permanent and will remain in the market?

The first is remote working and giving the flexibility internally for employees to work from home. Companies like us were ready before the pandemic, but the usage has increased with these tools. The pandemic has also helped improving the efficiency and utilization of our resources in general. Thankfully, we see this as the biggest advantage for us internally, and we are trying to reflect the same experience with our clients.

Are there attitudes or ambitions that have shifted that will play to your strengths in the future?

Yes, as mentioned the ultimate need of digitalization in public and enterprise sectors as well as the continuous updates of regulations regarding data privacy and protection. This will put both cloud and cybersecurity business on the top.