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Mon 1 Jan 2007 12:00 AM

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Competitive edge

Dr Khaled Al Bulaihed, general manager of the IT department at the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), explains how technology is helping to improve the Kingdom’s business environment.

What is the business strategy behind SAGIA?

SAGIA is a new breed of government organisation that is working as a government partner and also as a company involved in private sector initiatives – we are trying to bring the two parties together. SAGIA has a strategy that aims to create an investment environment to be among the globe’s top 10 in terms of competitiveness by 2010. By that time, Saudi Arabia will be one of the biggest and most important financial centres in the area.

SAGIA works first as a facilitator for investors and we work as a promotion agency for business opportunities in the Kingdom – and also as a catalyst for major change. In this area of major change, this is where our project called Asaleeb [Arabic for ‘method’] comes into its own. We started working on this one year ago and developed the concept of bringing extremely innovative business solutions to how SAGIA would interact with investors starting from the prospecting cycle — whether they are inside or outside Saudi Arabia. This is our main focus and we needed to develop an IT solution that would actually enable SAGIA to give investors a powerful experience to find and execute their investment opportunities.

How does IT support this?

We are capitalising on best practices – that is our main process strategy – and we have chosen a SAP environment for this purpose. SAP comes with a lot of business practices that are already developed and we are capitalising on the customer relationship management (CRM) expertise that SAP has. It is a major component in SAP and in that area we are using all the ingredients — we are developing the main hub for our investor relations, which is the interactive call centre. And we are developing the prospects database, the business opportunities database, and we are linking our internal activities to the investor requests. We are developing the government transaction requests for the investors so that if they need to get licensing, visas or labour permits — all of this is integrated and we are discovering that we are one of the unique SAP implementations that is actually using the full CRM functionality alongside other components in SAP such as records and case management. This is the first SAP CRM implementation in the public sector in the ME.

We found that some of those components have been implemented around the world in various places, but for a government organisation — or an investment agency — this is a unique way of developing the business and linking all the parties together.

Why did you choose SAP?

The immediate availability of best practice was one of the main reasons why we selected SAP. That means not only that the technology components are developed and given to us, the actual business processes for best practice are already available. The actual implementation took five months from when we formally started working with the consultants. In five months we accomplished things that before could have taken up to a year in a non-SAP environment. This five months is the actual configuration to the system using the available best practices including the full CRM prospecting and the integration with the call centre and case management services.

What improvements do you expect to see in your processes?

SAGIA works in two main areas. First with the investor prospects and in that area we capture the business opportunities that they are interested in, we develop meeting schedules and we arrange visas and the like — all this is the prospecting area and we accomplish this with the main part of CRM. The second part — once the prospect is ready to invest in Saudi Arabia, and then he needs to get his licences, visas and get his labour documents. In that area SAGIA has already established three one step centres and we actually have government representatives working in those centres. So we are the front desk like a bank: we receive your request and then we pass it on to the correct government representative. Our main target for this initiative is to change completely how investors would interact with Saudi Arabia from the moment they are interested until the moment they actually come here and get their businesses up and running.

In five months we accomplished things that before could have taken up to a year.

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