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Mon 22 Oct 2007 01:23 PM

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Missing a trick in ME market

Region's economy will only continue to boom so loudly if it can draw innovators and entrepreneurs to its industries.

It seems that no-one can get enough of the words "booming economy" in the region. And at first glance, it would appear that people are taking advantage of that boom. Global companies are moving in, talking about "expanding regional presence" and "making the Middle East a geographic focal point for growth".

But there are still gaps in this market that are highlighted when the market shows increased interest in a specific product - such as datacenters.

With emerging markets that are growing at the rate the Middle East is, the savvy and imaginative businessperson/company doesn't wait to see what the market wants or needs - they tell the market what it wants or needs.

Obviously, no-one can create a market out of nothing, but what we're discussing here is anticipation. Entrepreneurial companies, both here and abroad, should be looking ahead to what the regional enterprises will need. And nowhere is this more evident than in IT.

IT itself is a fast-paced industry with change constantly on the horizon. Any company that deals with or in IT has to stay up-to-date and look forward to the changes that are coming, or they won't be on top for long.

Which is why it was so surprising to learn of the dearth of IT consultancy in the region that is not linked to a vendor. During the course of researching next month's article "Pay the price" on datacentre consultancy, the only pure consultants to be found were the global firm Schnabel AG, and they deal in the physical infrastructure of a datacentre, not its IT applications.

This is just the sort of situation that a keen minded company could have foreseen. Middle Eastern enterprises are rapidly catching up with (and at times surpassing) their Western counterparts in terms of enterprise IT deployment and the datacentre is the newest craze to hit the boardroom.

Right now, companies here are not without options. They can go to a vendor, most of which have a consultancy branch or at the very least, post-sale advice and aid in implementation. But that means they're making one important choice without the benefit of unbiased advice from a seasoned expert - they're choosing their vendor.

While some would argue that there is little difference in modern enterprise technology from one vendor to the next in terms of quality, it is certainly true that a specific vendor's product will be more suitable to one company than another. The lack of a purely consultative IT firm in the Middle East is forcing all companies, big and small, to go it alone in this important decision, which may result in choosing a vendor that simply does not carry the most suitable technology for them.

And let's not just lament on the part of these companies, all at sea without a rudder to guide them. Let's not forget just how much money a good consultancy firm can make. The market is there, it's only been there a little while, but it is there and any company that swooped in quick enough and hard enough could carve itself a sizeable chunk of the market without worrying about competition.

The economy is booming and it is drawing international and start-up companies to it like moths to a very large flame. But the Middle East economy will only continue to boom so loudly if it can draw innovators and entrepreneurs to its industries. Perhaps more importantly, without these kinds of companies, businesses in the region will not be well served and competition will not breed quality.

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