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Wed 29 Oct 2008 11:12 AM

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On winners and survivors

Technology can help firms consolidate, cut back on labour costs and increase productivity, seeing them though the tough times.

There is only one thing on everybody's minds these days - the global financial crisis.

It is the proverbial white elephant in the room that everybody is trying hard to ignore, but nobody is really successful in doing so.

I have been having some interesting conversations with regional industry stakeholders, especially since many of them were around for the recent GITEX Technology Week. Though the region is yet to feel the pinch of the crisis, almost all of them expect the backlash of the global financial turmoil to hit us in the next six to eight months.

When that backlash does hit us, most vendors are anticipating a fall in demand for IT solutions. They are sure that new projects will be slashed, and technology budgets will shrink as companies scramble to cut costs. And, you can say, that sends a shudder down their spines.

They are probably wise to be afraid. If and when the crisis finds our shores, regional enterprises will cut back on budgets, will put on hold future projects and might even cut short current ones.

However, the really clever ones might end up using information technology to their advantage during the hard times.

They can do by using technology to consolidate, cut back on labour costs, increase productivity across the organisation and ensure operational high standards. In short, IT can enable organisations to transform themselves into lean and mean fighting machines that can not only withstand the difficult times around the corner, but actually come out of it much the better.

The Middle East is enjoying currently a short period of insulation from the stark reality that seems to be enveloping developed markets. And in this period of calm, which everybody expects to end soon, regional enterprises have the precious chance to prepare adequately for what awaits.

They have the time to re-assess their IT investments of the past and consider how they can be used better and more effectively to achieve higher productivity levels in the near future.

They can re-consider their planned IT investments for the next year, with the new requirement of achieving more with less in mind. They can fill the gaps they perceive in their IT and organisational structure, and guide employees on new processes that will help them when the difficult times come visiting.

The Middle East market is a fast-developing one, and enterprises here might find themselves left at a juncture where they have to cut costs with many unfinished projects still on their plates. Adept use of technology to streamline processes, and essential re-structuring can go a long way in helping companies to avoid these potentially unpleasant situations.

History's difficult times always create a share of survivors (those who just manage to make it through), and winners (that come of it much the better for the wear). And the major difference between the two is how prepared they were to take on the difficult time.

So, what is it going to be for regional enterprises?

Sathya Mishra Ashok is the editor of Network MIddle East.

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