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Sun 9 May 2004 04:00 AM

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Saba targets tier one players with HCDM

US vendor hopes its human capital development & management solutions’ ability to align employees and business objectives will encourage multinationals and large local companies to sign up.

|~|bobbyinside.jpg|~|Bobby Yazdani, founder, chairman & CEO of Saba.|~|Saba is targeting the Middle East market with its human capital development & management (HCDM) solutions. Working with Abu Dhabi-based Mina Solutions, the seven-year-old US company will initially target the region’s tier one companies and multinationals with its software, which is designed to allow management to effectively lead an organisation and align people with the business goals and objectives.

“Companies in the region are already aware of the benefits and wealth of intelligence that management systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), human resources management systems (HRMS) and customer relationship management (CRM) can provide,” says Bobby Yazdani, founder, chairman & CEO of Saba.

“However, whereas these traditional systems gather data and increase management abilities, our HCDM suite helps identify the skills and knowledge of employees and helps manage their competency development, while integrating seamlessly with a company’s existing ERP system,” he explains.

With all the major ERP vendors offering HR modules or human resource management systems (HRMS), and knowledge management/groupware vendors arguing that their wares already improve employee productivity through better information sharing and processes, Saba stresses that its software’s core competence is managing people — not data or content.

“We are not in the monolithic world of ERP, which chokes companies with set data schema. While they [ERP vendors] have a message based around low cost of integration, they don’t talk about [their] obsolete processes and software that doesn’t really support best practices. In fact, these solutions are designed for the back office, not the front office. Our software is designed for HR managers and for people who manage employees,” argues Yazdani.

The US$32 million Saba’s flagship product, enterprise learning suite (ELS) version 5.0, comprises six modules: learning, analytics, live, publisher, content, dialog and collaboration. Pricing is based on a per seat or per employee basis. With a Java-based architecture and extensive XML support, the vendor promises compatibility with other business apps, such as HRMS and ERP.

Globally, Saba has convinced more than 260 multinational companies and government agencies to implement its solution. Within the Middle East, the vendor will also be targeting multinationals with operations in the Middle East. Cisco and Schlumberger, for example, already qualify as local users of ELS due to a roll over effect from their international operations.

The company’s regional partner, Mina Solutions, admits that convincing local companies they need yet another application to manage employees will be a formidable task, especially as HR software has been slow to take off in the Middle East. Also, there continues to be a number of key issues surrounding local recruitment, such as a misalignment between job market requirements and nationals workforce skills and job market volatility, that may hold back adoption.

“The biggest challenge that we will face will be creating a mind set shift for key management in companies and organisations in the Middle East region,” says Selim Edde, managing director of Mina Solutions. Mindsets apart, Saba will also face competition from the large ERP players and other HRMS vendors, all of who are targeting the nascent US$28 million HRMS market in the GCC. Since convincing smaller companies will be harder, Mina Solutions is focusing on large enterprises with higher head counts.

“Initially we are [targeting] customers with 1000 employees or more and whose head quarters are in the Middle East, largely telcos, oil companies, banks and the government,” says Edde.

To cater to specific market needs, the ELS vendor has introduced an Arabised rapid deployment package, which is a vanilla version of its suite that takes six weeks to deploy.

Yazdani admits that in the short term the demand for its products will be driven by multinationals, but in the long-term he believes large local companies will be Saba’s biggest customers.

“Part of the demand for software is coming from global players entering the Middle East; they have to train their sales people, their partners and customers and they demand the same know-how and standards expected elsewhere in the world. But, as the regional markets are deregulated, the [demand] will come from local companies as they need to survive this tidal wave by building the right work force to compete,” he says. ||**||

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