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Sun 25 Apr 2004 04:00 AM

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Selling to Saudi's SMBs

The success of Saudi Arabia’s tier one companies in deploying information technology to drive their businesses forward is well known within the Middle East region.

The success of Saudi Arabia’s tier one companies in deploying information technology to drive their businesses forward is well known within the Middle East region.

Saudi Aramco, for instance, remains the most referenced and sought after end user organisation in the country. This exalted position has been well earned, as the company boasts the largest single instance of SAP R/3 on the planet, a massive Linux cluster to run its seismic applications and continues to build a communications infrastructure some small countries would be proud of.

Equally as impressive, but less frequently cited, is the work of other companies within Saudi Arabia, such as Zahid Tractors, National Commercial Bank and the National Guard Health Affairs. Others are taking technology one-step further and embracing computing models that would be the toast of US or European organisations. For instance, Zamil Industrial Investment Company (ZIIC) is on its way to creating a fully functional shared services model, while Royah Company is already there.

While this select band of users continues to forge ahead, the Kingdom’s smaller companies have been rather more sluggish in terms of embracing IT. Market immaturity and a questionable infrastructure have certainly played their part in this, but many observers have also blamed the Saudi small-to-medium sized business (SMB) community’s apathy towards IT.

However, at last week’s Gitex Saudi Arabia, a new theory for this lack of technology adoption by SMBs came to the fore: no one is selling to them. The argument put forward suggests that while the tier one companies are ably served by the enterprise focused systems integrators, smaller end users get lumped together with consumers. In other words, the Saudi channel would rather open a show room for home users and walk SMBs through that than focus on their specific needs.

This duel strategy can make sense for resellers. After all, why focus on just consumers when there is a chance to snap up a few SMB accounts? Likewise, why go to the expense of building and stocking a show room for small business solutions and not encourage home users to drop in to see the latest hardware? Quite simply, the Kingdom’s resellers are looking to double their money.

However, as with any endeavour that carries a duel focus, there is the danger of becoming a Jack-of-all-trades and master of none. And, as the Kingdom’s smaller companies continue to lag behind the larger companies, it appears as if this is exactly what is happening. Saudi’s SMBs are not getting the service or attention they deserve and, as a result, they are not investing in IT.

The sooner Saudi resellers that want to play in the SMB space recognise this and tweak their business strategies accordingly, the sooner technology investment will take off among the Kingdom’s smaller companies and resellers’ profits will sky rocket.

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