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Sun 19 Mar 2006 04:00 AM

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Taking the middle ground

Rumours of Oracle slipping from its position as enterprise business leader are unfounded, claims its EMEA chief Sergio Giacoletto. In fact, it is expanding into fresh sectors such as middleware

|~|Sergio-Giacolettobody.jpg|~|Sergio Giacoletto, head of Oracle’s EMEA operations, pointed to the success of the firm’s academy in training people to fill the gap in the IT skills market in the Middle East.|~|There has been talk in the region’s trade press that Oracle’s position as the leading firm for enterprise business applications is under threat here in the Middle East.

Unsurprisingly, Sergio Giacoletto disputes such talk: as boss of Oracle’s Europe, Middle East and Africa operations, he is responsible for ensuring the firm retains the growth it has enjoyed to date in the region and positioning it for further success.

With responsibility for over 100 offices spread across more than 50 countries in his territory, Giacoletto is unquestionably a busy man: he takes time out of his schedule to talk to IT Weekly.

What is the purpose of your visit to Jordan?

This is one of my regular trips to Jordan over the past couple of years. As you probably know we started a regional technical centre here in Amman a couple of months ago.

We also have quite a number of customers both in the private and public sector and we have opened an Oracle academy together with partners to train people here.

I was here to meet a number of customers, review progress and this morning I had an audience with His Majesty King Abdullah II to make him a progress report on what has been done in the past year.

What has been the progress on these projects?

Very good. Basically we identified a couple of years ago the opportunity to leverage the good skills available in Jordan, and the good people coming from university to build up the regional technical centre.

We started nine months ago and we have 50 people on board, and we are busy hiring other people so it is coming along quite nicely.

It is important because the IT business is growing very fast in the Middle East and there is a shortage of skills to meet the demand here. Very often, there are people imported from India and other places to do the job.

We think it makes sense to develop local skills, so by combination of aggressive education, investment by partners and investment by us, creating the centre and people, we can build capacity that will be used for the region in general.

What will be the next stage?

We have the first 50 people on board already, we are hiring the next batch of people.

We said yesterday that we are going to target 125 unemployed graduates, give them intensive three to six month training at our expense and we’ll hire some of them and others will find jobs with our partners and our customers.

So I think the base foundation is there, the office is open, the centre is operating and now it is just a matter of growth.

You’re head of all of EMEA of course, which is a large, diverse, region, geographically and business-wise. How often do you get over to the Middle East and how do you find it?

Probably four or five times a year I would say, depending on the year. Last year I was in the region six times at least.

The whole area of the Middle East is an interesting market, there are plenty of opportunities.

Of course, as we all know there are plenty of challenges as well, not just from the political point of view. But the region’s IT market is definitely an interesting market, the customer here is as sophisticated and as advanced as in any other country.

Very often we find the adoption of new technology is very very good here, as I said before, the biggest issue we find in the market is finding enough skilled people, particularly in the area of project management, busine- ss applications, implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

That is the challenge for the region overall, and I think it is very important to have private/public partnerships. It is in the interests of the region as well as us companies to build up a block of skills in these areas.

Oracle does of course have a very strong record of success here in the region, despite its competition with companies such as SAP. We have seen signs here of increased competitiveness, with companies putting more resources into the region. How are you going to maintain your success here?

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