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Sun 24 Aug 2008 04:00 AM

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The politics of winning

By the time you read this editorial, nominations for the 2008 Arab Technology Awards will have closed – and from my initial cursory evaluation of this year’s batch of contenders, certain key trends will already have emerged.

By the time you read this editorial, nominations for the 2008 Arab Technology Awards will have closed – and from my initial cursory evaluation of this year’s batch of contenders, certain key trends will already have emerged.

First, recognition of the Arab Technology Awards as the region’s premier event for enterprise IT professionals is running at an all time high. Virtually every CIO and integrator we’ve spoken to in the past weeks has expressed (in descending order with my thoughts attached): a fond recollection of last year’s event (which is greatly appreciated); a keen eagerness to participate (which is strongly encouraged); and a slight hope of extending the deadline (which has no chance at all).

Second, past history is no indicator of current performance. Last year’s Awards saw ACN receive over 70 nominations across more than 16 categories – a solid number by any yardstick. On more than one occasion, I’ve declared that this year’s batch of entries would be exceedingly fortunate if it came close to beating that figure.

My pessimism proved to be unfounded – one glance at my overburdened inbox tells me that we’ve cruised comfortably past last year’s total and while my natural reticence forbids me from revealing the final number, anyone who guesses three figures is not far off the mark at all.

Third – standards for the received nominations have risen across the board. People are writing longer and better entries with the majority of submissions presented as projects that made significant improvements to an enterprise’s bottom line – rather than sending in a load of marketing guff to which our judges will pay little heed.

Innovation has also reared its pleasantly-unexpected head. More than one participant this year has decided to move beyond text entries into the world of video, sending supporting material either in the form of short film clips – or in one case, the entire nomination as a film on DVD.

These efforts certainly took me by surprise; I had to check the rules twice to make sure they were allowed! But as it turns out, there’s nothing in the guidelines prohibiting their submission so yes, a video submission is perfectly acceptable and just another example of how some regional enterprises are willing to go the extra mile to stand out from the pack.

I should clarify, though, that a video nomination is absolutely no guarantee of victory and that the vast majority of entrants have followed the nomination guidelines to the letter, so they’ve got just about as much chance of winning as the next one. But efforts to innovate should always be applauded and I’ll definitely look forward to seeing some equally innovative submissions next year.

Finally: a word of caution. Last year, our most hotly contested category was CIO of the year, with eight of the region’s top IT managers vying for the honour of bagging ACN’s most prestigious award. The silverware eventually went to Mohammad Al Khatib from the Amman Stock Exchange who, as he’s ineligible to enter this year’s Awards, has kindly agreed to join our judging panel instead.

What will happen this year? I believe the fictional Daniel Plainview says it best in last year’s Oscar-winning There Will Be Blood.

“I have a competition in me; I want no one else to succeed,” he remarked casually, just about summing up the state of this year’s CIO nominations. With over double the number of entrants, there’s going to be an explosive mix of familiar faces from last year and eager new contestants with something to prove to their peers. But only one will walk on stage on Oct 20 at the Westin hotel in Dubai to receive the coveted prize – while I’ll be backstage having to face the wrath of the remaining unlucky CIOs.

So this year’s edition of the Arab Technology Awards promises to deliver the full complement of suspense, drama and excitement. And if you’re one of the lucky few who’ve submitted a nomination, you have now just over a month to ponder which side of the winning line you’ll be on come October 20.

Imthishan Giado is the deputy editor of Arabian Computer News.

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