The Middle East's business enterprises are aware of the need to sustain a solid, scalable IT and audio-visual infrastructure. The Advisor meets a number of industry experts and asks where the trend is moving.
Over the last few years there has been an accelerated economic boom in the Middle East region, driven by oil prices, shift of investment capital and growth in key investment sectors.
This has fuelled growth, specifically in the Integrated Technologies (IT) sector, being one of the main areas that normally accompany these booms in infrastructure development. Audio-visual (AV) and IT are subject to the modernisation and infrastructure development trend, which has opened new doors and allowed for an increased number of small and medium businesses to operate in different fields.
This has resulted in IT and AV infrastructure solutions providers to rethink their strategy and cater to the new and increasing needs of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
According to Beau Wardak, general manager of Tandberg Middle East, "The small and medium enterprise market is a booming sector for Tandberg in the region with a year-after-year growth of over 140%.
"The SME sector is close to 50% of overall Tandberg Middle East business revenue. Tandberg is very eager to cultivate the visual communication business within the SME market.
A clear indicator of the necessity of technology in modern business operations is that a business strategy today absolutely has to be backed by a solid and clear technical vision, and this shows in the increasing numbers of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) participating in direction and strategy planning for their businesses.
The developments in the IT department are becoming a part of a company's identity and a determinant for fields of potential expansion and growth.
The growing outsourcing trend is now the norm when implementing some solutions and managed services. Investments today needs to cover the much needed IT and AV tools so as to build and maintain a solid, scalable and modern infrastructure.
From advanced presentation and conference room equipment, conferencing and communications tools (incorporating AV solutions to the system), to the more advanced and decentralised AV architectures (both for internal as well as customer-accessed sites), incorporating the new guidelines can deliver the messages to an exceedingly busy consumer.
To add to the value proposition, one very important advancement in the field of new marketing, companies can potentially turn a display solution into a cash-generating investment by utilising it for advertising.
According to Ahmad Hijazi, business development manager, LFD Solutions at Samsung Gulf Electronics, "These are some of the fields that Samsung, as a display-solutions leader, are trying to develop.
"To confirm the above indications, reports say that globally, retail signage accounts for around 24% of LFD spending, and conference room spending is reaching 23% of the total spending on LFD [2007 figures, McKinsey].
This shows the trend towards improving the infrastructure, and quickly adopting new solutions and technologies."
Why employ Telepresence?
With the UAE being a centrally located hub for global businesses, the need for communication and at times face-to-face meeting with partners and colleagues across countries is essential.
It is a known fact that effective use of visual communication products can add substantial value to SME bottom lines by not only reducing travel time and cost but also accelerating productivity and efficiency.
"Video is rapidly becoming the most effective way to communicate and share information," says Charles Stucki, vice president and general manager, TelePresence Systems business unit, Cisco. "TelePresence is much more than video as TelePresence puts you into the meeting."
In addition, SMEs are investing in visual communication technology to help them accelerate decision making, scale knowledge, unify the organisation, and promote work and life balance.
Furthermore, face-to-face is the most natural and effective form of communication and according to a survey conducted by Roper; video builds higher trust (90%) and reduces confusion/misunderstandings (81%) than other forms of communication.The visual communication technology is ready for prime time, based on the facts we see every day," adds Wardak.
"Previous barriers to adoption have been eliminated, video is stable, reliable and easy to use (which is a key point), and the availability of high-definition and CD quality audio make the entire experience very natural.
With the rise of YouTube and other video sharing sites, that boast over 100 million video views per day, there are clear indications that visual communication technology is ready for acceptance by the business community.
Earlier seen as just a fad, the use of audio video technology to align the display solution - as part of the overall information infrastructure - with the longer-term needs of the company is now a reality.
"There are a lot of cutting-edge solutions which might be an overkill, and some will fall short of the real requirements," warns Hijazi. "The selection of the appropriate
AV display system should happen through a systematic approach by the right technical staff, and according to clear understanding of the needs of the company and the consultation of professional integrators/advisors," Hijazi advises.
Advantages of visuals
There is certainly a huge demand for cutting-edge yet cost-effective AV and IT solutions from the SME market, and this is just the beginning. There are definite signs that there is more to come, and the demand is yet to shift and advance to numerous new segments and uses.
There will be increased functionalities, requirements and spending.
The figures are still not very accurate but there is an obvious trend which we can sense from the market. SMEs in general are knowledgeable about the cutting-edge display solutions available, and the Middle East has a good presence in global information technology exhibitions, but there is a long way to go until these solutions become the norm.
Tetsuji Okui, managing director, SANYO Gulf FZE believes, "The solution usually is not based on the size of the organisation.
It is totally need-centric. We at SANYO are constantly developing new products which can be easily used and carried anywhere for urgent meetings, presentations, etc.; SANYO launched the world's lightest & compact DLP Projectors (PLC-XW60) which weighs only 1.6 kg.
While Samsung Gulf established its Large Format Display (LFD) division this year, in response to the market demand and in light of the developments happening globally in this field.
The LFD Division has a mission of presenting top of the line professional displays and display solutions (sizes from 32'' up to 82'' in both LCD and Plasma) to cover public display, corporate display and the digital signage sectors.
The future of audio-visual technologies
The market dynamics indicated that there is a strategic need for more focus on the SME segment for these AV/IT solutions, especially with the big potential and commitment of SMEs to professionalism, growth and continuous implementation of the best technologies.
Today's business field allows so many people to compete, but this fact in itself dictates that only the truly focused will have the chance to survive.
As the products become more advanced, the emphasis is more on the solutions offered, and as such the role of the channel partner gains a much bigger importance compared to the traditional case of just supply.
The region in total is heading towards the best international standards. While the focus is on the nature of the end-users business the channel partners need to have a heightened awareness of new AV and integrated solutions that can enhance their product offerings.
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