By Sherief Younis
Substantial profits and burgeoning company growth saw Zamil Industrial Investment Company decide it was tired of sharing. Sherief Younis reports on the company's plans.
In 2006 Zamil Industrial Investment Company (ZIIC) implemented a full service-oriented architecture suite (SOA) to improve the transfer of information between its growing portfolio of multi-national sites as part of its shared service model, implemented several years before.
"In 2002 we started the shared service model and IT was one of them; our mission statement was that we wanted to become a central shared service for all our companies, because at that time we were six or seven business units. During that time we went through a lot of consolidation projects; standardisation, web services, web enabling - there was a lot of implementation," explains Zaki Sabbagh, CIO at ZIIC.
But with operating profits of US$60.4 million for 2006 and ZIIC enjoying substantial growth, the company needed a new model to allow for burgeoning growth and a growing pressure to deliver upon a new set of business objectives.
"In 2006 we said that our shared service model had matured and we had achieved our objectives. We decided to address a new business statement and realised we needed to benefit from our existing model - we needed to build on it and upgrade it. We are expanding now, we are building five or six factories outside Saudi, we are increasing our production in all areas and we are buying and acquiring companies - we have to be adaptive in a way that we should be ready for all these upgrades and allow business growth," he says.
Building on its shared service model - where ZIIC managed several remote sites from its KSA base - the company looked to standardise the technology used across all of its sites to achieve its globalisation goal.
"We have companies in Egypt and Vietnam, we are building factories in Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE, and in India and China, and we believed that all these sites should be part of our shared IT model - this is part of the globalisation that we are looking for. That means they should have the same standard we use in Saudi Arabia and the same technology on site to help us achieve this globalisation," says Sabbagh.
As well as the plug and play concept adopted with the shared service model, ZIIC has started to implement virtual private network (VPN) connectivity as part of its global expansion plans.
"From an infrastructure management perspective, we haven't done much of it but we are looking at the connectivity part of it now and we are trying to establish some VPN connectivity," Sabbagh explains.
Connecting the company's many sites through a remote, secure network, ZIIC is able to retain overall management of all its site from its main base in Saudi Arabia, standardise the technology across its sites and avoid any costly reinvestment to separately upgrade the technology at every site.
"Our other focus is to standardise our business process across all of Zamil's sites and the impact of this will be a very tangible one. For example, our site in Egypt has its own email service but it's facing a lot of challenges dealing with spam, phishing, security and service availability. If we host that service in Saudi and deliver it to them using the VPN connectivity and we can improve the service for the site.
"It also means we can avoid any needless re-investment in technology that is already available at our main site in Saudi Arabia. This is something we have already done for Ras Al Khaimah and our other factories - everything is hosted from here but the RAK site has its own SOA engine. Everything is filtered and managed from Saudi Arabia," says the ZIIC CIO.
As well as installing a VPN, the company overhauled a number of in-house systems - including its SOA - to adapt, and ensure, the implementation was successful. And with a number of projects either implemented or under implementation, Sabbagh is left to mull over his rapidly expanding workload as he strives to meet the company's business objectives.
"There's a lot of cultural change involved with the project," he says, "The challenge we faced was co-ordinating a number of simultaneous projects. With the expansion of our company, the number of projects, compared to last year, has doubled, so it's a matter of capacity; it's a matter of handling, because there are a number of business expectations."
As opposed to the five-year plan of the shared service model, the global service model has a three-year objective with very distinct stages of completion.
"The global service model is a three year destination statement, but it's a full two year implementation. The first year implementation focuses on the application level whereas the second year focuses on the infrastructure. The third year is for refining and fine tuning the system," he says.
With such a clear time frame set, it comes as little surprise that the company's objectives are also as specific. As the company continues to grow internationally, the ability to transfer information between sites quickly and securely will give the ZIIC the business edge they are looking for.
"What we are looking for is to improve time to market. When we established the Egypt and Vietnam sites, it took us almost three years to copy the systems we use in Saudi and localise them to make them work for those sites. With the global service concept, and the changes we are making to our in-house systems as well as SOA enabling, it should be a matter of weeks. We are globalising our applications, standardising our processes and making the technology work regardless of the site location," Sabbagh says.
The project may only be four months old but it is already beginning to yield the benefits in increased scalability.