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Tue 14 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

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Which one will you be?

ACN is set to unveil the winners of the 2008 Arab Technology Awards at a glittering ceremony at Dubai's Westin Hotel. Imthishan Giado previews the event.

ACN is set to unveil the winners of the 2008 Arab Technology Awards at a glittering ceremony at Dubai's Westin Hotel. Imthishan Giado previews the event.

It's all over bar the shouting.

After several months of frantic phone calls, SMS queries and e-mails pleading for extensions, all entries are finally in for the 2008 Arab Technology Awards. The response this year has been absolutely tremendous, taking last year's total of 70 nominations and nearly eclipsing it with a record 125 entries received.

The ACN team is delighted with the strength of the response this year - but then, it really doesn't come as too much of a surprise to us. After all, every day we speak to the Middle East's top IT talent.

From what we've learned over the past 12 months, this region is quickly shaking off the tag of technology follower and instead seizing the mantle of innovation; implementing class-leading projects with cutting-edge technology, often well before their peers in the more developed markets of Europe and the Americas.

The actual nominations have also dramatically stepped up in quality - with some contenders even going so far as to send in video nominations, an act of initiative that is appreciated and will be encouraged for next year's edition of awards.

Other nominations have bravely avoided the temptation to drown the judges in reams of marketing material. Instead, we've received evidence of success that impacts the organisation's bottom line at the business level, above and beyond merely implementing the latest technology.

Many of the entries demonstrate how enterprises have used quick and lateral thinking to solve complex, challenging problems instead of just opening their wallets further. What this year's batch of entries prove is that the old ways of IT thinking are dead and buried.

The categories

The sheer volume of entries made it quite clear from the onset that the nominees for this year's edition of the Awards would have a tough fight on their hands.

The ACN Arab Technology AwardsWhat:The Arab Technology Awards rewards the most innovative implementations by regional enterprises and the achievements of its hard-working IT professionals. When:Monday 20th October.

Where:The Westin Hotel, Dubai.

Who:The ACN Arab Technology Awards will be attended by the cream of the region's IT community, including CIOs, IT managers and executives and senior management from the Middle East's top system integrators and service providers.

Awards categories:

Government and Education Implementation of the Year

Energy and Utilities Implementation of the Year

Telecommunications Implementation of the Year

Banking and Finance Implementation of the Year

Healthcare Implementation of the Year

Hospitality and Tourism Implementation of the Year

Retail Supply Chain & Transport Implementation of the Year

Manafacturing and Construction Implementation of the Year

Professional Services Implementation of the Year

CIO of the Year

IT Department of the Year

Enterprise vendor of the Year

Enterprise Systems Integrator of the Year

Enterprise Service Provider of the Year

For example, ACN received 16 nominations for Banking and Finance Implementation of the Year from the region's top financial institutions - and it's clear that these banks are in it for the win.

What the category has illustrated - and many judges have commented - is that yet again, most of the Middle East's innovators tend to come from a banking background like last year's CIO of the Year, Mohammad Al Khatib, head of IT for the Amman Stock Exchange.

Telecoms implementation of the Year is another category that's prompted fierce debate amongst the judges. Last year Saudi ISP DigiNet beat hot local favourites Etisalat on the strength of a (relatively) simple implementation that answered all the judge's requirements for a winner, without being overly dramatic.

While we can't reveal that there'll be a similar upset this year, what we can say is that telecoms has once again reaffirmed its position as a vital component of the IT landscape, with implementations that show the full spectrum of business results.

Of course, there's one category which seems to exist purely to spark debate. It is of course, the prestigious award for CIO of the year - and the discussion among the judges this year has been - as it is every year - how one gauges such an individual.

Some believe that it's necessary for the CIO to have a visible presence within the boardroom. Others argue that the winner needs to have pushed technological limits.

Whatever the case, the 16 entries this year (another record) are sure to have either of each quality - but the winner will be the one who integrates both into a performance that's worthy of the title.

So if you're a nominated CIO, vendor, integrator or service provider, there are only a few scant weeks left to know if the 2008 Arab Technology Awards will be your night of glory. To find out, join us on October 20.

Meet the judgesMohammed ShahChief Technology Officer, Madinah Knowledge Economic City

Mohammad Shah currently heads one of the biggest IT projects in the region: building a complete Smart City infrastructure for Saudi Arabia's new Knowledge-based Industries Hub.

Twice, named as one of ACN's IT Managers of the Year, Shah has more than 15 years of experience in the IT industry and has a strong track record of successfully implementing complex IT projects to a reference site standard while meeting challenging deadlines on time and under budget.

Vineet Chhatwal

Managing consultant for the Global Business Transformation Group, PA Consulting

Vineet Chhatwal's impressive resume boasts of more than 16 years experience in engineering and management consulting. A chemical engineer by trade and an MBA holder with specialisation in manufacturing and systems, Chhatwal has led several large scale IT led improvement initiatives in both public and private sectors.

More recently, he has been involved in several structural reform initiatives in the government sector in the lower gulf region. In addition to his work with PA Consulting, Chhatwal also acts as the COO of The Consulting Office.

Mohammad Al Khatib

CIO, Amman Stock Exchange

A past winner at the Arab Technology Awards, Mohammad Al Khatib graciously accepted our offer this year to be on the judging panel.

CIO of the ASE since 1999, Al Khatib has overseen the implementation of first an electronic trading system in 2000 and then the following year, the elimination of the trading floor altogether to be replaced with a remote trading system.

Today, Al Khatib's ASE has one of the most complex ICT setups in the region with more than 1500 users and is still on the hunt for for new technologies and systems to improve the productivity of his traders.

Todd McGregor

Vice President and Managing Director, Forrester Research & Consulting

One of the most visible ICT experts in the region, Todd McGregor holds more than 17 years of IT experience and has held various vice president level positions responsible for operations across Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific in companies including Forrester, Meta Group and Gartner.

McGregor has also been the founder of two start-up companies in the telecommunications and energy industries.

He currently writes a monthly column in ACN, in addition to regularly appearing on the BBC's Middle East Business Report, CNN, CNBC and numerous other media.

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