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Tue 14 Oct 2008 12:27 PM

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Who Dares Wins

Firms who take risks reap the benefits of plaudits like the Arab Technology Awards

I promise this will be the last of my Awards editorials – but I did just have some final remarks.

But before I begin – a big thank you to all my judges, who’ve worked tirelessly to plough through the absolutely epic number of entries ACN received this year.

An equally big thank you goes out to all the PR representatives, executive assistants and CIOs who produced the tens of thousands of words that comprise the typical nomination entry.

Apart from the enormous workload, there have been several interesting aspects to this year’s batch of nominations. First, certain sectors tend to innovate more than others. Entries from media organisations were among the frontrunners – somewhat obviously – but I spotted the same trend among banks, which have pursued some quite daring projects over the last year.

Retail was another standout – I guarantee that the winner of that award is sure to raise some eyebrows for its left-field use of a very old technology. Telecoms, too – we’ve grown accustomed to telecommunications operators simply settling for expanding the size of their operations and claiming that as evidence of innovation. This year’s winner of Telecoms implementation of the year, however, really has – to borrow a phrase from Apple’s marketing department – thought differently about its relationship with its customers.

Other entries, however, were less impressive. A number of organisations sent in nominations which were really just more of the same – an ERP implementation, an infrastructure upgrade, and so on. While we’re always interested to hear what organisations are doing, it’s clear that some vertical enterprises are stuck in something of a holding pattern when it comes to innovation.

What’s the cause? Some would like to blame the current global credit crunch and the ancillary effect it has had on curbing excessive spending in the region. That is surely likely to have more than a few CIOs nervously looking at their 2010 budgets – but I do not think it is the sole reason.

When I initially spoke to CIOs from these verticals about nominating in the Awards – including some winners – several privately revealed that this year would be mainly one of consolidation. They simply could not afford the cost and risk of pursuing cutting-edge implementations every year.

I think that’s a copout – our winners this year have not always been the most staffed or best bankrolled in their individual categories. Instead, they have approached their individual IT challenges with as open a mind as possible and not simply chosen to spend their way out.

So while these firms sit back, others shatter the boundaries of what’s possible. One judge remarked to me that we could host an awards ceremony based on what we received in the Banking and Finance category alone.

I might not go so far myself, but it’s a reminder that firms who take risks reap the benefits of plaudits like the Arab Technology Awards. For the rest – try harder next year!

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