CIO Breakfast | April 2017

3rd May 2017

ThinkTech kicked off its series of CIO forums on Wednesday 26th April in Media One Hotel with 18 of the most influential IT leaders in the UAE.

Controversy, passionate debate and broad thinking drove a 3 hour open session to an abrupt end leaving a sense that there was so much more to discuss! Time was not on our side.

Three very relevant topics were discussed:

  1. The introduction of VAT and the impact on IT
  2. Security
  3. Digitisation

The introduction of VAT into our region remains vague!

Despite leading accounting and consulting firm Baker Tilly’s presence we were all left distinctly in the dark with regards to the guidelines of when and how VAT is going to be implemented by 1st January 2018. This was no fault of Baker Tilly’s. Few, if any, guidelines have been released by the government. 

It was clear from both Randy Abu Tarboush and Anas Taraben, representing international companies British American Tobacco and Dubai Refreshments, that their technical disruption would be fairly minimal as their systems are set up to accommodate changes in taxes on a global scale. It is local businesses with little experience of paying or charging tax that will experience more disruption – both financially and technically.

Ahmed Seddiqi’s Senior Director of IT, Rak Gohil, was clear that this is unchartered territory for them in what has been a very successful retail company for decades in UAE. Technically they will have to make some significant changes. He was also keen to share that the new rules depicted by the Department of Economic Development  state that every invoice that was raised from 1st January 2017 must be raised in Arabic as well as the preferred language of the business in question. He highlighted that commercial violation will be issued to ‘non actors’ of these instructions by the beginning of January 2017.

What was very clear is there is plenty of work that needs to be done in the next 7 months!

Any break down in security is not about firewalls, it’s all about human failure!

Leading risk consultancy Control Risks presented a compelling narrative around the fact that extremely sensitive information can end up in the wrong hands and hence the increasing amount of concern amongst businesses in the region. Will Brown, a Director at Control Risks, explained that despite the default responsibility ending up with the CIO, it is quite clear that in many instances information breaches come from people acting irresponsibly and without thought. 

As experienced risk consultants, Will Brown and Ben Hickey provided clear guidance that the provision of security technology is only 15% of the resolution. The remaining 85% is down to training of staff in responsible behaviour and a very specific directive from the senior management on how to conduct themselves. Additional examples alarmingly highlighted that 40% of information breaches are caused by senior management not having the capacity in their schedules to take due care. 

Ahmed Hasan Ali Mohamed Almarzouqi, Director, Information Intelligence & Ent Applications at Emirates Global Aluminium was keen to point out they have an entire team responsible for security. This is a luxury RAK Ceramics would not entertain according to their CIO, Bob Mulumudi. As with many businesses on a global scale, when the ‘scare factor’ is presented at board level there is an attitude of ‘bury their heads in the sand’ and the discussion is not entertained. It is only when something actually happens that senior management are prepared to invest time and money.

Suffice it to say, security seems to be on the agenda but not all companies are mitigating the risk in a sufficient way.

Is the digital revolution simply another term for further technology advancement?

With 9 different industries being represented in one room it was difficult to define what digital meant to who. In fact the cynics amongst the group simply referred to the latest ‘digital transformation’ as yet another name for ‘technology transformation’. Richard Thompson and Maggie Shaw, responsible for the current digital transformation at OSN, were clear to point out that digital enablement allows companies  to target, engage and sell more effectively to all of our customers.

This debate was genuinely heating up when our time was up. There was plenty more to discuss and plenty more energy in the room. 

Maybe this is where we should start the next forum in the series.

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