Leading the digital transformation

Leading the digital transformation

Cisco in Saudi Arabia has an impressive market share when it comes to networking.  That isn’t surprising when you consider the wide range of solutions that the company can offer to clients – proving end-to-end IT solutions for businesses. Cisco in Saudi Arabia has demonstrated a solid performance year-on-year fueled by customers being more aware of the critical role ICT transformation is playing across all market sectors. Working with IT leaders like Cisco ensures customers and strategic partners the very best return of investment when it comes to leading technology solutions and services, a robust and secure network infrastructure and innovation.

Cisco Services delivers a portfolio that unlocks potential for its customers. All over the world, companies and governments are embracing the need for digital transformation. Cisco started up in the Middle East in the late 1990s and has offices across the region as a whole, including the UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, Bahrain and Egypt. Khalid Hussein, Director of Global Services Provider – Advanced Services, is leading the Services Organisation in KSA. He is responsible for expanding the services portfolio of Cisco in Saudi Arabia and has been with Cisco for six years, having spent 26 years working in the technology industry, including time at other top multinational vendors.

Cisco Advanced Services in KSA, led by Hussein, plays a vital role in Cisco’s ability to deliver technology solutions that solve its customers’ most complex challenges. As we pivot to a digitised world, Cisco is accelerating the transformation of Advanced Services to ensure it is prepared to lead its customers through this critical business model transition. It has built a sustainable business model that has enabled long-term customer engagement and partnership.

Hussein says that today’s customers demand that their IT platform is in good hands while they focus on opportunities and challenges resulting from the accelerating pace of technology evolution. Cisco offers accelerated agility, higher ROI and risk mitigation through a choice of delivery and consumption options designed to meet varying needs, budgets and environments.  

Cisco Services is the solution for those customers: “It’s a rich portfolio that spans over all kinds of solutions engagement whether specific to a deliverable, project, turn-key solution, advice, preventive, proactive, or operate and manage. The major franchise that Cisco Services in KSA is focused on is Managed Services,” says Hussein.

The Managed Services team focuses on building long-lasting associations with key clients, as Hussein explains: “We look at long-term relationships with them, operating and managing their IT platform with clear SLAs and KPIs. That enables Cisco customers to achieve their business priorities, operational excellence and the cost optimisation while delivering best-of-class services to their end-users.”

Husam Atout, Regional Services Sales Manager, adds: “As a result of globalisation and increased complexity of the global business landscape, companies in Saudi Arabia are moving to smarter and readily achievable solutions to address issues such as cost-cutting and to focus on their core competencies. Cisco Services has proven their capabilities to offer a wide range of services linked with strong capabilities on the ground to address customer needs. In my area of responsibility with the Services Provider landscape, we, as Cisco GSP Services KSA, managed to penetrate on different key franchises in the Managed Services and we believe we stand ahead of the game with other IT Managed Services Providers.”

In order to develop these essential strong relationships, Cisco has built the portfolio enriched with multiple tools and processes linked with strong alliances whether local or multinational companies and operations. In addition, it regularly makes acquisitions of other companies if they can strengthen and broaden its offering to clients. “You will see acquisitions within Cisco globally, and this kind of acquisition enables Cisco to provide expanded solutions to customers related to meeting customer expectations and evolving with their traditional planning of business,” Hussein adds.

Adapting through acquisitions is one way that Cisco stays ahead of the game, says Hussein, but far more significant is the way it has transformed the mindset towards clients and anticipating their needs. He says: “I think one of the main changes I have seen in my time at Cisco is the evolution that we have been driving for the past two years, which is to be more customer relevant and be outcome based. Thinking more of system integration, taking a step ahead to be a service provider to the service providers, this means that you go and provide a turnkey –integrated solution, include Cisco and non-Cisco solutions in what you are offering. And we ensure that we are the one that is driving the delivery of this solution”

Understanding what the customer wants is clearly crucial here, as Hussein explains: “We need to be more customer relevant by talking the customers’ language, feeling the customers’ priorities and driving it to our solutions. We are listening more and more to the customer as well, ensuring we can be agile and help the customer to achieve their main business objectives.”

To do this, Hussein says, along with the recent evolution Cisco is driving, his team is transforming the way they interact with customers to think more widely about their customers on the different dimensions. He adds: “We always think when we propose a solution about what is the customer’s total cost of ownership, what would be the ROI, what and how would help the customer to achieve their business objectives.”

Unsurprisingly, one of the main objectives of Cisco’s customers is to keep costs down. “We need to help them achieve cost optimisation alongside operational excellence. So this is what we want to drive, we want to be help them to build the road map for longer term, and achieve it in a more cost-effective manner.”

Hussein’s team at Cisco Services is delivering to key services providers in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Telecom Company (STC) , Mobily and Zain. It consists of over 500 experts ranged from junior engineer or project manager to Services Delivery Executives. He says: “There are different categories, different levels of expertise, and different kinds of jobs and skills that are required, because our service delivery expands over wide portfolio. We’re talking about from a very junior level of engineer or project manager up to the service delivery executives, expertise from fresh graduates to those with 25 years of experience. My team is segmented and led by different Services Delivery Executives and Managers who are driving day-to-day services business”

Cisco Services looks at talent development as a key driver to be distinguished while delivering best-of-quality services. So it has developed a prestigious services internship programme in Saudi Arabia where it attracts highly-talented fresh graduates and enrols them for a comprehensive one-year programme.  Hussein explains: “We put them on a one-year training road map, which has technical, project management, on-job, soft and business acumen skills training, to build a solid baseline via achieving technical certifications and project management experience as well. And then we put them on the field, so they’re ready to take on assignments moving forward.”

Buthayna Al-Wehaibe, Services Engagement Manager, the first Saudi female CCIE in Cisco KSA, says: “I’m honoured to be given the chance to prove my capabilities as a Saudi female when I joined Cisco more than seven years ago. I found Cisco Services is the place where talent can develop in a speedy and effective manner. Cisco has extended to me all needed support to play a vital role in Cisco GSP Services Leadership team driving business growth. One of the key elements that I believe for a young graduate at the time I joined Cisco, is to find the right environment and culture that can support to build the right career.”

Looking to the future, Hussein is confident that the changes in the way his team operates and its approach to developing partnerships with key clients will definitely help keep Cisco at the very top in Saudi Arabia, despite the economic pressures that the low oil price is causing. He says: “The room for growth is always there, but I think what is happening today in the market, at least in the Middle East when the economy is slowing, there will be a bit of a slowdown in certain market segments while still require delivering the best-in-class of service to the end users.”

But, he says: “The growing role of cloud and virtualisation solutions is one of the major trends, which is expected to boost the growth potential of the market. Private cloud solutions enable better security and improve control of critical data and business operations. In addition, the shortage of talented IT professionals is a key challenge faced by the market. The management of certain operational processes requires a significant level of knowledge of the business environment in which the client operates. The analysts forecast the Managed Services market in Saudi Arabia to grow at a CAGR of 22.60 percent over the period 2014-2019.”

Cisco Systems
Khalid Hussein