How BTGroup is transforming technology
With the mandate to transform the business, Hatim Mouminah and Jawad Ali have embarked on a large-scale overhaul across several companies that make up the BTGroup. Small business units have produced a number of innovations that served the company at large (which in turn fulfils the technology requirements of its parent company, amongst others), but they had lacked the institutional structures to drive them to appreciable scale and stability.
Enter the business transformation. With the Saudi economy moving ever further from its dependence on oil, aligning with the Kingdom’s National Transformation Plan (NTP) 2020 and Vision 2030, the role that companies like BTGroup are playing is absolutely crucial to increase diversification and to reach the milestones set to achieve the Kingdom’s transformation objectives - a large part of which is driving efficiencies in, energy, power, water and waste management.
“When I took over in October 2015,” says Mouminah, who serves as the Managing Director. “We said ‘how can we transform to meet the future needs of the market and build upon the success of each company in the Group with minimal disruption and still accomplish our mission of transformation at every level of our operation?’
“We clearly wanted to become more efficient, competitive and customer centric - in a market that is predictably going through many twists and turns. We had to acknowledge that some companies in the Group were leaders in their domain and credited for delivering several complex technology solutions for mega-sized projects in the Kingdom.
“This posed a dual challenge for us, as we had to ensure that we can improve our market leadership - while institutionalising and setting processes that will boost our competitive advantage and customer relationships.”
Jawad, who holds the dual role of Chief Operating Officer and Head of Group Transformation, adds, “We transformed some of these companies from an entrepreneurial state into institutions.”
The changes that the dual business and technology transformation continue to bring about are made all the more impressive due to the sheer scale of the undertaking. Between several technology companies making up BTGroup, the combined capabilities include everything from communications technology and IT infrastructure, to systems integration, facilities management and a number of mission-critical technology solutions. These can also be tailored to deliver for a wide range of industry segments – oil & gas, industrial, banking, retail, hospitality, healthcare, education, and mixed use construction, amongst many others.
Mouminah says: “This is a business opportunity because when you talk about technology and innovation, the manufacturers are the ones who are coming up with it. So, our job as a customer centric technology company is to harness evolving technology and develop it to provide value to our customers.”
Jawad adds: “We first asked ourselves ‘why are we in this business in the first place?’ As a market leading systems integrator we are the bridge between the ICT and Building BAS industries and those industries that, despite decades of efforts, have not succeeded in integrating their respective platforms.
“BAS in particular has gone through many mergers and acquisitions as the industry is trying to consolidate; they are not quite there yet. The gap between the supply of scalable and seamlessly integrated systems and what the client really wants, remains. This is a niche market industry and it's extremely complex.
“What drives our business are projects; we go into the projects early where we work with, clients, their consultants and engineers, creating the services to see what kind of a functionality they need. We go in early to add value and help make systems as seamless and as low cost as possible in terms of integration, installation, operations and maintenance.
“Overall we evaluate the total cost of ownership and offer value engineering that would allow our clients and their customers to enhance their experience of feeling productive, safe, comfortable and enjoy their environment at an affordable investment and with high reliability. Our customers manage their core business while we manage, operate and maintain their backbone infrastructure.”
Mouminah adds further: “BTGroup has built an eco-system with deep engagement from customers to innovative technology partners that gives us the ability to offer end to end solutions from supply only of products through our distribution business unit, to full 360 degree solutions for projects requiring innovative solutions and services.
“Our involvement from early design stage to turn-key solution delivery and onward to operations and maintenance is a unique proposition in the market, and gives us the sustainable edge over our competitors.
“Our employees are our strength and no transformation is possible without the cooperation of employees. We also recognise that nurturing their strengths and empowering them to make our vision reality is the right approach and in alignment with Kingdoms’ Vision 2030.
“When we began the process at BTGroup we shared our vision with our employees, we listened to their inputs and ideas and took into account the innovative ones that were in line with our objectives. To improve our competitiveness, we have continued to enhance our staff skills for productivity and specialised trainings regularly. We send our specialist staff to Europe and America for certified and expert training programs conducted by our technology partners.”
Mouminah adds: “To synchronise with Vision 2030 and Saudisation plan to develop human resources, we at BTGroup are very keen to create opportunities for the fastest growing segment of our population - the young Saudis. We intend to participate in internship programs for graduating students to give them a head start before they enter the real job market.
Jawad adds, “We have a rich history of delivering complex technology solutions for spectacular projects including; King Abdul Aziz Endowment project in Makkah that has the capacity to accommodate 75,000 residents and contains 800 retail outlets for which we introduced a remarkable converged network, capable of delivering 18 separate services from wireless connectivity to security and building automation systems.”
Other technology solutions that BTGroup has delivered include, Princess Noura University (PNU) that has 75,000 service outlets for IP CCTV, IP access control, fire alarm, and other systems serving PNU buildings and housing for over 12,000 residents, as well as the Capital Marketing Authority (CMA) Tower.
For the King Abdullah Financial District project in Riyadh, consisting of 25 high-rise towers, BTGroup delivered fire management systems of 30,000 plus fire/smoke detectors, fire telephony, voice evacuation, disabled refuge, and smoke management systems.
BTGroup has received high accolades for the Hajj Terminal at King Abdul Aziz International Airport, Jeddah project where the Group has delivered state-of-the-art solutions including, airport operations databases, visual guidance docking system, common use terminal equipment, baggage reconciliation and information display systems, and flight information display systems. After the handover of these systems BTGroup’s O&M division won the operations and maintenance services of not only the solutions provided by BTGroup but of third party suppliers, and especially for handling providing 24/7 support and maintenance services during the peak season of Hajj and Umrah.
“Our specialised ICT business unit has delivered innovative Tier 3 Data Centre solution for the largest data centre in the Kingdom located at the King Saud Abdullah University that serves the National Guards Health Affairs and the largest children’s hospital in the Middle East.”
BTGroup has continued to deliver complex and mega systems with operations and maintenance services for other large government funded projects including classified projects for Ministry of Interior and Royal Palaces.
“We took several routes,” Mouminah says. “For example, we utilised individual company functions and mutualised them at a group-level so we could have consistency. Then we merged the companies that had a similar route to market and similar offerings to their customers, thereby coming out and having three specialised Strategic Business Units (SBUs) rather than several.”
With operations in Dubai, Qatar, Egypt and Bahrain we also had to ensure the institutional excellence and transformation we are executing in our KSA operations can be replicated across our regional footprint. We took several initiatives including implementation of Salesforce.com CRM and Oracle ERP that will be used across all our operations to bring consistency.
‘Institutionalising’ companies from an entrepreneurial stage takes a special approach, as numerous factors come into play, from people management and economies of scale, to ensuring that the innovative spirit can be sustained under constant expansion. Added to this are the myriad challenges of an industry that refuses to stay still.
Jawad explains: “These companies represent very different, specialised industries but some are not currently able to merge. We recognise this limitation and build technology partnerships based on our market segmentation and choosing the best in breed partners to build our solution portfolio.
“Internally we recognised that functionalities across the BTGroup companies, particularly HR, IT, and finance are moving from individual silos into a shared, transparent work space.”
“Building a unified services platform is very important to establish the parameters and objectives of the plan and the KPIs that allow you to monitor the progress with proper governance and how you conceive and implement the transformation plan.
“These moves could not have taken place without a strong, group-wide vision for the future that would not only ensure that skills are appropriately allocated, but also one that hits home how and why the companies were undergoing such enormous changes.”
Mouminah continues: “Transformation requires a shared vision. In line with the best practices, we have clearly outlined our objectives for the future. We are adding the final touches to our plans for the next five years so we have a final plan and strategy on how we achieve these. Of course, we are in the process of developing all the KPIs and milestones that need to be monitored by the board and the management team in order to achieve the set objectives.”
A number of key partners have supported BTGroup at every stage of the transformation, as Jawad explains: “Global companies consisting of Renkus Heinz, Corning, CISCO, Tyco, United Technologies, CommScope and HPE have all been instrumental.
He says: “From a partnership perspectives, these companies are very innovative and come up with new technologies. They innovate approximately every six months which poses a challenge, however true to their partnership commitments, they fully support us in, by training our people in new technology and when a new functionality becomes available. We are a centre of ICT and are the largest ICT player; we are continuing to invest internally and in the region.”
“It's about our vision,” Mouminah concludes. “Believing in our vision, mission, and values, and bringing it to our employees, stakeholders and to the people as well. You need to believe in it to deliver it. So, our efforts so far in even sharing our vision and transformation and what we are trying to achieve is vitally important especially when we're dealing with information.”
“We have the business expertise, the industry specific knowledge, a committed management team and the emotional management experience required in a turn-around stage. In order to execute you have to align, fully coordinate and adapt. We want to let it happen based on business merit and not because we built it and it has to happen. We firmly believe we are building the foundations for future success.”
Having developed a well backed up plan with both staff and partners on board, BT Group is poised to continue leading the Saudi ICT and Building Automation markets as well as other fields. Centralising a number of operations while ensuring that entrepreneurial companies retain innovation while growing to scale, the company is rising to the challenge of a changing region and a changing industry. By implementing strategic management practices and cumulatively developing advanced capabilities, and continually refining and updating these they are aiming to become a world-class, global operating model. Watch this space.