An enterprising market


The appetite of mid-market customers for enterprise software is growing and gaining traction with cloud based options

The Enterprise software is a growth market as digital transformation continues to be a key objective across Businesses of different sizes, from SME to larger enterprises in different sectors. In the region’s vibrant and diverse SME sector, the appetite for enterprise scale software is growing.

“The Enterprise applications market has been rapidly evolving with the Middle East actively adopting enterprise apps across all sectors and industries. Organizations are actively striving to provide that extra mile of enhanced service, improved efficiencies, and employment satisfaction and as such have taken to the world of enterprise apps to achieve these goal,” says Ali Hyder, Group CEO, Focus Softnet.

Traditionally, the deployment of mid-market software may be proportionate to the requirements or the vision of the leadership teams at those Businesses which see ICT as Business enablers. More recently, deployment of software is becoming more pervasive and with the cloud enabled software coming into the equation, the pervasiveness is increasing as more software becomes widely deployed.

“In the Middle East, SMEs comprise a majority of businesses and SAP customers – and are a major driver of the Digital Economy, innovation, and youth employment. SMEs are the majority of SAP’s customers, and are a major focus for SAP MENA’s PartnerEdge channel program. SMEs across the Middle East are eager to adopt enterprise application software, which has dropped in price and advanced in capabilities to the point where SMEs can have the same business capabilities as large enterprises,” says Patrick Hayati, Vice President – Global Channel and General Business, SAP MENA.

There are specific trends that emerge from the segment. For system integrators in the region, there is indeed a vibrant opportunity. With almost 86 percent of workforce in the SME segment in UAE, 300,000 plus companies with overall revenue share of 60 % to UAE GDP, 73% in wholesale/trading and 11% in Manufacturing segment the SME market is the key driver for technology solution providers and integrators like them to target.

N. Ramkumar, Managing Partner and Director ITWARE LLC says, “For us the Mid-market SME segment especially UAE and Oman is an integral part of our business and we see a substantial portion of revenue coming in from this segment in next three years. For us the SMB market for ERP solutions would be in the 5-30 user range with an annual turnover of around 10-20 M USD and Employee size of around 250-300. The size of the deal would depend on the actual requirement in terms of modules and whether it’s on premise or cloud deployment.

In respect of other trading and service segments the market size is much smaller where we focus on providing mobile solutions especially in Retail, Factory automation and Field Service with an integrated accounting and inventory system.”
Organizations in the SME segment will need support of integrators who can help with migration from legacy applications to cloud based deployments.

Ramkumar adds, “Most of today’s SME customers either use excel or have in-house legacy or small inventory/account applications with lot of data and customizations as well as multiple nonintegrated applications within the company separately for sales, inventory, shop floor etc.

These customers have a very lean IT team in most cases one IT resource both for solutions and Hardware and as and when they decide to move to cloud and mobile based applications they would have lot of challenges in terms of still maintaining some of their mission critical on premise old applications as well as migrating data to the new cloud application. For such activities, they need the expertise of an integrator like us who have worked with both legacy, on premise and cloud applications and understand the vital role of seamless integration between these applications.”

He elaborates that even if web store cloud applications are available off the shelf, they still need customized reports and specific webs service based integrations to suit their business as well as ongoing support with onsite visits as and when needed which locally based integration companies like theirs are equipped to provide.

Sunil Paul, COO at Finesse, a leading enterprise applications integrator in the region says, “As digital transformation is picking up, we see a growth in the spending on enterprise application software. Most spending is dedicated toward replacing, modernizing, or functionally expanding current office and business applications. Organizations are increasingly looking at Analytics and Business Intelligence and cloud provisioning. The approval of bigger budgets for IT projects in companies is a positive sign for the overall enterprise software market.”

He adds, “We provide BI (Qlik), CRM (Salesforce) and Cloud (IBM Bluemix) solutions to various SMEs apart from enterprises. We have a focused SME strategy that help organizations increase efficiency, enhance business performance, increase agility while reducing costs.”

According to Ramkumar, there is traction in manufacturing related industries in terms of demand and consumption of software as automation is expected to rise.

He says, “It’s estimated that out of the 30,000 plus SME companies in UAE which are focused on manufacturing and related domains almost 50% of them are still in excel or legacy based in house developed solutions. With the rising cost of staffing and infrastructure, need for automation is becoming an absolute necessity to reach a wider base of customers along with benefits of increased productivity based on which we expect substantial growth in next 2-3 years.”

Increased deployment options of enterprise applications via cloud from leading vendors has definitely democratized the industry, so to say, as mid-market customers now can choose best of options.

Ramkumar adds ,” As an Infor partner, with Infor Cloud suite Industrial for manufacturing and Cloud suite business for service and trading industries bundled with amazing Infor XI technology stack, we have one of the leading cloud based industry verticals in the Region and we are very confident that these 2 solutions growing in GCC. Both these solutions are hosted on Amazon Web Services and with Amazon recently announcing that Dubai would be a hub for their cloud services business we are hopeful of more net new deals in 2017.”

Clearly, cloud enabled deployments is gaining ground with the tangible cost benefits it offers and the hassles it eliminates with capital intensive on-site deployments.
Sunil says, “Software on cloud and use of multiple devices to access data allows organizations to think about alternative options to traditional on-site solutions. Also because of trends moving toward cloud technologies, firms no longer have to create a fixed, physical IT infrastructure and network. Thus enterprise software penetration rates in these regions will go up only with the adoption of cloud or sometimes hybrid models of cloud as well as on-premise products.”

He adds, “Enterprise Solution Providers are now helping companies extend their business processes into the Cloud, where they can use the solutions and network to work more efficiently and effectively. That means driving more value whenever they do business, connect and collaborate through a single platform in the cloud to lower costs or risks, boost revenue, or manage cash and working capital.”

According to Mufeez Vakeel – Director, Projects and Head Operations at ITWARE, while Cloud is getting traction for smaller applications such as HR, Expense Management, Real estate, Retail and CRM, for larger software deployments, they still seem to be preferring the on-site option.

He elaborates, “SMEs evaluating to go with specific applications such as ERP, BI and supply chain are still preferring on premise applications to cloud though adoption rates are getting better for cloud compared to couple of years back. There are not much of initial hurdles or pre-sales queries in terms of data security, customization etc. when we meet an SMB prospect looking at ERP.”
Patrick believes CRM is a driving force for Middle East digital transformation, and especially for SMEs that are looking to move their data and functions in to the cloud.

He adds, “Cloud-based CRM solutions can make it easier for Middle East SMEs to search customer databases, update records, enhance workplace collaboration, and access business intelligence.”
According to Ramkumar, SMEs are initially focusing to optimize the operations and build the service capability to respond to current demand. For organisations that have already achieved those milestones, they may look at investing in a CRM solution to enhance their sales and marketing.

He says, “ERP-enabled SMEs which are more tech savvy have realized that for them to win new customers and new territories only way to reach out is with a CRM solution especially cloud offering bundled with digital marketing given the escalating cost of staffing and other traditional marketing techniques and are looking for CRM as next logical step.”

Big data readiness

The need for the SME sector to deploy Big Data solutions will depend on the volume of data sets they generate. In many instances, they may need to look at exploiting insights from their deployed software including CRM seems to be the opinion of Sunil from Finesse.

He says, “Not many SMEs generate so much data, lack big data expertise along with lack of investment. They need to keep a sharp eye on cost and execution and take stock of their needs before establishing a data strategy. Smaller data sets from CRM platforms, social media or email marketing programmes can still provide much-needed insight to help businesses understand customer behaviour patterns and showcase trends. Yet, today SMEs who aspire to become the big enterprises in the future need to look at big data as an asset. Some are starting to realise that they can identify trends, patterns and gain competitive advantage by harnessing the power of growing data volume.”

Mufeez says although the SME companies may be using in-built BI functionalities of some of the software they may have deployed already, yet it will be a while before they get to deploying Big Data solutions.

He says, “Currently, SMEs are using the built-in BI capabilities, it will take some more time for Big Data to be of utility value to SME’s. Cloud enabled Big data applications can fuel the adoption faster but as of now given their pricing SMB’s might not be able to afford that kind of investment. Big Data will be useful if SMEs are capturing different types of data such as Video, Voice and Social media (Tweets, WhatsApp media etc.”

On the other hand, Patrick believes that with their more streamlined IT infrastructure, SMEs are ideally-placed to adopt cloud solutions such as Big Data analytics.

He comments, “While both public and private cloud services have their place in the Middle East, hybrid cloud solutions have among the highest potential. We’re seeing strong Middle East SME interest for SAP’s industry-tailored cloud services running on the in-memory SAP HANA platform and real-time business suite SAP S/4HANA.”

Future readiness

It is predicted that enterprise software will have more AI enhanced capabilities in future for better insights. The availability of more advanced software will be an enabler for better innovation.

Patrick says, “In the near future, innovation accelerators such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, machine learning, and blockchain have the potential to make a major positive impact on the bottom lines of SMEs. These kinds of advanced capabilities can automate rote processes and free up staff to focus on high-level strategy, planning, and execution.”

Mufeez says that AI is still evolving as a concept in ME Region and only specific large industries are trying to use this technology for automation of the routine tasks.

He adds, “AI can be used in enterprise applications to predict Customer/supplier/employee behavior pattern which can help in operations optimization and increased revenue patterns for these companies as well as in process automation especially in factories which already have MES systems running in tandem with ERP.”
With cognitive technologies and artificial intelligence (AI), the prediction is of computers to be as smart as—or smarter than—humans. Machine learning, NLP (Natural Language Processing) and speech recognition are among the technologies that will drive transformation opines Sunil.

He adds, “These will improve the core functionality of their products, generate new and valuable insights for customers, and improve business operations through automation. These benefits are obvious and software companies will not be ignoring these.”

In the region, especially in the UAE, there is a pioneering show of readiness for advanced software deployment and consumption with the government sector being a key driver. Other segments including mid-market customers will also follow and adopt sooner than later.