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Abdulrahman Khaiwi, the Head of IT at Emirates National Schools speaks about the challenges faced by CXOs in the region and the opportunities for new tech adoption

What are your career history to date and key career achievements?
My career started in Lebanon, working six years in IT Operations in a bank. Thereafter, I moved to Sharjah Municipality as a computer operator and programmer for two and a half years. From there, I joined Etisalat as Chief Supervisor of IT records and statistics. I spent 25 years of my illustrious employment at Etisalat Head Office, garnishing accolades and growing my career.

In the last 9 years at Etisalat Head Office, I held the position of Senior Manager Technical Administration in charge of operations for all Etisalat Data Centers, and various layers of solutions and services for all Etisalat Staff and some customer front services across the UAE. Early in 2017, I joined Emirates National Schools (a school system that houses around 13000 students in five campuses totaling 22 schools across the UAE) as the Head of IT.  My métier is visualizing and executing a strategic plan for IT digital transformation covering all aspects and layers of services and solutions thereby touching all stakeholders and serving the students, their parents, teachers and school management.

A few of my career highlights during my service at Etisalat include; Migration of systems and services from physical to virtual platform and building the private cloud offering IaaS, PaaS and SaaS to the internal users (which included more than 2000 virtual servers), Datacenter consolidation- reducing the number of Datacenters, and being a major key player in the BC&DR team.

What are your roles and responsibilities in your company?
Marshaling the Information Technology Department of Emirates National Schools, I methodically assemble and arrange the following: cost curve of technologies, work closely with the institution by anticipating the needs of various subset-units and the rising challenges of manpower, budget, market, protect the institution through technology. Although being the catalyst of change, my role is not limited to operating at transcendence and efficient levels, but also it’s about exploring possibilities for revenue creation, driving innovative growth, improving business offerings and opportunities, and demonstrating the ability to evolve by maintaining the integrity of the role.

By taking advantage of the unprecedented velocity of change in technology, I’m able to bring new possibilities on how to leverage said technologies by exploring the opportunities for improved business plans such as:

  • Creating and implementing three years IT Transformation Strategic Plan that supports the overall organization mission, vision and strategy and effectively aligning the digital strategy and business strategy to become one singular entity.
  • Mentoring and navigating the strategic implementation to ensure the targets are met circumventing all challenges. (The plan is comprehensive with 360 degrees view from Services, to Manpower, interaction with institutional sub-units, specific tasks and areas of focus.)
  • Planning and implementing the necessary IT solutions and services to drive the schools on the eLearning, Distance Learning, and Proximity learning plans.
  • Evaluating and assessing potential technologies and solutions targeting improvement to existing and future business needs across the geographical sphere of the schools.
  • Being a key role player in the selection process, tendering, negotiating and project implementation for all IT related solutions and services.
  • Planning and administering the overall IT department budgets in a very cost-effective manner.

What is the biggest challenge facing the IT industry in the region?
While executing technology projects and following the methodology of PPT (People Process & Technology), I descry a repeated obstacle when the “people factor” is initiated. While technology is procured, processes are developed, the “people factor” remains a complication for change. It is human nature to forgo the change and cling to the security of the known.  It is this status quo that we must overcome in order to forge new paths of synergy between the methodology of PPT.

What sort of challenges have you come across in your IT career and how did you overcome those challenges?
Budget and Manpower constraints have always been a challenge for any proposed solution to CXOs. Comprehensive feasibility studies and Cost-Benefit Analysis with reasonable and realistic figures would be the way forward when presenting proposals to CEOs, business owners, and board members.

If you could improve one thing about the IT business what would it be? 
Augment the marketing for existing and planned solutions and services to the business. Ameliorate the communications between the technology teams with the business users to present their offerings to the right audience tailored to the specific business needs.

How according to you should vendors and channel partners work with CXOs to make their lives easier? 
Vendors and channel partners should engender with CXOs, as business partners understand the CXOs business needs, take into account pain points and align their offerings based on the targeted market place focused on the core business rather than marketing new solutions, or technological concepts.

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