Abdulsalam Al Bastaki - Dubai Silicon Oasis

Wednesday, 17 November 2010 08:00
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Mr Bastaki started his career with Dubai Petroleum Company (DPC) 28 years ago in the geology department, later on he relocated to the United States where he was studying and working for Conoco (which was then the mother company of DPC). He lead a project for Conoco/DPC to standardize documentation and data elements. After the completion of this project Abdulsalam joined the IT department at DPC back in Dubai as a full time database administrator, then he joined the SAP project team as a Basis specialist when the SAP implementation started at DPC. In 1999 Abdulsalam moved to Dubai Aluminum (Dubal) as a DBA and became part of the Oracle Financials implementation team.  Later on he was promoted to head IT security and subsequently to IT services manager at Dubal.

When Dubal joined hands with Mubadala to create Emirates Aluminum Mr Bastaki was seconded to Emal to establish and lead the IT organization. AT a later stage he moved to Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) a[]=99s an IT director and subsequently VP of IT. At DSO he oversaw the setting up of the IT infrastructure as well as the deployment of both Oracle ERP and CRM.
His hobbies include playing tennis and working out time at the gym.


The Interview

CIO2CIO: Many CIO’s we talk to work for conglomerates, large family owned holding companies that have subsidiaries ranging from car dealerships to real estate development, and from retail to travel agencies. Do you consider yourself lucky that you work for a business that has a single focus?
Abdulsalam: I believe IT is IT. Yes there are differences in the business process between one industry and another, but after all every company has to have finance, HR, supplychain, asset maintenance and customer relationship management. Here, in Dubai Silicon Oasis, we find ourselves in so many businesses; we are the government of this land, we manage construction and infrastructure projects, we are the regulator, we provide public services and company registration services, we develop and lease the properties and we have to do that in a coherent and integrated manner. So although DSO is a single entity, from an IT point of view it is involved in so many different things. Surely it is more complex than a conglomerate.

CIO2CIO: What is the biggest challenge the CIO is facing today? Is it budgets? Is it dealing with all the new technologies? Is it politics? Or is it managing vendor relationships?
Abdulsalam: I guess the biggest challenge is aligning the technology with the business. The CIO -who usually does not have unlimited budgets and resources- is facing so many departments in an organization, each with specific needs and priorities. In a way he has to find common grounds for a dialogue with all these departments. How do you reach common understanding of what needs to be done, get the engagement of the user community and the sponsorship of their business leaders so that each one of your projects is a success. That is the challenge.

CIO2CIO: Talk to us about a project that is so close to your heart, the one you are most proud of.
Abdulsalam: Surly it is the combination of Oracle ERP and CRM that we have deployed at DSO. We implemented this huge project in a record time while we were working with the business to tune and streamline the business processes and re engineer the way business was being carried out. The ERP part was implemented by Wipro and the CRM by Satyam. We are using CRM to deliver public services to our tenants. That was quite a complex project with more than 100 eServices deployed.

CIO2CIO: As a CIO how do you deal with the successive waves of new technologies that hit the market every 3-4 months?
Abdulsalam: First we do our homework, we study the technology, we learn how it will help our business, but in general I usually go with the latest technology.

CIO2CIO: Today the IT industry is going through mergers and acquisitions at a rapid rate. ‘Super Vendors’ are getting bigger leaving customers with fewer and fewer choices. As a CIO, are you bothered that there are fewer choices and that vendors are becoming stronger? Or do you find that this makes your job easier because vendors integrate the products they acquire?
Abdulsalam: Sure, the acceleration of mergers and acquisitions scares me a little bit. But I think IT vendors have already learned that playing the monopoly game will not work. I am also sure that other new and innovative vendors will come up creating more choices. Super vendors are buying their competitors either to eliminate them or to broaden their offerings. I don’t find it to be a major problem though.

CIO2CIO: As super vendors continue to acquire and grow, they change the way they deal with their customer primarily by assigning multiple specialized account managers. Does dealing with multiple account managers from the same vendor make your life as a CIO more difficult?
Abdulsalam: It is going to be more difficult but even if they were not acquired those companies would still have account managers. It is also important to remember that within the customer, the buyers of servers, software, networking etc.. are different so it is OK that they would be working with multiple account managers.

CIO2CIO: Where do you stand in the suite versus best of breed debate? This applies to ERP, middleware, business intelligence and other things.
Abdulsalam: I am a supporter of the suite all the time. Suites get better with time, running your business on a suite requires fewer people in IT, it costs less.

CIO2CIO: What would be your advice to new CIOs?
Abdulsalam: My advice to young CIOs is to listen to your team, educate yourself, understand the business and learn to avoid technology jargon when talking with your business peers.

Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority

Established in 2004, Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA) ( is wholly owned by the Government of Dubai providing both a living and working integrated community. DSO attracts companies operating in the semiconductor and high tech industries.

Dubai Silicon Oasis IT Profile

ERP: Oracle E-Business Suite
CRM: Oracle CRM
Database: Oracle
Middleware: Oracle
Document Management: IBM FileNet
Servers: IBM and SUN
Networking: Nortel and Avaya
Telephony: Avaya

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