Last week I had the pleasure of attending ManageEngine’s first user conference and training event in the Middle East (Dubai to be specific); with event attendees not only from the UAE, but also Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Russia.

The one-day user conference element of the two-day event, offered me both fresh insight into how IT service management, ITIL, and enabling tools are being adopted in the Middle East, and first-hand experience of ManageEngine’s customers within the region.

This quick blog is intended to capture my views, thoughts, and opinions for the benefit of all.

The current state of IT service management in the Middle East?

My previous experiences of IT service management and ITIL in particular in the Middle East had been somewhat limited; but as with most things I had drawn my own opinions and conclusions based on the exposure (the proverbial joining of dots). So before last week I believed:

  • ITIL was talked about but with “implementations” driven from the higher echelons, or even outside, of the IT organization; adoption was slow and susceptible to resistance. It was a “good thing to do” rather than a business-focused means to an end.
  • That while customers (end users) are important the focus was still very much on the IT – the creation of IT rather than the consumption of IT services.
  • Middle Eastern companies value “prestige” and as such were most likely to buy Big 4 solutions for IT service management.

The ManageEngine conference has made me review this thinking and I am reminded of the fact that we collectively need to better understand the relative IT service management maturity and ITIL adoption levels across geographies to assist others accordingly. Europe (well, certain European countries) and North America in particular have many mistakes and good practices that can be shared for the benefit of all.

So what did I learn?

Firstly, that the ManageEngine customers I was exposed to are “customer-focused IT Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) professionals.” Their questions in the main related to meeting customer needs rather than being technology related. I liked it and I have to say was pleasantly surprised.

My straw poll of the audience showed that circa 50% of attendees are either already using or are planning to adopt ITIL. This and the questions mentioned above made me think that ManageEngine customers, at least, are advanced in their IT service management thinking and operations. However, this is not to say that there is still not much to do. A presentation from Mohamed Nayaz, a consultant with Ernst & Young, Oman referred to an enterprise client that until recently had no processes or IT management tools to manage its IT infrastructure and operations.

In terms of buying “prestige” IT service management or IT management solutions, there was just one priority for the room: simplicity. I ended last year saying that three key words for I&O professionals in 2012 would be: simplicity, simplicity, and simplicity; simplicity was a key theme from both ManageEngine and its customers throughout the event and a key influencer in tool buying decisions along with usability, capabilities, integration, vendor ethos, and price. ManageEngine used to market its tools as “90% of Big 4 capabilities at 10% of the price.” This appears to have been replaced with “simplicity” – a great decision IMO as software vendors should be selling solutions not technology.

Finally, as a throwaway bonus stat, my polling of the audience showed that more of the I&O professionals in the room are using Twitter (circa 20%) than I would generally find with UK audiences (10% if I am lucky). It made me wonder if the Middle East could potentially be a leading light in Social IT Support adoption, especially since it may have less baggage in terms of “doing it the old way.”

ManageEngine: the customer view

From the outset it was apparent that ManageEngine’s customers love its solutions across:

  • Network Performance Management     
  • Server Performance Management
  • Application Performance Management
  • Desktop Management
  • Help Desk Management (the ServiceDesk Plus, SupportCenter Plus, and AssetExplorer offerings)
  • Log Management and IT Compliance

They were very vocal in what they liked and where improvements could be made during the end-of-day “customer feedback” session.  There was also a sense of “collectedness” where ManageEngine was seen as part of day-to-day operations and not just a software provider.

The biggest improvement ManageEngine could make? Hold onto your hats for this one … it’s not what you would expect: that ManageEngine should spend more money on marketing. I’ll repeat that: ManageEngine should spend more money on marketing.

I was gobsmacked and somewhat confused until a ManageEngine customer told their own story to the room. They were committed to investing in a Big 4 solution (they had even spent a week in what sounded like pre-implementation training) until serendipity “interjected.” A chance conversation during a chance meeting between a project team member and an ex-colleague brought ManageEngine to the company’s attention. The conversation and its content were enough for the company to search out ManageEngine and to assess its capabilities in light of its needs. The rest, as the say, is history; but the company would have liked to have discovered ManageEngine earlier – “it wasn’t in the Magic Quadrant.”

ManageEngine’s customers were also very vocal in their appreciation of ManageEngine’s customer-centricity. They liked ManageEngine’s company ethos as much as its solutions – the fact that ManageEngine listens across a number of areas including product enhancements. ManageEngine demonstrated an incredible customer focus and its desire to squeeze out every last cause of customer dissatisfaction or opportunity to improve both the technology and customer relationships while face-to-face was almost relentless.

Final thoughts

It was a great experience for me and one that I recommend for others. The similarities and the differences both offer opportunities for providing assistance and receiving learning. I am at the Swiss itSMF Annual Conference in just over a week and I hope that the day plays out in a similar way.

From an IT service management tool vendor perspective, the Middle East is a rapidly growing market but as they say on the UK's National Lottery program: “you have to be in to win it.” ManageEngine amongst others are reaping the rewards from having a strong Middle Eastern focus and presence.

As always, your feedback is appreciated. I would particular love to hear your experiences of the geographic differences in IT service management and ITIL adoption and where help is needed (in the Middle East or elsewhere). Ma'a salama.

UPDATE: Two popular ITIL-related blogs:




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