Dr. Ghassan Shibl's Interview in Channel Magzine

1.Can you briefly introduce "AEC" and tell us what the company has to offer to the KSA market in general?
Advanced Electronics Company was established in 1988 and is a systems integration and manufacturing organization under the Economic Offset Program of Saudi Arabia. With 1200+ employees and having won numerous quality awards in the fields of Information Technology & Telecommunications, Military and Industrial solutions, AEC is recognized as one of the most respectable, reputable and technologically leading organizations in Saudi Arabia. We are considered a national asset by the customer communities and government institutions and this keeps us striving to achieve new milestones.
To give you a background, the Offset initiative is designed to facilitate economic diversification, manpower development, self-sufficiency and technology transfer. AEC continues to achieve these objectives by creating local Saudi capabilities in strategic areas such as Information and Communication Technologies, Security, Infrastructure Solutions, Managed Services, advanced electronics manufacturing technologies,  etc., and is involved in the Systems Integration, Manufacturing, Operations and Maintenance of sophisticated ICT and electronic solutions and systems for the Public Sector, Telecom, Health, Military, Industrial and Enterprise markets.
Quality is way of life at AEC. We have made strides by embracing the most advanced tools in quality manufacturing and management like Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, Total Quality Management, Life Cycle management and Business Excellence. These achievements are evident in the company results and we are convinced that a strong management approach has been beneficial to our growth in market share and revenues. In terms of quality certifications, AEC is CMMI-Level 3, Mil-I-45208A, ISO 9001:2000, and AS9100A certified to name a few and we have strong strategic alliances with the major international ICT vendors and market players. AEC’s efforts are directed toward developing national capabilities in strategic areas thereby enhancing the Saudi Kingdom’s self-sufficiency and improving operational readiness of advanced systems, augmenting telecom and ICT infrastructure and providing industrial and commercial solutions and systems through local skills.
2.What is the most important trends and solutions have been focused on since the beginning of 2014 by AEC especially for the KSA market?
Today’s customers are very well aware of market trends and where these trends are headed. It’s all about openness and independence. Organizations today need to have a vendor independent technology strategy built on open platforms and industry standards without specifying lock-ins that usually allows vendors to influence the customer’s choice of technologies and implementation partners.
As mentioned earlier, we are an ICT solutions provider who has a wide variety of vendor partnerships and is agnostic to single vendor systems. We offer end-to-end solutions based on solid in-house design experience and technical implementation and operations capability. We provide established Program and Project Management processes with proven on-the-field expertise and demonstrated methods using best practices.
We are offering and delivering ICT solutions that cut across vertical technology siloes and provide our customers the opportunity to achieve significant additional functionality due to an integrated approach rather than a sub-system by sub-system piece meal approach. We have the bandwidth to offer design, build, install and manage capability across several years with a proven ROI and TCO model for several market verticals and customer types.
3.What is the range of solutions and technical services that AEC offer to partners and customers within the Saudi market?
We are able to implement and support our customers’ entire ICT environment from designing, to building, to managing and operating it. We offer a complete portfolio of solutions including Infrastructure solutions, Security, Business and Integration Software solutions, eHealth solutions, and Telecom solutions that enable our customers to optimize and extend the lifetime value of their ICT investments.
We have worked closely with customers across a variety of industries like the telecoms, public sector and enterprise sector and this experience has given us a unique insight into the operational and business challenges faced by these markets today. Many organizations today are balancing the ongoing challenge of reducing operational costs and making smart investments to help them transform their business in readiness to react to improving economic conditions. A professional systems integrator and solutions provider like us can play a pivotal role in supporting our customers’ strategic objectives and future development, by reducing the Total Cost Ownership of their ICT investment.
4.Can you talk us through the distribution channel business model for AEC in the KSA market?
Note: not applicable to AEC as we are not in the distribution business
5. What initiatives is AEC offering to partners in KSA market in the rest of 2014?
We have been highly focused on delivering value to our customers throughout our 25 year history as an electronics manufacturing organization and we continue to strive in delivering this value as an ICT systems integrator and solution provider for now and in the future. We embracing the best of what top vendors have to offer, and building a solution based on the finest fit between vendors’ products and our customer needs. We will be evaluating, designing, building, testing and integrating solutions to ensure resilience and scalability in our customers’ ICT environments. We have a major focus on developing capabilities around smart and holistic solutions where all components interwork smoothly as a single-integrated-system. We shall be deploying multi-technology, multi-domain, and multi-vendor end-to-end Managed Services model and the required support system to manage the ICT Transformation of our top notch customers.
6. As you are one of the companies specialized in providing technical solutions and services for communications, how do you see the technology market in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia?
The overall ICT spending in Saudi Arabia is set to increase more than 10% year on year in 2014 to almost 40 Billion Saudi Riyals. Out of this, the major market verticals which we focus on, namely, the Telecom and Communications sector and the Public Sector which includes government, healthcare, and education together account for almost 15 Billion Saudi Riyals of ICT investment. This is driven by ongoing and planned infrastructure investments by the government. Major drivers of growth in this sector will be increased social spending on eGovernment initiatives with the aim of improving service delivery to citizens and residents, as well as the construction of new schools and hospitals and upgrades to existing ones as well as modernization of the KSA healthcare sector through strategic eHealth initiatives. Saudi Arabia's IT market is the largest in the Middle East and will remain so throughout the coming years. As the government continues to invest in large infrastructure projects, IT players lie us will find many opportunities across the market, but primarily in the communications, government, finance and oil & gas markets. From a technology perspective, we believe investment growth will be strongest in ICT services and software.
7. What kind of relationship you have with partners in the KSA market?
Partnerships are very important for AEC. Our mission statement is: To continuously improve our commitments to diversity by aligning our business strategies with end customers’ priorities, creating long-term partnerships, harnessing opportunities, acquiring new capabilities, creating job opportunities and investing in our people and community at large.
We have a dedicated department within our ICT business unit to manage our strategic alliances and partnerships. Our alliances principles are to Align with Market and Technology Leaders, selectively pursue industry, technology or capability focused relationships with terms that will positively impact our ability to provide services to our customers and to enable ourselves with the knowledge, skills, capabilities and commercial rights related to our Alliance partners’ products and services that give us the ability to deliver a differentiated and more complete solution to our customers.
Our strategic partners thereby see tremendous benefit in being represented by a financially stable, reputable and quality focused organization that is aligned with the Saudi government’s strategy of localization. Working with AEC help reduce our partners’ cost of sales and accelerate their sales cycle time. Investing in AEC’s integration capabilities increases the likelihood of successful implementations and satisfied customers. Our partners get local access to superior market knowledge, industry knowledge, and customer knowledge. We act as an extended arm for the partners’ implementation and support service activities.
8. How do you expect AEC to evolve during 2014 and beyond?
AEC is organised around three business areas: Telecom Systems Business Unit, Military Systems Business Unit, and Industrial Systems Business Unit and overall supported by the Corporate Development Unit. The Telecom Business unit focusses on the ICT systems integration, manufacturing and solutions business. The Military business unit which is just as large as our Telecom business unit focusses on electronics platforms and manufacturing for the defense sector in Saudi Arabia while the Industrial business unit focusses on energy solutions for the Industrial sector.  
AEC as an organization is fairly diverse and covers a very broad spectrum of the market. We are currently undergoing a major transformational exercise within each of our business units and the overall organization as a whole. The aim is to bring more focus on customer satisfaction, maximizing returns to our shareholders and overall profitable growth of the company. The market will see a more agile AEC with a more refined organizational structure in order to pursue service excellence, customer satisfaction and partner loyalty.
9. What kind of difficulties you face in the Saudi market in general?
The limited availability of skills is the biggest issue businesses in Saudi Arabia face and is an identifiable trend across verticals. As the kingdom's nationalization initiatives gather steam and the government continues to push organizations to comply government regulations, we anticipate that the availability of advanced IT skills will become scarcer, which will put more pressure on solution providers like ourselves. However, having said that, AEC as a strategy has always strived to achieve talent development and knowledge transfer to the local pool of resources. Therefore we have managed to take on this challenge through localization and diversification strategy that we have successfully implemented throughout the years.
And since our major focus is on the public sector and large scale programs within this sector, such programs have a lengthy and complex sales and project implementation cycles. Being a financially strong organization with a very strong foundation of top caliber business leaders, we are have been successfully able to win this business over many years and have delivered our programs well above and beyond customer satisfaction.
10. Would you like to send a message to partners and customers in the KSA market?
Exceptional organizations implement their mission and vision by developing a stakeholder focused strategy taking into account the markets and sectors in which they operate. Through dedication, we have made headway in serving the region respecting our corporate values with a range of products, solutions and services over the past 25 years. The organisation’s goals are unequivocal. We want to be the foremost ICT solutions provider and electronics technology leader in the Middle East by developing a customer centric, market-driven, technology based diversified organization that localizes technology and creates job opportunities.
Being customer-focused, we build our relationships on integrity, whilst ensuring total customer satisfaction. In this quest, AEC has adopted a holistic management approach that fosters business agility and effectiveness while striving for innovation, flexibility and integration. The AEC team is naturally diverse – encompassing more than a 1000 people with a variety of skills, qualifications and experience. We benefit from this tremendous source of local talent to create a great company – an empowered workforce that is committed to the success of our customers.
 This has been demonstrated across all aspects of the business and AEC is improving its commitment to diversity by aligning its business strategies with end customer’s priorities, creating long-term partnerships with leading international companies, harnessing  opportunities, acquiring new capabilities and investing in their people as well as the community at large

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