Delivering on All Counts

Maqbool Al Wahaibi, CEO, Oman Data Park (ODP) talks about how the banking sector – with the help of technology – can minimise their operating costs, maximise revenue and maintain their quality of service…

Maqbool Al Wahaibi, CEO, Oman Data Park
Maqbool Al Wahaibi, CEO, Oman Data Park

ODP is a joint venture company between Omantel and 4Trust LLC. Since the beginning of operations in 2012, as the first managed service provider in Oman, ODP’s focus has been on transforming the digital eco-system with a wide array of IT services available on demand. Whether it is managed hosting, cloud services, hosted applications, managed classical or security or support services, ODP provides guaranteed uptime and unparalleled support to customers. With an integrated facility management infrastructure, the organisation is uniquely positioned with extensive capabilities to manage, enhance and support the IT and business processes of very large to small organisations.

Says Maqbool Al Wahaibi, CEO, “Why we have been successful is firstly because we have the economies of scale with integrated infrastructure including data centre facility and network operation centre. Secondly, we offer an Opex based model to our clients. Top management especially CFOs within the corporate sector focusing more on cash flows prefer an Opex based model against a Capex model. We work on that model only. They pay as they need, they pay as they grow.

“Thirdly, our key advantage is the localisation of services. Omani companies prefer locally based data centres so that they could work with us closely and their data remains within the boundaries of the country. We sign service level agreements, (SLAs) with our clients. In the SLA, we agree on various criteria like response time, availability of infrastructure, security, 24X7 call centre, etc. These parameters are within the broad framework of the SLA.

“We are the premier managed security service provider in Oman. Our team of experts manage and secure the network and applications of our clients. We have a state-of-the-art Security Operation Centre (SOC) which provides a comprehensive suite of service including managed network security, web application firewall, application security assessments, vulnerability assessment, security event & incident management, secure remote access, brand intelligence & anti phishing, DDOS protection, email security, DMARC, etc. Our SOC team works 24/7/365 to ensure our clients could operate their business with complete peace of mind.”

The constantly growing list of clients is a testimony to ODP’s progress. “Exactly a year ago, we had almost 250 companies as clients. Currently, we already have 470 corporate clients which are a mix of large companies to SMEs within Oman. In fact, some of our clients are from outside Oman as well. In terms of sectors, our clients are among the top names in banking, oil & gas, telecom, manufacturing and diversified businesses segments. Through our services, we relieve them from their IT-needs related worries so that they could focus on their core business.”

For the banking and financial services sector, in particular, Maqbool believes that technology partners like ODP can help in three major ways: minimise their operating costs, maximise revenue and thirdly, maintain their quality of service.

Minimising Operating Costs

ODP is essentially a managed security services provider (MSSP). By opting for a reliable managed security services provider (MSSP), a company is ensured that experts are watching over security systems in real time and on an ongoing basis, 24×7. “Today, we host around seven banks for different services colocation to disaster recovery as a service to business continuity planning as a service to online portal as a service and more. All these services which the banks acquire from us today, have managed to bring down with operation costs tremendously.

“So the answer to the question: ‘how can the banking sector, from a technology provider perspective, minimise their operation cost?’ I would say, ‘outsourcing is the solution’. The banking sector is encouraged to outsource their ICT services as much as they can,” explains Maqbool. It leads to reduced costs and the burden on internal IT. The service provider manages the client’s IT infrastructure while the client is free to focus on its core business objectives. It improves the company’s security posture through more control, and increased
confidentiality, integrity and availability of core business systems.

“With ODP being a local MSSP, I think the banking sector has a good option on board. Before ODP they had no other alternative than to build their own data centres, build their own infrastructure, deploy their ICT teams – and all this contributed to operational costs.”

Maximising Revenue

The second perspective Maqbool focuses on is – how can banks increase their revenue? “For the banking sector to increase revenue, from a technological perspective, I firmly believe they would require to collaborate and partner with fintech companies. Fintech companies can actually provide the banking sector with diversified set of technologies which can allow them to differentiate themselves from the competition by providing varied services online. It is all about competition, you need learn how to differentiate yourself.

“For this to happen, I would like the CIOs of the banking sector to be engaged in the organisation’s strategic business planning and not only in technology planning. This is because then the CIOs can pick and choose the right fintech components and technology that they think will link to their business KPIs.

“Now, these fintech services may either be deployed locally within the bank premises, or banks can now acquire them as a utility from companies like ODP, where they can utilise this as a pay as you go service. A prime example of this would be big data analysis. The vast majority of banking and financial firms understand that the use of insight into analytics creates a competitive advantage. The industry also realises that they are sitting on a vast reservoir of data which can be leveraged for product development, personalised banking services and advisory benefits.

“In the past, most ‘big data’ strategies being implemented by the banking industry have begun by initially identifying business requirements, then leveraging existing infrastructure, data sources and analytic capabilities before incrementally expanding sources of data, technology and analytic tools. However, focusing on the customer is increasingly important as channels for transacting and communicating continue to increase, developing new segments of customers. Through this customer-centric focus, the customer experience should improve as financial institutions can better anticipate customer needs in a multichannel environment.

“Because it [big data strategies] is something every single bank requires, I personally feel that the data should be centralised. While the majority of institutions might have much of the infrastructure in place to manage the increasing flow of data, significantly fewer have their data integrated. Having an integrated service means that the banking sector need not push CAPEX upfront. Secondly, they are now getting a service without having to worry about assets or about how to operate those assets,” affirms Maqbool.

“I would encourage big data analysis investment to be collaborated – so that data analyses can be deployed in a centralised data centre, like ODP, and provided as a service to the banking sector. These economic times that we live in, collaboration is the only way forward. It makes no sense for something like big data be deployed individually for every single bank. If you look at that from a helicopter view, you see replication of the same instances, same CAPEX and OPEX – which makes things redundant. Tremendous saving can be made out of centralising these without jeopardizing on the service.”

Remittance corridors is another aspect of fintech which needs to be explored says Maqbool. “Because we have good set of money flow between Oman and India; Oman and Philippines; and more, having an electronic, centralised, channel might be of great help to the banks to utilise it as a service. I’m not saying that there is no option for banks for have their individual corridors, but again, think about the CAPEX and OPEX behind it. The ease of use from a consumer and corporate perspective is also tremendous.”

Quality of Service

“Like I’ve mentioned before, ODP provides clients in the banking sector very strict Service Level Agreements (SLA). We operate 24/7, provide tier 3 data centre facilities, and are comfortable in providing 99.99% availability over operations.” Hence, the banking sector today, can be comfortable working with data centres like ODP without worrying about it affecting their quality of service.

“In fact, it shows through our experience in the banking sector, that while banking sectors engage with companies like ODP with strict SLAs, their quality of service gets enhanced. We have been serving the banking sector for over five years now – some of them have recently renewed their contract with ODP – and we never breached our SLA terms as yet.”


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