As Group Head of IT at the AZIZI Group, Hashim Saeed has taken charge of a multitude of IT infrastructure implementations that have led to transformational change. In an exclusive interview, Intelligent CIO discusses successfully executing Digital Transformation strategies, effective managerial approaches and future technological investments.
Hashim Saeed, Head of Information Technology at the AZIZI Group, has had a dynamic IT management career for more than 17 years effectively managing and delivering integrated IT enterprise solutions.
As a strategic thinker, he understands the bigger picture and combines this with the technical expertise and the people skills required to solve intricate operational issues, conflicts and disputes.
Detail oriented with a long track record of improving and optimising delivery methods, his main skills and interests include: IT strategies, roadmaps, governance and compliance; Digital Transformation and automation; infrastructure and operations management; IT Service Management; networking and cybersecurity as well as project and program management.
The AZIZI Group is the parent company to AZIZI Developments, the group’s real estate investment arm.
Established in 2007, the company’s diverse experience in the property market has enabled it to expand to include a portfolio worth over AED 45billion in the emirate, with more than 200 projects under various stages of development.
AZIZI Developments was awarded ‘Developer of the Year’ at the Construction Innovation Awards in 2018 for the third consecutive year.
The company has also been instrumental in developing iconic properties in Meydan, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Healthcare City, Al Furjan, Studio City, Sports City and Downtown Jebel Ali.
Here Intelligent CIO talks to Saeed about career highlights, managerial strategies, future investment priorities, and the reality of the IT skills shortage.
Can you provide us with some details about an implementation you have been involved with?
With over a decade of experience in the IT infrastructure and project management fields, I had countless opportunities to be entailed in various implementations. These include both application and infrastructure projects, such as, Dubai Airport T3 infrastructure and wireless, ITSM, MPS, ECMS, ERP, CRM, DR, Business Continuity, call centre solutions and many more. Currently, I am leading initiatives related to IT Service and Digital Transformation as well as process automation.
Could you provide some background details about your current position?
As the AZIZI Group Head of Information Technology, I am responsible for managing the overall operation of the IT department across the organisation, as well as setting up the IT strategies and roadmaps while providing direction, guidance and vision for the IT department.
What are the main challenges of your role at AZIZI Developments?
With the number of technologies increasingly approaching in the market, the challenges are not just limited to modernising the legacy systems or redefining how IT works, but tackling multi-cloud challenges, building the IT culture and dealing with legacy systems to successfully execute on Digital Transformation strategies.
What have been the main IT achievements of your organisation in the past year?
Looking back at the IT strategy and roadmap set up for 2018, I am very pleased that we have over-accomplished the business goals and delivered various solutions to multiple business requirements.
One of the main achievements was moving away from the on-premise legacy environment to a cloud and virtualised environment for better security, flexibility, scalability and availability with fully managed 24×7 support.
In what ways do you use technology to enhance the experience of your customers?
We are gradually turning to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to transform how we interact with our customers, strengthen their relationship, provide unique experiences, distinguish ourselves from competitors and increase revenue.
What is the most important lesson you have learnt in your career?
I don’t believe there is a most or least important lesson learned in anyone’s career. Lesson learned is a continuous life cycle as there will always be one or a few throughout your journey. The most important thing is to learn and improve as you progress.
The consequences of not reviewing lessons learned, will have the likelihood of repeating actions that might cause project failures, budget overruns, scope creep, reduced quality from expectations and missed scheduled deadlines.
What technologies are you looking to invest in?
Even though 2019 is a fascinating year for the real estate and construction industry, we plan to invest substantially on state-of-the-art technologies that will improve efficiency and productivity, reduce cost and increase profitability.
The technologies we are looking at, are those that will help us with Digital Transformation and automation. We are already working with our partner doing process mapping, which will take us through the Digital Transformation process. Robotic Process Automation is something we are looking at to automate as many processes as possible.
How would you describe your managerial style?
Although I use the authoritative style most of the time, I think there is no best managerial style. The most suitable one will depend on the people (their experience, values, motives) and the situation (stable/changing, new/seasonal team, short/long term focus).
The key to being an effective manager or leader is to have a broad repertoire of styles and to use them appropriately.
How important do you think it is to adapt a consultative approach?
There are so many different styles that people can choose from. They are part of your personality, but that does not mean your personality is suitable for who you face and situations that you’re in.
How bad is the IT skills shortage?
Regardless of whether the IT services are hosted on premise or on the cloud, we don’t seem to have any IT skills shortages in running the day-to-day IT operations and supporting the business needs. Even if there is, one of the best and quickest ways to overcome this, is to go for an outsourcing option where you can have multiple options to choose from both locally and globally.
However, with the new innovative technologies, such as, AI, RPA and Blockchain coming into the market, we probably have very limited experienced resources available.
Are you the type of leader that helps your colleagues?
Our employees are our assets and it is very important that we help them develop and progress in their career, keep them motivated, improve their skillset with the knowledge they need through training courses conducted both in-house and outside and promote them when necessary.
After all, we recognise their valuable contribution to the organisation’s achievement and reward them accordingly.
Are there any particular challenges when it comes to the real estate vertical?
From an IT point of view, it is more or less the same as any other industry. The IT department is to facilitate and support the business needs.
However, when you intend to bring in some of these new technologies on board, most probably you may encounter challenges related to the integration of these technologies with your existing systems.