Taj El-Khayat, the Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Citrix, says the increased focus on improving IT capabilities and cloud adoption were beneficial for the industry
How was 2021 for the industry and your company? What sort of opportunities did 2021 bring along?
While 2020 was all about evolving in response to the disruption, 2021 was primarily about consolidating the changes from the previous year to record growth. Since the pandemic, Citrix was at the core of enabling hybrid or remote working for our customers. In retrospect, we have been talking about remote working even before COVID-19. And one way of looking at the pandemic is that it was a global scale remote working pilot program that proved that it, in fact, does work.
The other notable achievement during 2021 was how the industry could disprove those critical or skeptical of cloud technology. Many customers took a leap of fate and jumped into the world of the cloud and realised how efficient, supportive, and secure the technology is. Another conversation that we had the opportunity to have with our clients during 2020 was supporting employee productivity, driving efficiency and innovation while keeping a check on their mental health.
For Citrix, 2021 was the year we could leverage the robust and resilient SaaS technology and provide Enterprise mobility solutions to our clients in the energy and financial sector.
Did you face any challenges in 2021?
The increased focus on improving IT capabilities and cloud adoption were beneficial for the industry. But it brought along its own set of challenges. Recently digitalised customers realised that they need to normalise all the deployments during the adoption and continue work on stabilising the processes and architecture, especially if they plan to continue developing the hybrid setup.
Another challenge that bore out from the transition is the widening of the surface cyber attackers could exploit. This opened up a number of discussions around Zero Trust and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) to help secure the remote workforce. Especially in a manner that doesn’t hinder productivity.
The third challenge that plagued the Middle East was the lack of adequate skilled talent, and this is particularly true for managing a hybrid environment. The skill gap has led to a growth in the managed services through the industry, but still, there exists a talent deficit.
What were your key achievements in 2021?
Earlier last year we announced we announced a strategic partnership with Nutanix to provide secure, on-demand, and elastic access to apps, desktops, and data from any device, in any location, at any scale through Nutanix hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) and hybrid multi-cloud deployments of Citrix DaaS and Virtual Apps and Desktops services.
In 2021, we observed continuous growth in our subscription business as more and more customers preferred to opt for the OpEx model. In terms of verticals, we have experienced higher engagement with customers from the financial, energy, and healthcare industries
What promises does 2022 bring along?
The regional market in the Middle East and Northern Africa has been ripe with opportunities. In the UAE, the establishment of the AI Ministry is a testament to the progressive thinking and the authorities’ commitment to further the adoption of technology in the Emirates. Additionally, the freelance and remote-worker friendly policies provide a unique opportunity for telcos that have set up a one-stop-shop to cater to this category.
Another region that promises opportunities is Saudi Arabia. In line with Saudi’s Vision 2030, the Kingdom has witnessed a digitalisation drive, especially in the healthcare and education sector with the school modernisations projects. The government itself is a massive opportunity for the industry as many key ministries have rolled out several initiatives that require digitalisation, which has also trickled down to the financial or the private sector.
The upcoming World cup 2022 will provide hyper scale and cloud adoption players with numerous opportunities. And we can see many enterprises opting for the OpEx model, which will be essential and drive transformation in the next 2-3 years in Qatar.
Egypt has an abundance of innovative and technology-related projects, including agriculture, tourism, and government services, among others. These projects, including the transformation being led by the financial, energy, and retail sector and the high GDP growth, Egypt will be an attractive market for the coming 24-36 months.
According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2022?
While talking about which technology will be in demand, we need to identify at what stage of transformation do the majority of businesses in that market are currently in. For example, in the UAE, the next phase is SaaS and cloud as businesses mature and prefer moving over to an OpEx model that ensures security. While in a number of geographies in the region, the cloud is still a hot topic of discussion, and at the moment, they will focus on modernising infrastructure.
What will be your key focus areas for 2022?
For 2022 in the MENA regions, we will continue with our customer and partner first strategy. We would also align with the key hyperscale players in the market such as Microsoft, Google, and AWS to empower our customers in their virtualisation journey. In terms of channel partners, we have moved away from the traditional role to a much bigger role that involves making them a core partner in providing valuable service to the customer