Microsoft 365 Security & Compliance Best Practices Case Study: Exceed IT Services
The challenge of cloud adoption in the Middle East
Company Profile: Exceed IT Services is a leading provider of specialized IT services in the Persian Gulf region. With Headquarters in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and offices in 9 other countries throughout the Middle East, Exceed provides application development, volume licensing, security solutions, project management and other specialized IT services to government agencies, small and medium-sized businesses, and large enterprises. Exceed is one of Microsoft’s leading LSPs in the Gulf region, and holds nine Gold competencies and one Silver competency.
Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates www.exceedgulf.com
“The most important thing over here is trust. We must give trust to the customer about their data and give them every assurance that it will not be compromised in the cloud.”
Cloud adoption has accelerated steadily in many areas around the globe but, until recently, has faced significant hurdles in the Middle East. For Exceed IT Services, a successful Microsoft partner headquartered in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, one of the primary roadblocks they face when offering cloud solutions is a lack of trust in the public cloud. Rami El Habet, Exceed Unit Manager and Technology Lead, puts it very succinctly: “The most important thing is trust. We must give trust to the customer about their data and give them every assurance that it will not be compromised in the cloud.” From Exceed’s perspective, the primary hurdles have been concerns about latency, reliability and support, and compliance issues that have slowed the cloud adoption among government agencies. Recent years have seen increasing investment in cloud solutions within the region, and this is expected to continue in the near future. According to a recent Gartner press release, spending on public cloud services within the Middle East and North Africa will reach $1.2 billion in 2017 and nearly $2 billion by 20201. As these changes take hold, Exceed sees signs that attitudes toward cloud solutions are changing. “Things are starting to change,” El Habet said. “We have more entities that are starting to think about the cloud, including government and large enterprises that are starting to consider cloud initiatives.”
Establishing trust with Microsoft 365 Enterprise According to El Habet, customers in the region have three major security concerns that must be addressed before they will consider cloud solutions. “Active attack prevention and threat detection is the number one priority,” he said. “After that, I would rank protecting information as the second highest priority, followed by identity management.” Exceed has first-hand experience showing customers how Microsoft 365 Enterprise can address their primary concerns. With Enterprise Mobility + Security, Windows 10, and Office 365 gives Exceed the flexibility they need to provide a range of solutions. “In our region, many customers are proceeding in a hybrid mode, with some services on premises and some in the cloud, so we must be flexible in our approach” El Habet explained. “It could be information protection, file storage and sharing, or messaging and email, but the concern is enhancing security and there is a lot of demand,” that can be met with Microsoft 365 Enterprise. El Habet also emphasized that a regional presence in the Middle East and local assistance are important to establishing trust. “Microsoft is well known here. They have a very strong presence and are known for their support to customers. If you have strength in support you survive, so we begin our conversations there,” he said.
— Rami El Habet, Unit Manager/ Technology Lead, Exceed IT Services
Microsoft Confidential, for internal and partner use only. This document is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY. 1 Gartner Press Release, Gartner Says Public Cloud Services in the Middle East and North Africa Region Forecast to Reach $1.2 Billion in 2017, February 7, 2017. Gartner subscribers may read the press release here: http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3598817
Addressing customer’s challenges Exceed’s selling motion puts customer pain points ahead of everything else, and with deep experience delivering a broad range of IT solutions and an extensive background as a Microsoft partner, it’s rare for Exceed to face a customer challenge they can’t address. The key, El Habet stressed, is to approach each engagement from the customer’s perspective, first understanding the problems they face before even beginning to talk about technology. Exceed’s sales approach and the increase in cloud adoption in the region have recently produced some big wins for the company, including recent deployments of Microsoft cloud solutions among government agencies. El Habet outlined the case of a government agency that had increased concerns about protecting the organization from data leaks and outside threats. “Ransomware, malware and viruses are manifesting at alarming rates in this region,” El Habet explained, “so this agency realized they need solutions that will help protect their environment, employees and data in real-time.”
“When you consider the cloud, it’s taking customers in this region a bit longer to get there but I think it’s just a matter of time” —Kara Zachariah, Manager of Exceed IT Services’ Microsoft partnership
To meet the agency’s demands, Exceed deployed a number of Microsoft security solutions, including Azure information Protection (AIP), Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). These and other security tools in Office 365 E5 were paired with Exceeds’ Technology Adoption Program, a change-management process designed to accelerate employee adoption of new systems. “The customer was impressed with the advancements their employees made in handling internal and external communications, and saw immediate benefit from the enhanced security related to email and documents,” El Habet said. He went on to explain that, given the effectiveness of Microsoft’s cloud security solutions and the ease with which employees adapted to using Office 365, they’ve already retained Exceed to help them build a roadmap for additional digital transformation in the cloud.
Developing apps that introduce customers to the cloud Before businesses and government agencies will consider moving established on-premises solutions to the cloud, they must develop trust in the security of their data and in the support they’ll receive. “When you consider the cloud, it’s taking customers in this region a bit longer to get there but I think it’s just a matter of time,” said Kara Zachariah, manager of Exceed’s Microsoft partnership. Zachariah explained that developing their own cloud applications is one step Exceed has taken to help customers develop comfort with the cloud. They’ve even had some success introducing the application to government agencies that have previously shown a high level of reluctance to shift workloads to the cloud. “We’ve built a strategy and performance management platform that runs on our Azure tenant, and we’ve had some success getting government customers to trial it and roll it out as an initial step into one aspect of the cloud,” she explained.
Advice for partners When asked what advice Exceed has for Microsoft partners who face similar challenges, El Habet stressed the need to build up customers’ trust level. He explained that much of the reluctance to migrate to the cloud stems from uncertainty about control over access. “The most important thing over here is trust that data is not going to be compromised and the data is really in safe hands,” he said. “Customers want control,” El Habet said. “They’re not just concerned about where their data resides. It’s more about a feeling of comfort that your data is yours and nobody can just have a look into whenever he wants." He went on to explain that the key is to help customers understand that they can maintain strict control over who accesses their data, and how they can use Customer Lockbox to maintain control over access even in the rare cases where a Microsoft engineer needs to access their data.
Microsoft Confidential, for internal and partner use only. This document is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.