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Its headquarters is in United Arab Emirates (UAE) and has spread its operations in more than 18 countries that are within Asia, Middle East and…
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Introduction Etisalat better known as Emirates Telecommunication Corporation is a renowned telecommunication services provider in Middle East. Its headquarters is in United Arab Emirates (UAE) and has spread its operations in more than 18 countries that are within Asia, Middle East and Africa. According to the index of telecommunication companies that was performed in 2009, Etisalat was ranked no thirteen in terms of customer base and services provided worldwide. At the time the company had a customer subscription of around a hundred million. As of 2010, the total net revenue base had reached $ 8.4 Billion the equivalency of AED 30.831 billion. (1)
For over thirty years that Etisalat has been in operation, the company has been on the forefront in being innovative and providing reliable services. This has been possible due to its heavy investment in infrastructure which is the best within the Middle East region.
Some of the services provided by Etisalat include money transfer services which are very sensitive and without a secure network, the services may be compromised thus lowering the integrity of the company. It suffices to say that the optimization of security program within Etisalat is quite quintessential in the view of the planned expansion. This notwithstanding, the company has been expanding at a phenomenal rate of the last few years which necessitates special attention to the security details.
However due to the sensitive information of the whole company’s operational system it was very hard to delve deeper into more details and that’s why we had the one and only access to the security section to allow as further investigate how the security operation management that protects the whole company assets following international standards and best practices.
This paper summarizes the operation of security assurance system in Etisalat, the design and strategy of new services, the difficulties associated with the security operation, and the future of Etisalat.
An interview was conducted with 2 security engineers due to the tight time we had to ensure the completion of the operation management research. Collin& Roger (2003) favor qualitative methods, for example, interviewing, because these methods are considered as particularly helpful in the generation of an intensive, detailed examination of a case.
Operation management of Etisalat security assurance
First and foremost, operation management (OM) has been widely studied recently to measure the profound impact of it on the various firms around the globe. Productivity, processes, customer service, competitive advantage, are all evolving around operation management. Operation management of security assurance is one of the major operationsin Etisalat andconcerned with providing intangible services which can be referred to as service operations management " that is used to cover the activities, decisions and responsibilities of operations managers in service organizations (Johnston and Clark, 2008). The service operations management in Etisalatare intangible which differs hugely from other manufacturing firms OM.
Since Etisalat expanded their services beyond comprehension the last few years it became a necessity to have a solid ground of data security to rely on. Etisalat is continuously exposed to privacy related risks so it’s a must to have a robust security framework to keep up with the newer requirements and not to fall a prey in the trap of cyber criminals. Etisalat security assurance conduct major assessments like the security assurance which is the core operation service they provide. The basic idea of the service they do is to make sure that all services provided by the company are not out to public without testing. They ensure that the service is well protected, making sure not to overlook possible threats, recognize any weakness, identify the current security posture, attack vectors, check all internal and external risks, polish the service with more enhancements and suggest recommendations to the upper management to take the service to the next level of superiority. The scope of the section activities only to serve Etisalat internal departments.
The following diagram summarizes the operation management definition in Etisalat security assurance. To start with, the whole inputs, process and outputs are as follow:
When it comes to the inputs they encompass the staff, software, projects information, diagrams URL, IP addresses, network diagrams, documentation, standards ISO 27001, PCI standards so the engineers use these inputs in the following processes such as security assessments, awareness, compliance these processes will generate reports that will ensure Etisalat services are secured.
As an example the following diagram summarizes one scenario with its explanation
One of the services the section provides is security assessment. To reflect that example on the above diagram one of the internal department will request security assessment for a new website ( and then the requester will provide all information (input 1) to the security team. Then the team will assign one staff (input 2) to handle the project. The staff will use the best security practice to assess (process) the website which includes identifying security vulnerabilityand provide solutions to remedy the holes. This process will come up as an output as an assessment report. After that, the report will be sent out to the requester to resolve the issue and send his feedback to the team which include for instance announcements like all issues has been fixed and request the team to re-test. The cycle will continue until all issues are fixed.
Seven Pillars of operation management
1. Operation Strategy
The whole operation system in Etisalat is evolving around 3 pillars which are confidentiality, integrity and availability. Those pillars are aligned with the holistic business strategy of the company to accelerate the operations of security and aid their mission to keep Etisalat reputation and brand name intact, increase revenue, gain customer confidence etc. The overall strategy of security operations are done through:
Comprehensive security assessments.
Following international security standards (ISO 27001).
Raising awareness of security knowledge through training. (6)
2. Service design
The section only provides services, currently there are only three services which are security assessment, ISO 27001 audit and awareness. The above three services normally go through several stages before becoming a full fledge service. The same applies for any new service development. The stages of service development are summarized below
Design stage where the scope of the new service is designed, like the feasibility study and business case along with the proposal like the service of "external security assessment" for Etisalat top 20 customers ( returns of each customer must be more than one million).
Analysis stagewhere the resources budget, staff materials, suppliers must be thoroughly discussed by the management and therefore their awaited approval.
Development stage where the security assurance decide what type of assessments, packaging whether it’s a "one in all" kind of package for all top customers , or customized packages, narrowing down the choices of trusted vendors, training also takes place in this phase and finally some pilot tests to check the validity and reliability of the service.
3. Process design
This area is not fully mature because the team has only few processes to follow due to the limited number of services the team provide. The process starts with
Draft a process
Test a process
Improve a process
When there is a test for instance, every individual do it on his/her own way due to the lack of unified process. Even if there is a process no one commit 100% to follow the process. The latter dilemma cause several complications such as different interpretation of the inputs.
4. Planning and control
For the security awareness and compliance the capacity planning and resources are probably planned because the activities are scheduled for the whole year beforehand. Whereas for the security assessments the demands are fluctuating per month, and sometimes urgent projects from top management force the section toalign all the recourses to the urgent project and postpone all other existing projects. Thus, the resources are difficult to be correctly utilized. To remedy the latter case the section utilizes a third party contract or outsource to meet the demand and mitigate the risk of delaying other projects of security assessments.
5. Improvements and innovation
For improvements and innovation there are sources of ideas like customers feedback, partners feedback and self intuitive of the team members. Also ideas might come from AlMAWRIDintuitive which is directed to employees to suggest innovative ideas. Employees share their fresh ideas on this website extension link and all interviews and processes of almawrid are done through the HR in the company. Employess who participates and come up with something outside the box are generously rewarded once the idea appeals to the CEO of the company. As Zucchi& Edwards (1999) and Keating et al. (1999) both highlight the importance of rewarding organizational members based on the new process. (6)
(AlMawrid when it was first announced, figure 5)
After filtering a considerable amount of ideas a new service must take place according to its natural order were a business case must be presented for approval and then the upper management will assign the task to one of the best teams to juggle all stages of launching a new service from designing to analyzing to full lunching the service to the public.
6. Supply chain
There are no row materials but the team needs laptops, security tools, trained staff in information security to provide the services. Laptops are provided by IT, and security tools are provided by security companies, staffs are provided by HR and trainings are provided Etisalat academy.
7. Quality management
Etisalat has a quality management team but their scope doesn’t cover the security assurance section. Thus the section relies on a manual control which is having one template for each service report.
Hierarchy of the operation management
Etisalat Group is a large company with endless hierarchy structures under each unit. This part of the research will give a glimpse of were the operations hierarchy lies under the pyramid of Etisalat group. The company starts with Ahmed Julfar CEO of the Etisalat group as a whole. Under Ahmed Julfar leadership there are number of companies like Etisalat UAE, Etisalat Egypt, Etisalat Afghanistan, Nigeria, etc. Security assurance scope of work is only within the UAEunder top management of Saleh Al-Abdooli CEO of Etisalat UAEand doesn’t cover other entities like Etisalat Egypt etc unless the request came from top management. The latter are the major highlightsof the hierarchy.
The following diagram summarizes in a nutshell the operation side of the security assurance operations in Emirates Etisalat only and doesn’t cover other sections due to its confidentiality and continues structuring updates.
SWOT analysis on the operation strategy
Difficulties and challenges
Lack of man power
This is a great challenge to the corporation and they tend to outsource many departments for other companies or even hire less qualified employees from other countries to cut the costs in the whole outsourcing process. The lack of engineers in the security section is a major obstacle were the staff are miserably invested in their extra burdens and duties. The lack of manpower who master their field of expertise hamper the whole security operations were the management randomly assigned the projects to the wrong people.
Lack of finances to the security team
Etisalat allocate low budgets for the security team and they wind up employing few security personnel to deal with the crucial matters. The corporation provides services for VIP customers which require the ultimate security hence they need to allocate more resources for their operations to ensure the ultimate security to their customers.
Lack of qualified staff in new technologies
Some employees at Etisalat are not qualified for the work they are assigned to do at the security section. They lack the knowledge and skills in the new services they are offering to customers. The corporation reduced the budgets dedicated to training the employees for cutting cost purposes that’s why most of the security employees are lagging behind in terms of their acquired knowledge and adapting to new technologies. The corporation used to send a bunch of employees each year overseas for attending seminars and workshops and that is no longer an option which kept them rather behind in that sense.
The world keeps evolving with new security technologies frequently that require Etisalat to follow the market trend. This is a big challenge for the security team because the technological changes happen constantly in an eye blink and adapting to the latest technologies is complicatedas it take, knowledge, time, money and tireless efforts to make it work.
Lack of resources
There is a high demand for the services inEtisalat since it is one of the two operators in the country.Etisalat lack miscellaneous resources to meet the urgent needs and since they wide-spread in many countries and their services mushroomed around the globe it require their best resources. The security section for instance lack manuals that contain precise guidelines for security projects which makes it confusing for most staff members. The top management seem to assign certain projects to the team without further details to clarify the ambiguity which leaves the security engineers torn into different directions. The available resources in Etisalat are not invested properly and there must be clever tactics to ensure the availability of resources.
Government interference
The government owns a large shareof 60% at Etisalat and commands any change they want at any time which makes it difficult for the corporation to introduce new ideas in the business since it takes a long time for procedures to be approved. There is also poor communication with upper management because of the bureaucratic and hairarec nature of the business.
Plunkett (2008) stated that to ensure that telecommunication companies are successful, they need to employ more people to ensure that they have enough man power. Therefore, Etisalat should recruit more employees so that it can operate viably.
The company should also allocate more funds to the security team since it is the most crucial part. It is also recommended that the company should allocate funds to conduct research. This will help the firm to be able to roll out programs that would fulfill the needs of various stakeholders.
It is also recommended that the employees of Etisalat should be trained on how to use new equipments and improving their services and skills. This will help them to keep pace with the technological changes they may encounter in the equipment they use in their day to day operations. This will also help the company to make strategic plans that can positively impact on its operations.
The resources available in the corporation should be distributed equally to all the branches and invested properly. It is recommended that the company should scan the internal environment in order to come up with an idea of the resources needed in each department so that it can operate effectively.
The Future of Etisalat and conclusion
Etisalat is a strong hub and going through a great transformation following the lead of smart government by doing smart applications for the company and aiming to be one of the biggestsmart corporate around the globe.What’s worth noting out is that Etisalat is trying to explore and take advantage of the "big data"which is the next frontier of innovations, productivity and growth. What’s even more recently is that the corporate steer their ship toward more ICT trends to meet the aspirations of their shareholders and surpass their expectations. The skies the limits for Etisalat and it’s been said that they are a "regional hub with a world view" with their exceptionally expansion in new spots like Morrocow recently and continuously expanding their operations in various countries around the world.
In conclusion, Etisalat have great potentials while monopolizing the market and despite the emergence of their sole rival Du, they are still on top of their game with revenues estimated for billions. This paper concluded the operation side of the security assurance section including their strategy, weakness, strengths, current obstacles, passable recommendations, SWOT analysis and concluded with a glimpse of their foreseeable future.
1. Ayish, M. I. (2005). Virtual public relations in the United Arab Emirates: A case study of 20 UAE organizations’ use of the Internet. Public Relations Review, 31(3), 381-388.
2. Collis, Jill, and Roger Hussey. Business Research: A Practical Guide for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Students. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Print.
3. (2014). etisalat. (online) retrieved from: http::// (accessed : 25 Mar 2014).
4. Johnston, R & Clark, G 2008, Service Operations Management: Improving Service Delivery, 3rd edn, Pearson Education,Harlow
5. Zucchi, F. & Edwards, J. S. 1999, ‘Human resource management aspects of business process reenginneering: a survey’, Business Process Management, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 324-344.
7. Keating, E., Oliva, R., Repenning, N., Rockart, S. &Sterman, J. 1999, ‘Overcoming the Improvement Paradox’, European Management Journal, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 120-134.
8. Mohammed, O.(2013). Security assurance. Etisalat Management, (accessed: 25 Mar 2014).
9. Plunkett, Jack W. (2008). Plunketts Telecommunications Industry Almanac 2009. Plunkett Research Ltd.
10. Plunkett, Jack W. (2007). Plunketts Telecommunications Industry Almanac 2008: Telecommunications Industry Market Research, Statistics, Trends & Leading Companies. Plunkett Research Ltd. Read More
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