In conversation with Jamal Al Mahamid (Executive MBA, 2010), CEO of Palmira Software House

Jamal AlMahamidFollowing recent success for Palmira Software House, a digital transformation services provider, we caught up with its CEO, Jamal Al Mahamid (Executive MBA, 2010) to find out why the company has achieved so much and how its operations have continued through the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. It was also great to find out more about Jamal’s studying days and what helpful lessons he has learnt during his professional journey. 

We are delighted to hear that Palmira has had so many achievements and awards in the last few years with you as the CEO. Please tell us more about these awards and what they mean to you?

Palmira is named as the Most Certified Partner by Software AG and Middle East Technology Excellence in Digital and IT services by The Asian Business Review. We invest in innovation and building internal capabilities to deliver excellence and quality services. This recognition is a result of great focus, persistence, hard work and trust of our team. We are continuously learning to attain outstanding capabilities and excellence in terms of our operations in the digital world. Here is a short video about what this certification means to me and Palmira.

What’s next for Palmira?

More of what we are already doing; investing in our team and products to serve our clients with higher standards and cutting-edge technologies.

Investing in knowledge, quality and innovation. In knowledge, we will continuously invest in enhancing our capabilities and building our team. Quality of services always comes first and we will keep doing the same. We implement our projects based on international standards and we keep our operations relevant through implementing the latest updates. And the best part is innovation. We develop solutions that serve corporate performance and speed up the digital transformation process from the strategy stage through to execution. We provide innovative solutions and products that enable our clients to speed up their digital transformation and offer better insights that allow management to ease the decision-making process.

We will witness an increase in demand of digital transformation projects. More specifically in Integration, API Management and Corporate Performance Management. We will also expand our presence in Saudi Arabia. Our services are the backbone of several digital transformation initiatives, including but not limited to paperless government strategies and open banking, and open finance, and so on, to enhance the overall digital experience and compliance requirements in government and banking sectors.

Please tell us about your role as CEO and what that entails?

As a digital enabler, my focus is to build a clear visibility for our clients’ current status and future digital state. Defining the gap and building a concrete plan to transform digitally and enhance the digital experience, as well as sharing best practices and methodologies in order that our clients are able to achieve their vision in the digital world. I am also serving my team as a facilitator. Together, we empower our clients to build resilient operations and sustainable capabilities by transferring knowledge and adopting best in class tools in digital transformation.

How has your work and the industry been impacted by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic?

If there is just one lesson that we can learn from the pandemic it is that being digital is a necessity, not a luxury anymore. Today, there are just three types of companies: those that actually operate a digital business; those that are transforming into a digital business; and finally, those that might never become a digital business and fail as a consequence. So, it’s not a question of, if your business should become digital; it really must be to survive or it just might disappear.

Today, customers are more demanding than ever; regulation is continually changing and competition is very high because rivals are trying to maintain what they have as a priority and build a more sustainable business with technology capabilities.

CIOs (Chief Information Officers) in the region are divided in two categories. Firstly, those that lag strong digital strategy and are busy fixing issues in their complex architecture of current IT Portfolio. Wrangling the silo mentality of some businesses is the real challenge of this category. Such companies are facing a huge integration requirement that increases the complexity of their digital architecture because they don’t have an integration layer, API management capabilities or IT Portfolio Planning.

Secondly, organisations that employ a proper digital strategy and have reached a good maturity in terms of their architectures. This category of organisation has a huge outcome of data because of their digital transformation initiatives; most of their services are exposed online, so they are currently solving challenges related to running business as unusual by solving data maturity issues and cybersecurity issues. According to Gartner, 87% of organisations are classified in low data and analytics maturity. “Only 10% of the Organisation are approaching advanced cybersecurity function”, McKinsey, Organization Cyber Maturity, August 2021

Internally, operations didn’t change. Our operations could run and be monitored remotely even before the pandemic. Currently our employees work in hybrid mode. Our employees have the option to work from home or report to the office. They are only asked to report to office once a week, unless there is a customer requirement. Our employees are happier with this approach and they can deliver more, saving their health, time and delivering excellent services to our clients.

Looking back, what made you decide to complete your Executive MBA at the Business School and how do you think it has helped you to get where you are today?

City, University of London is a world-leading internationally excellent research facility that delivers an outstanding learning experience, preparing students like me to tackle challenges and become an outstanding figure in the marketplace. I learned a lot from my MBA, such as the analytical capabilities and leadership skills that have help to shape my career and helped in my daily tasks. Thanks to a very talented faculty that combine both academic and real-life experience in their field. If I may name few, Prof. Roy Batchelor, Prof. ManMohan Sodhi, Prof. Gianvito Lanzolla, and Khurram Jafree. The amount of knowledge they shared with real life examples enabled students to sharpen their skills and gain knowledge and leadership capabilities.

The MBA is not only about gaining a certificate in management or finance, it is more about management ethics and continuous learning. As a City Alumnus, I enjoy a free elective course annually that keeps me updated with new trends and brings us back to school.

We would be interested to hear more about your time studying. Do you have any standout memories?

Sure, I have two stories to share. The first one is about studying Advance Corporate Finance with Khuram Jafree. This was a tough subject. Ask anyone who studied with Khurram and they will tell you that he divided the class into groups to compete in solving several case studies for evaluating companies and making acquisition decisions. Imagine having the full experience of four company acquisitions in one day. From evaluation to negotiation and bidding. Thank you Khurram for the great experience.

The other story is about strategy management. After completing the strategy management module, the students asked City for a tailor-made class to cover corporate strategy management. The subject was more about shaping strategy for heterogeneous conglomerates. Understanding how and when to expand vertically and horizontally for such organisations. The decision follows a framework which looks at several aspects to enhance overall performance and position of the conglomerates. The subject was delivered by Prof. Gianvito Lanzolla in a two-day workshop. I didn’t see the flexibility in terms of education offerings in addition to the timing flexibility anywhere other than at City.

Since graduating and to date, what has been the highlight of your career?

For the last 12 years as a City alumnus, I moved from being an analyst in the banking sector to business consultation and then started my business in 2017. Today, I manage a company with three branches in the UAE, Jordan and Portugal. We are expanding to Saudi Arabia next year. I am proud of my team for our great achievements, which would not be possible without them. On a personal level, I received appreciation letters from several reputable organisations, such as GDRFA-Dubai and the Labour Committee in Dubai. My company has been recognised several times for knowledge, quality and innovation in the last five years for delivering business process management, corporate performance management and API management.

Do you have any advice for someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Yes, I have a lot, but in brief: Start by defining your goals and identifying what you love to do most. Be ambitious and have a clear action plan; this will guide you to achieve higher levels in your career. An MBA from Bayes will add a lot of value to your career, as it sharpens your skills and open doors for you in the market.

Thank you to Jamal for sharing such great insight into his life and career! We’re proud to have you as a member of our wonderful Alumni Network.