Gulf's Digital Economy On The Rise - Are You Ready To Join?

Ross MacKenzie

Encouraging insights have arisen from a recent survey of 120 C-suite executives, from Chairmen to CEOs and General Managers, of UAE companies with all expressing resounding belief that the digital economy is now expanding throughout the Arabian Gulf.

And a majority (81%) of the respondents, from a variety of segments including tourism, retail, finance, insurance, construction, chemicals, healthcare, automotive, real estate and marine, say they’ve definitive plans to boost their digital capabilities this year with the remainder saying they’re considering it.

The survey, carried out by Cobweb Solutions UAE – the Dubai-based, Middle East arm of UK-based Cobweb, Europe’s leading managed cloud solutions provider – also reveals that 97% of the C-suite respondents are fully convinced that digital assets will improve their competitiveness with only 3% having doubts.

The survey results should be seen as a positive outlook for the regional economy, according to Cobweb UAE Managing Director Altaf Alimohamed, who says C-suite acceptance of the need to build digital transformation strategies will keep Gulf companies relevant within the region and beyond.

There’s an increasing acceptance that to be successful in today’s ever-changing world, where digital innovation is disrupting how every industry operates, organizations need to become more engaged with customers, empower employees, transform products and services using digital content and optimize their business operations. This is coupled with the realization that to achieve these goals, businesses need digital transformation strategies and make better use of new cloud-based services which help fast-track the implementation and development of their plans.

Now more than ever, IT investment has to be closely married to business processes and strategy with businesses needing every deeper insights through intelligent reporting and analytics. The good news is that new subscription-based managed services makes these essentials available in a highly cost-effective way. They ensure management has a clear understanding of the costs and how they are spread and can budget more effectively. The company is released from the need for heavy IT infrastructure costs, is assured that it will always have the most up-to-date solutions and can move IT investment from capex to opex.

The survey has, however, thrown up some digital transformation curve balls for the region most specifically the lack of workforce connectivity and solid customer success experience strategies. Just over a third (34%) or respondents said their workforce were digitally connected but then only somewhat over half (53%) admitted staff connectivity could be better while alarmingly 13% said their staff were not digitally connected at all.

The lack of digital connectivity was further compounded by less than half the respondents (48%) having a customer success experience strategy in place. Just over a quarter (26%) admitted to having no such strategy while a further 26% said while one was in place, it was “disjointed” due to a lack of end-to-end systems.

In an era of staff demands for flexible working and with customer experience being a deciding success factor, these leaves many companies exposed to more prepared competitors eating into their market share,” said Alimohamed. “These are the two crucial areas where it seems Gulf companies must do better to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Industry research is consistently proving that from improved customer service to more productive employees there are endless benefits to ‘going digital.’ For instance, the MIT Center for Digital Business reports that businesses that do implement digital transformation strategies are 26% more profitable than their competitors.

Alimohamed said the issues could be quickly and cost-effectively addressed through bundled, subscription-based managed services, such as the Cobweb CompleteSMB. The solution integrates best-of-breed solutions, including Office 365, Skype for Business as well as cloud applications capable of engaging customers and empowering employees and offers more for an all-round strategy implementation.

The solution also optimizes operations and helps transforms products and the services are robust, scalable and sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of any size company, big or small he said.

Alimohamed said many companies are missing out on digital transformation opportunities because their own in-house IT resources are bogged down with day-to-day requirements to focus on planning and strategy alignment while management is overwhelmed by the prospective of staff training which would need to be put in place.

"This is where a managed service solution comes into its own. It frees up the in-house resources, so they can focus on immediate and future business requirements while the managed service experts take over responsibility for training in the applications judged most suitable for the individual business after a thorough ‘needs health check,"explained Alimohamed.

"The reality is that while the digital economy is obviously expanding throughout the Gulf", more needs to be done to ensure its many advantages are seized to ensure sustainable success.

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