The global economy is changing, with transformation at the very top of corporate agendas across virtually all industries. From recent, seismic shocks to the system such as Covid-19, to longer-term macro trends such as the energy transition, economies are thinking about their longer-term futures like never before. That future, it seems, is digital, and enterprises across the Middle East are pursuing it with zeal.
They are driven by a firm commitment at the government level. The government of Abu Dhabi, for example, has announced ambitious plans for the transformation of the emirate’s economy: more digitalisation; more innovation; and a greater focus on knowledge-based industries.
Saudi Arabia has also invested heavily in five giga-cities as part of its effort to reduce economic reliance on crude oil production. Similarly, Egypt is creating 34 new cities aligned with a digital future and, just recently, the UAE announced the launch of the Dubai Digital Authority to revitalise its economic cycle by facilitating digital transformation in all government entities.
A new age
“It is really driven by the realisation that we are ending one era and moving into a new one,” says Ussama Dahabiyeh, CEO of the region’s leading cloud and digital transformation consultancy, Injazat. “We’re seeing the end of intensive reliance on oil and gas, with renewable energy and battery technology taking over. That is a big driver for all of the governments in the region to accelerate their digital transformation journey.
“Also, we’re blessed with a young population, and technology is where future jobs are going to come from,” he adds. “Covid really highlighted the importance of technology not only as an enabler but also as a new way of living and working.”
Injazat, which has 16 years’ experience in the region, is helping clients digitally transform their businesses, enabling them to become more efficient and more productive, playing a key role in the region’s development of new digital infrastructure.
“We have a great advantage in the region because we don’t have the legacy systems that some of the more developed economies have,” notes Dahabiyeh. “Legacy is the one thing that actually fights the most against change because it fights for its own relevance. That helps us to leap ahead in digital transformation.”
Ready for the digital revolution
A lack of legacy infrastructure may mean large organisations in the region enjoy a distinct advantage when it comes to unlocking new digital opportunities, but they cannot do it alone.
“Every client wants to increase profit, which means boosting revenue while reducing cost and risk,” says Tamer Farouk, business transformation leader at Injazat. “Some companies have invested a lot in back-end solutions, but they don’t know where the problems are, so they need help to identify the issues.”
Migration to the cloud is a fundamental part of the digital journey. Using, for example, data analysis as a service, Injazat can pull out its clients’ data, clean it and present it in a form that generates valuable insight for executives to identify and, ultimately, solve specific problems that are holding back their business.
“Digital transformation in the region has been a bumpy journey, but there has been a lot of improvement,” says Farouk. “As the market has matured, enterprises have found that their systems, data centres and business continuity measures were not meeting expectations. So, solution providers started pushing the cloud, which has changed the landscape dramatically.”
Enterprises increasingly understand that they do not need to own the technology and that cloud-hosted services greatly boost agility, unlocking the potential to innovate and accelerate digital transformation projects. The cloud allows businesses to use best-in-class solutions at a lower cost. They can work with a partner such as Injazat, installing and integrating the most appropriate solutions.
“A lot of education is still needed so that businesses in the region know how they can improve services, reduce the total cost of ownership for their IT, and mitigate risk by using the cloud and accessing software solutions as a service,” Farouk remarks.
Think global, act local
Global service providers are queuing up to help organisations with that process of education, cloud transition and IT optimisation. Few, however, are firmly rooted in the Middle East.
“We are a business-led tech company with the capability to partner with our clients to incubate and scale new digital ventures that disrupt their core business or create completely new revenue lines,” explains Dahabiyeh. “Change is unsettling sometimes, especially for large organisations. But we all recognise that change is critical to stay relevant and to continue to deliver value.”
A local partner willing to share risk and co-invest in a transformation process is likely to have the edge over a global consultancy.
“Our clients want international experience and we have that,” says Farouk, who spent 25 years at Oracle, assisting companies in many regions around the world. “Some enterprises may have relationships with vendors already, but there is also a need for more local experience to provide solutions that are customised for the region. That’s what we can offer through our relationships with vendors and integrators.”
With the right local knowledge, the right tools and the right partners willing to tread the path of digital transformation together, enterprises in the Middle East can be ready to fully embrace a digital future.