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Top Factors impacting Digital Transformation in the Middle East

"Digital transformation is not a process but a journey of disruption with a high focus on Innovation." – Shankar Garg

As per recent surveys by leading consulting firms in this region, only 4-5% of respondent companies consider themselves as leaders in Digital Transformation while a big number feel they will be left behind in this new era. Following are the contributing factors impacting Digital Transformation in the region:

Digital Strategy: Companies born before Digital Transformation should transform to remain relevant in today's world, they should focus on Digital/Data/Innovation centric Strategy

For any big enterprise to transform itself, its leaders need to invest a considerable amount of time, money and resources with a Clear Vision and Goal. While there is a lot of consensus on the fact that organizations with Digital strategy will outlive those which don't have a strategy but still many organizations are struggling to give crystal clear digital strategy to their teams and investors.

Big Enterprises need to take a phased/milestone-based approach with fixed timeframe, allocated budget and measurable KPI's (could be linked to Senior Management performance variable). Also, they need to understand that being Digital is not an overnight process and it will take time before they could see results, so patience is Key.

Agility: Innovation & Success are more often results of many failed attempts and Agile helps us implement this fail fast and reboot strategy in the best possible way. Not many organizations are truly Agile and implementing Fail Fast, Test-driven, fully automated testing and deployments in SDLC. Agile is not just cross-functional teams sitting together, it's about delivering working software every Sprint with the most valuable/recent feedback implemented.

Agile adoption could be an initial ladder in your journey to being Digital and Enterprises can start lean and small with 3 months MVPs approach.

Golden Skill Set: The Region is still picking up on the digital wave and there is a huge shortage of skilled Human capital to lead/Implement Digital initiatives. This can be attributed to region's 2-year residency Visa system as well, Highly skilled professionals want long term stability and thus many times don't take opportunities in this region(although some of the countries have liberalized their visa programs but it does not have much to offer for skillset required to implement Digital at mass level)

One obvious solution is to implement long term visa but that has its Geo-Political lifecycle so other alternatives are up-skilling current workforce (making them relevant in today's world), Outsourcing and opening satellite offices in parts of the world which specialize in such human capital.

Job Risk: In this region, Job is linked to current employment Visa and loss of Job means loss of employment visa, this could shatter your plans to stay in the country. (leading to a far-reaching impact on personal and family plans). The fear of losing the job makes some people very risk-averse, they jump from their seats on hearing concepts of fail fast, etc.

Management needs to invest considerable time to make people understand that innovation is a by-product of many failed attempts and Failure is accepted. Procurement: While RFP is a standard all across the world, but in this region, especially in large enterprises, most of the new initiatives go through a long procurement cycle, which eventually deprives these enterprises of benefits of using the latest startups which have pioneered a niche innovative technical solution.

In today's word in 2 months unicorns go out of market, technology landscape changes completely, long RFP processes should be replaced via short MVP projects with measurables KPI's as success criteria.

Old vs New: How to Innovate Collaboratively with your peers tasked with managing old/outdated tech stack? Every organization understands the need for Innovation but how do you merge the small team with expertise in new stuff with your old enterprise stuff (very much critical to your overall existence). How do you make your larger teams ready for Change? Who loves Change? How do you ensure that old and new can live and innovate together?

Human capital is most delicate and sensitive to change, So there should be comprehensive planning to keep the existing employees in confidence and helping them embark on the changes.

Technology: is changing faster than most organizations could adapt/respond. How to adopt new technologies while maintaining old ones? As per the latest surveys, most organizations on the path to Digital have concerns about cybersecurity (as more and more processes become paper-less), cloud vs on-premise.

New Technologies can integrate with old ones and can give them wings. An organization with limited resources or with less expertise in technology should look at effective use of PaaS, Iaas and SaaS which is economical for experimenting and is flexible enough for scaling on demand. Analytics: In this Region, not many organizations are taking decisions purely on data and AI. Most organizations have data in different siloed databases, others have too much data in a single system without any meaningful Analytics/AI. We need to understand the difference between Senior Management dashboards (Data visualization) and live running algorithms enabling us to respond in a predictive way and not reactive.

Start by identifying customer journey from this data and provide value to existing pain points of your customers.

Start by identifying customer journey from this data and provide value to existing pain points of your customers.

Innovation: Last and certainly not the least, it's difficult to disrupt without Innovation. "Don't confuse Digital Transformation with workflow/process Automation but relate it more with Disruption/Innovation like Netflix, Whatsapp and TikTok are disruptions to the then leading incumbents." Enterprises like IBM/HP have made considerable strides from their main revenue line of Personal computers to big players in the cloud industry. Imagine the scale at which these two behemoths would have outsmarted themselves. How many such examples can we quote from this region, not many?

Find the best digital Journey for your customer, adopt the latest SDLC along with technology and create a culture of Innovation and disruption rather than being disrupted.

Simply said than Done, Organizations will have to figure out their journey in the unknown of continuous Innovation and customer experience. Also, once you have innovated, don't forget to Implement, Learn and Adapt.

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