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Digital economy expanding in the Arabian Gulf, says survey
March 21, 2018 | 3:18 PM
by Times News Service
Altaf Alimohamed, managing director of Cobweb Solutions UAE. - Supplied picture
 
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Muscat: C-suite executives from over 100 of UAE’s companies said the digital economy is expanding in the Arabian Gulf and many among them were planning to expand their digital footprint this year.

The assertion came via a recent survey of 120 company chairmen, CEOs and presidents conducted by Cobweb Solutions UAE—the Dubai-based, Middle East arm of UK-based Cobweb, Europe’s leading managed cloud solutions provider — which was scaling up its own workforce to meet increasing regional demand for cloud solutions.

The majority (81 per cent) of respondents, from a variety of segments, including tourism, retail, finance, insurance, construction, chemicals, healthcare, automotive, real estate and marine, said they had definitive plans to boost their digital capabilities this year, with the remainder saying they were considering it.

The survey also revealed that 97 per cent of respondents were fully convinced digital assets will improve their competitiveness, while 3 per cent had doubts.



Altaf Alimohamed, managing director of Cobweb Solutions UAE, said the results meant a positive outlook for the regional economy with C-suite prioritisation of digital transformation strategies likely to keep Gulf companies relevant within the region and beyond.

“There’s increasing acceptance that to be successful in today’s ever-changing world, where digital innovation is disrupting how every industry operates, organisations need to become more engaged with customers, empower employees, transform products and services using digital content and optimise their business operations,” he said.

“This is coupled with the realisation that to achieve these goals, businesses need digital transformation strategies and to make better use of new cloud-based services which help fast-track the implementation and development of their plans,” he added.

“Now, more than ever, IT investment has to be closely married to business processes and strategy with businesses needing deeper insights through intelligent reporting and analytics. The good news is that new subscription-based managed services make these essentials available in a highly cost-effective way,” Alimohamed said.

“They ensure the 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,” he added.

The survey has, however, thrown up some digital transformation challenges for the region—most specifically, the lack of workforce connectivity and solid customer success experience strategies. Just over a third (34 per cent) of survey respondents said their workforce was “somewhat” digitally connected. Over half (53 per cent) admitted staff connectivity “could be better”, while 13 per cent said their staff were not digitally connected at all.

The lack of digital connectivity was further compounded by less than half the respondents (48 per cent) having a customer success experience strategy in place. Just over a quarter (26 per cent) admitted to having no such strategy, while a further 26 per cent said one was in place but “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 gaps leave 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,” he added.

Industry research consistently shows the benefits to “going digital”. The MIT Center for Digital Business reports said businesses that do implement digital transformation strategies are 26 per cent more profitable than their competitors.

Alimohamed said the issues can be quickly and cost-effectively addressed through bundled, subscription-based managed services, which integrate the best available solutions and cloud applications capable of engaging customers, empowering employees and ensuring smooth, all-round strategy implementation.

“The solutions optimise operations, help transform products and services and 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 were too bogged down by day-to-day requirements to focus on planning and strategy alignment, while management was overwhelmed by the need to train staff.

“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 responsibility for training in the applications judged most suitable for individual business needs,’” 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 sustainable success,” he added.

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