Luc Serviant is vice president, Middle East and Africa, Orange Business Services and a member of the Accelerator Selection Committee of the Dubai Smart City Accelerator, says digital tools can allow colleagues to work together more efficiently but face-to-face collaboration still has its place and the design of community clusters and workspaces is an important part of this.
The UAE’s new Advanced Science Agenda 2031 is another visionary move highlighting the impact that innovation harnessed to the sciences – from analytics to robotics and materials science – can make on the long-term vision and strategy for the country. It also recognises the central importance of talent to success – skilled people with the right training and knowledge, working collaboratively to create new ideas.
Just recently, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, in his role as Chairman of Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) Authority, personally led the inauguration of our new Middle East and Africa regional headquarters in DSO; the occasion highlighted the vital importance and value of direct personal contact between people – this human contact cannot be replicated, although today’s tech tools get very close to it even for those working remotely.
Digital transformation is a fact of life but it’s really all about people and how they organise themselves and collaborate to be more creative and innovative, productive and efficient, enabled by technology. Digital tools can allow colleagues to work together better and collaborate more efficiently, anywhere in the world, and this digital collaboration can lead to more ideas and creativity that directly leads to innovation.
But in an increasingly digitally connected world, where communications technology is ubiquitous, the power of peer-to-peer, face-to-face, hand-in-hand collaboration cannot be ignored; designing communities and workspaces to facilitate collaboration is all part of this.
The industry clustering concept so effectively pioneered in the UAE, with more than 40 ‘Free Zones’ such as Dubai Silicon Oasis, is a prime example of bringing people together to create and benefit from synergies, and from being easily ‘discoverable’ for talent, ideas, and investors. ‘Silicon Valley’ may largely be a concept but it does also refer to physical campuses, communities and the strong pull they have for new ideas and innovation. Dubai Silicon Oasis mirrors this.
Dubai has taken the cluster concept further and is actively seeding innovation with the development of a range of business start-up communities and government supported incubator and accelerator programmes, attracting innovators from around the world.
I have the privilege of sitting on the Accelerator Selection Committee of the Dubai Smart City Accelerator, based at Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) Tech Hub – the first of its kind in the MENA region. We have been so impressed by the innovative community of companies and people there that we decided to relocate our Middle East and Africa regional office across the city to DSO, including our 40-strong team of consultants (while adding a new innovation showroom of smart city and other solutions).
Our collaboration with the accelerator has been amplified – and accelerated – by the fact that we are now in close proximity to the start-ups on the programme and have easy access to allow us to provide mentoring, and even undertake Proof of Concept for one of the start-up companies, in our own new regional hub.
It also means that our team has direct access to a pure start-up environment and genuine entrepreneurs, and the stimulating and inspiring effect this has. Even with the best collaboration tools, this would not have happened so quickly or effectively.
Collaboration helps enterprises innovate much faster and more efficiently. At the same time, it makes them more agile and adaptable to change – vital in this age of rapid transformation. A collaboration hub, such as the accelerator, enables the ‘people effect’ that is vital to innovation.
Of course, once people are working in relatively close proximity, then they need to work effectively and productively, in the right kind of space conducive to collaboration.
Workspace design is vital of course and is key to enabling people. As collaboration becomes more commonplace, and as workers become more comfortable interacting digitally, they’ll also want to spend more time face-to-face with team members from around the office.
Designing spaces for collaboration means creating a variety of appealing and flexible ‘collaboration spaces’ where people can get together with a collective sense of energy and with collaboration tools such as interactive, connected smartboards, stand-up meeting rooms, informal lounge/café spaces and dedicated telepresence rooms.
Digital technology has disrupted the workplace, which has changed beyond recognition over the last decade. The new work environment today is virtual and people want to work more flexibly and on their own terms, so IT needs to make it as simple as possible for them to engage anytime, anywhere and using any device, to get all the benefits – including the creativity and innovation – that comes with the ‘people effect’.