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Editor’s Question: What does continued growth for Digital Transformation mean for CIOs in the Middle East?

Editor’s Question: What does continued growth for Digital Transformation mean for CIOs in the Middle East?

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Digital Transformation is the incorporation of computer-based technologies into an organisation’s solutions, processes, and strategies. Industry pundits look at how enterprises in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) are winning with Digital Transformation, business benefits and digital technologies as the growth trajectory continues.

Companies undertake Digital Transformation to better engage and serve their workforce and customers and thus improve their ability to compete.

According to research firm International Data Corporation (IDC). global spending on the Digital Transformation of business practices, products, and organisations is forecast to reach US$2.8 trillion in 2025, more than double the amount allocated in 2020. According to a recent update to the International Data Corporation (IDC) ‘Worldwide Digital Transformation Spending Guide’, Digital Transformation spending will have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.4% over the 2021 to 2025 forecast period as organisations pursue a holistic digital strategy for people, processes, technology, data, and governance.

“For the first time, IDC has forecast global Digital Transformation spending to exceed US$10 trillion over a five-year period,” said Craig Simpson, Senior Research Manager, Customer Insights and Analysis Group, IDC. “While most Digital Transformation projects remained on track in 2020 and into 2021 during the pandemic, IDC forecasts Digital Transformation technology investments to accelerate in 2022, with a renewed drive towards more long term strategic digital objectives. Beyond operational Digital Transformation investments, customer experience is garnering some of the largest Digital Transformation technology investments from consumer-oriented industries such as securities and investment services, banking and retail.”

With technology investments on the rise, what does Digital Transformation entail and why is it important for IT leaders to take note of this growth?

David Sweenor, Senior Director, Product Marketing, Alteryx, said even with the advances made with the Internet and computers, lots of companies still have many manual, repetitive, time consuming processes that are analogous to pushing a piece of paper from one department to another and still getting it signed off. “Our digital world still runs on paper. Digitisation is the natural next step of modifying and improving the efficiency and operation of all those processes through technology,” he said. “To truly transform, the process must be reimagined. If a process has been really transformed, you typically can’t recognise it anymore. Many processes have been transformed over time and technology has certainly been a key driver: for example, we used to stand on the curb and raise our arm to hail a taxi, now we use an app. The process looks and works completely different because the change is transformational. Transformation without analytics is just digitisation, analytics and automation make it transformative.”

Sweenor said the recent acceleration of Digital Transformation across industries has compressed years’ worth of changes to the ways companies do business and enabled analytically mature companies to outperform their competition. “Data is now the lifeblood of modern organisations, and Digital Transformation solutions have become so accessible that anyone can ask challenging questions and get meaningful answers from analytics automation technology,” he said.

ALAA BAWAB – GENERAL MANAGER, MEA, LENOVO INFRASTRUCTURE SOLUTIONS

Digital Transformation is really about how new technologies are disrupting whole sectors of business and creating new opportunities based on technologies such as data analytics, cloud computing, Blockchain, AI, 5G and Machine Learning. These technologies are being used by companies to collect data, generate value from the data, and use that to create new services and solutions for their customers. For businesses in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) that have not begun their Digital Transformation, the question is whether they can afford to be left behind?

Alaa Bawab, GM MEA, Lenovo Infrastructure Solutions.

There are a number of factors that are driving the uptake of Digital Transformation and increasing the pace at which it is being rolled out. In the GCC for example, governments are taking the lead, promoting a ‘digital first’ approach and supporting the transformation of key sectors such as oil and gas.

We are also seeing sectors that traditionally were not big adopters of technology, such as heavy industry, using more and more digital technologies, and sectors like retail that have accelerated Digital Transformation due to the COVID pandemic which has created the need to move operations online.

In terms of goals, Digital Transformation is as broad and diverse as the companies, industries and vertical sectors undertaking Digital Transformation, so each organisation will have its own aims, objectives and goals.

For the CIO, the focus should be giving strategic direction, building trust within the organisation and providing the means to achieve Digital Transformation. That said, transformation efforts need to be supported by resilient, cloud-enabled digital infrastructure and applications, rapid app development, digital platforms, data-driven and AI-enabled intelligence, and comprehensive security.

The greatest overall trend, which we expect to continue into 2022 and beyond is the increased pace of Digital Transformation, which means that companies need solutions that enable them to harness the power of their data and companies are also looking for different computing models, such as Edge Computing.

With many organisations turning to hybrid cloud environments, with some applications in the cloud and some workloads on-premise, this creates demand for data infrastructure that has the flexibility to scale to meet their needs, to move workloads to the right platform, seamlessly integrate across platforms and to reduce the complexity of managing a diverse environment.

Organisations are also looking at Edge Computing to account for the fact that more and more data is created at the Edge of the network, outside of the traditional data centre and network perimeter, through connected devices, remote employees, IoT sensors and so on. Edge Computing gives the same abilities to use data as if it were in the data centre, such as applying analytics, automation of decisions and so on, while overcoming the bandwidth and latency issues that can arise with traditional models.

Aside from the many benefits that Digital Transformation offers and can bring to an organisation, it takes forward-thinking leaders to let the data guide their decisions, to build a data-led ecosystem for their company, and to develop data literacy skills across their employee-base. We believe at Lenovo that it’s time for businesses to become ‘data-centered’ and to capitalise on the growing data economy. In this new economy all businesses are data businesses, and every employee works in a data ecosystem. A data strategy, focusing on skills, literacy and analysis therefore needs to be put at the heart of your organisation to reap the value of Digital Transformation and other transformative technologies while protecting what really drives competitive advantage – your people.

SANDRINE MOUSTAFA EL KHODRY, VICE PRESIDENT MEA, ALCATEL-LUCENT ENTERPRISE

True Digital Transformation is based on using the right processes and technology to help businesses accelerate their growth and enhance customer experience. The main key to success of any Digital Transformation is an enterprise’s culture as well as the culture of the country in which it operates. The alignment between a company’s target for Digital Transformation and its cultural understanding as well as local needs are important for its success.

 Sandrine Moustafa El Khodry, VP MEA, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise.

With any Digital Transformation initiative, automation is key and networks are more mission critical to its success than ever before. The last two years has witnessed businesses across the world fast-track their Digital Transformation journeys to cope with the change in businesses environment and to adapt to a hybrid work culture. The digitalisation journey is already underway and accelerating for everyone, enabled by digital-age networks, the cloud, and communications.

The Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is going through a huge Digital Transformation faster than the rest of the world. The main drivers for Digital Transformation in the region are economic diversity, sustainability, and better quality of experiences for citizens are key factors driving Digital Transformation at the public sector level. A perfect example of this is the development and use of applications to enable government departments and public interaction for public services. On the private sector level, businesses are in line with the government’s mandate to drive a sustainable economy – at the same time, businesses are focused on enhancing their processes to drive efficiency, accelerate business growth, provide an efficient working experience for employees and an elevated level of customer service.

The acceleration of the digitalisation of the world has been triggered because most organisations had to speed up their technology evolution in response to the global health crisis. This has boosted the consumption of cloud-based services delivered on a subscription-based model, which provide the flexibility and agility organisations need in order to keep adapting to a continually evolving business environment. Digital Transformation is also helping reshape how organisations view technology and its direct impact on the business. Because simply adding new capabilities, like choosing an analytics application or expanding your customer relationship management (CRM) system, is not a Digital Transformation, but digging deeper, for example, to ensure information is available, accessible and useable via any device and location, gives your organisation a means to reinvent processes, technologies and products that drive performance. My best advice to any business on their Digital Transformation journey is to do your best to have a clear idea of your company’s digital ambition. This will help measure progress, see successes and challenges, all while considering the culture of your company, customers and partners to succeed your business.

With cloud computing is transforming how organisations work, connect, and live, this trend is expected to continue in 2022. And with the advent of high-speed technologies such as 5G and fibre making it easier for businesses to capture and transmit data in real-time, and to process and analyse it with the power and speed of the central network, the cloud makes this information easier to access as it is available from anywhere. However, the acceleration of these technologies is also creating challenges in how companies handle their Digital Transformation and how they effectively implement real-time communications throughout the digital IT ecosystem.

There is no single, right way to transition from an existing system to the digital age since each company must adapt from an existing ecosystem. The good news is Digital Transformations are happening — first through the adoption of more flexible models to migrate to a digital workplace, then by rethinking communications to put them at the centre of business processes, for faster decision-making and increased employee empowerment.

AZZ-EDDINE MANSOURI, GENERAL MANAGER, SALES, CIENA MIDDLE EAST

Organisations in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) need to ensure they are keeping up with the rapid pace of Digital Transformation if they want to remain relevant and have a successful business. For example in the Gulf region, governments are driving the agenda of Digital Transformation, with an emphasis on bringing Smart Cities to life through initiatives such as the Saudi Vision 2030.

Azz-Eddine Mansouri, GM, Sales, Ciena Middle East.

At the forefront of this transformation are technologies such as cloud computing, analytics, Edge Computing, Machine Learning, Big Data, automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT). These new technologies are revolutionising the way we live, work and communicate, and are all supported by networks that need to keep up with the increasing bandwidth demands. Service providers across the MEA region have started the rollout of 5G networks to support the adoption of Digital Transformation at scale.

With the adoption of technologies like AI, 5G, IoT, and cloud everywhere, service providers across the MEA region are having to adapt to unforeseen growth and emerging use cases that are radically changing how organisations connect to partners, data centres and end users.

While Digital Transformation is the end goal, achieving it requires fast and efficient network connectivity. Intelligent, software-based network automation and intent-based networking are key to overcoming legacy technology and process challenges—and vital to accelerating the journey to the self-governing, self-healing networks of the future. Networks are the foundation of any business Digital Transformation and must provide the same agility and flexibility that enterprises need to offer to their customers.

CIOs have the challenge of building the IT infrastructure that support the end-to-end integration of the different business workflows across their organisation and also with their partners and customers while making sure this IT infrastructure is built based on the most advanced security applications.

This year, Digital Transformation will continue reflecting in new technologies that enable the workforce to collaborate more effectively. For instance, we can expect companies to start offering Augmented Reality software and wearables to keep teams engaged. Businesses will also need to extend cloud and advanced network capabilities into the homes of their employees. Mesh Wi-Fi networks or even new methods of bringing connectivity to the home will become increasingly important. We will see an increase in the number of homes with a 5G connection during the year.

We will also see different cloud applications that will enable us to adapt to new technologies rapidly. Early adopters of these new applications and features will give companies a good understanding of the business challenges that can be addressed using technology and give them a competitive edge.

Given that many of the applications required to drive Digital Transformation are cloud-based, connectivity to cloud apps must happen in real-time, with low-latency, scalable bandwidth, and resilient connections. Any network outages, congestion or jitter can impact the enterprise’ ability to support their customers. Most inherited networks are usually slow, complex and inflexible, making it almost impossible to adopt new technologies that are scalable and provide the services and experience differentiators that customers want. In order to deal with all these new complexities, enterprises now require network infrastructures that can be changed easily to adapt to dynamic changes required by different business and customers’ needs.

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