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Why digital operating models are the only way forward for UAE businesses 

Why digital operating models are the only way forward for UAE businesses 

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As enterprises continue to digitalise, business models continue to change. Using the UAE as an example, Mark Ackerman, Area VP, Middle East and Africa, ServiceNow, tells us how businesses are adapting and using digital operating models to drive growth.  

As Arab Gulf countries, such as the UAE, look forward to their 5G future, they prepare to write a new chapter of the fourth Industrial Revolution. Real-time insights from data lakes are about to become standard, as companies jettison outdated information siloes and homogenise the view of the enterprise for all decision-makers.  

Across the region, the pandemic forced digital experiments and feasibility studies to be quick marched into live service. Beyond the remote-work tools and other collaboration platforms used for Business Continuity, enterprises made lemonade out of COVID-19’s lemons, taking the necessity of cloud migration and turning it into a series of positives. They streamlined operations, they reinvented business models and they produced rich new digital experiences for customers and employees. 

As the pandemic took hold, examples of hard-hit industries reinventing themselves permeated the region. Emirates Flight Catering, faced with an idle workforce and possible layoffs, created an online ecommerce portal to deliver its food to ground-based consumers’ doors. The new brand, called FoodCraft, kept employees employed and allowed Emirates Flight Catering to wait out the economic storm.  

The importance of agility 

Meanwhile, GCC governments used their already highly digitised services to create a series of effective workflows. The UAE government, for example, kept an anxious public informed, managed lockdowns and ran one of the world’s most successful vaccination programmes. Much of this – as with many of the region’s other pandemic-induced innovation stories – was achieved through automated workflows, with due attention paid to customer and employee experiences.  

Success, in the next phase of the digital journey, will require greater business agility. Our new digital operating models require new metrics that capture events such as renewals, customer-engagement outcomes and adoption. Our ability to succeed will depend on three factors: understanding the customer, making life convenient for them and making them feel like we understand them as an individual.  

For example, in the BFSI sector, institutions are in possession of vast stores of historical, personal, and transactional information they can use to understand behaviour and predict the volumes and outcomes of future transactions. They have the scale to build service models that automate the mundane and free up employees to take care of more complex customer queries. And they have the means to deliver these services through multiple channels – social, voice, app and more. This means more convenience for customers. The information can also be used to personalise experiences, which will allow tellers and investment advisors to suggest other products that are relevant and useful. This further enhances the experience for the customer and builds brand loyalty. 

Measure everything 

All industries will see a change in standard metrics. Today, information about new customers, their engagements and their transactions should be unified across touchpoints and channels – instore, app, social and the rest. A sale is revenue, no matter where it took place or how. And to individualise the customer experience and keep it consistent, all non-sale engagements need to be captured, even (and perhaps especially) if they did not lead to a purchase. Monthly active users on apps, engagement scores from surveys, renewal rates, adoption rates and gross and net retention rates – these are the lines on today’s scorecards.  

As the region continues its return to economic stability, the employee experience will play a larger part in corporate strategy. Talent shortfalls can stymie recovery as much as a lack of customers. Well-trained, amply equipped people will keep consumers coming back for more. Unengaged, ill-informed employees will chase them away. Mobile, virtual agents, live chat and social media platforms will all need to be used to ensure that employees can connect with customers however and whenever customers want to connect. Chatbots will play an invaluable role in preserving human ingenuity for the issues that require it, thereby enhancing both customer and employee experiences. 

When workflows are digitised to this extent, it becomes easier to track every element of the experience. What were customers doing just prior to a sale? What did they do afterwards? How often are they using the product or service? Capturing this information can allow digital businesses to derive other metrics, such as the probability of subscription renewals. 

Rise from the ashes 

A digital economy has emerged to complement our digital lifestyles. Information, products and services are no longer confined to tight geographical radii. And this holds true for industries beyond retail and media. Banks can advise customers across the globe at any time, day or night. Telecom providers, as always, form the backbone of our global communications, but even they can diversify to provide a range of services for other globalising businesses.  

Modern business challenges require modern metrics. With the right information at their fingertips, regional innovators can rise from the pandemic ashes stronger than ever. Not only will they be more resilient when the next crisis comes along, but they will thrive in the interim through digital operating models that connect people, data and processes together in an experience ecosystem powered by real-time insights. 

The experience economy was not created by invention. It emerged as a response to circumstances. A more demanding consumer base of digital natives; a workforce comprised of those same consumers, who expect flexibility and empowerment; and a pandemic that dialed these factors up to unprecedented intensity. But make no mistake, regional businesses can meet these challenges by becoming more digital and allowing data to guide them to better experiences and more beneficial outcomes. 

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