How data and AI are transforming regional organisations in 2021
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How data and AI are transforming regional organisations in 2021

How data and AI are transforming regional organisations in 2021

The people and organisations who adapted to the crisis the quickest did so with technology

Gulf Business
Celine Bremaud

The year 2020 is now behind us. How shall we remember it? As a year that shattered our confidence or one in which we were sorely tested and yet prevailed?

We have all watched the global crisis play out in front of us as we built capacities to adjust and adapt. And now, in 2021, we move forward in a world that has changed irrevocably. That the phrase “new normal” has become a cliché so quickly is testament to how rapidly our reality has evolved.

The people and organisations who adapted the quickest did so with technology. That is not in doubt. Now, those same innovators understand that survival is one thing, but to thrive they need to become smart and digital businesses. The intelligent cloud will be a vital tool on that journey.

Long before the pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital technologies, PwC projected that artificial intelligence would become a major catalyst for global economic growth. Between productivity boosts and consumer boons, some $15.7 trillion would be added to the global economy by 2030, with an estimated $320bn flowing to the Middle East.

Now, in the new normal, we can see entire industries upended by the encroaching reality. And innovators across the region are adopting new corporate cultures of tech intensity where cloud, data, and AI come together to accelerate innovation, enhance customer experiences, and grow revenues.

Transforming retail

The global retail sector has undergone a massive shift during the pandemic as consumers became more reliant on digital transactions. An eMarketer’s Global e-commerce 2020 Report found that the Middle East and Africa’s retail e-commerce sales grew 19.8 per cent last year, comparatively higher than Latin and North America, Western Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Leveraging the power of data lakes and the intelligent cloud, retailers in the region can transform the industry by creating individualised experiences for customers and empower employees and digital channels to act as one when serving that base.

Marketing and sales teams across the region now have access to the same information in real time, ensuring that each part of the business deals with customers within the context of all previous contacts.

Reimagining finance

Players in the financial services sector have deployed predictive analytics to optimise behaviour inside and outside the business. Interaction between data and cloud-based intelligence models are now opening doors to unheard-of efficiencies and laying the groundwork for more and more stable outlooks. And with the power of cloud, they can enjoy lower costs, enhanced security, and greater agility.

Empowering manufacturing and supply chains

The World Economic Forum’s insights on the Middle East and North Africa cited that 47 per cent of executives surveyed indicate a need to overhaul their manufacturing and supply networks to increase resilience. In this light, the internet of things (IoT) powered by the cloud can play a starring role in sweeping reforms across the region’s manufacturing industry.

Service delivery models – in which appliances, machinery and other equipment are sold in subscription-style contracts that include field maintenance and support – are becoming increasingly popular around the world and IoT sits at the heart of those models.

The region is gearing up in this sector with strong interest in predictive maintenance, where communication between field-based IoT sensors and back-office analytics platforms can raise alerts about failing machinery in advance of it breaking down. Such systems eliminate downtime and drastically optimise operations and costs of support for customers and suppliers.

Intelligent and secured workplaces

There are some areas of business that transcend industry, and the intelligent cloud can help with them too. AI-powered bots can serve customers and empower employees, freeing up frontline and office workers to become instruments of innovation.

And let us not forget that our new normal has brought remote working on a scale we have not seen before. The cloud will be indispensable to the region’s innovators as they try to design their new hybrid workspaces, making collaborative solutions and communication channels available to employees everywhere. The economies of large cloud providers also allow the delivery of secure infrastructures, as those providers tend to pump sizeable annual budgets into cybersecurity R&D.

Céline Brémaud, VP of Sales, Marketing and Operations, Microsoft Middle East and Africa

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