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How digitally mature regional firms are leveraging technology to capitalise on greater opportunities

How digitally mature regional firms are leveraging technology to capitalise on greater opportunities

The technology, consumer and financial sectors boasted the highest proportion of entities that are digitally most mature

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The Covid-19 pandemic has jolted businesses worldwide.

Lower consumer confidence and widespread financial tightening continue to curtail economic activity, and the Middle East has not been spared from such repercussions. Households and corporate purchasers markedly reducing spending intent, combined with labour shortages, production stoppages, and supply chain constraints, have challenged many organisations – highlighting the need for greater organisational resilience.

A global digital maturity study, surveying 150 in the Middle East, identified regional ‘bionic champions’, those most digitally mature, and contrasted them against digital laggards, those least mature, across sectors.

The findings illustrated that the technology, consumer, and financial sectors boasted the highest proportion of bionic champions. The differences in performance are particularly striking when comparing organisations where digital is embedded in their value proposition and those whose digital efforts tend to be function-specific and mostly reactive.

There has already been an almost decade-long digital transformation for many of the established leaders in the financial services sector, which is driving the high prevalence of bionic champions – mostly recently exemplified by Emirates NBD’s Liv launch.

This ongoing shift to online customer interactions has recently accelerated due to increased competition from new fintech companies in all financial service delivery areas.  Overall, banks – like most direct to consumer companies – have been most rapidly adapting to clients’ increasing comfort with online commerce and digital transactions.

In the tech sector, many regional companies, even mature pioneers such as Amazon and Careem, are “younger” than those in other sectors.

Hence, they are more likely to have grown up with inherent, organic synergies among people, data, and technology. In fact, the tech sector has been very adept at leveraging the latest digital tools to customise service across physical and digital channels, with e-commerce, mobile, analytics, search engines, recommendation features, and social media all prominent examples.

Middle East organisations must now simultaneously elevate their resilience and focus on business outcomes, including profitability and growth. Digital – particularly technology and data enablers – offers the means to do so, and leading innovative companies are pioneering the way.

As illustrated in the study, organisations demonstrating advanced digital maturity appear better positioned to weather such storms and capitalise on pre-existing and emerging opportunities than their lagging peers. Specifically, there are concrete digital “boosting” steps a company can pursue:

Accelerated upskilling of people
Digital, design, and technical skills are becoming even more paramount. New specialised digital roles such as digital media managers, agile coaches, UX designers, and data scientists each require accelerated upskilling of employees.

Broader and more customer-centric automation of processes
Digitising core processes using the latest digital journey techniques drive efficiency and customer satisfaction, improving overall resilience to meet sudden demand swings and operational disruptions. 80 per cent of Bionic Champions have or can deploy digital solutions at scale, driving end-to-end consistency across the entire user value chain.

Prioritisation of digital revenue streams
As business models shift from straightforward service delivery to cultivating customer relationships, new ways of using technology data to connect with customers are emerging. Digital revenue streams should be a priority for companies, especially considering 32 per cent of Digital Champions revealed revenue growth ahead of their respective industries and more than double the rate of laggards.

Expanded technology and data investments
Heightened technology and data investment provide advantages concerning technical digital KPIs and performance and competitive metrics such as IoT, AI, cybersecurity, and data governance. Bionic Champions’ investment in technology and data averages 63 per cent – more than three times that of laggards.

Companies can take inspiration from the digital boosters that so many Bionic Champions refer to across the scope of their operations, and it is important to acknowledge that digital upskilling, end-to-end scaled solutions, new digital revenue, and higher technology and data investments are integral to success.

Leaders can begin with a few significant digital use cases at the heart of the businesses and apply the relevant boosters with the vigour, resources, and consistency needed to drive sustainable change in these areas. At the same time, they should also concentrate on tangible business value, increased customer benefits, and a truly changed organisational mindset.

Whatever the current level of maturity, there is a way forward, with new possibilities for laggards and Bionic Champions alike. There has never been more urgency to become bionic, nor has there been a higher potential for greater rewards.

Rami Mourtada is a partner and associate director at Boston Consulting Group

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