After digital transformation, the next decade will be defined by 'tech intensity'

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Business leaders in UAE, MEA should look at tech intensity as a key competitive advantage - but what exactly is it?

If I ask you to think of a newly-hired software engineer, you'd likely imagine him or her seated in an office belonging to a technology company. But research shows there's a very good chance that this may not be the case anymore. In fact, tech hiring in the non-tech industry is growing 11 per cent faster, despite the size and growth that the sector is seeing.

This eye-opening statistic was cited by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella during a company event, and this is a trend that will keep accelerating. If you look at a very real example of this, automotive companies are hiring software engineers at three times the rate they're hiring mechanical engineers.

And it's not just the IT departments of these businesses where transformation is taking place. Looking at new skills research from the Middle East and Africa, we see operations, finance, HR and marketing are among the areas of business currently impacted most by a lack of digital expertise.

These statistics draw attention to the importance of a new business imperative that Microsoft terms "tech intensity". In fact, if there's one business strategy decision makers across the MEA region should aim to familiarise themselves with over the coming decade, it's this one.

But what exactly is tech intensity and how will it define the next decade of business?

Every business will be a tech company

Simply put, tech intensity is the rate at which an organisation is adopting technology together with its ability to build its own digital capability.

Think of it like this. Up until recently organisations the world over have looked to technology companies to provide digital tools for improving efficiency, increasing productivity and driving innovation.

But the recent times has changed this outlook and now we see the businesses, large and small, that are achieving the greatest success are both applying these tools and technologies, as well as also using them to invent their own digital solutions to solve complex business and societal issues. In other words, they're becoming technology companies themselves.

In the UAE, Commercial Bank of (CBD) has been on the forefront to boost their digital transformation initiatives. The leading UAE bank has deployed mission critical workloads on the cloud aligning with commitment of becoming a 'default digital' bank.

A new competitive advantage

The use of advanced technology in business functions other than IT is more pervasive than people might realise. At least 30 per cent of MEA business leaders say they are using AI in R&D, 20 percent in operations, and 18 per cent in sales and marketing. In fact, three quarters of respondents to the AI Maturity in the Middle East and Africa study believe AI will change their very way of doing business.

Now we see much of that disruption will be carried out through tech intensity, which is already happening at a rapid pace.

According to another study, State of Tech Intensity Study, three out of four organisations are creating new digital capabilities that incorporate advanced digital technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things blockchain and mixed reality.

Tech intensity can be addressed with acquiring the right skillset.

Business leaders embracing shift

Business leaders in the MEA agree the benefits of a digitally empowered workforce are far-reaching, particularly when it comes to the effectiveness of operational processes. ?

Though it's early days for tech intensity as a concept in the region, we are already seeing industry leaders embracing the new approach in a big way. In the UAE, organizations like Mashreq, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, Majid Al Futtaim Ventures, Emirates National Oil Company, du, Etihad Airways and many more are building their tech intensity by adopting new innovations to fuel their digital appetite. Sustainability pioneer Bee'ah has transformed its business, technology and innovation department from a support system to a business enabler.

For Microsoft, tech intensity is at the centre of how we empower our customers and partners. We are building the platforms that enable our customers and partners to build their own digital capabilities, rather than creating specific solution examples.

If the previous decade was defined by the cloud becoming mainstream and with it the idea of digital transformation as an organisational imperative, the upcoming decade will be defined by tech intensity. For business leaders across the UAE, the time to embrace this new strategy is now. The region is still in the early stages of adoption and gaining that elusive competitive advantage has never been more important.

Another leading banking giant, Mashreq, has migrated to the intelligent cloud to scale productivity and boost collaboration. This migration has enabled the bank to better engage with their customers, empowered their employees, optimise operations and reinvent its products and services.

The writer is cloud and enterprise group lead at Microsoft UAE. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.

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