At the intersection of tech and people

Digital transformation is not just an IT exercise, it’s a people exercise, writes Mohammed Arif, Regional Director, Modern Workplace & Security, Microsoft Gulf

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In almost every country, technologies like the cloud and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are helping businesses of all sizes scale and innovate like never before.


The Gulf region is no different, where public cloud spending is expected to cross $1.1 billion 2018 compared to $952 million last year. When we look at the economic impact for the wider region, being left behind is not an option. It’s estimated that the Middle East is expected to accrue 2 percent of the total global benefits of AI in 2030, which is equivalent to approximately US$320 billion.


With the opportunities for growth and innovation these technologies can offer, CEOs in the region are no longer asking why embracing technology for their businesses is critical, but how they can best embrace technology to empower workers and take their businesses forward.


However, the debate around the so-called “productivity paradox,” is one of the most hotly contested topics in business today, with many remaining perplexed that despite the rapid advances in modern technology, there is a discrepancy in global productivity output. In fact, many economies have witnessed a stagnation and even a decline in productivity levels despite the arrival of the fourth industrial revolution.


What the productivity paradox shows us is that to compete in today’s cloud-first world you not only need modern technology, but you also need a strong digital culture that encourages business leaders to champion technology as critical in helping the company thrive and in helping individuals achieve more.


To this end, successful digital transformation is not just an IT exercise, it’s a people journey.


Working smarter, not harder

In this cloud-first world, businesses across all sectors and of all sizes need to keep pace to ensure they are staying ahead of their competitors. From start-ups to established companies, they must all innovate and collaborate or risk falling behind – disrupt or be disrupted.

When a business equips workers with the right technology and nurtures a strong digital culture, workers not only feel more productive, but they also report much greater ability to work in a flow state.  A flow state is when an employee can bring total focus and energy to whatever task is at hand. This means that people are working smarter, not harder.

People who work in companies with a strong digital culture are also able to work in more creative and collaborative ways. These are the people and the teams who can effectively take on the new challenges a business faces every day as well as identify new market opportunities. In short, these people are the ones who can help future-proof your business.

 War on talent is won or lost on digital culture

With Gen Z entering the labour market, for the first time in history, we have up to five generations in the workforce. Each generation has unique values, perspectives, communication styles and attitudes toward technology.

To help businesses understand how best to empower their employees and improve levels of productivity, Microsoft recently commissioned research examining the interaction of technology and people in the workplace. The study found that businesses with a strong digital culture versus a weak digital culture are likely to have five times as many employees who feel empowered and able to do their jobs to the very best of their ability.

In the ongoing battle to attract and retain the best talent, this is very important for companies wanting to attain a competitive edge, especially for the employees looking for more than just a pay check. These employees want to feel as if they are making an impact personally. For any company looking to future-proof its talent pool, this is an insight to keep front of mind.

The recipe for success

To increase productivity in the workplace, you need a combination of the right technology and a strong digital culture to enable effective use of modern solutions.

Based on the transformation of the workplace, technology providers have had to rethink their approach to delivering technology for the modern workplace. For example, Microsoft recently introduced Microsoft 365, a new family of offerings designed to empower employees to be creative and work together, securely.

The pace and scale of change in the modern workplace is nothing short of astounding. Employee attitudes are changing, and a new culture of work has emerged. Employees are looking for a sense of purpose. They’re becoming more creative, critical and collaborative with colleagues. Harnessing employee ingenuity is becoming vital for businesses to stay successful and remain relevant. Microsoft 365 represents this fundamental shift in how technology for the modern workplace has been designed to address employee’s needs in a mobile-first, cloud-first world, and security is a non-negotiable.

Along with choosing the right technology to support productivity, businesses also need to enable a strong digital culture, which includes providing access to technology support, training, and information; managerial promotion of technology; and a clear understanding of how and why technology is a business priority.

Business leaders with a crystal-clear vision of the role of technology within their organisations will be the most ready for success in an increasingly digital world.


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