Saudi executives to take digital transformation to the next level

18 March 2021 4 min. read

“Every business is a technology business” – a core realisation that executives in Saudi Arabia and around the world have had over the last year according to Accenture. The firm has traced the progress of technology in business, leading up to the pandemic and beyond.

Accenture surveyed more than 6,000 businesses and tech leaders from 27 countries globally – including Saudi Arabia. The context is the pandemic’s impact on business, and the result is a broad-based effort to adapt using the latest in technology.

“The global pandemic pushed a giant fast forward button to the future,” noted Accenture’s global chief technology officer Paul Daugherty. The report laid down five definitive technology trends for each of the last two years, in a bid to highlight the radical shifts that will likely unfold in 2021.

Technology trends over three years

In 2019, businesses were feeling their way around new technology such as distributed ledgers, artificial intelligence, extended reality and quantum computing. They were learning the value of data in personalising customer experience; putting people at the heart of their processes; realising the need for security to protect their entire ecosystem; and working to meet changing consumer needs instantly.

2020 saw businesses empower the customer to build their own digital journey. Human-AI collaboration in the workplace climbed up the agenda; businesses started working with customers to keep pace with constantly updating smart products; robotics moved beyond its enterprise-support avatar, to make improvements in the “open world”; and innovation became a culture rather than a sporadic set of actions.

The five trends for 2021 stem from a fundamental shift in how businesses view technology – as explained in a national context by David Deschamps, Technology lead at Accenture Middle East. “In Saudi Arabia, 74% of executives realise that their organisation’s business and technology strategies are becoming inseparable – even indistinguishable.”

Technology strategy is now aligned with business strategy

Globally, nearly 40% have aligned the two strategies, while another 30% have put technology in the driver’s seat of business direction. A visionary 13% of businesses have actually enlarged the role of technology across all business functions, even extending to environmental, social and governance (ESG) targets. Some alignment is visible even among the rest – albeit to a lesser extent.

2021’s tech trends

With this integrated approach in mind, five tech trends are touted to stand out in 2021. One, businesses are inclined to “stack strategically” – where the entire IT infrastructure of a business is built with strategic goals in mind. Second is the rise of the “mirrored world” via digital twins technology, where physical industrial components – factories, supply chains, etc – are simulated in a living digital environment, enabling risk-free experimentation and innovation.

Third, “I, technologist” – refers to the democratisation of technology, driven by modern, user-friendly development tools that allow every employee to conceptualise and implement digital innovation. Trend number four is “anywhere, everywhere” – a direct product of Covid-19 where businesses are investing in technology to enable seamless remote working.

Key areas of investment for 2021

Last on the list is a shift “from me to we” – a realisation that cross-ecosystem collaboration is crucial to building the trust and flexibility required in the new normal. In short, the transformations expected this year range through the business lifecycle – from tech infrastructure through working models and all the way to customers, collaborators and third parties.

And businesses are investing in the requisite technology. Industry 4.0 tools such as cloud technology, AI and Internet of Things (IoT) are being scaled by a third to half of all global businesses, while 5G, digital twins technology and robotic process automation are entering the experimental arena.

According to Deschamps, 86% of Saudi organisations agree that a cloud-driven transformation is critical for the agility and resilience required this year, which “truly indicates the fast-evolving nature of business in the Kingdom, especially post Covid-19.”

For Daugherty, the next year could be a historically transformative one. “We now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to turn this moment of truth for technology into a moment of trust — embracing the power of exponential technology change to completely reimagine and rebuild the future of business and human experience.”