Consulting 4.0 proponents Sia Partners host AI conference in Dubai

23 May 2018

Global management firm Sia Partners has hosted a conference on Artificial Intelligence in the UAE with 60 executives and specialists in attendance, including delegates and speakers from Etisalat’s Smartworld and tech educators Udacity.

Held at the Address Hotel in Dubai, the event, ‘Understanding Artificial Intelligence: Going Beyond The Hype’, brought together business leaders and technology experts to discuss the implications and benefits of AI applications, with subject expert and Deputy-CEO of Sia Partners Jean-Pierre Corniou sharing his belief that persistent negative perceptions surrounding the technology were limiting the implementation of simple AI tools.

“The reality is that machines work for us, not the other way around,” Corniou, the former President of EDS Consulting Services and Chief Information Officer for Renault, told the audience during his presentation. Further panelists at the event included Saeed Al Dhaheri, the Chairman of digital service provider Smartworld; Hisham Elaraby, the managing director of tech-training providers Udacity, and; Carlos Guevara, Partner at Sia and the co-founder of Middle East-based management consultancy ShiftIn Partners - which Sia acquired late last year.

With the pick-up of ShiftIn, Sia Partners expanded its presence in the region to 40 consultants across four local offices, in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, bringing the consulting firm’s global number to 20 outlets and over 1,100 specialists worldwide. Sia Partners also boasts 12 consulting bots among its ranks, developing the technology in line with its push toward ‘Consulting 4.0’, which promotes the Artificial Intelligence revolution within the consulting industry itself.Consulting 4.0 proponents Sia Partners host AI conference in Dubai

Arguing that AI transformations should be embraced by both the consulting industry and the clients it advises, Matthieu Courtecuisse, the CEO and co-founder of Sia, recently stated; “The consulting industry must operate its own cognitive revolution, without being afraid of a future which, I am sure, will prove infinitely more promising than some people fear. Similar to what is happening in industry 4.0, we need to develop a Consulting 4.0. Consulting companies that will stay away from this intelligence revolution will become mere transmitters.”

Courtecuisse concludes; “One thing is certain: the consulting profession today is radically different from the one I knew when I created Sia Partners 18 years ago. Within 3 years, we will be more than 1,500 consultants, still growing and at the same time, we will have developed a hundred consulting bots. No consultant will work without digital tools based on artificial intelligence. We need to develop the ‘augmented consultant’. The struggle between artificial intelligence and human intelligence will no longer exist but a new augmented intelligence will take lead.”

Rather than the common fear of machine learning leading to widespread job losses, the Sia Partners CEO contends that AI augmentation will bring new products and services through greater innovation, describing it as a fundamentally creative process that can generate new roles. The opinions of Courtecuisse and Corniou, speaking at the Sia conference in Dubai, echo those of fellow technology expert and BCG senior advisor Philip Evans, who earlier this month spoke at a similar AI-themed forum hosted by the American strategy firm in Dubai.

“There are some things that machines are inherently incapable of doing and the most obvious one is emotion. They don’t feel emotion, and we know that they’re faking, but we don’t care," Evans previously told a South Korean newspaper, “My own view is that it’s certainly great to be a data scientist, but it will be human emotional intelligence that will become more important in the future as the purely cognitive skills become less important.”

Construction consultancy Drees & Sommer launches innovation hub in Dubai

18 April 2019

The Middle East branch of international construction and real estate consultancy Drees & Sommer has launched a new innovation hub in Dubai

Following the appointment of ex-Ramboll exec Abdulmajid Karanouhas as its Head of Interdisciplinary Design & Innovation earlier this year to spearhead the firm’s R&D drive in the Middle East, the local branch of German-origin construction and real estate consultancy Drees & Sommer has now launched a new innovation hub in Dubai – designed as a collaborative environment to serve both external start-ups and its own employees.

“It has always been part of our corporate culture to promote our own ideas and initiatives,” said Drees & Sommer executive board member Steffen Szeidl. “Increasingly, digital transformation and our clients are calling for completely new and disruptive business models. The Innovation Centre is one of our responses to these challenges. All 3,200 staff members can upload their ideas virtually.”

According to Szeidl, from there, promising concepts and solutions addressing identified market gaps in areas such as planning, construction and operations will be developed, funded and localised for any market which sees the potential. He continues: “Adding the Dubai innovation hub emphasises our status as a global innovation company by being one of the few companies doing R&D in this region.”Construction consultancy Drees & Sommer launches innovation hub in DubaiLocally established in 2003, Drees & Sommer was founded close to 50 years ago in Stuttgart, since growing to include some 40 offices worldwide, with its global headcount of 3,200 professionals generating revenues upwards of $430 million in 2017. The firm’s offerings span the gamut of real estate and infrastructure requirements, delivered according to its ‘blue way’, which takes into account economic, functionality, and ecological aspects together.

This, for Drees & Sommer, is an important point in the regional context.  “There is a huge demand in this market for contextual solutions as most models and systems are imported from abroad with little to no adaptation to the local culture, economy, and environment,” explains Karanouh. “As a consequence of this approach, we are facing major challenges related to user-comfort, efficiency, manageability, durability, and overall sustainability and feasibility of the built environment in the region.”

Accordingly, the firm has tailored each of its innovation hubs rolled out so far across the world to drive specific initiatives. In Aachen, Germany’s ‘Silicon Valley’, for example, there is a focus on customised smart buildings, IoT product testing and cyber-security, while the firm’s Stuttgart hub focuses on start-ups and processes and its Berlin one on smart cities and smart quarters. The Netherlands hub meanwhile focuses on wellbeing and sustainable innovation.

Karanouh: “The innovation hub brings together specialists of various disciplines from across the industry as a single interdisciplinary team that advises clients from early feasibility studies all the way to operation and revitalisation of buildings to maximise comfort, efficiency, sustainability, return of investment and overall value. The platform allows for brainstorming ideas, identifying market gaps and needs, adapting existing solutions or/and developing new solutions tailored to the local market and environment.”