Digital competencies have become vital to achieving business goals, but the lack of digital competencies is the key barrier to success for 64% of UAE businesses, according to new research by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
In Benchmarking competencies for digital performance, commissioned by Riverbed, 83% of UAE respondents see digital competencies as being either very or extremely important in achieving, among other things, organisational agility, employee satisfaction, and talent acquisition.
The survey, based on 500 senior business and government leaders across the world including 50 based within the UAE, uncovers a shared awareness among businesses that digital transformation is necessary to achieve their goals and remain competitive. Yet, 64% of UAE organisations say they are struggling to achieve these important goals because they lack digital competencies, which is higher than organisations in North America (54%) and EMEA (56%). In particular, 74% of UAE respondents say that their digital-competency gaps have negatively affected user experience.
The central importance that companies place on improved digital competency appears to be driven by the fact that the majority of businesses that do so are achieving meaningful results. 76% of UAE organisations surveyed report measurable benefits from their digital strategies.
In terms of overcoming this capability gap, the IT function plays a pivotal role. Businesses are aware that IT must be agile, as 72% cite digital product and service innovation as their top digital competency for achieving their goals, with digital workplace transformation and digital talent recruitment, retention and management tying for second in this priority list at 66%. In addition, enabling greater communication and collaboration between IT and the rest of the organisation (where digital competencies may be scarce) can significantly improve digital performance and user experience.
Globally, high performers believe a continual focus is also vital, with 74% of them keen to improving all digital competencies, compared with 80% of all UAE respondents, indicating a potentially greater scope for enhancement of digital competencies in the Emirates. Unlike other respondents, high performers also use a wider approach to developing digital competencies, including establishing a cross-functional digital competency centre of excellence and/or appointing a Chief Digital Officer (CDO).
Robert Powell, Editorial Director of EIU Thought Leadership (Americas), says: “The study shows a clear consensus among respondents that improving digital competency is vital for boosting organisational performance, even if some are not yet witnessing the results. Nevertheless, among the highest performing, the lessons are clear—do not hesitate, encourage internal collaboration, and, even if you feel ahead of your competition, never stop looking over your shoulder.”
Elie Dib, Regional Vice President, EMEA Emerging Markets, at Riverbed said, “Based on the findings of the EIU survey, there is a call to action for enterprises in the region to invest in digital competencies to ensure the long-term success of their business transformation efforts. A mix of initiatives that include employee trainings, adoption of DevOps, allocation of resources focused on driving digital transformation projects across the organisation and the establishment of dedicated centres focused on fostering these competencies will go a long way in enhancing employee productivity, building better digital experiences for customers and consequently improving the bottom line.”