Leaders from the UAE’s industrial, education and private sectors have defined skills, collaboration and mindset as key factors required to develop an ecosystem for digitalization to flourish, during the first in a series of Siemens Digitalization Roadshows. The themes emerged during a day packed with debates, designed to investigate the challenges and opportunities facing companies and institutions, and the factors required to ensure success with the digital transformation.
“Digitalization is happening now - we have to embrace it,” said Samer Bohsali, Partner and Leader of the Digital Business and Technology practice at Strategy&, in an opening keynote. “You need to ask yourself where you want to be. Do you want to use digitalization to facelift your organization? Or do you want to be disruptive? If you really want to protect yourself from the competition, you have to go as far as you possibly can.”
Leadership was a recurring theme when discussing the mindset required to drive a digital transformation. Dietmar Siersdorfer, CEO, Siemens Middle East and UAE noted that while vision from the top is crucial, making sure the rest of the organization is empowered to bring about meaningful change is essential. “It’s important to empower people inside your company because even if you have a solid digital strategy, you can still fail if the rest of the organization isn’t on board,” he said. “The digital transformation has to be embraced by everybody, but the CEO needs to drive the change.”
Bohsali agrees, saying that leadership is about ownership and vision. “If you want to use digitalization as a disrupter, it has to come from the top,” he said. “It will never work unless the CEO himself pushes the agenda.”
Ghazi Atallah, CEO, NXN Group noted that those charged specifically with driving digital change should also be proactive, saying: “The CEO should be visionary, but CIOs should be more ambitious in the way they can affect the company. Don’t wait for the CEO to tell you – you need to be ambitious and effect change as a business.”
Ultimately, Bohsali says firms must carefully review their operating mindset when considering any digital transformation, and go about it with an agile, failure-friendly attitude. “You have to embrace a culture of learn-fast, learn often,” he said.
Ensuring the right skills are present in the regional market is a challenge faced by all, and Husain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of AUS Enterprise noted that digital change will require investment in education. “The youth will decide what the future looks like,” he said, adding that it’s important to invest in research, development and innovation to drive transformation across universities in the UAE.
Siemens has invested around EUR10 billion in software in the last decade, which is essential for ensuring the right tools are available to those who need them, Siersdorfer pointed out. “Technology, innovation and training are so important in giving today’s generation the freedom they need to bring about change,” he said, “which is also why we are granting up to EUR100 million in software licenses to universities in the UAE.”
The grant was inspired by the UAE’s Year of Giving and seeks to educate students on MindSphere, Siemens’ open, cloud-based Internet of Things (IoT) operating system for industry, and the company’s Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software. It is also part of the company’s focus on supporting the UAE’s ambitions to build a knowledge-based economy.
Adding to the conversation on skills and education for the digital era, Atallah said: “Data skills will be the most important moving forward. You need to find the right people who can make sense of data, and create decisions from it.”
Badr Al Olama, Head of Mubadala Aerospace, is confident that younger generations are already well placed to drive digital change. “We need people who want to change the world. We need people who are versatile, willing to learn and able to get things done,” he said. “I believe the younger generation is very open-minded, and very switched on.”
There was also common agreement on the importance of technology decisions in the overall digitalization journey. “You cannot think about digitalization in the context of one technology, no matter how good it is,” said Bohsali.
Thinking outside your own organization when considering the digital transformation is also vital, according to Al Olama. “There is a responsibility to educate the customer of the full potential of what digitalization can do,” he told the panel. “It’s not just about the next IoT platform; the customer has to understand what it can do for them. This is where we must focus on using digitalization to solve a problem, to build a better experience for our customers and stakeholders.”
He also referenced the recent collaboration between Siemens, Strata and Etihad to produce the MENA’s first 3D printed part for aircraft interiors as a prime example of how partnerships are key to the local deployment of digitalization technologies.
NXN Group’s Atallah also sees collaboration as an important factor. “The transformation of a city is a shared responsibility,” he said. “A transformation programme should be holistic, not just government or private sector.”
Partnerships will also be crucial in education and skill development. “We see universities in the UAE playing a bigger role towards building a knowledge economy,” said Al Mahmoudi. “The more synergies we have between the private and public sectors and academia, the better our results will be.”
The Dubai Digitalization Roadshow was the first in a regional series, which makes its next stop in Abu Dhabi on May 23rd before moving to Kuwait City, Doha and Cairo. Also taking part in the panel sessions and discussing the potential of digitalization in creating value for customers were Pieter-Jon Buitelaar, Head of Infrastructure and Data Management, and General Manager of Atos in the Middle East, Dr. Abdelqader Abusafieh, Head of R&D, Aerospace Communication Technology and Defense Services, Mubadala, and Assem Khalaili, Executive Vice President of Industry Services, Siemens Middle East.
“Our intention with the roadshows is to encourage open, honest and meaningful dialogue between key stakeholders in the digital transformation,” said Dietmar Siersdorfer. “We want to address the challenges, share knowledge and develop a roadmap for the implementation of digitalization, building stronger businesses, economies and societies.”
Siemens is a Premier Partner for Intelligent Infrastructure and Operations for Expo 2020 Dubai, and will implement MindSphere, an open operating system for the Internet of Things, for the optimization of energy and building management at the site.