Building a digital competitive advantage

How to achieve competitive advantage through digital transformation



The new digital revolution

According to the October 2016 McKinsey report, ‘Digital Middle East’, the digital economy accounts for just 4.1 percent of the region’s GDP – only 50 percent that of the United States.

Why go digital? The McKinsey report found, based on global studies, that businesses that harness digital grow faster and enjoy greater productivity. It also benefits society – bringing more jobs, higher incomes, and better services. Overall, the report found that successful and comprehensive digital transformation can boost a company’s bottom line by more than 50 percent over five years.

This creates a huge opportunity to leverage digital in your organization as a competitive advantage. The region is already moving forward, with examples such as Saudi Arabia’s National Transformation Program 2020 prioritizing digital transformation as a top-four Common National Goal.

Here’s how to make better use of digital in your organization.


Start with your people

The productivity benefits of digital add up quickly. Digital productivity tools allow employees to complete tasks faster and stay more organized. They also allow people to stay informed and connected wherever they are – enabling the organization to become more agile and grow quicker.

These tips will help you to boost productivity and competitive advantage through digital empowerment:

Consider BYOD (bring your own device): Smartphones are hot property in the Middle East – in the UAE for example, up to 80 percent of people now own one, McKinsey reports. Letting people use their own devices for work tasks such as email can help to create a more productive and flexible workplace. It also saves on IT spending, while making your organization more appealing to younger ‘digital natives’.

Digitize your talent management: Digital is revolutionizing HR, making it mandatory for forward-thinking organizations. For instance, machine learning-based applications can target people with personalized job postings and ads. Similar technology can also help new staff onboard faster, learn new skills more quickly, and become more engaged through better skills alignment.

Foster collaboration: Before investing in any new digital technology, ask whether it helps your teams work smarter, and collaborate more effectively across different functions. From communication to project management, digital offers an abundance of options. Examples include remote conferencing and screen sharing apps, task management tools, and cloud-based shared workspaces.

Encourage innovation: When it comes to carving out a competitive advantage, early adoption is key. Identify your technology enthusiasts, and give them leadership roles in a disciplined “test and learn” approach to identifying new digital initiatives. By encouraging new ideas, you’ll help employees become more engaged in their jobs while helping the organization grow.


Implement the new technology and culture

It is always normal for the introduction of new digital technology into the workplace to face some initial resistance. It can collide with established processes or experience pushback from senior employees who feel uneasy about the new technology.

Here are some ways to streamline new technology implementation and make it less overwhelming for employees:

Set key dates: Let everyone affected know in advance when the new technology will be rolled out. Also, let them know whether they can continue using old technology or processes – and if so, for how long.

Deployment levels: Will the new digital technology be rolled out to all employees at once? Or will you need to onboard specific groups individually, so that they can each receive specialized training?

Training requirements: What types of training will be needed? Offer a range of different learning options, such as online courses, video, and one-on-one instruction for employees who need a little extra help.

Manage expectations: It’s likely that you’ll have early adopters, as well as people who take longer than average to get comfortable with the new technology. Will you offer incentives to people who are using it more effectively? Make sure your expectations are kept realistic.

A successful digital transformation takes time. There will be organizational and cultural challenges to overcome on the way. If employee success and productivity are at the core of your digital plans, the rest of the organization will likewise benefit.

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