Vodafone Qatar has been named Knowledge Sponsor of Qatar University’s Innovation Day which was held on May 27, 2015 with the presence of students and faculty. QU Innovation Day entailed a number of speakers including Simone Eliantonio, Head of Strategic Projects & Innovation at Vodafone Qatar, who spoke about the importance of adopting a more digital model for business success and continuity. In addition, Vodafone’s Al Johara team joined the Innovation Day to speak to students about how the adoption of digital transformation can positively and strongly impact the level of customer experience in any business or industry, sharing related Vodafone case studies.
Eliantonio gave the example of Kodak whose team invented digital photography back in 1975 but were not capable to embrace the innovation on a corporate level to the point that they kept that innovation hidden, didn’t monetize it and, years later, the new digital photography industry pushed them from a leader position to a marginal one. Eliantonio said: “Digital technologies are the keys that drive innovation in our time. Digital technologies are to the 21st century what steam power was to the industrial revolution and for digital transformation to happen, businesses must look at a complete framework that touches upon customer experience, operations and business model.”
Companies that commit to digital transformation across all aspects of the business simply do better. Capgemini Consulting’s now famous analysis of 184 publicly-traded global companies found this to be true in terms of revenue generation efficiency, profitability and market valuation.
This is also true for smaller businesses. A widely-cited survey of 4,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in various industries around the world showed that digital transformation leaders created jobs almost twice as fast as other small businesses.
While glistening gateway cities like Doha, Dubai, and Riyadh are set to spend big on ICT infrastructure and have doubled down on public programs supporting entrepreneurship and SMEs, the burden to help deliver the envisaged economic future has now shifted to the SMEs themselves. Those companies that have both a strong vision to transform digitally and a long-term commitment to managing that change across the business, will win.
Eliantonio continued: “SMEs across MENA have more to gain than anyone else by joining the digital revolution. But there is a glaring gap between the way consumers in MENA use digital technology and the way small companies do. Mind-blowing smartphone penetration, a huge appetite for data, and multiple SIM ownership keep individuals in the Middle East – particularly the Gulf - more connected that most.”
For SMEs however, the picture looks very different, explains Eliantonio. A recent report by Deloitte shed light on ICT adoption by SMEs in the region. In Qatar, as one example, over 55 percent of SMEs have no presence on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram, while 83 percent of Qatari SMEs spent less than 10 percent of their budget on ICT services.
The costs of continuing on this course are high but so too are the opportunities for the digitally-transformed SME in the Middle East. To win the long game - capturing efficiencies, new customers, insights and revenue streams - SMEs in MENA’s Digirati must think well beyond websites, cloud and e-commerce - the traditional prescription for digital transformation. They must rethink and redefine digitisation as more enabler than communications channel; as both an opportunity and a threat.
On making this happen, Eliantonio said: “To implement a true digital transformation framework, entrepreneurs and managers must take a fresh inward at three key pillars of their business: Customer Experience; Business Operations; and Business Model.”
With respect to Customer Experience, digital solutions can support any business in enhancing its reach – instead of relying only on word-of-mouth publicity or more expensive and less interactive forms of advertisement – by creating a wider and more engaged customer base for its products and services; Digital Solutions can also enable each company to have a better insight of what their customers like and don’t like, allowing them to invest their resources in a more focused way.
Digitally-enabled Operations – rather than paper based ones – can support even small companies to be more effective in their everyday tasks and to be ready to easily expand to new locations or new international markets when needed.
Digital solutions can enable innovative new Business Models that would not be possible otherwise. This is by far the most complicated opportunity to seize, but it can be the biggest one of all. Google, Facebook, WhatsApp and Amazon – for example - were not possible before the digital era.
Eliantonio then ended his talk with a view on the role of telecom providers in supporting innovation for SMEs and said: “Telecommunications providers have a central role to play in supporting SMEs on this journey. Just as the rise of instant messaging is ushering in an era of innovation, exploration and new revenue streams in our own industry, SMEs must be ready for what’s next. Digitisation is a top priority for us at Vodafone in Qatar and across the world and we are aggressively looking at new ways to help SMEs also make it a priority. As a telecom provider, we need more digitally enhanced companies in our ecosystem as digital awareness creates further demand for telecom services.”
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