Digital transformation in a post-pandemic world

Sergio Maccotta, senior vice president & general manager – Middle East South, SAP discusses how innovation leaders such as SAP have introduced solutions designed to help businesses in the post-COVID-19 global economy

SAP, Digital transformation, Covid-19

COVID-19 sparked an unprecedented global health crisis around the world and ushered us to a ‘new normal’ way of working from home almost overnight. Not all companies were ready to adapt to this unexpected disruption, and business suffered. Many organisations faced massive structural changes and looked at alternative business strategies to sustain themselves through this global pandemic. But there is always an upside to every crisis – innovation leaders such as SAP have introduced innovative solutions specifically designed to help businesses in the post-COVID-19 global economy.

Winning in the new normal

We are a long way from business as usual these days, as many of us juggle work and home responsibilities, having video conferences interrupted by our kids, dogs barking and kitchen appliances whirring in the background. The way we live, work, play and consume has been turned upside down and most changes will not be reverted. According to a new study by Gartner, 74% of CFOs intend to permanently shift employees to remote working after the pandemic. We have been forced to embrace the new ‘future of work’ and we have quickly adapted to this change. But the question remains, how will businesses evolve? Many companies in the Middle East have already embraced the vast potential that a digital world makes possible. CIOs across the region have the vision and the appetite to accelerate digital transformations, tapping into technologies such as Cloud and AI to overcome the crisis we find ourselves in. 

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Indeed, countries in the Middle East, and particularly the GCC, were early adopters of cloud solutions, which has made it easier for them to quickly embrace the latest innovations. Last year a YouGov survey, conducted by SAP, showed that 88 percent of UAE companies increased their cloud spend in 2019, with 83 percent running partially or entirely on the cloud. It also found that 76 percent of IT decision-makers in the UAE agree that cloud is essential for integrating the benefits from Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, the Internet of Things, and blockchain.

Digitalisation enables new and improved processes and can help companies build resilience to reimagine their business post-COVID-19. In the coming months and years, organisations that can smartly integrate Artificial Intelligence with cloud, the Internet of Things and blockchain will see the biggest business benefit.

Customer experience, revisited

The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought about a renewed focus on enhancing citizen and customer experiences, especially as more services must be delivered remotely. Customer experience is especially important for industries such as banking and finance, retail, supply chain, logistics, and healthcare that need to transform how they engage with customers through digital platforms.

SAP recently held one of the largest technology events in the region, SAP NOW Middle East South, showcasing digital solutions specifically designed to help organisations navigate both the pitfalls and opportunities their business may face during the COVID-19 era and beyond. With over 2,300 registrations, and 600 visitors from the UAE, Oman, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon and Libya, it set a new record for SAP virtual events.

The number of attendees and the level of engagement across different countries and industries were incredible. Executives in the Middle East have always realised the value of digital transformation. The current circumstances have only amplified the need to prioritise it.

SAP’s global flagship conference, SAPPHIRE NOW, was also reimagined to go virtual for the first time. The event usually draws huge crowds every year in Orlando, Florida. Today, technology has transformed this conference into a massive complete digital experience, with over one million views and 200.000 attendees: more than 5 times the reach of the previous on-site version. Attendees could experience innovation through both live and on-demand sessions hosted by SAP leaders, Customers and Partners, as well as guests from some of the world’s leading companies like Porsche and Chobani.

To match customer experience demand and further help companies’ resilience, SAP has opened access to SAP Ariba Discovery for real-time procurement between buyers and sellers to maintain the supply chain. SAP has also opened access to TripIt Pro from Concur to manage safe, easy and changing travel itineraries.

Together with our partners, SAP and Qualtrics continuously collaborate to provide resources to governments around the world as they battle the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic. This includes access to resources such as COVID-19 Pre-Screening and Routing, Dynamic Call Center Script, Healthcare Workforce Pulse, and Critical Care Protocol Solution.

In Germany, in less than 50 days of development, together with Deutsche Telecom, SAP published the Corona Warning App downloaded by 8 million citizens in less than 2 days.

Re-evaluating the future of work

COVID-19 jolted organisations into remote working, also necessitating a re-evaluation of skills relevant to rapidly changing technology. An educated and skilled workforce positively impacts the overall development of the economy, making it critical to assess skills gaps accurately and provide the necessary training to fill them.

There is an immediate need to upskill the existing workforce with digital skills as the region continues to transform digitally. According to a recent report by strategy&, the GCC countries will need to fill more than 3 million digital jobs by 2025. Some employers have been encouraging employees to re-examine their skill set and participate in remote trainings and coaching programs. Post-crisis, organisations will likely continue the reskilling trend to develop a workforce with the capabilities needed to anticipate and manage the unexpected.

In this together

Relationships are built when times are good, but they are put to the test when times are tough. SAP lives by its purpose today more than ever: to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. Customers and members of the community will not forget soon gestures of kindness and solidarity during these challenging times.

Considering the pandemic, for example, SAP recently launched TrackYourBed, a responsive, Web-based solution that indicates hospital bed availability in real-time. The company is currently exploring further investments in this and many other ventures as part of the SAP One Billion Lives initiative, a social intrapreneurship program that allows employees to use their skills to make a difference to their communities.

The COVID-19 outbreak has proven that companies can stand together for a common purpose, providing hope in a time of crisis, and opportunity in a time of change. The customer-first imperative must remain the building block for businesses across the region. Coupled with digitalisation, businesses truly have the power to reimagine the customer experience and capitalise on disruption to thrive in the new normal.

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