The year of democratising digital transformation


Tech player Artificial intelligence, Nidal Abou-Ltaif  says, will play a major role in the future, particularly in the banking sector.

We are already witnessing the emergence of a digital divide: by 2020, every business will be either a digital predator or digital prey, according to Forrester Research. Digital disruptors are driving change everywhere, including in the Middle East, with people watching entertainment on Netflix, booking rides through Careem, and finding places to stay via Airbnb.

However, according to a recent Forbes article, as many as 84 percent of digital transformation projects fail, with half the Forbes Global 2000 companies having struggled. Other studies have shown similar results. In boardrooms everywhere, executives are debating how they can ensure their companies make it to the right side of this digital divide. My advice? Get out of the boardroom.

Far too many management teams fail to engage the most important stakeholder groups in transformation projects — their own workers. What too many companies fail to grasp when they start on transformation journeys is that when people don’t understand change, they are often fearful of it.

So while management may see digital transformation (DX) as a business opportunity, workers regard it as extra hassle that is unlikely to bring them any reward. And if staff aren’t convinced of the merits of a digital transformation plan, they are unlikely to be convincing advocates of that plan to external customers.

Any transformation project is only going to succeed if you obtain buy-in at all levels — the leadership team has to be committed to driving it, workers need to be convinced to get on board, and customers and partners have to see benefit.

Emirates NBD is leading the regional banking sector for innovation, with a customer-centric strategy that places delivering superior customer experience at the heart of all DX initiatives. However, the bank doesn’t just focus on what customers see — innovation is embedded in all processes, with staff at all levels committed to driving it, including in the contact centre. The bank will shortly launch its virtual assistant — EVA, capable of delivering a personalised experience to customers powered by data analytics.

Most companies aren’t going to be able to achieve their goals on their own. Since transformation is something that companies almost by default tend to do only infrequently, many organisations simply don’t have the specialist skills available in-house to handle digital transformation on their own.

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Therefore, companies need to find trusted partners and build an ecosystem around them that can help them achieve their objectives. For many traditional companies, this also requires a significant shift in mindset — companies that are used to operating by their own rules may be reluctant to open their doors to others.

One company we are working with closely to drive digital transformation is Dnata, a member of Emirates Group. Avaya Private Cloud Services is working with other companies, including Vodafone and Equinix, to combine core competencies and deliver best-of-breed solutions to Dnata, helping to create a seamless, personalised experience for dnata customers and partners and across every communication platform in the customer journey.

So driving success in digital transformation is not about a top-down, dictatorial approach, it is about being open and working with internal teams and external partners. In short, companies need to democratise digital transformation.

At Avaya, we believe this democratisation of digital is going to be a key trend for 2017. We believe in open platforms, an ecosystem to drive innovation, and taking a customer and employee driven approach, with our customers able to move at their own pace and path on their digital transformation journeys. So when we talk about DX, the most important ‘D’ isn’t for digital.

Nidal Abou-Ltaif, President, Avaya International

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