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Mon 13 Nov 2017 03:25 PM

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Corporations discuss how to adapt to new digital reality

Top industry experts debate dramatic versus incremental change in adapting to a digital future

Corporations discuss how to adapt to new digital reality

Top industry experts said companies need to adapt their structure and culture to digital waves of change that are sweeping the global business world at the Arabian Business Forum on Monday.

Panellists at the conference discussed whether companies should tear down their existing structures in adapting to digital change in a panel moderated by prominent UK broadcaster Andrew Neil.

Head of Retail at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank's (ADIB) Philip King stressed the importance of incremental change, in a company’s process of transformation.

"We've seen a huge penetration of our mobile app transactions, year on year," King told the panellists.

Yet when they went back to their clients for feedback, the ease of online banking while appreciated, made customers miss the bygone days of human interaction with financial advisers.

"If we'd completely, dramatically thrown away our model, we could have risked alienating 70 percent of our customer base,” King said.

One of the major roadblocks to change is structural, and with company culture set by those running the company, changes difficult to implement, panellists said.

One way of doing it, said Careem Vice President for Corporate Development, Zach Finkelstein is to create a new unit in the company, with a culture of innovation where people can take risks and experiment with trying new things.

"I think we shouldn't downplay the importance of incremental change," said Finkelstein.

"You can carve out different divisions and organisation structures where different groups are able to operate with different rules to create a part of the company that is being built from the ground up.”

Ali Kassab Chairman of telecoms advisory firm Centurion & Co. said the government has a big role to play in rearing the region’s local talent pool in being the next ICT disruptors, as the Middle East is trailing behind.

"We don't capture in the Middle East more than one percent of the revenue from ICT companies in the world. We need to capture more initiation, more startups more e-commerce to push that innovation further."

"There should be a national digital agency in each country to foster digital innovation and digital structures. Technology is very important but we need to pay attention to processes aswell," he said.

Alper Celen, COO of strategic consultants Tahseen Consulting, concluded that adopting new technology on its own isn't enough to help companies cope in the age of digital transformation.

“It can give you a competitive advantage in the short-term, but not in the medium-long term,” he said.

The one-day Arabian Business Forum 2017 kicked-off in Dubai on Monday, with top industry professionals examining the future of business  digital revolution.

The event is hosted by the Middle East's largest publishers ITP ahead of the Arabian Future Stars Awards on Monday night.