Data, digital experts in high demand by Middle East retail CEOs

A new PwC survey found that the need for a digitally-savvy workforce is a pressing concern for retail CEOs
Data, digital experts in high demand by Middle East retail CEOs
Majid Al Futtaim, for example, in 2017 announced the launch of a School of Analytics and Technology at the company’s Dubai-based Leadership Institute, which is designed to enhance the company’s analytics capabilities and teach employees the skills necessary for data analytics to be implemented across its various verticals.
By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Mon 25 Mar 2019 10:06 AM

Changing consumer habits and economic and geopolitical uncertainties are among the most pressing concerns for retail CEOs in 2019, according to a new survey from PwC.

According to the survey, a push towards digitalisation has been cited by 88 percent of retail CEOs as a top priority, while 50 percent identified cost optimisation and restructuring. The same number also said they were prioritising a shortage of digital talent and training.

“The talent part is becoming more and more evident. The concern is that retailers have simply not focused on that before,” said Norma Taki, consumer markets leader at PwC Middle East. “It’s now at the forefront….but we are late to the game.”

In the past, Taki said, cost optimisation and restructuring were considered “taboo” in the Middle East.

“Everyone had such huge pockets,” she said. “It’s interesting that it’s now on the table and being discussed…this is critical from a Middle East perspective. Most organisations and retailers here have been structured for double digit growth that they’ve enjoyed for many years.”

“The new norm and reality of what growth would be is hitting hard,” she added. “The structure does not support that and needs to be dealt with.”

Additionally, Taki said that retail CEOs are still not “doing enough” with the vast amount of data they collect.

“We’re not doing enough in terms of analysing and using that,” she said.

Re-train staff

To do so, many companies are increasingly seeking to re-train staff members or hire new employees to reflect the need for data analytics.

Majid Al Futtaim, for example, in 2017 announced the launch of a School of Analytics and Technology at the company’s Dubai-based Leadership Institute, which is designed to enhance the company’s analytics capabilities and teach employees the skills necessary for data analytics to be implemented across its various verticals.

“We need data scientists. We need people who have done this before on the ground. We don’t need digital visionaries, and we don’t need strategies,” Taki said. “There are a limited number of resources and they are being grabbed very quickly.”

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