Just 7% of Middle East companies are tapping into $575 billion market

Image courtesy of Accenture

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By Xavier Anglada, managing director and Accenture Digital lead in the Middle East

In today’s business landscape, innovation is power, and this time-tested ideology remains a cornerstone for successful companies. Now more than ever, there is an emphasis on using innovation to help organisations tap into their business potential.

According to Accenture’s Middle East Innovation Maturity Index, conducted across 275+ companies in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, only 7 per cent of firms are tapping into the $575 billion worth of opportunities resulting from innovative digital technologies.

In addition to identifying methods to “wise-pivot” to become more data-driven and hyper-relevant to customers, these innovation champions are employing state-of-the-art digital-based models, improving their core operations, and leading by example – gearing up for a fundamental shift in how businesses are run. 

Simply put, the innovation champions are harnessing the potential of abundant data to fuel a revolving cycle of sustainable growth. In doing so, they are taking key steps to maintain their competitive edge and continued success through:

  1. Building a solid data foundation. 64 per cent of innovation champions have a thorough knowledge of what data they have, where it resides, where it flows, who uses it, and how. They integrate data across their organisations in a structured way through building a solid data platform, putting the right architecture in place and taking an active role in establishing the foundational capabilities related to master data management of critical data domains. This provides them with fast access to trustworthy data that can be used to derive insights and support real-time decision-making.
  2. Operationalising data governance. Innovation champions operationalise their data governance by focusing on metadata management and data veracity. For example, 71 per cent have adopted guidelines, standards, and other governance measures to ensure data compliance and the effective interoperability of their systems. Through controlling and managing data at scale, they leverage it as an enterprise-wide strategic asset.
  3. Converting data into insights and action. Innovation champions generate analytical insights to create insight-powered enterprises, integrating data-driven decisions across business functions. They develop advanced analytics strategies and explore the potential of artificial intelligence (AI). More than two-thirds have established well-defined objectives for their analytics strategy, as well as a robust operating model for their analytics teams.
  4. Realising value from data. Innovation champions ensure that their data and analytics strategy generates business benefits and delivers sustainable returns. To realise value from their data, they employ data-driven business models, effectively manage data performance, and implement data value trackers. Accenture’s research shows that 65 per cent of innovation champions are 42 per cent more likely than other companies to prioritise data over instinct when making decisions.

What’s even more surprising is the fact that an alarming 71 per cent of the surveyed C-suite executives confirmed their lack of confidence in the ability of their existing company protocols to withstand the fast-approaching disruption. Moreover, 79 per cent of respondents said that their company doesn’t plan to increase its current investment in innovation over the next five years.

Middle Eastern companies need to act fast but smart. To successfully unlock $575 billion in trapped business value across the region, firms must “wise-pivot” to overcome certain hurdles, specifically:

  1. Poor data quality. Statistically, regardless of industry, data scientists typically spend about 80 per cent of their time “scrubbing” data – preparing and organising it for use. Companies in the Middle East need to adopt a similar approach and sort their data, bolstering trust among managers to use the reported numbers and make necessary adjustments. 
  2. Slow-moving and siloed data. Companies often find themselves unable to control and manage data at scale. They need to apply protocols to operationalise and leverage data strategically and securely.
  3. Absence of a data culture and strategy. Data alone cannot unlock trapped value. To create a culture that allows them to monetise data, firms must develop a strategy to grow or acquire the necessary data analytics skills, and help employees harness them.

Factoring in all these findings, one thing is certain – numbers don not lie. Paying special attention to current major disruptions and implementing key practices will undoubtedly bring significant economic benefits. Ultimately, the enterprises that employ innovation as a source of disruption are the ones that can successfully transform their entire strategy to make it more future-focused.

With that in mind, a word of caution for Middle Eastern companies: If they do not find a way to release their trapped value, somebody else will. Those failing to embrace the transformative power of innovation risk falling by the wayside.

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