by Andrea Benito

Saudi Arabia KPMG CIO: Prioritise people for IT project success

Apr 11, 2020
Digital TransformationGovernmentIT Governance

Abdulrahman Al-Yahya outlines how KPMG has invested in the region, and lessons learned from the global consultancy's own digital transformation journey.

abdulrahman al-yahya
Credit: Abdulrahman Al-Yahya

The rate of digital disruption is accelerating in every industry. All CIOs today are familiar with the concept of “adapt or die,” and companies worldwide are using technology to offer services that deliver a competitive advantage.

Pressure to complete IT projects in a timely manner is getting more intense. To achieve success in their  transformation journey, many enterprises turn to consulting companies.

“Many senior executives feel their organizations are not capable of driving the transformational changes necessary to create higher-performing organizations,” according to KPMG research on business transformation. The global consulting company has a presence in more than 150 countries and a worldwide workforce exceeding 200,000 employees; it’s one of the Big Four accounting companies. 

Among its services, KPMG aims to help clients improve their results through business transformation, a process that includes strategic definition, operational improvement,  redefinition of processes, and digital transformation – an overhaul of IT platforms to support the business-process changes.

Consultants do digital transformation, too

But consulting companies, including KPMG, go through their own digital transformation journeys, a process where the CIO plays a huge role. Abdulrahman Al-Yahya, CIO at KPMG Saudi Arabia, says the company faced multiple challenges in its own digital transformation journey, part of which included a recent big investment in its Saudi Arabia facilities. He highlights an aspect of transformational change that some IT leaders, in their focus on technology itself, may neglect: the people within an enterpise who make a big impact on — and will be impacted by — digital transformation.

“You need to focus the organization on the common goals set by the leaders and prepare people to use the latest technologies that the firms invest in. If the why and when are not clear for the employees, you are set to fail,” Al-Yahya says.

When organizations fail to achieve their IT project goals, often it is because they have neglected to thoroughly involve all business units, giving them the support needed to make an IT project successful, says Al-Yahya. “Enabling and upskilling employees is important and helps ensure that the organization consumes and leverages on the investments in digital transformation.”

There needs to be a clear vision for IT projects that is well-communicated to all stakeholders. Once C-level executives are on board with the strategy, then companies can foster internal dialog and drive innovation that is needed to keep digital transformation going and making it successful. 

IT governance resiliency allows for shadow IT

Innovation, though, is a continuous process. “This is where the company needs to embrace a level of shadow IT, having either point of contacts, champions or even sometimes small IT functions that have dotted lines to the corporate IT to link the organization together and expedite the adoption of digital transformation plans,” Al-Yahya says.

KPMG believes that is necessary to have a governance structure that is clear, but also flexible and resilient, in order encourage the innovation process. This will make sure that IT is a partner in success rather than an obstacle for the business, while keeping track of all aspects of information security and regulatory compliance — two other key aspects of major business-process change.

“It is also key to keep your IT department updated with the skills [needed] to sustain and manage the transformation plan, either directly or through partnerships,” adds Al-Yahya. “They need to be enabled and upskilled according to the latest market trends and technologies.”

While strategic goals should be made clear, a resilient governance structure also empowers individual staff.

“You need to make sure you foster an environment of ‘can’ rather than ‘can’t,’ encourage failures in the same way you encourage successes. This will always ensure that IT is thinking dynamically and out of the box rather than traditionally,” Al-Yahya says.

IT budgets are growing

The KPMG CIO Survey is one of the largest IT leadership surveys in the world, with more thanr 3,600 responses from CIOs and technology executives across 108 countries in 2019. The poll showed that CIOs gloablly are benefiting from bigger budgets and headcount growth. The 2019 survey saw the largest proportion yet of organizations increasing their investment in technology.

KPMG itself has made a huge commitment to investing in tech.

“Within our global KPMG practice, it is clear that IT is considered as a differentiator in our field, underlined recently by the commitment to invest US$5 billion in technology globally over the coming five years. A large part of these global investments is directed at the local market by the means of a new platform for the audit, tax, and advisory solutions,” says Al-Yahya. “In Saudi Arabia, we have invested over US$8 million in the past two years in new technologies, solutions and upskilling our employees to support our digital transformation journey.”

Insights Center in Riyadh

KPMG Saudi Arabia launched its first regional Insights Center in Riyadh in February. The opening of the new center is the culmination of an MoU (memorandum of understanding) agreement first inked with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in 2018.

“Our Insights Center is the center point of our new building in Riyadh, representing only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to KPMG data-driven technology,” says Al-Yahya. “The KPMG Lighthouse, our center of excellence for data-driven technology, is the engine powering our Insights Center, providing the data management framework, the AI platform Ignite and the ‘Signals Repository’ that can harvest data from public and private sources and visualize them to enable data-driven decision making.” The Ignite AI platform incorporates open source tools, KPMG-developed IP, various AI frameworks, and technologies from KPMG partnerships.

The Insights Center was designed to showcase interactive technologies and provide the opportunity to build real-life business scenarios. The center in Riyadh is connected to 19 other centers around the globe, leveraging the capabilities of the global KPMG network.

Al-Yahya explains that the Insights Center “is also our way to support [the Saudi government’s] Vision 2030, directly in areas that will contribute to many of the vision’s programs in partnership with the ministry of communications & IT and other public sector entities; and our private sector partners, too.”