by Sooraj Shah

UAE CIOs are confident in their organizations’ capabilities, but why?

Aug 14, 2019
CIOIT LeadershipIT Strategy

Chief information officers in the United Arab Emirates are quicker to deploy emerging tech like AI, blockchain, and quantum computing.

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Chief information officers (CIOs) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are more confident than the global average in four out of five technology-related capabilities, according to a global CIO survey.

Though CIOs in UAE may be lagging behind their counterparts in other regions in cloud adoption, they are early implementers of various emerging technologies, the latest Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey shows.

The survey, which claims to be the largest IT leadership study in the world, with more than 3,600 respondents across 108 countries, asked CIOs how effective their organization was at five key technology capabilities. Fifty-seven of the 3,600 respondents were from the UAE.

Each of the capabilities can be considered a core part of an enterprise in which  technology is no longer considered a support mechanism for IT, but is embedded into the business in order to achieve strategic goals.

Respondents were first asked how effective their organization was at changing ways of working to maximise the value from technology. Thirty-nine percent of UAE CIOs selected “extremely” or “very effective” compared to the global average of 31 percent. This suggests a higher proportion of CIOs in the region had already worked on changing the way the company worked – whether that included remote or flexible working, or introducing concepts such as agile development or DevOps.

Companies support cross-functional teams

There was a similar disparity between the global average of CIOs (33 percent) and UAE CIOs (38 percent) when asked how effective their organization was with using cross-functional teams within the business. UAE CIOs were more confident than their global counterparts in their ability to ensure business leaders work collaboratively to deliver technology change, and at using internal and external resources to access the right technology skills.

A higher proportion of UAE CIOs also said their organizations were extremely or very effective in: identifying and managing key security and privacy issues across technology development and operations; building customer trust; maintaining an enterprisewide data management strategy; and maximizing value from the data held.

The global average was slightly higher only when respondents were asked about ensuring non-IT staff had the right technology skills, with 19 percent of UAE CIOs stating their organization was very effective at this, just 1 percent under the worldwide response.

So why are CIOs in the UAE ahead of their global counterparts when it comes to believing in their effectiveness in these core areas?

The confidence of the CIOs comes from having started their digital transformation journey a few years ago, according to Mohammed Majid, director of digital & innovation, KPMG Lower Gulf, 

“At this point in time they are at a more mature stage, with a perceived probability of higher success,” he says.

Companies are also working with consultancies to identify and implement the right technologies  to match their IT ambitions and help develop more effective relationships with their customers, Majid adds.

In addition, he believes that the UAE government’s continued promotion of tech innovation, including national programs such as the Smart Dubai 2021 Strategy, the UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence and UAE Vision 2021, have all had a profound effect on industry in the region as a whole.

UAE CIOs also have tried many of the emerging technologies that can support them through their IT journeys —  which may give them confidence about the future.

When CIOs were asked which technologies they had implemented to some extent, a higher proportion of UAE CIOs had implemented five of the eight biggest emerging or established technologies compared to the global average. This included quantum computing (6 percent compared to 3 percent), blockchain (14 percent compared to 6 percent), augmented reality/virtual reality (19 percent to 9 percent), and robotic process automation (29 percent to 24 percent).

UAE cloud computing lags

The internet of things (IoT)  was one of the areas where the global average was higher (22 percent compared to 23 percent), but the biggest discrepancy was in cloud computing, where 67 percent of UAE CIOs said they had implemented cloud to some extent, compared to the global average of 77 percent. Considering that cloud is a facilitator for many of the other emerging technologies, and is also more established than they are, this is a surprise.

This is down to the UAE government developing robust requirements for cloud usage in the last few years, in order to ensure that data privacy is not compromised in any way, Majid explains.

“As security and legal requirements are defined and there are established cloud providers in the UAE, we expect to see much higher adoption in 2020, especially across government entities,” Majid said.

Lower cloud adoption signals a more cautious posture to ensure that organizations are not on the end of cyber-attacks, and this helps to build confidence within the industry, said Rob Bamforth, an independent IT analyst.

He also notes that more CIOs in UAE say that their CEOs tend to support projects that save money (53 percent) than those that make money (47 percent).

“CEOs in UAE prefer IT spending to save money and this supports the notion that there is a more pragmatic approach. This may lead them to be more confident in their approach overall as they are making fewer steps into the unknown,” he said.