Last year was another tough one for CIOs. New procedures had been put in place to deal with the challenges COVID-19 had thrown up, but the pandemic was far from over. As we enter 2022, many of the same challenges to business resilience remain, but technology continues to evolve.
This year, CIOs in the Middle East will have to manage the acceleration of tech projects sparked by the pandemic, as well as a hybrid approach to work and computing. Here we take a look at the main technology trends analysts have forecast for 2022.
Hybrid is here to stay
2022’s resilience strategies will be underpinned by ‘hybridity’, or the need for hybrid approaches to processes and functions, says Jyoti Lalchandani, group vice president and regional managing director, IDC Middle East, Turkey and Africa.
These will be seen across all areas of a business, from customer engagement, which — in the wake of the move to e-commerce during the pandemic — will need to take place on both a digital and physical front, to the continuation of a hybrid workplace with some staff working remotely.
The outbreak of COVID-19, which has caused Gulf countries to enforce lockdowns and businesses to scramble to set up technology that allows staff to work at home, also led enterprises to increase their use of hybrid, or multicloud, computing environments and this trend is set to continue. For example, more than 25% of Saudi Arabian enterprises plan to use a combination of on-premises and dedicated private cloud systems, public clouds and legacy platforms, according to an IDC survey.
Technology innovation is also becoming hybrid, with in-house innovation taking place alongside co-innovation with partners and customers. This is also supporting the development of hybrid business models that create new revenue streams through ecosystem partnerships Lalchandani notes.
Security is tech priority, AI playing key role
Building security capabilities is the topmost strategic technology priority for Middle Eastern CIOs this year.
According to IDC, 56% of regional CIOs questioned says that building security excellence — including developing a security operations centre (SoC), security skills and security processes — is a key priority for the next 12-18 months.
With the growth in ‘hybridity’, security will focus on securing organisations’ growing, distributed infrastructure, with a particular spotlight on cloud security and enhanced threat prevention, says Rajpreet Kaur, senior principal analyst at Gartner.
Consultancy firm Deloitte, meanwhile, forecasts that interest in AI will continue to rise in 2022 as a force multiplier that enables security teams to not only respond faster than cybercriminals but also anticipate their moved and act in advance.
“Cyberattacks are becoming overwhelming in their size, sophistication and detection. SoCs [security operations centres] face a huge challenge in efficiently analysing flow of data to detect any breaches… it’s time to expand to innovative technologies,” says Arzoo Ahmed, technology strategy and transformation practice lead at Deloitte Middle East.
“Globally, cyber-AI is in the early adoption stage, with market growth expected to be US$19 billion between 2021 and 2025. AI’s ability to adaptively learn and detect novel patterns can accelerate detection, containment and response, easing the burden on SoC analysts,” she says.
Vertical and regional clouds grow
The primary reason that cloud adoption has been slower across the Middle East than other regions is down to the lack of local cloud availability, says Gartner’s Kaur. Regional regulations around the location of data centres and data sovereignty — the idea that certain types of data should be kept in-country — may have restricted uptake to date, but this is all set to change as more tier 1 cloud providers are expanding into the region.
Another trend we can expect to see more of in 2022 and beyond is the vertical cloud, as a growing number of cloud and software vendors are offering sector-specific cloud solutions.
“Over the next 18-24 months we see cloud giants and system integrators developing an a range of cloud-based solutions, accelerators and APIs preconfigured to support common use cases within industry verticals,” says Deloitte’s Ahmed. “They’re designed for easy adoption and can be built upon to create digital differentiation.”
Digital transformation will continue to ramp up
For most businesses, the impacts of COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation initiatives — consisting for the most part of moving legacy ERP and CRM systems to cloud data centres — from years to months and in some cases even weeks, and the trend looks set to continue throughout 2022.
The pandemic gave CIOs an opportunity to play a larger role in the business and IT leaders in the Middle East have taken advantage of this to shift their companies towards a digital-first strategy.
Kaur notes that that Gulf enterprises are digitalising business processes faster than their global counterparts, while KPMG has reported that 68% of Saudi CEOs have developed an aggressive technology investment strategy designed to secure first-mover or fast-follower strategy.
Similar perspectives have been highlighted by IDC — a quarter of medium and large enterprise Middle Eastern CIOs recently polled plan on extending the digital-first strategies they developed during the pandemic in response to their customers also moving in this direction.
“Many customers began using online shipping, e-consultation for healthcare or distance learning for the first time during this pandemic. The new digital habits that have been formed will persist after the pandemic ends,” says Lalchandani.
“This will have a significant impact on the customer experience strategies of organisations. Owning the end-to-end customer journey across both digital and physical touch points has never been more critical.”
Companies will focus on digital resiliency
The uncertainty created by the pandemic put a spotlight on business resilience and while many organisations expanded their traditional business resiliency over the last two years, their focus has now moved on to digital resiliency. This is when a company focuses on rapidly adapting to any business disruption, rather than anticipating and preparing for a crisis, which is the case with business resiliency.
“Furthermore, digital resiliency isn’t just focused on recovering and going back to business as usual — it’s focused on capitalising on the newly changed conditions,” notes Lalchandani.
With 40% of Middle Eastern CIOs surveyed by IDC planning to invest in their organisation’s digital resilience capabilities this year, it’s a trend to keep an eye on.