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Cosmic Conference 2020 - Session 1: COVID-19 & Digital Transformation

To kick off the inaugural Cosmic Conference, we were joined by three tech leaders from the MENA region who shed light on the impact of the pandemic on digital transformation. In this session, our panelists explored the role technology plays in the future of work and how we can use it to our advantage. This article explores the key insights and takeaways from the session.

Watch the full panel discussion on our YouTube channel:

About the Speakers

Dhiren Bhatia is the founder of Cloudscape Technologies, a team that’s on a mission to enable inventory-based businesses to simplify operations using modern technology systems. With over a decade of experience in managing technology teams for two of the largest banking firms in North America. He’s also the founder of the Elevated Entrepreneur Blog & Podcast series where he talks to other business owners and helps the entrepreneur community foster ideas and grow together!

Nihal Fahad is the Partner Onboarding Manager at Exceeders, an IT solutions marketplace that gathers the most innovative IT providers across the globe to provide customers with the latest innovations. Nihal has over 12 years of experience working in the Gulf IT sector. Her role entails finding, recruiting, and onboarding innovative technology partners from around the world to bring their products and services to the GCC.

Renad Jabaji is the Head of the Middle East at Jandi which is a Team Collaboration platform, a competitor to Slack, with a global footprint of over 2 million registered users in 60+ countries. Renad has worked at startups and multinationals focused on developing enterprise cloud technologies. While she started her career as an architect, Renad is a tech evangelist on the international stage, leading the vision and strategy for SaaS since 2010.

Key Takeaways

Growth in the Tech Sector

This session was particularly interesting, given the nature of the industry. According to Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, by April 2020 the tech giant had seen two years worth of growth in just two months. Echoing this sentiment, the Cosmic Conference panelists shared how despite the global economic and slowdowns across certain sectors, their first-hand experience was that the tech industry has been growing.

Renad Jabaji of Jandi, a collaboration and communication tool for businesses saw exponential growth amidst the pandemic. “We have had an 80% growth in our global users since March 2020,” she said. “We hit the 2 million registered-user mark which is huge for a startup. Pre-pandemic we were in 20 countries, and now we are in 60.”

Jandi’s remarkable surge in adoption is not unique to consumer technology tools as Dhiren Bhatia, Founder of Cloudscape technologies pointed out. Demand for his B2B services for inventory-based clients also grew. Business has never been busier. We can now deliver everything online, not just the sales and demos. We have digitized our ability to offer our products and services online.”

Intentional Tech Investments

As companies increasingly invest and grow their technology stack, the panelists also pointed out the importance of making strategic and deliberate investments in the people using these technologies.

Digital Transcendence is a model we frequently use at Cosmic Centaurs to help clients upskill and transform their people to extract the most value out of technology. Commenting on the need for deliberate investments in both technology and the people who use it, Marilyn Zakhour CEO & Founder of Cosmic Centaurs said: “Companies tend to focus on users or customers, but they don’t give employees the tools they need to deliver on those promises. It is important to include the people who work for you, they too are ‘users’.”

Panelists unanimously agreed that an investment in software or hardware is meaningless without the relevant training, tutorials, and guidance for employees to maximize the benefit of the new technology. “Business wants to go online, but the disconnect is sometimes the back-end,” said Dhiren. Collaboration tools and project management tools are the most important. These basic necessities are important.

According to a 2020 PWC study, ‘Transcenders’ are those organizations gaining the maximum value of their technology infrastructure. These organizations invest 33% more than other companies in the plumbing - the technology, processes, operating models, and the ways of working—that will drive their digital supremacy.

So just what are these investments?

“Moving forward, companies will migrate solutions and infrastructure into the cloud. This supports telework and ensures business continuity, allowing organizations to be agile and adapt to new ways of working,” said Renad Jabaji. “People’s perceptions have changed. Before the pandemic, collaboration solutions were considered a luxury, but now they are a necessity,” she added.

Exceeders’ Nihal Salem referenced a recent KPMG study about the adoption of digital transformation initiatives, which cited the main barriers of successful technology implementation as employees. According to KPMG’s 'Getting Digital Right' research, 33% of asset manager surveyed indicated that ‘lack of internal skills' were a limiting factor in achieving the success of digital strategies.

Who is responsible for this adoption?

Nihal believes that IT Managers now have a huge responsibility to keep people connected and updated with the latest technology. “[They] are suddenly responsible for employee efficiency,” she said. “Companies and organizations should offload this burden to organizations that know about adoption and can do this on an organizational level.”

The Future of Work Is…

Here’s what our panelists had to say when asked about their outlook for work, particularly as it pertains to technology and innovation

"The future of work is collaborative,” said Renad. “In this time especially, people are going to be less required to work in the same office with others. We will be closely evaluated based on our outputs and how we contribute to the team, so collaboration is really important.”

“For me, the future of work is really exciting!” said Nihal. “There is a good opportunity for businesses to take their services abroad or global. This will also open new doors for customers, talent pool, products, and services that were not previously accessible.

And finally, according to Dhiren, the future of work is “being able to accept change. Change, not just in the way you work, but in the way your customers work.”

Want to learn more?

Check out all other sessions from the Cosmic Conference 2020.

Session 1: Digital Transformation & COVID-19 - Watch the panel on our YouTube Channel or read the key insights here.

Session 2: How Remote Work Impacts the Top and Bottom Line of a Business. Watch the panel on our YouTube Channel or read the key insights here.

Session 3: Remote Work, Recruitment, Education & Entrepreneurship. Watch the panel on our YouTube Channel or read the key insights here.

Session 4: Workspaces of the Future: The impact of the remote work movement on commercial real estate in the UAE. Watch the panel on our YouTube Channel or read the key insights here.

Session 5: Company Culture, Employee Engagement & Wellness. Watch the panel on our YouTube Channel or read the key insights here.

Session 6: Cosmic Conference 2020 - Closing Debate: To Remote, Or Not To Remote? Watch the debate on our YouTube Channel or read the key insights here.


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