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UAE businesses increase tech investment due to pandemic, KPMG study finds

Almost half of technology leaders, both globally and in the UAE, expect budgets for IT/technology to increase, driven by a surge in spending on operational efficiencies, customer engagement and data-driven insights. This is among the key findings of The Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey 2020, one of the largest IT leadership surveys in the world, with over 4,200 responses from CIOs and technology executives across 83 countries.

Farhan Syed, Partner, Head of Advisory at KPMG Lower Gulf, explained: “The coronavirus pandemic disrupted every sector around the world, and has catalyzed digital transformation. While the pandemic may not have necessarily altered business strategies, it has reaffirmed the importance of data, cloud and cybersecurity. Technology is thus helping businesses to adapt and anticipate better in a volatile business environment.”

According to the KPMG study, organizations have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in different ways. Almost half of UAE respondents expect a slow recovery and are implementing a flexible, experience-centric technology transformation to emerge stronger from the crisis.

Managing technology

The KPMG study notes that UAE digital leaders outperformed their global counterparts when it comes to investing in customer experience and engagement.

For UAE businesses, data is the new oil – 63% of CIOs rated data collection as their most successful digital offering, as compared with 42% of global CIOs. The KPMG study notes this has further led to the emphasis on the critical nature of data and how valuable it is to companies in generating actionable insights.  

29% of the UAE’s digital leaders thought they were extremely effective in implementing enterprise-wide digital strategies, against the global average of 17%. This is not surprising, given rapid innovation amongst local companies, reinforced by government initiatives.

Almost two-thirds of UAE digital leaders stated that the pandemic has likely permanently increased the influence of their role. As technology has become increasingly important over the last six to eight months, so has the role of the technology leader. According to 70% of those surveyed by KPMG in the UAE, the pandemic has fostered a culture of inclusivity in technology teams—a full 20% higher than the global average.

Wejdi Harzallah, Partner, Head of Digital Strategy at KPMG Lower Gulf, elaborated: “To overcome new challenges, organizations continue to accelerate technology adoption, requiring increased collaboration between the business and technology teams. As many organizations evolve into technology-led companies, we expect to see the future of IT as a connected enterprise that is free of siloes, agile and customer obsessed.”

Resourcing tech teams

When it comes to talent, UAE technology leaders are seeking enterprise architecture skills above all else (30%), followed by AI expertise (25%). Globally, 35% of the respondents believe that cyber security is the most sought-after skill.

According to the KPMG study, COVID-19 shifted employee priorities. While remuneration was valued most pre-pandemic, it was replaced by well-defined culture and strong leadership after the pandemic. Widespread adoption of remote working practices has benefited both employers and employees, opening doors to new opportunities. In the UAE’s competitive IT talent market, digital leaders are prioritizing flexible working conditions over more traditional perks to retain and attract talent.