SMEs big on innovation

Avaya's vice president Mohamed Areff discusses SMEs appetite for digital transformation in the MENA region

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SMEs big on innovation Avaya's vice president Mohamed Areff
By  Mohamed Areff Published  September 4, 2016

SMEs in the MENA region have an advanced appetite for digital transformation, and are approaching technology investments like larger enterprises, investing in technology as a competitive differentiator.

The small and medium enterprise (SME) sector has the potential to be one of the key drivers in the country where the Expo 2020 is rightly believed to bring massive opportunity to the sector. The landmark announcement by Expo 2020 Dubai of 20% of the Expo's total direct and indirect spend being allocated to both local and international small and medium enterprises has put the spotlight on the important role that these enterprises play in the economic growth of the country.

According to the statement, SMEs represent almost 94% of the total number of companies operating in the UAE, with 400,000 SMEs contributing 60% to the nation's gross domestic product, and that will increase to 70% by 2021. The focus on this sector is not limited to Dubai, as our neighbouring country, Saudi Arabia, brings attention to boosting the sector in the country in its Vision 2030 agenda and recently established $1.1bn fund aimed at developing its venture capital industry and support the creation of these companies.

The SMB sector in this region is one of the fastest evolving sectors and has become crucial in promoting competitiveness and introducing new products or techniques to the changing market dynamics around the world. Accompanying this growth and evolution are issues that were previously considered only in larger enterprise organisations which present challenges both for the SMBs and for the companies that support them.

For their part, these enterprises also need to become more educated and aware of these potential issues and evolve to counteract them. For instance, an SMB is likely to be just as susceptible to security breaches such as phishing attacks and viruses, as a bank or another large organisation would be. A small retail store faces the challenge of accommodating customer expectations of immediate gratification as much as any other store and hence cannot afford downtime or system failure. This only goes to prove that redundancy and resilience are every bit as important to an SMB as they are to a bigger organisation.

New technologies are powerful drivers of middle market empowerment and the SME sector today is looking to have enterprise-grade solutions that provide the right kind of security and agility they need. While the government is equally supportive of the growth of this sector and actively encourages innovation and enables productivity, costs remain a key concern. Many of these businesses rely on partnering with enhanced support and outsourced solutions that enable adoption and support for new technologies without having to invest in new employees, servers, appliances, and networks.

The integration of SMEs into the delivery of Expo 2020 Dubai and the advent of advancing technology has created unimaginable opportunities. In order to shoulder this responsibility of innovation, the adoption of digital transformation is a must to deliver the customer experience that tech-savvy consumers in this region expect with cost-effective, scalable solutions that can evolve as they grow.

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