SAGIA invests in digital transformation

SAGIA is utilising digital transformation including a major cloud project, as a key element to support the economic transformation of the Kingdom

Tags: CRMCloud computingDigital transformationSAPSaudi Arabian General Investment Authority
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SAGIA invests in digital transformation AlHarbi: SAGIA is developing business intelligence capability to enhance business plans and actions. (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  April 23, 2018

With the launch of Vision 2030 two years ago, Saudi Arabia began a program of social and economic change that is fully underway today. The changes in the Kingdom are supported by new technology adoption and digital transformation, as the leading public sector institutions look to deliver on the aims of Vision 2030.

One of the key pillars of the Vision 2030 plan is the economic development of the Kingdom, with diverse plans which include economic diversification to reduce reliance on oil, increased private sector participation, job creation, competitiveness, removal of barriers to trade and business, and increased foreign investment.

Leading the efforts to attract foreign investment and put Saudi among the top twenty competitive economies in the world, is the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, and SAGIA is a prime example of how technology is a central part of bringing these national reforms to fruition.

Mohammad H AlHarbi, Director of Information Technology at SAGIA said that technology transformation is both a goal for Vision 2030 and an enabler of the program.

“Advancing technology use, digitalizing and integrating services, and developing investment opportunities in the ICT sector are among the targets of Vision 2030,” AlHarbi said. “Digital transformation is the enablement arm for the reforms being implemented in the country to meet global standards, and to uplift the Kingdom in investment and ‘ease-of-doing-business’ rankings.”

SAGIA’s direct responsibilities are to attract foreign investment into the Kingdom, and eliminate barriers to entry and make it easier for businesses to access Saudi Arabia, and the same goals are mirrored in SAGIA’s KPIs under the National Transformation Plan 2020, which include increasing the levels of foreign direct investment (FDI), increasing Saudi’s score on global competitiveness and ease-of-doing-business indexes, increasing investment opportunities and reducing the time required for issuance of permits and licences.

The digital transformation of SAGIA actually began quite some time before the latest plans, AlHarbi said, particularly in the area of investor services, where SAGIA has developed a range of e-services across multiple channels which are intended to serve its customers.

“Previously an investor had to have a liaison in the Kingdom, someone to physically take their documents to SAGIA branches, and it could take days or months to get processed,” he explained. “We started the e-services, through the website, where the investor could login through the portal, upload their documents, and do their payments, through integration with the SADAD payment gateway.

“This meant we could reduce the number of service centres, but the number of documents that had to be uploaded was huge, so two years ago, this part of our digital transformation became not only about the technology, but also the processes,” he added.

To improve the e-services, SAGIA worked on integration with Ministries and other government entities, AlHarbi said, such as the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Commerce, as well as accessing the Government Service Network (GSN). This allowed for better alignment of processes, and the amount of paperwork involved in a typical transaction could be cut down to just one document, the business plan. The time to issue a new licence has been cut to just hours, and in some cases the degree of process integration allows for automatic issuance of licences or renewal of licences when the investor meets the right criteria.

From May of this year, the Authority will launch mobile versions of these services, to create an omni-channel service offering, he added. Moving these services to digital channels has also freed up the physical branches to offer more engagement with customers.

“The e-services reduced the number of visitors to our physical branches tremendously, and it gives us a chance to provide other services in the branches, instead of just operational and transactional work, we are doing consultation for the investor, they can meet the branch manager to talk about investment opportunities. We are shifting the focus of the branches,” he said.

One of the foundations of SAGIA’s customer services are its business applications, including CRM and ERP. The Authority first deployed SAP CRM in 2006, AlHarbi said, with an upgrade in 2011, and SAGIA has built a strong relationship with SAP since, including deployments of CRM, ERP and business intelligence solutions.

The deployment of a fully-integrated eco-system using SAP technology enables SAGIA’s business units to perform according to their mandates, and to integrate activities, he added. The business applications also ensure a holistic view of the customer, better data governance, and better reporting of performance. Integration is key to being able to offer connected services to customers and internal users.

“By having SAP CRM, SAGIA was able to centralize all investor related transactions, profiles, operational activities and e-Services in one place and integrate it with other supporting systems like complaint management, payment gateway, and interconnect applications such as email,” AlHarbi said.

“Internally, SAGIA has implemented SAP ERP which encompasses its internal operations and integrates it all together to provide automated, self-service solutions for SAGIA staff. SAGIA also connects with other government and related entities through a middleware layer that allows exchanging services and data electronically, which helps eliminate document and speed up service delivery.”

To ensure that the IT function is aligning with the needs of SAGIA’s business units, the IT arm includes a business solutions team. This team is closely engaged with the business units, to keep them abreast of the capabilities that are available from the IT systems, and also helping them to define their business needs and to evaluate the technology available to meet those requirements.

One of the strategic projects currently underway which will empower the business is the development of a Business Intelligence Competence Centre (BICC). SAGIA is already using SAP business intelligence solutions, but the plan now is to leverage existing assets, and to assess new technologies, to build that capability, which will empower more units with indepth data analytics and create additional market intelligence for investors.

“We are developing a road map for business intelligence, to build a business intelligence competency centre,” AlHarbi said. “We are doing a wider range initiative for big data. Currently we have business intelligence — reporting and predictive analysis — however, what we are trying to implement is a more focused big data initiative, which collects data from different sources, and does the data mining, and data aggregation, which will provide the analysis for our investment promotions unit and for investor advisory services.”

SAGIA also has another major initiative underway for ICT, namely moving its entire SAP portfolio to the cloud. The project will see SAGIA become the first government organisation in Saudi Arabia to move all of its SAP solutions to the cloud.

“Most of our applications are on the SAP platform, and SAP has opened their own data centre in Saudi Arabia, they are moving their public cloud solutions to Saudi, so the issue of data privacy and moving our data outside of the country is no longer there,” AlHarbi said.

The move to cloud will enable SAGIA to access best-of-breed solutions, with better availability, better security and faster time to market, as well as enabling the IT function to focus on adding strategic value to SAGIA.

“Instead of having our focus on operations, maintenance, support and areas like that we can focus on innovation and development. We can shift our focus into the core business and development and move from being operational to being an enabler and a partner,” AlHarbi concluded.

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