Digitalisation projects must focus on value creation

DX efforts need to focus on creating value and enabling vertical industry empowerment, says smart consultancy NXN

Tags: Digital transformationDigitisationSaudi ArabiaUnited Arab EmiratesneXgen Group (www.nxn.ae/)
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Digitalisation projects must focus on value creation Khalili: Cities and governments are looking for measurable results from smart initiatives. (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  April 24, 2018

Smart cities, governments and nations are entering a new phase of the digital transformation journey, where initiatives need to be able to show measurable and tangible impact, according to Yousef Khalili, General Manager for the UAE for NXN.

Khalili, who is also head of the Smart Nation/Smart City/ Smart Government industry for the smart city consulting and digital transformation service provider, said that maturing projects in the smart sector are increasingly seeking to be able to prove their contribution to the bottom line in both public and private sector projects.

“Governments and cities are going through an inflection point, depending on the maturity of the city or the organisation, where access to data, seamless services and customer happiness continue to be the focus, but what is more important is how can cities and governments link the impact of digitalisation to strategic city or organisation objectives?” he said.

“We are talking about establishing a clear relationship between digitalisation and adding incremental GDP growth to the city, to attracting FDI for economic growth, and or being better ranked in terms of anti-corruption scores or ease of doing business scores. There is also the link between digitalisation and aspects like having a safe city or having a more resilient city.

“The next wave is measuring the direct impact on the economy, on resilience, on security, or on safety, and identifying the factors that link digitalisation to measureable outcomes.”

Strategic programs to assess the direct value of digital transformation to a city or a government are still in their early stages, Khalili added, but the focus is moving to adding value, and early studies such as one conducted by Smart Dubai to assess the value of opening data in Dubai, point the way.

Such studies create a baseline indicator, but cities should aim to focus on their most strategic industry sectors, and look at the value of digital transformation to these key areas, which will have most impact on development. This can help to focus efforts for transformation and to demonstrate the value of such programs.

“With all the challenges that governments are facing today, with restrictions on budgets and spending, if you can link all the spending on digitalisation not to expenditure, but to net gains, then that changes the whole model,” he said. “If we are able to articulate the economic gains and impact by each sector, and to measure the digital wealth and digital assets being created by a city or government, then that is a game changer.”

The digitisation drive in the Gulf is also expanding from the government early adopters to embrace private sector entities, which unlocks even more potential value, Khalili added. “The appetite to transform is huge — the Dubai government has done its homework, so now the biggest project for Dubai is to open up to the private sector. I believe that the private sector will get the message about the benefits of digitalisation and will move much faster than the public sector very soon,” he said.

Open data projects can help to accelerate the process of private sector growth, as can digital transformation platform policies. In its predictions for 2018, analyst company IDC said that it expects 60% of enterprises to have an organisation-wide digital transformation platform strategy in place by 2020. This strategic approach will see organisations create a new enterprise IT foundation for digital transformation — the DX platform — a new way of designing, sourcing, integrating, and running IT that accelerates digital innovation at the scale and pace required to compete in the DX economy.

IDC defines the DX platform as the future enterprise IT architecture enabling the rapid creation of externally facing digital products, services, and experiences, while aggressively modernizing the internal ‘intelligent core’ environment in parallel. IDC believes that organisations that can ‘re-architect for scale’ on a DX platform design will stand out as most likely to emerge as a digital-native enterprise in the critical next three to four years.

The DX platform is primarily an externally facing, API-enabled platform — with the key objective to create a network or ecosystem of connected customers, partners, and suppliers that use (and pay for) the information and services available to them. A defining element of the DX platform is that it is ‘data driven’, with an expanding variety of data pipelines plugged in from outside the enterprise and that data (along with the enterprises’ own data) fuelling the artificial intelligence-driven models and code that form the basis of the enterprises’ core intellectual property (IP) in the digital economy.

NXN predicted this industry need early on and has been delivering this concept for two years already, Khalili noted, with its own DNX platform, and with the flexibility of different delivery models, including DNX-as-a-Service, the potential of the digital platform is easily accessible for vertical industries as they look to start their own digital transformation journeys, and for government organisations that want to test new technologies.

The company is expanding its offerings, including DX consulting, for key industry verticals including energy and utilities, facilities management, healthcare, education and FinTech, and with digital services that are tailored for these verticals, he expects the flexibility and ease of use to be an attractive proposition.

“A bank or a hospital can go and try to build a digital platform itself, which in our experience is a tedious process which can take years not to mention extremely expensive and hard to maintain and manage, or they can get the box that is already pre-configured, ready-integrated, with analytics, enablers like identity, payment, blockchain and AI components, with vertical sub-platforms fit as industry-specific enablers and an API layer on top,” he explained. “Our DNX platform-as-a-service proposition is pretty powerful and can be leveraged immediately over the NXN private cloud or on-premise as an OPEX investment.”

The DNX platform already has AI and blockchain modules with more emerging technologies being added in, and Khalili said that by adopting the –as-a-service approach, organisations can start working on projects in these fields, and understanding how they can be used for projects that have a meaningful impact to customers, while controlling the expense and ensure flexibility.

“These two emerging technologies are going to shape this whole digitalisation movement for the next two to five years, but one of the things that amazes me is organisations are hungry to use AI or blockchain, but they don’t know where to start,” Khalili said.

“The key to this is actually understanding what the customer needs. We have done ‘voice of the customer’ engagements and they proved to be incredibly insightful to understanding what kind of connected digital journeys customers really expect. With DNX-as-a-service, the cost to do a pilot is negligible, so you can use it as an innovation lab, and put out a solution and test the response live from customers without risking your current live environment.

“AI and blockchain should be tested, but my advise to government and provate sector customers is: listen to your customers, then design the new journey in collaboration with them, and test it out using DNX as a platform — don’t just do an AI pilot for the sake of it. By offering digital transformation-as-a-service with an OPEX model, we think we are ideally positioned today to help cities and countries transform key sectors from end to end.”

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