Time of The Machines

Time of The Machines

  • IoT creates a number of applications, services, and solutions that help us not only have control of our lives but also everything around us.
  • Turning life into a connected society where you can have control over your home, business, health, education, and everything else from anywhere is our goal.
  • It would be nice to show the world in 2020 that the middle east is exporting more than it consumes.

The power of today’s telecommunication and IT technologies has made it possible for humans to communicate with each other over great distances and despite means. That same technology also makes it possible for humans to communicate with machines and create amazing tools and applications such as Apple’s Siri or Google’s search engine.

Now is the era of machine-to-machine communication or what is commonly referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT). This creates a number of applications, services, and solutions that help us not only have control of our lives but also everything around us. The region needs pioneers that specialize in building ecosystems—pioneers that will build solutions on top of the current telecom and IT infrastructure—using telecom as a platform to connect with different verticals. Verticals like health, education, fleet management, SME, Smart Homes, and utilities are just some examples of the ecosystems that we strive for and continue to promote in the Middle East.

Ericsson reported that there would be 50 billion connected devices by the year 2020. This is around eight times the number of people in the world. Ericsson explains that we are in the early stages of the second phase of connected society development. The first phase was networking consumer electronics such as your mobile phone, your laptop, or your play station. The next phase will be networking industries. Building healthcare, government, home automation, and fleet management ecosystems are just a few examples of the planned industrial connectivity. We can already see some growth in the fleet management and home automation sectors, but not yet in other areas.

Turning life into a connected society where you can have control over your home, business, health, education, and everything else from anywhere is our goal. Imagine that you have a connected fridge at home that senses you are running out of milk. Imagine this fridge talking to your local grocery store, which then automatically picks the milk—and any other items you may be running low on—from the store shelf and notifies you via your cell phone: 1) of the store that is fulfilling your order; 2) for authorization and confirmation of payment; and 3) of an expected delivery time. Once you put the milk on your Smart Home refrigerator shelf, the system resets itself.

It will be interesting to see where technology takes us in a few years from now. The Middle East has many things to offer the world. And innovation should be one of them. Out of the projected 50 billion connected devices, let’s work on innovating and engineering at least 10 percent of that. I think this is fair if you take into consideration that the Middle East accounts for 8 percent of the world’s population. Wouldn’t it be nice to show the world during the 2020 Dubai Expo that the Middle East is exporting more technology than it consumes?

The article is written by Yasser Alobaidan for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

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Why CSR is great for smart SMEs

Why CSR is great for smart SMEs

  • Small businesses can immensely benefit from incorporating CSR as a part of their overall business strategy.
  • CSR activities can give a powerful message to your employees and in turn get a higher sense of belonging and loyalty to your project from them
  • While it might not always be possible for SME’s to donate cash for such initiatives, many companies are deploying winning strategies to bolster their own contribution in kind, either through barter or by volunteering time to an existing CSR project initiated by another organisations.
  • Engaging your suppliers can also amplify the impact of your CSR initiatives, while helping strengthen your relationships with them.

Should an SME owner embrace the concept and opportunity of getting involved and supporting Corporate Social Responsibility projects?

Some of you may have followed the news when it was announced last year that the US government was on the verge of defaulting on their debt. For average people around the world, this was one of the most confusing topics in recent times, considering the three tumultuous years of financial storms, earthquakes and tsunamis and let’s not forget, scandals.

What got my attention was that Apple Computer had within its own arsenal, stockpiled more cash in-house than the entire US government. Could it be that Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, once a scrawny geek of a kid who scrapped conventional wisdom to go out and innovate as an SME, to fulfill a dream that everyone should own a computer, could ride in like a white knight and save the whole country? Does charity begin at home?

Innovation and courage make it possible for an entrepreneur like Steve Jobs to support social programmes with millions of dollars each year. But what if you have a small business, and your focus is just on survival? What if you are struggling for loans or investors for your own project, and cannot even conceive the possibility of crossing the threshold of success and being able to give back?

When does it make sense to get involved as a small business and give back to your own cause or community? Well, for my part, and for many of the consultants on my team, we believe in looking for opportunities even before rolling out a start-up and building that into the mix as an integral part of the holistic structure of the entire business strategy.

To understand these reasons, one should reflect on some of the advantages of actually shaping your company culture with this type of commitment.

Powerful message

For a start, think of the message you will be sending out to your employees who will begin to realise that they are part of something more than just a 9.00 am to 5.00 pm job. This will often give them a higher sense of belonging and loyalty to your project and endeavor that makes them proud to say to total strangers, family and friends, what they do, who they are and why they love what they are doing now.

This, HR managers will tell you, is a powerful factor in human capital retention, and a recruitment magnet is always more powerful, when the team within, are all ‘game on’ and buzzed about the company. Among your clients, there is a percentage who will appreciate that some part of your margins which they contribute to, are recycled in a place that has a ‘feel good’ or worthy cause impression, again amplifying another good reason to do business with your company. This can grow to the next level, namely getting clients involved in social action projects, which are miracles of good CSR work in so many communities.

So, how much do companies need to invest in a CSR project, and how is it possible to do this before making a profit? The answer that I propose is that, although it’s nice to be able to donate cash, often, in the lifecycle of young start-ups, it’s not feasible. Many companies are, however, deploying winning strategies in order to bolster their own contribution in kind, either through barter or by volunteering time to an existing CSR project initiated by another organisation.

In the MENA region there are dozens of such organisations that have created CSR projects that would appreciate the focus and participation of one hour of someone’s time. This could range from having your team agree to spend half a day repainting a home for the elderly within your community, hosting a car wash to donate money to a needy school, creating a used book drive to donate to an orphanage. In fact, subject areas are endless and there is never enough. The unseen advantage in all of this is, there is a magical, intangible and yet amazing feeling of giving back to something or someone.

We, as business people, are able to feel a little taller in the process of this work, and at the same time, we have the advantage of not only putting a smile on the receiver’s face, but also spreading pride and significance amongst our teammates and our network for our participation.

Brand recognition

This is not thankless work either. Many participating SMEs are able to elevate their brand recognition and perception, by associating with causes that speak to their audience. This is a key factor of creating a strategy that works for your company. Find a CSR synergy that fits to the services or products that you deliver to the market. Build this into your overall business plan and connect with people on various levels as a result of your winning strategy. Be warned that there is a fine line between being genuinely involved in a CSR project and exploiting it so that you purely get a part of cash rewards.

It is better when companies form committees where employees and officers are part of the steering process, to make the best case scenario recommendations to the shareholders, about not only installing a CSR department, but guiding it and sustaining it. Another helpful hint if your SME adopts this practice is your key secret agents who can make your efforts even more powerful – your suppliers.

You will be amazed that when your team is committed, and has the ability to share a clear vision about what, why, and who, your suppliers will ask when and how they can help. Therefore, you, as the owner of an SME, are able to light a candle in your own store and by the power of passing the torch, ignite second and third party attention and support all around your organization’s CSR wagon.

And yes, remember, charity begins at your front door.

The article is written by Michael J. Tolan for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

A Best Practice in Strategy Formulation

A Best Practice in Strategy Formulation

  • One of the main reasons of the dissolution of numerous major corporations is the lack of vision and appropriate strategies for coping with the fast pace of business trends & technological innovations.
  • The Management Mix Guide is a 7 step referential platform for developing corporate strategy; it is also a guide for reengineering, & restructuring and dynamically managing the change.
  • The Guide is based on nine organizational elements to be analyzed & formulated taking into  consideration the impact of the five micro-environmental factors and four macro-environmental factors.
How can companies & organizations assure a sustainable strategic development?
One of the main reasons of the dissolution of numerous major corporations is the lack of vision and appropriate strategies for coping with the fast pace of business trends & technological innovations.
NCR, Wang Laboratories, BBAC are companies that have been vanished long time ago; and more recently major names such as Delta Airlines, General Motors or World Com have also disappeared.
In view of the above, a Managerial Guide is recommended which is implemented in hundreds of companies & organizations in specific industries such as the Banking & Finance, Telecommunications, Healthcare, Information Technology, Pharmaceuticals, Food Processing & other industries such as Machinery Manufacturing.
The Management Mix Guide is a referential platform for developing Corporate Strategy; it is also a Guide for Reengineering, & Restructuring and dynamically managing the change.
The Guide is based on nine organizational elements to be analyzed & formulated taking into consideration the impact of the five micro-environmental factors and four macro-environmental factors.
A Best Practice in Strategy Formulation1
The seven steps for implementing the 9-5-4 Guide are as follows:  
  1. Analyze the micro-environmental factors:  Competitors, Customers, Substitutes, Partners & Suppliers;
  2. Analyze the opportunities & threats in the macro-environment: Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural & Technological (standard PEST analysis).
  3. Identify the organization’s stakeholder’s constantly evolving needs.
  4. Analyze the organization’s strengths & weaknesses in the nine organizational elements, Each element elaborated separately in the following page.
  5. Formulate the Strategy regarding the 9 organizational elements.
  6. Set an action plan & implement the strategy.
  7. Continuously monitor & evaluate the strategy.
The nine organizational elements are as follows:
  1. Strategy: After revisiting and restating the Organizational Vision, companies should develop the corporate strategy, which includes the organization’s strategic orientations & objectives, based on the existing and required resources and assessment of the micro & macro environments in which the organization operates.
  2. Processes: Optimization, standardization & streamlining of the organization’s management, operational & supporting processes by controlling process related risks and ensuring the continual monitoring & improvement of the management system through the identification of KPI’s. Various types of international management standards are adopted, according to the industry and the needs of the organization.
  3. Talents: Development of a customized competency based talent management system for attracting, developing and retaining talents. The talents will implement the formal processes and informal processes for achieving operational and strategic objectives.
  4. Structure: Development of the required competencies and layers and setting the communication lines, the reporting system & cross-departmental coordination systems for supporting the achievement of the corporate strategies and organizational vision.
  5. Marketing: Development of a marketing plan by setting a Market Monitoring System for transforming information into intelligence and then into initiative in terms of new products and services, a pricing policy, a placing and a promotional policy by taking into account the constant changes of the customer behavior and the market requirements.
  6. Sales: Optimization of the sales process through the seven steps sales model and establishment cross-selling & up-selling approaches. In addition, development of sales channels in different geographical regions.
  7. Customer: Being in the center of the stakeholders, the company will develop a customer satisfaction and loyalty policy; the customer experience management system will be set and some specific procedures will be identified such as: loyalty programs, satisfaction surveys & complaint management systems.
  8. Information technology: Development & optimization of a holistic Information Technology policy that will support the implementation of the processes, including but not limited to Information security Management system.
  9. Resources: Development of financial Management and asset management systems for optimizing the exploitation of the resources.
A Best Practice in Strategy Formulation2
The Strategic Management Guide presented above has proven its efficiency in numerous corporations. Management Mix experts constantly monitor the results & performance of companies implementing the guide and provide customized recommendations to reduce the managerial waste (muda) and cope efficiently with the environmental changes.

The article is written by Raffy Semerdjian for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

 

Tips & Learnings from Successful MENA Entrepreneurs

Tips & Learnings from Successful MENA Entrepreneurs

  • Believe in yourself
  • Have a vision
  • Burn the boats
  • Know our business inside out
  • Think big (regional and global) and not small (domestic)
  • View competition as an enabler
  • Focus on creating a structure
  • Have the right mix of talent and attitude in your team
  • Be observant, have an open mind and continue reinventing yourself
  • Surround yourself with positive people, and block your ears to the naysayers

Middle East entrepreneurs, empowered by technology, are ready to take entrepreneurial challenges and improve their lives and society, by launching firms focused on bringing never-heard-of concepts to life. Over hundreds of start-ups make a beginning every year. However, do all of them have the ability and planning to survive or get past the 10 year mark? What is the learning’s from the ones who have been successful in doing so? It will become clear when we discuss the experience shared by some successful MENA entrepreneurs and experts.

Believe in yourself. People will follow you when they believe you and they do believe you when:

  • You believe in yourself.
  • They have to believe in your path.
  • They believe your approach, system, methodology.
  • They believe in your capability to execute the process, system, approach offered.
  • It is tough to re-define reality and hence, having a strong self-belief is the key.

Have a vision of what the market will be like in 5 years or 10 years. An entrepreneur needs to make others believe in their vision and thus, he needs to create that vision. Making a desire into reality is the job of an entrepreneur, not only to push himself to achieve greater heights, but also to make his followers believe in him.

Burn the Boats. The entrepreneur should not leave himself any option other than success. The aim should be to conquer or perish. While executing a project it becomes important to have a plan B; however, for the entrepreneurs, it is not advisable to have a plan B as all it does is hamper plan A. The key is to remain committed and dedicated to one line of action and doing away with all the disturbances. According to JC Butler of Dubizzle, a Dubai-based start-up that offers free classifieds on its web platform, “Rid your heart of ‘I will try my best’ until all that’s left is ‘I have decided’. If one has a deep belief in his vision, then failure is not an option.

Know your business inside out. You may or may not have university degrees but you need to understand your business in and out. It may require spending lot of time and significant investments in learning about your industry and the tricks of the trade. A few ways to understand the industry can be attending trade shows, hearing speakers and being ruthless in the quest of relevant information.

Think big (regional and global) and not small (domestic). The success stories of Middle East entrepreneurs suggest that they had a plan to expand to at least five countries. This has benefited entrepreneurs from the smaller countries such as Jordan and Lebanon who have achieved more success than entrepreneurs from Saudi Arabia. This suggests that not being over-dependent on the domestic market, however large it may be, is a key to success for MENA entrepreneurs.

View competition as an enabler. This is especially true if you plan to launch a venture in a niche market segment, as any competition will help grow the overall market, and will likely bring in more business for you than taking away. However, if the competitor is big firm that poses a real threat, then get flexible and nimble. In such cases, it always helps to have a great company culture, which becomes your brand and cannot be copied.

Focus on creating a structure. Business initiatives revolving around the intangible concepts need a structure to hold them together. The structure helps to add frameworks and tangibility to these ideas. For example, Pharmacy1 stores have same appearance and customer experience with things located in the same place in every store, irrespective of the size of the store. Hence, it is necessary to ensure a structure in all aspects of business, be it action plans, resources or roles. The structure also enables smooth transformations when required.

Have the right mix of talent and attitude in your team.  It is important to pick people who can be groomed as future leaders. According to Tahir Shah, the founder of Pop-up Pakistani street food concept Moti Roti “People make things happen, you cannot learn and do everything. Hence, it becomes imperative to begin with a team with the right talent across right areas”. It is seconded by many other successful entrepreneurs like Amjad Aryan of Pharmacy1 and JC Butler of Dubizzle who believe in hiring people smarter than themselves.

Be observant, have an open mind and continue reinventing yourself. It has been observed that after initial success in the business, the mind tends to get complacent and keeps reveling in the success. Here again, competition play its role in making you realize your position and the potential of the market you operate in. So, continue to reinvent yourself to stay in the game.

Surround yourself with positive people, blocking your ears to the naysayers. That’s the advice from Amjad Aryan, a businessman who wanted to start a pharmacy business when he was a 23-year-old Palestinian immigrant cleaning carpets in Chicago. There, he had a chance to experience the efficiency, expertise and product selection at CVS Pharmacies.

Case Study: Pharmacy-1 & Amjad Aryan’s goal of creating the CVS of the MENA region

While he was studying at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in Boston, Amjad Aryan got a chance to do an internship at CVS. He joined there as a manger and became a store manager later. In 1997, he bought his first pharmacy, Roberts Drugstore in Miami, a large self-service store with a supermarket and cash machines. He renamed it as Pharmacy 1 and expanded with four new branches.

He sought to bring this concept to the Middle East, where he found out that the pharmacies were small family-run business characterized by a laid-back attitude towards service and an old-fashioned view of the retail pharmacy. After he had identified the need for quality pharmaceutical healthcare and customer service in the region, he also believed in its success. Using his savings, Amjad opened the first Pharmacy 1 in Amman in 2001. It has now the largest pharmacy chain with over 110 branches in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. This has created over 800 jobs and the chain is the largest recruiter of pharmacists in the region.

What has Amjad done?  He had adapted an already successful business model, adopted some of its best practices and customized it based on the regional requirements.

One of the biggest challenges faced was acquiring talent in the region. In order to address this, he started a pharmacy university internship program with a three-month simulated pharmacy at colleges. He also hired people better skilled than him. All his seven VP’s were specialized in their fields. These executives focus on their work, while Amjad looks after the expansion projects.

All the Pahrmacy1 outlets have the same appearance and customer experience. In the first couple of years, Amjad standardized customer care, prevented prescription errors and speed up product replenishment, which brought consistency. Today, Pharmacy1 is known for convenience, professionalism, expertise staff (result of extensive employee training), and excellent customer service.

However, Amjad does not seek to build a successful company only; rather he seeks to build CVS of the MENA region. Amjad’s belief in the power of “I can” and in giving second chances; makes him give time back to society, make difference by empowering youth and change mindsets to promote the potential and ability of youth in Jordan.

Source: Arab Business Review Research

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

How to Run an Effective LinkedIn Campaign

How to Run an Effective LinkedIn Campaign

  • Social media marketing is the new norm, and LinkedIn has emerged as one of the best business-to-business (B2B) marketing platforms worldwide. With over 10 million LinkedIn subscribers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), of which over 67% acknowledge that LinkedIn helps them build relationships and drive new business leads, it makes sense to use the platform for marketing campaigns in the region as well. Here are some tips and live examples for MENA marketers to consider to ensure that their campaign hits the bull’s eye.

Define the target customer segment for your product or service on LinkedIn. Keep in mind that your target segment on LinkedIn may not necessarily be end-consumers and may not necessarily match the identified segment as per your previous sales. For example, the largest customer segment for your computer peripherals business may be students, but on LinkedIn, the prospective segment may be small scale businesses looking for low-cost computer set up. Similarly, if you are a brand manager at a cosmetics company, most of your offline marketing campaigns would be directed towards individual female users but on LinkedIn, the target would probably be different, say professional make-up artists and beauty parlor chains, so the campaign has to be plotted around them and not the end users.

Build your target list and create a targeted campaign using LinkedIn PPC. Once you have identified the target segment or group, you can use LinkedIn PPC (pay per click) which offers filters according to job title, function, seniority etc. Use combinations that work for you and get the most relevant set of prospects. You can then profile these prospects to design an appropriate campaign. LinkedIn offers several unique PPC advertising opportunities – poll ads, social ads, ‘Join Group’ ads, and video ads.

LinkedIn banner ads can be customized for specific audience. So, if you are targeting employees of a particular company, they should see your ad designed specifically for their company when they log on to LinkedIn. Your ad can speak about solutions to their issues, resulting in higher click-through rate (CTR). LinkedIn recommends creating about three to fifteen ads per campaign with varying headlines, call-to-action phrases and images.

Monitor the performance of your campaign and improvise. Track your results by directing your PPC ads to a landing page instead of home page to gather data about the leads. It will help in improvising on your advertisement for better traction. Further, keep track of the success rate of each ad and withdraw the ones with lowest CTR.

Choose the right mode of payment to optimize cost. Cost per Click (CPC) campaigns are better for lead generation purposes, while Cost per Impression (CPM) campaigns are better for branding purpose. You can optimize campaign cost by choosing the right mode of payment, as a LinkedIn campaign has to be worth the cost involved to be effective. LinkedIn offers two payment methods viz. cost per click (CPC) and pay per 1,000 impressions (CPM). The CPM mode of payment may suit for a branding campaign to get as many people to see your campaign while the CPC mode may be apt for lead generation campaign.

LinkedIn suggests a bid range depending on budget and the competition for ads from similar campaigns. Ensure that you bid within the range. Analyze when your target audience will most likely be online and bid higher during that time or day to win over competing ads. It will require a bit of trial and error to achieve an optimum bid and budget.

Use the Lead Collection feature to gather list of interested customers. LinkedIn offers a feature called Lead Collection where it allows people to ask for more information or to be contacted by your company via a checkbox at the end of your advertisement. You will be notified by email of such leads and also be allowed to promptly respond via LinkedIn InMail. Note that you will not receive any contact details of the leads.

Businesses having a niche target audience can use Inmails to market their value proposition. If your target segment is small and specific, you can also connect with them via Linked Inmail. The feature allows for extremely targeted messages delivered to exactly the right person through personalization. In fact, LinkedIn offers a “guarantee” on these messages.

Revamp your LinkedIn profile page for an expected rise in visitors. Showcase your offerings on your LinkedIn profile page, and ask for recommendations from satisfied customers, like Hewlett-Packard whose “Products & Services” tab features over 3,000 recommendations for nineteen unique products and services. It makes for the most powerful form of endorsement, word-of-mouth marketing, as recommendations from your own connections are highlighted.

Use LinkedIn groups to create a community for your existing and prospective customers. LinkedIn’s “Custom Groups” premium option allows brands to control the entire group page, including sidebar ads, polls, videos, blog integration, and other custom media.  This space is usually reserved by LinkedIn to show ads that the group owner does not control. The option is quite expensive, so can be used for short spells along with an offline campaign to give an instant push.

The best example of successful application of this feature is Dell Business Solutions Exchange LinkedIn Group. With nearly 8,000 members, the group is full of Dell’s most valued prospects, with over half of them being in IT and computer industries and maximum are in decision making capacity. While the group added 50-100 members per week, there were durations when the group attracted unusual membership, which is, most likely because of a simultaneous marketing campaign- offline or on another social network.

Case Study: Vestas, a world leader in wind energy and infrastructure space, used its “Energy Transparency” campaign on LinkedIn to reach out to carbon conscious corporations about the benefits of investing directly in wind energy, and promote Vestas as their partner of choice.

As part of its growth and expansion strategy, Vestas wanted to run a campaign that raised awareness of the brand benefits for companies that use wind energy, and to reach out to key stakeholders in specific companies to drive consideration for wind energy and Vestas as a preferred partner. So, the company commissioned two studies, the Global Consumer Wind Study in partnership with TNS Gallup and the Corporate Renewable Energy Index in partnership with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which found that that corporations are eager to source more renewable energy and also identified consumers that wanted products made with wind energy.

When the company decided to build a marketing campaign to target these customers, it felt that the conventional method of using the email campaign along with banner ads may not generate the continual effect, the kind they were expecting from the campaign. Therefore, armed with target audience and consumer preference research data, Vestas designed a LinkedIn campaign including:

  • LinkedIn Inmail- Personalized (regards to the recipient’s name and company name) InMail messages were sent to smaller set of prospects as compared to the overall campaign.  Each InMail had a link to a customized version of EnergyTransparency.com including company and industry information.
  • Customized banner ads: 400,000 employees of these corporations were targeted through banner ads placed in LinkedIn. In spite of standard ad used for each impression, the company created custom ads specifically featuring targeting company.
  • Custom Landing pages and microsites: It created custom landing pages and microsites with targeted content for each prospect. This allowed Vestas to deliver precise messages, offering real and specific insights to each prospect. It also allowed Vestas to capture accurate data on the interest level for the firms targeted and for the overall success of the campaign.
  • Adaptive design across platforms: Vestas used adaptive design to ensure an optimal experience for users receiving the campaign cross-devices including desktop, tablet and mobile.

Result: Vestas’ LinkedIn campaign was highly successful, as depicted by the results below.

  • 11 million impressions with a click-through rate (CTR) of 0.11 – 0.21% among targeted companies
  • 10,680 corporate executives, employees and key opinion leaders visited the site, averaging 7.02 minutes
  • High efficiency with minimal waste: 80% of targeted opinion leaders & 30% of targeted executives visited  the microsite spending an average of +8 minutes
Source: Arab Business Review Research, LinkedIn

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

BYOD in the Middle East

BYOD in the Middle East

  • The rise in IT spending is fueling the increased adoption of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) culture in the region, and given its inherent advantages for employees and employers, BYOD adoption is bound to grow further in the coming years.
  • However, BYOD adoption is accompanied by IT security risks arising out of lack of awareness about device security among employees. The situation is compounded by insufficient network resources and the lack of formal BYOD policies at organizations to manage security risks emanating from use of personal devices on official servers and networks.
  • CIOs in the region need to respond by preparing IT networks and formulating a BYOD policies, which are designed to manage this increased demand for BYOD and mobile diversity in the region.

An Employee Engagement Tool or an IT Threat?

  • Middle East is among the fastest growing IT markets in the world, with IT spending in the region expected to exceed $32 billion in 2014. As per the latest IT forecast by IDC, spending on IT products and services in the Middle East will increase 7.3% year on year and will cross $32 billion in 2014.  Nearly 75% of this expenditure is expected to come from individual customers, the public sector, and the communications and financial services verticals. The key growth driver will be public sector investments in improving government services, education, and healthcare services in the GCC region.
  • The rise in IT spending is fueling the increased adoption of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) culture in the region, as the increased proliferation of smartphones and tablet PCs, as well as increased mobility of workforces is forcing a shift in the way that companies operate on a day-to-day basis. A survey by Aruba Networks found out that employers in the Middle East were more likely to say Yes to BYOD, as compared to companies in other parts of the world.  The study found that 70% of EMEA enterprises allowed some form access from personal devices, a figure backed by Cisco’s 2013 Middle East ICT Security which found that almost two-thirds of employees in the region are allowed to use their own devices to access the company server or network.

Percentage of Companies saying Yes to BYOD across Regions

BYOD in the Middle East1

 Source: Aruba Networks

  • Given its inherent advantages for employees and employers, BYOD adoption is bound to grow further in the coming years. BYOD allows workers to operate on devices that they are comfortable working on, and in some cases from a location of their choice (e.g. home), thus extending flexibility in working environment.  Therefore, the BYOD culture benefits employees and bossts their motivation and engagement levels.  But its benefits are not limited to employees are alone.  Employers too stand to benefit considerably. As per Cisco Consulting Services estimates, the annual cost benefits of BYOD range from $300 to $1,300 per employee, depending on the employee’s job role.  In addition, happier and motivated employees have higher productivity, and are more likely to focus on innovation rather than just dealing with daily chores at workplace, thus contributing to the overall growth of the organization.
  • However, BYOD adoption is accompanied by IT security risks arising out of lack of awareness about device security among employees. The use of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets is expected to grow over the next few years, as the region is expected to have 850 million mobile users by 2017.  And most of these devices will also be used by employees at workplace as BYOD adoption increases – this is corroborated by the Middle East ICT Security Study that found that nearly 64% employees are allowed to use their own devices to access the company server or network. However, 65% of employees their own devices in the workplace currently do not understand the security implications of using personal devices in the workplace, thereby exposing the company server or network to high degree of IT security risk.
  • The situation is compounded by insufficient network resources and the lack of formal BYOD policies at organizations to manage security risks emanating from use of personal devices on official servers and networks. As of 2013, only 55% companies in the Middle East have a plan or a formal policy to manage the use of personal devices for work related purposes.  As a result, cyber-criminals are increasingly attacking internet infrastructure rather than individual computers or devices, with password and credential theft, infiltrations, and breaching and stealing data.  Therefore, it is not surprising that businesses in the Middle East are facing a growing risk of cyber-attacks as per the 2014 IT Security Study in the Middle East.

As per the Aruba Networks survey, the IT security challenge is accompanied by  insufficient network resources to support the influx of multimedia-rich devices, as 35% organizations claimed that they did not have enough wireless coverage and capacity for supporting BYOD.

  • Overall, the key challenges and concerns highlighted by businesses considering or implementing BYOD in the region are:
    • Securely connecting devices (especially mobile) to corporate networks
    • Avoiding an increase in IT resources and expenses
    • Ensuring wireless coverage and capacity
    • Ensuring device security
    • Establishing corporate policies and acceptable uses
    • Enforcing access rights to resources based on user, device, and app
  • CIOs in the region need to respond by preparing IT networks and formulating a BYOD policies, which are designed to manage this increased demand for BYOD and mobile diversity in the region. As a first step, CIOs need to develop IT infrastructure that is capable of supporting a broad array of devices without overburdening their IT staff. With mobile devices leading the BYOD adoption, this would mean increased investment in wireless infrastructure in the coming years. The requisite IT infrastructure development needs to be complemented by developing and implementing organization-wide BYOD strategy and policy. To develop an effective policy, organizations need to define and understand factors such as which devices and operating systems to support, security requirements based on employee role and designation, the level of risk they are willing to tolerate, and employee privacy concerns.

The key characteristics of a good BYOD policy are:

  • Balances security requirement vs. employee experience and privacy. It is important to develop policies that have minimal impact on employee’s experience, while maintaining the required security levels. Equally important is defining and communicating the level of vigilance/monitoring that IT department plans to implement to monitor device usage. Given that BYOD is an employee-driven phenomenon, a policy that is too restrictive or invades user privacy might prove counter-intuitive to the whole concept (and related benefits) of BYOD. So mapping the security requirement based on employee role is critical.
  • Supports multiple devices and operating systems: It is important for CIOs to factor-in all types of platforms and operating systems used by employees. While iOS is a natural choice due to the high level of in-built security, Windows (phone, PC, tablets) and Android (phone, tablets) have also gained immense popularity and can no longer be overlooked.
  • Is flexible (semi-BYOD): for organizations that have high degree of data security risk (e.g. financial services firms), CIOs can opt for semi-BYOD policies which allow their employees to use their own devices so long as they comply to a list of company-approved devices, so that IT departments don’t have sleepless nights over what devices their networks might have to accommodate.
  • Most importantly, a good BYOD strategy is focused educating employees about BYOD policies and ensuring compliance to alleviate related risks. It is important for organizations to not just develop such policies, but also provide guidance on ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ and best practices on using personal devices for official purpose. Conducting company-wide roadshows and training/counselling sessions, followed-up by online tests around the company’s BYOD policies is another way to driving home the message of the company’s seriousness about such initiatives and IT security at the same time.

We believe designing and implementing BYOD policies is important not just for organizations that either adopted or are considering BYOD, but for others as well since BYOD adoption is a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ for businesses in the region.

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Trade the Market like the Pros Do

Trade the Market like the Pros Do

 

  • Day traders, Speculators, and Hobbyists today have access to various Internet and Mobile based trading platforms that can help them trade like professionals.
  • The reality of the market place is that your broker might not necessarily trade on your behalf, but theirs. The pros know how to trade, but we all had to start with the basics and will have to learn how to control your emotions.
  • With the history and basic knowledge it is obvious that no one can explain how the market works or strategies in a couple of paragraphs but to learn how to trade like the pros you have to understand the market. You have to begin with the proper mindset to trade like a market pro and you must practice, practice, and practice. 

Today’s investor has a wealth of tools at their disposal that were unavailable to previous generations. With the use of the Internet based and mobile trading platforms, “Day Traders” ,”Speculators”, and Hobbyists are better equipped to wage battle on their own terms rather than be at the mercy of the market. A professional is one who has taken the time to perfect as best they can their methods of trading from which they derive their income. However for the average investor out there the waters that enter into are a vast ocean infested with not only delectable and compelling treats but its also filled with dangerous creatures looking for their next prey. We won’t jump into the deep end just yet as there has to be training in the shallows to ensure that you’ll have a fighting chance to survive in the vast ocean known as the marketplace.

We’ve all seen the brokers trading in the “pit” or on the trading floor in an open outcry system bidding and buying and selling all types of contracts. Understand that brokerage firms are not necessarily trading on your behalf, but of course on trading on theirs. In the case of the futures market brokers are not ever cheering for you to have a winning trade unless you are in the same positions as themselves. Just like in a casino the odds are not in your favor. This isn’t meant to scare you off or deter you from trading it is just the reality of the marketplace. There is a “zero sum” game afoot here and just like in the casino when you are winning its probably best not to press your “luck” for too long. Sooner or later the house will recover their losses due to payouts.

The pros know how to trade as we have been doing it for many years, but we all had to start with the basics and although I know many of the major players in this market and honestly like me they put their pants or skirts on one leg at a time and there aren’t too many “experts” only those with years of experience under their belts. So you must understand the basics and you will have to learn how to control your emotions as they will motivate you to act in a way that will usually make you very very sorry you didn’t keep them under control.

With the history and basic knowledge laid out before you it should be obvious that no one can explain how the market works or strategies in a couple of paragraphs but to learn how to trade like the pros you have to understand the market. One of the best authors to learn from is Cornelius Luca. Once you have the basics of the market then you have to learn trading strategies which can be complex. One of the best teachers out there is Raghee Horner. Both authors are quite active and you can find their work quite easily. You have to begin with the proper mindset to trade like a market pro and you must practice, practice, practice. Take it from me

Options trading involve significant risk of loss and may not be suitable for everyone. Options & cash markets are separate and distinct and do not necessarily respond in the same way to similar market stimulus. A movement in the cash market would not necessarily move in tandem with the related options contract being offered.

The article is written by Greg Heath for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Amazon is stealing your customers by paying their employees to leave

Amazon is stealing your customers

  • Regional competition for customers shows focus on customer satisfaction as the key business driver
  • Developing a customer centric corporate culture is essential for success
  • Motivate employees to care and be creative to keep customers happy and develop employee growth
How committed to your customer are you?

No company wants to say that, do they?  And while the Region sorts out logistical, cultural, and human capital specifics, Amazon.com and their CEO Jeff Bezos are already doing a growing business here.

Now, while you may say the GCC and Regional organizations have adopted a steep learning curve to meet customer needs and things are improving; the reality is simply this: you’re customers are there already and they’re waiting with high expectations for you to take care of them.   And if you don’t, Jeff et almost certainly will.

Today, commitment to the organization’s success is expressed directly as commitment to the customer.  And in our Region and around the world, it has to be.  Otherwise you won’t survive for long in today’s highly competitive marketplace.

The secret is to bring smart and creative customer driven employees and timely value based solutions to customers so they are happy and continue to buy from you. Simply said, you need a customer-centric culture to drive organizational success.  Commitment to your customer must be paramount.

Take Zappos, which has been acquired by Jeff Bezos’ amazon.com, and how they both feel about the importance of customer service and the need for staff to buy into their concept.  For Tony Hsieh, Zappos’s CEO, this meant taking his customer-centric philosophy to another level. Zappos employee training and orientation process sought to retain only the best employees with the most customer oriented mindset.  This paradigm was so engrained in its culture,  Zappos designed a program unheard of in the industry.  Hsieh referred to it as the “walk-away option” where newly trained employees were offered up to one month’s salary to walk away after completing their intensive training program.

That’s right, after finishing Zappos’s comprehensive and intensive training, newly hires were given the option of leaving the company to pursue other job possibilities.  About 2-3% would take the offer, but the vast majority, or upwards of 97-98% decided to stay.  For Hsieh, this method created an internal culture driven to be the best and drove out anyone who wasn’t as committed to their programme’s customer-based ideals.

This unorthodox approach, along with Zappos strong brand attributes, caught the eye of Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos.   After Bezos acquired Zappos, he tweaked Hsieh’s idea and adapted it to the Amazon culture.   Bezos has adopted a similar pay-to-leave program aiming to copy its subsidiary’s selective recruitment and retention strategies.

Once a year, Amazon’s front line employees have a chance to reflect on their work, their company, and their coworkers to decide if they are committed or if they wish to take a pay-to-leave package.  Those who choose to stay and forego the quick cash remain a more closely tied group of committed employees.

This kind of environment  is one wherein Amazon and Zappos are not only saying “there’s the door if you don’t like it”, but “here’s how much we care for our customers.  If you’re not fully on board, here’s the door and cab fare as well to take you home.  Thanks for coming.”

Creative retention and employee training programs like these may be a key driver to attract people to your company.   Furthermore, this could be key in developing an internal brand identity whose hallmark is serving customers’ needs.  And of course, no matter what your business is, when customers’ needs are met or surpassed, business succeeds.  We can thank Zappos for a creative option to building a culture of customer service and yes, Jeff Bezos for building on a solid construct in customer-centric thinking.

The article is written by Jonscott Turco for Arab Business Review To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Thinking Small

 

 

Thinking Small

 

  • Marketing executives often look for that one big brand building activity that will catapult the company’s reputation into the stratosphere, such as names on sports arenas, pricey event sponsorships, and broad reaching brand campaigns.
  • But before you even begin thinking about investing in big ticket items, I recommend you begin by thinking small and invest your limited resources looking at your company’s reputation from the perspective of your current or prospective clients.
  • Go online. Do your homework. Encourage your team to do the same. Then document the results put a plan in place to clean up your online reputation before you start thinking big.

I am always surprised at the amount of money companies invest in brand campaigns while completely ignoring fundamental brand enhancing strategies that cost virtually nothing to execute.  I’m equally awestruck at the minimal attention paid to a number of easily accessed postings on web and social sites that if left unchecked can completely destroy a company’s reputation.

All too often executives look for that one big brand building activity that will catapult the company’s reputation (as well as their careers) into the stratosphere.  Names on sports arenas, pricey event sponsorships, and broad reaching brand campaigns are just a few examples of the big ticket plays that more often than not leave brand managers scratching their heads or worse yet, unemployed.  It happens time and time again.  Why?  We want to believe in the brand illusion. Like a mirage in the desert, many big ticket brand plays look like a much needed oasis in the desert from a distance. Unfortunately, and usually too late, when we reach that oasis it’s nothing like we expected.

I’m not saying that all big ticket brand building activities should be ignored.  Sometimes that oasis is just that – an oasis!  With the right research and insights, a brand manager can realise excellent returns on these investments.  But that assumes time and effort is invested in researching the opportunity and understanding the target audience prior to making the investment, a step too often ignored or underplayed.  It also assumes your marketing team knows how to leverage the event to extract maximum exposure and goodwill from the investment.

But before you even begin thinking about investing in big ticket items, I recommend you begin by thinking small.  Rather than send your marketing team or agencies scouring for some major event to sponsor, first invest your limited resources looking at your company’s reputation from the perspective of your current or prospective clients.  Start by simply going to Google and typing your company name. Look closely at what comes up.  Is it your company or some other brand? Also look at the paid search sections to see if any of your competitors are targeting you and how.  Now click on the news section at the top. What are reporters saying about your company?  Click on the articles and read the comments. Now click on the images.  What images are associated with your brand? Finally, go to the video section.  And once you’re done with Google, go to Yahoo, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and as many of the highly visited and viewed social sites as possible. Do your homework and document the results.

Next, take the time to visit your own web site or sites and sign up for all of your own marketing and social media programs.  Add your name to all of your company’s contact lists.  Then monitor the quality and quantity of the communications you receive.  Watch your company through the eyes of your customer. What you’ll likely find out about your company may surprise you.

We went through this exercise and discovered numerous misrepresentations and misleading information about our company.  In cases where we signed up for our own programs, we discovered that nothing was being communicated.  Apparently our Marketing and Customer Relations Management teams were not communicating with each other so the events we were sponsoring, the ones in which we created cool web applications inviting guests to sign up and learn more, were actually doing more harm than good by creating an expectation that was not being fulfilled.

As we looked closely at all our findings, we also uncovered a number of difficult but true facts about our customer service that had been in our corporate blind spot for years.  We had always thought our company’s brand was second to none and that our customers’ perceptions of our company were nothing less than spectacular.  By investing a little time and almost no money, we discovered the true was far from our reality.

Immediately we jumped into action cleaning up misinformation and contacting companies that had incorrectly posted false images, videos or statements about our company.  Sometimes the effort paid off and sometimes it didn’t. Not every company or person we contacted was willing to work with us, but most were and we found the improvements we achieved in the quality of information about our brand to be well worth the time invested.

We also began formulating new practices and policies to improve our customer service to stay on top of future issues. We also connected our Customer Relations Management and Marketing teams and we improved our coordination with our customer relations and PR teams to resolve issues before they became viral problems.

This process wasn’t nearly as exciting or newsworthy as sponsoring a football league, which incidentally we also did, but it was probably the most important and least costly investment to ensure our brand building activities were structured upon a solid foundation.  Yes, big ticket items can provide big returns. But it’s the little things that too often go unnoticed that can have a negative impact to a company’s image and completely negate all of the positive equity that has been built through years and years of good brand building activities.

So my recommendation is to always start by thinking small.  Look at your company through the eyes of your clients and prospective clients.  Go online. Do your homework. Encourage your team to do the same. Then document the results put a plan in place to clean up your online reputation before you start thinking big.  I’m confident you’ll eventually find the returns of your big investments to be much better and less risky if you do.

The article is written by Don Romano for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

E-commerce HR in the Middle East

E-commerce HR in the Middle East

 

  • The speed of UAE’s development have compelled its citizens and expat community alike, to be active catalysts
  • Joining a yet still in its infancy Industry within the ME region, The ‘.com’ genre has many challenges
  • Ensure that you in HR have your creative doors open at all times, take benefit from all the material that is already out there
  • A new age HR, be it service rewards, policies and the biggest player and differentiator ‘CULTURE’
  • We in this region have a lot of potential, an array of cultures and can utilize everyone’s talent in making this an incredible ‘Silicon Valley of the ME’

I have had the privilege of living in Dubai for over 30 years and in those years I have seen some massive and impressive developments – Developments that helped the UAE secure ‘EXPO 2020’! These business & operational changes and the speed of the country’s development have compelled its citizens and expat community alike, to be active catalysts in this infectious need to excel.

I chose to be a part of this exciting journey and took a plunge into a then globally renowned yet still in its infancy Industry within the ME region and joined the ‘.com’ genre. I became a member of the ‘COBONE’ family when it was only 6 months old and have embarked on a rather steep and intense learning curve. We have flourished spectacularly from, Cobone, a daily deal website, to Triperna, a comprehensive Travel Partner. Coming from over 5 years of thorough conservative Banking HR, my idea that I could comfortably apply the same principles were quickly shattered. I determined, rather quickly, that HR in this industry was a different beast. A new age HR was what was required and although not already known to me it was an exciting prospect, one that I was keen to discover and implement. Policies for common classifications within HR, such as hiring, communication, talent development, rewards, performance management, required considerable adaptation and a certain amount of creativity before appropriate application.

Due to the newness to the region, we lacked solid E-Commerce knowledge and skillset. Thus it was inadvertently necessary to reach out globally for knowledge, people and strategies. What I recognized was that it was essential that you are quick to adopt and implement what is required within HR, be it service rewards, policies and the biggest player and differentiator ‘CULTURE’. This is the one aspect that is so evidently thick within the group, the underlying VALUES that bring a group of people together in an online company and it is quintessential to be one of the first standards that you must formalize and announce.

My tips to you, although I too continue to learn, for HR within this exciting Online World are:

  1. Formalize the underlying energy, ‘Culture’, that brings you all together
  2. Be ready to be very creative, remain fluid without losing structure
  3. Get socially active online (FB, Twitter,  etc), to live within is to understand
  4. Thorough Change Management techniques and knowledge application.
  5.  Hiring will require different innovative methods, use attributes in place of experience, realize an individual’s ability to adapt
  6. Reward systems need to be clearly linked to Performance & Growth
  7. Keep processes simple and transparent
  8. Constant Communication

Initially it may seem like a lot of work and believe me it is! But if done systematically, it paves the way to stable growth. All you have to do is ensure that you have your creative doors open at all times, take benefit from all the material that is already out there, communicate appropriately and implement ensuring you have everyone’s ‘Buy In’. HR plays an instrumental role in shaping the company especially within this industry. Being in this part of the world I believe we have a lot of potential in doing it even better as we have an array of cultures, we can utilize everyone’s talent in making this an incredible ‘Silicon Valley of the ME’. I look forward to sharing my in-depth analysis of various aspects that I have listed above delving into actual activities and hopefully assist newcomers and possibly add to the knowledge base any way that I possibly can. Until then – Onwards and Upwards!

The article is written by Tahira Khan for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review