Nabil Abbas, the Principal at Booz Allen Hamilton MENA, speaks about how tech is driving our economic recovery
How do you think technology today helps businesses grow?
Advanced technology is transforming the way organizations do business turning almost every business into a tech business. Take grocery stores for example, which now have to compete with the likes of Amazon for business. The increasing adoption of 4.0 technologies such as AI and IoT makes it possible for businesses to reconfigure their value chains and achieve new levels of value creation. Innovative platform-based business models, such as Careem, LinkedIn Learning, and Fiverr, enable scale and efficient matching of supply and demand, creating new sources of revenue and expanding market reach.
As digital solutions converge and connect in new ways, they can help businesses better understand and predict shifting customer needs and preferences. Digital-savvy businesses are leveraging big data analytics to offer personalized products and services that increase customer loyalty and expand market share.
Emerging technologies such as AI can be used to enable predictive services delivery and deep personalization of customer experience. Digital technologies offer multiple new paths to value and growth in every industry, and agility, experimentation, and resilient execution will separate winners from the crowd.
How is tech driving our economic recovery?
Faster, cheaper, and better is the premise of modern technology, which is contributing to economic recovery through productivity gains, efficiency, and the creation of new jobs. The acceleration of digital transformation due to COVID-19 has made the case for digital-first—and in many cases, digital-only—interactions.
During the pandemic, physical outlets, branches, and offices were rightsized. While they are unlikely to disappear in the near future, their role will definitely change. Banks may operate just as efficiently without as many physical branches and Governments can boost public value with a few in-person service centers, supported by more robust digital offerings. The resulting savings will free resources that can be deployed elsewhere for better returns.
The UAE government, for instance, recently unveiled a plan to reduce 50% of federal service centers and convert them into digital platforms within two years as a part of the national digital transformation strategy. We also learned that we can do more with less and much faster. Assembling a hospital in nine days (such as the NHS Nightingale in the UK) is a case in point.
The digitalization of the workplace is making way for new and more productive ways of work characterized by rich collaboration and data-driven decision making, and new jobs are being created at a rate that will outpace jobs lost to disruption. This rapid transformation, known as the fourth industrial revolution, will require attention to human capital development and social inclusion, but will eventually shape a bright future for the global economy.
How is tech shaping the infrastructure of tomorrow?
Industry 4.0 technologies specifically cloud computing, IoT, 5G, and AI are rapidly transforming infrastructure into a smart, connected, and efficiently scalable ecosystem of services. Today, for example, cloud computing enables on-demand access to cutting-edge computing and storage resources not only at a fraction of the cost of setting up and operating traditional data centers but also with the potential for rapid scaling with fewer constraints.
Using cloud computing, businesses can set up data centers virtually and replicate them around the world with little capital investments. This means barriers to entry to large-scale computing have diminished significantly for businesses, making way for more innovation and disruption. In cities, buildings, utility meters, and traffic lights communicate within and among each other, thanks to IoT technologies, generating vast amounts of data that feed AI and Machine Learning optimization and prediction algorithms that can transform urban planning, consumption patterns, and traffic management.
The integration of these technologies makes it possible to have autonomous vehicles, which promise to revolutionize mobility and transport and consequently society at large. These are just a few examples of how modern technology is transforming infrastructure. As infrastructure becomes increasingly interconnected and dependent on technology and data, cyber threats will continue to rise in frequency, scale, and impact bringing to bear the mission-critical significance of effective cybersecurity defense mechanisms.
How according to you, are women powering the tech industry?
It’s incumbent upon all of us to help bring more inclusivity and diversity into the workplace, and for women to also lead the industry as the demand for technology grows across all of our services and operations. Women are increasingly choosing STEM majors and taking the lead on significant R&D initiatives. Engineer and computer scientist Katie Bouman, for example, was instrumental in the creation of the first viable algorithm for photographing black holes.
They are creating their own tech startups and making major contributions to the technology industry – VMWare, for example, was started by Diane Greene in 1998 and is now one of the world’s biggest technology companies. These are just two of the countless examples of how women are impacting and improving the future of the tech industry.
Women are also helping to build and empower the next generation of female technologists. The TechWomen program, for example, is a global community of more than 600 women fellows and 800 women mentors who help each other progress their careers and achieve their full potential in technology.
How is your company investing in the workforce of tomorrow?
We envision a future that is human-centric, mission-focused, and powered by technology. Booz Allen—driven by our purpose and values – is leveraging our consulting expertise and relentless innovation to deliver solutions that help create a more secure, resilient world. Booz Allen’s more than 27,000 employees embrace their clients’ toughest challenges and realize their biggest opportunities by making client missions their own and consistently delivering with character, expertise, and passion.
When COVID-19 forced institutions and individuals around the world to rethink the way we live and work, Booz Allen invested in the health and financial security of its people, their loved ones, and their communities, including reprioritizing $100 million in planned spending to create a pandemic resilience program. For employees, this included a commitment to job security and major enhancements to the firm’s dependent-care program, flexible work, training, and other support to address employee challenges at home.
The firm also offers robust ongoing learning and development programs to help employees develop new skills and tap into new career opportunities. By offering fulfilling career experiences with limitless growth potential and meaningful recognition, along with leading benefits and trailblazing mental health and wellness initiatives, Booz Allen continues to put its people first enabling them to tackle the challenges of today and lean into the opportunities of tomorrow.
How is your company working towards a sustainable future?
We’re committed to sustainability. We innovate lasting solutions at the local, regional, and global levels while holding ourselves accountable for our environmental impact. We improve the sustainability of our world through the work we do for our clients and how we conduct our business. We comply with an ISO 14001:2015 environmental management system certified for our global headquarters and track and report our greenhouse gas emissions, while our employees passionately serve our communities, making a difference where we work and live.
Our approach continues to celebrate the power that comes from focused, independent responsibility while building in a layer of cohesive accountability and a forum for collaboration. This takes the form of a dedicated Environmental, Social, and Governance function and cross-functional governance bodies with a collective mandate to bring to life an integrated, measurable embodiment of our purpose and values. Our approach seeks to drive long-term growth and sustainable value for our stakeholders through enhanced transparency and strengthened incorporation of ESG considerations into our business strategy.
How do you think tech will shape the 2021 landscape?
Around the world, organizations are changing the way they operate in business, meet their missions, and address emerging threats. As technology solutions converge and connect in new ways, there are advanced opportunities to better serve and protect citizens and national interests.
These opportunities also come with technical challenges. Enterprise systems must be able to quickly and easily adapt to new threats while making sense of data pouring in from around the world. New technical capabilities on their own won’t solve hard problems – they also require a skilled workforce and organizational cultures that can execute successfully in an increasingly digital world. With continuous pressure to modernize and accelerate innovation, organizations will be facing the challenge of purposeful transformation in an uncertain business environment. Technology will help them be resilient, agile, and customer-driven.