Avoid the denial, wait and see, regret approach
Inflation. Just let the word of the moment sink in. You probably wonder what can possibly be said of this latest hurdle to economic progress that has not already been said. But what if I were to say that the current inflationary period presents an opportunity? Before exploring this further, let us share a dose of reality.
The situation varies across the MEA region, but in the GCC, it is worth noting that inflation is not quite as acute as elsewhere. With the US and the UK both seeing rates well above 8% as recently as September, the UAE’s inflation, as projected by its Central Bank, will be around 5.6% this year, and Qatar’s was 6% in September.
But while these unusually high rates for the UAE and Qatar are lower than elsewhere, Saudi Arabia’s is even lower, at 3.1%, and Oman’s is just 2.4%. Fiscally conservative Americans and Europeans, or most other countries for that matter, currently dream of such rates.
And yet, the UAE, Qatar, and other MEA countries have some work to do in countering rising prices. And those nations’ businesses, once again, must innovate their way around an externality, having just tackled a global pandemic, lockdowns, and a deep recession. Inflation is in the headlines and constantly in the thoughts of every business leader from Beirut to Abu Dhabi, and Rabat to Cape Town.
The region is once more steeped in something that gums up the gears of innovation and sends enterprises into boardroom huddles as they figure out their next move.
Now for the opportunity
In truth, business leaders barely care about the cause of rampant price rises, be it supply-chain issues, lack of regulation, the fallout from COVID stimulus packages, or some other catalyst. Indeed, boardrooms are not even that interested in whether central banks could, or should, have acted sooner to counter demand-side effects.
No, they see a problem in front of them; and as this region has shown time and time again, where there is a problem there is a solution. And solutions can lead to opportunities. The region has done it before, during recent crises — differentiated through enhanced customer and employee experiences and built resilience.
Because there has been such a long stretch of manageable inflation, many people in key positions are encountering the phenomenon for the first time in their professional lives and may believe they lack the agency to overcome a crisis of this scale.
We only need to look back just a few months to the pandemic for some guidance, and encouragement on the pivotal role that technology — be it collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams or COVID tracking apps like the UAE’s Al Hosn — played in helping us beat back the coronavirus and forge for ourselves a more hopeful future. In this future, employees have a much louder and more influential voice than since the dawn of industrialisation. From adversity came opportunity.
The change that technology helped bring about during 2020 and 2021 worked mainly because businesses and individuals were ready for the paradigm shift — perhaps more than we realised.
A PwC survey of GCC workers in 2021 showed 71% to believe that technology provides more opportunities than risks, compared with a 64% global average. It also showed 86% were confident they can adapt to new technology entering their workplace as opposed to an 80% global average. In other words, people in the Arab Gulf region are upbeat about technology.
Business leaders can lean into this headwind of positivity regarding digitisation to invest once again in technology. Amid rising costs, and potentially lower sales volumes, is not the obvious approach to drive efficiency and do more with less?
These are things at the top of a technology’s resume. It has delivered them before. Technology can allow warehouse managers to view unstable supply chains in real time and react more quickly to fix them. And anxious CFOs can analyse data to gaze into the future and find new areas for growth.
How to measure mayhem
To get the job done and reap genuine rewards from technology investments, decision makers must be able to link those investments to strategic initiatives to secure the best result. Put another way, they must be able to link investments to business goals and have an inbuilt means of measuring ROI. And there are single-platform solutions that allow investments to tie into every strategic initiative, ensuring the type of ROI that is needed in the economic environment in which we now find ourselves.
Agility, flexibility, resilience, employee satisfaction, customer retention, ESG KPIs, and more are available to the decision maker. Together, metrics like these take a comprehensive snapshot of the here and now and enable rapid reaction for a clear value-add.
When a crisis looms, there is a tendency to revert to denial. When a crisis arrives, there is a tendency to take a wait-and-see approach. It is only when a crisis is in full swing that those two tendencies give birth to a third — regret. To avoid all three, organisations must act. Make decisions early, or risk having them made for you.
Businesses that take control are out in front; they experience less surprises. Technology investment is prudent. It unlocks efficiencies, delights customers, and accelerates growth, leading decision makers to feel more in control of the uncontrollable.
As we have seen before, technology delivers. And as we have also seen, those deliveries can have lasting positive effects that extend through each crisis to the one beyond. Therefore, each adversity, for the technology-minded business leader, becomes an opportunity.
- To avoid all three, organisations must act. Make decisions early, or risk having them made for you.
- With US and UK seeing rates well above 8%, UAE’s inflation will be around 5.6% this year, Qatar’s was 6% in September.
- Saudi Arabia’s is even lower, at 3.1%, and Oman’s is just 2.4%.
- Business leaders barely care about the cause of rampant price rises.
- Boardrooms are not even interested in whether central banks could, or should, have acted sooner to counter demand-side effects.
- A PwC survey of GCC workers in 2021 showed 71% to believe that technology provides more opportunities than risks.
- 86% were confident they can adapt to new technology entering their workplace as opposed to an 80% global average.
- People in the Arab Gulf region are upbeat about technology.