How Change Management Enables Digital Transformation

How Dubai Investments Prioritized Change Management to Succeed in Tech Projects
How Change Management Enables Digital Transformation
Venkatesh Mahadevan, CIO, Dubai Investments

As UAE becomes one of the most preferred data center locations in the Middle East, the region's digital transformation initiatives are on par with several developed economies. Hyperscale data centers have been built across the region. There is a massive migration of data to the cloud. Ubiquitous mobility, digitally powered businesses and government interfaces, and data-driven enterprises make it one of the most sought-after investment hubs in the world. The digital advancements are in line with the vision of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum who wants to make UAE the digital capital of the world. However, the region has to overcome certain challenges in its digital transformation journey.

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Tryst With Innovation and Cybersecurity

Incorporated in 1995, Dubai Investments is a strategic organization with investments in more than 20 diversified sectors and markets across the globe, including real estate, industrial finance, healthcare and education. The investment company is listed on the Dubai Financial Market with assets worth AED 22 billion. In its pursuit of innovation, the corporation has consolidated its position across key growth sectors in the UAE, overcoming change management challenges - the biggest barrier to digital transformation - even before introducing disruptive technologies.

Innovation and digital technologies remain core to the company's growth. Digital solutions have helped Dubai Investments stay agile, even during uncertain times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the many initiatives it introduced were automated internal job postings, the launching of an employee suggestion box and surveys to measure employee engagement. It adopted unique IoT-based solutions to help monitor energy and water consumption. The company is now able to identify where more energy-saving fixtures, water arresting systems, smart building management systems, and new monitoring systems and sensors are required to reduce carbon footprint. At Emirates Glass, for instance, an e-documentation system is applied to all activities. Another one of Dubai Investments' ventures - Al Mal Capital - has adopted new digital approval processes.

The company's cybersecurity regulations are on par with global standards. Aligned with the ISO/IEC 27001 standards to protect information infrastructure from cyberthreats, Dubai Investments is working toward adopting best practices from the UAE National Electronic Security Authority (NESA) and Dubai's Information Security Regulation (ISR) to strengthen its cyber defense. A set of information security assurance standards has been developed to raise the level of protection of critical information assets and to support systems across the groups. These standards serve as a reference catalog for common information security controls to defend against threats that exploit information system vulnerabilities.

Change Management for Successful Digitalization

In order for digital transformation to be successful, companies need to have a strong ownership and governance fundamentals. Any transformation project, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation, which has an organization-wide impact, requires a strong change management program as part of technology governance. This program is mostly related to people and processes.

"Being a large and complex organization, a strict adherence to a number of rigid frameworks and statutory controls is non-negotiable. Strong change management is the most crucial part of any such large transformation," says Venkatesh (Venki) Mahadevan, CIO, Dubai Investments. It all began with a process unification exercise for all functions. The CIO's office pushed for creating a business excellence function where senior process leaders were identified from key functions to form a small core team. "Our aim was to create a collaboration superhighway where every project-related information could travel. Even our technology and systems integration partners were invited to collaborate with us in this journey," he says.

Successful change management also includes talent acquisition and retention. "While onboarding the rightly skilled resources sounds simple, finding the right skill sets at the right time and within budget can be overwhelming. A major part of digital transformation is to have a continuous supply of right talent," Mahadevan says.

Unlike other conventional approaches, Dubai Investments' IT organization focused on various elements of change management before introducing new technologies and tools. "Our objective of digital transformation is to drive efficiency across the organization and achieve better results. Leveraging the principles of change management, we were able to convey the message of support and collaboration. We built trust before introducing disruptive technology. It was a lot easier," he says. Mahadevan even involved the CHRO and other senior C-suite colleagues to ensure collaboration across teams.

While technology is ubiquitous, organizational acceptance to change is crucial for the success of most digital transformation projects. Therefore, tackling the operational challenges is the most difficult part. "Leaders need to get their act right and focus on people, change management and organizational acceptance rather than just technology," he says.

Dubai Investments' Change Management Plan

Process unification exercise: Businesses to own ERP projects and ensure strict adherence to frameworks and statutory controls
Creating a business excellence function: Formed micro teams of senior process leaders with one key person accountable for each function
Collaboration as a cornerstone of success: Created a collaborative ecosystem of partners and key stakeholders to support completion of projects
Continuous talent supply: To ensure consistent onboarding of the right talent resources without going overboard on head count

About the Author

Smruti Gandhi

Smruti Gandhi

Executive Editor, ISMG

Gandhi has more than a decade of experience in community engagement and incubating industry events. She is extremely proactive in building engagements with communities including CEO, CFOs and CIOs. Prior to joining ISMG, she worked with Dun & Bradstreet and Great Place to Work.

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