InterviewsOutlook

Outlook 2022: “2022 Will be a Critical Year for the GCC Market”

Omer Saleem, the Director and Deputy CEO at Proven, says 2021 was an exciting year to see in practice new and improved ways of doing the business and getting things done

How was 2021 for the industry and your company?
If we had to describe 2021 in one word then it would be optimistic. Proven has a diversified client portfolio from a number of industries. We definitely had a sense of general optimism across the majority of the clients. They were seeing an uptick in their respective activities albeit the growth in work came with a side of volatility and challenges.

We at Proven used the downtime during the COVID period to reflect internally and invest in building our capabilities and capacity. 2021 has been an interesting time for us as we have had a resurgence of client workload along with applying our transformation results to serve our clients better.

What sort of opportunities did 2022 bring along?
The COVID-19 epidemic changed not just the business environment but most organizations as well. Some organizations were already in the midst of transformation and the COVID period just accelerated their initiatives while others were forced into making changes. We saw a lot of results from these transformation activities in 2021.

It was exciting to see in practice new and improved ways of doing the business and getting things done. There are a lot of possibilities where organizations have to move forward when it comes to their service delivery models, human capital management, and vendor management among other areas. The projected productivity gains from these changes are almost limitless but it will require a disciplined approach for organizations with a focus on risk mitigation from the volatile environment.

Did you face any challenges in 2021?
The major challenge we faced in 2021 was still the ever-present uncertainty in the business environment due to COVID. There was a sudden surge in demand which was positive but scaling up service delivery to match required levels without a line of sight on the long-term sustainability of the demand was challenging.

What were your key achievements in 2021?
Our key achievements were around increasing our capacity while solidifying service delivery quality. We are proud of setting up our customer success and business excellence practices which ensures the voice of our clients has reverberated back into process improvement initiatives. In addition, we have expanded our service offerings by incubating our organizational development and marketing advisory to help our clients create more value from their people and through available digital marketing channels.

What promises does 2022 bring along?
2022 will be a critical year not just for Saudi Arabia but the broader GCC market. Organizations are looking to expand their existing bandwidth and there is a lot of pent-up demand. Saudi Arabia is especially attractive as there are numerous mega-projects along with the focus on the private sector creating huge opportunities and demand. The bold initiatives undertaken by the government are going to be catalysts for a lot of opportunities.

Do you see opportunities in the regional markets with new markets opening up?
We do see a lot of potential for market expansion and new sectors opening up within the GCC region. Client engagement is a core focal point for the majority of organizations. Better talent management and enablement practices are in demand to help organizations re-tool and retain their talent pools to meet ever-higher service levels. There is a need for more efficient and automated work processes to help employees achieve more and a lot of transformation is happening around how execution happens.

Incorporating hybrid and remote work through revamping service delivery models has become a necessity in order to scale up capacity. Traditional working models are hitting ceilings in terms of efficiencies. A complete revamp of organisations’ supply chain and vendor partnerships are required to better adapt both to supply volatility as well demand-side requirements. All these changes have deep value chains which offer not only existing players to create value but will generate whole new market players who will innovate solutions to address the needs of the hour.

According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2022?
Technologies centered around remote work delivery, telepresence, client engagement, logistics, collaboration, and automation will be highly sought after in 2022 and onwards. The consumer environment is ever-changing and at a faster pace than ever. Technologies that help organizations stay agile and make quicker decisions will be in demand. This obviously means different things for different industries.

We have seen the impact of artificial intelligence and soft robotics transform the automotive, healthcare, financial, and retail sectors. Some of this impact is clearly visible in the front-end while the majority has fundamentally changed sectors in the back end. Organizations are looking for the ability to address market and consumer demands with shorter go-to-market turnaround times. Technologies that drive such solutions will thrive in 2022 and onwards.

What will be your key focus areas for 2022?
There are a number of focus areas for Proven Arabia for 2022 which are significant strategically for us.

  • Talent Management – We have developed unique service offerings based on our existing infrastructure and expertise which will allow us to help clients not only manage existing human capital in a more compliant and efficient manner but to be able to scale up their teams through specialized recruitment of targeted global talent. The ability to quickly scale up the team by adding the best talent from anywhere in the globe will allow our clients to gain an edge over their competition and produce unparalleled levels of value creation.
  • Smart Automation – The advent of artificial intelligence combined with the power of robotics process automation is a game-changer for business process management. Our service offerings help clients find process efficiencies through process automation using smart bots. With the infusion of AI and learning algorithms into traditional automation, efficiency gains can be exponentially increased over a long-term period.
  • Service Robots – The hardware and software advances in this spectrum of robotics have made a lot of progress in the past few years. These service robots will gradually intertwine with our work and personal lives. The current use cases are only a small snapshot of the utilization which these robots will provide. Proven Robotics will work to provide customized solutions to address client needs through our wide selection of service robots. We are the first local firm to offer a robot management system that helps clients not only manage their robotic fleet but a customize the front end in a simple, non-coding user interface.

What milestones have you set for 2022?
We have a number of milestones for 2022. The major ones include the following

  • Expand our team and resulting footprint in the MENA region and specifically in Egypt since we’ve opened an office there in 2021. This expansion would help us expand our bandwidth in terms of capacity and capability.
  • Increase our corporate immigration and employer of record partnership by 35%. This goal helps us provide a wider footprint when it comes to our advisory and service delivery capabilities.
  • Bring online our new case management tool which enhances our knowledge management and dissemination by organizing our casework along with all related case data elements to be searchable. Smart algorithms will help our consultants and analysts gain insights from previous casework and provide access to a collective firm wide knowledge database

What would you like to do differently in 2022, when compared with 2021?
We incubated a number of internal capability growth initiatives throughout 2020 and 2021. We developed our customer success and business excellence divisions which focused on examining both our internal as well as external service delivery value chain elements. We aim to put these enhancements into action in 2022 and put our energies outbound in expanding our services to engage and serve our clients on a deeper level.

Do you plan to enter new markets or add new products/applications to your portfolio in 2022?
Proven is continuously enhancing its service offerings to meet new and growing client needs. We are looking to spin two of our internal shared services departments into full functioning service divisions which will cater to external client needs within the marketing and talent management space.

In addition, Proven Solution is our internally incubated start-up division which will offer a number of unique solutions within the VR/AR and service robotics sectors. Proven is serving over 50+ blue-chip, multinational clients in various capacities both on retainer and with ad hoc services.

Based on our discussions with our clients and industry partners the general sentiment for 2022 within MENA markets and specifically within Saudi Arabia is of optimism. We are seeing growth in business across multiple sectors. This growth is slow but steady and if this trajectory holds steady then there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. We are hoping that the value pie within the MENA economies will grow and continue to offer more opportunities for firms willing to do business in this region.

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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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