Industry Thought Leadership

Powering Human Digital Capacity within the ICT and Non-ICT Industries across the MENA Region through Enterprise Software Innovations

October, 2021
Robert F. Smith
Founder, Chairman and CEO

Vista Equity Partners

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic upended economies across the globe. Overnight, stay-at-home mandates and distancing measures became the status quo, and businesses were forced to move quickly, reevaluating their digital strategies to enable their continuity and survival.

This shift compelled organizations across the world – from governments to financial institutions to education and healthcare providers – to reinforce their core operations and processes, increasing their reliance on digital technologies.

As a result, digital transformation has further penetrated all sectors of the global economy and enterprise software remains one of, if not, the greatest drivers of business productivity and performance.

According to McKinsey data, from December 2019 through July of 2020, global software company market capitalizations grew 20%, faster than all other sectors, demonstrating its mission criticality to the global economy and business continuity.

The pandemic also highlighted the need for high-speed internet and telecom services. Governments, citizens and the private sector relied heavily on digital connectivity to deliver essential services, connect with loved ones and enable business continuity.

This activity resulted in total global data consumption increasing by 30% in 2020, while Wi-Fi capacity was stressed by 80%. As a result, 50% of networking executives expect to boost their wireless networking investment while 15% report they’ll invest significantly more, according to a Deloitte survey.

As we enter the next normal, the need for network capacity and viability shows no signs of letting up with remote working or hybrid practices likely to remain and appetite for enterprise software only increasing. In a McKinsey survey, 38% of industrial companies said that they aspire to generate 50% or more of revenues within the next three years from digital technologies and services.

Enabling An Ecosystem of Innovation: The Role of Telecom Providers
The pandemic has also accelerated business requirements for privacy and security, along with increased visibility around the value of data and automation. With these factors at play, enterprises are turning to cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and robotic process automation tools among other advanced technologies, at a record pace. According to IDC, the worldwide AI market is estimated to grow 15.2% in 2021 to $341.8 billion.

By offering significant performance improvements — such as faster speeds, increased data capacity, lower latency, greater device density, and precise location sensing — 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will be crucial to enabling these advanced technologies. In fact, four in five executives consider advanced wireless very or extremely important to their organization’s ability to implement IoT, big data analytics, AI, and edge computing—and even more say the same for cloud computing, according to Deloitte.

Connectivity, in turn, is expediating the growth of these advanced technologies. Gartner forecasts predict that by 2025, over 75% of enterprise data will be created and processed outside the typical data center.
Telecom providers must respond to this need for infrastructure development and innovative IP capabilities that keep pace with an accelerated digital economy – initiatives that require a highly skilled, digital workforce.

Accelerating Digital Transformation with Digital Skills
Even before the pandemic, many countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region had outlined ambitious plans to transform their economies into digital powerhouses. There has been a huge appetite for technology and many governments are leading the way with technology deployments and policy developments that support technology. For example, the UAE’s Vision 2021 and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

Knowledge and skills are the cornerstones of digital progress and unlocking the potential of the workforce is widely viewed as crucial to any country’s economic development in today’s digital world.

Digital skills and labor are scarce around the world – software developers in every country globally are in high demand. Worldwide, there are just 26.9 million software developers, a number that is expected to grow to 27.7 million in 2023 and reach 45 million by 2030.

While the digital talent gap affects all sectors, this is particularly pronounced in the technology, media, and telecom (TMT) industries. Telecom operators, for example, need employees with a range of capabilities across product development and analytics to enable their own digital transformations.

With the arrival of 5G and the escalating importance of IoT and cloud computing, telecom companies throughout the MENA region face the compounding burden of finding and training people who can keep pace with these fast-moving technologies, while also incentivizing their workforce to stay in the industry when their skills are desired elsewhere. According to McKinsey, 88% of digital talent who switch companies decide to leave the subsector altogether.

Given the finite pool of workers and the high cost of hiring, a holistic approach to workforce design and reskilling is critical to ensure the telecom industry in the MENA region remains future ready. And with over half the population in the MENA region less than 25 years old, there is a huge opportunity to offer digital skills training to bolster the future digital workforce.

By focusing on early training and reskilling, providers can also experience expanded benefits including boosts in productivity, while preventing information silos and delivering a superior customer experience.

A Model for Digital Reskilling Across the MENA region - Pluralsight and Verizon
The production of digital products and services requires skills in information and communication technologies (ICTs) to code, develop applications and manage networks. If looking for a model for digital reskilling, telecom providers in the MENA region could consider Verizon’s initiative with Pluralsight,* the technology workforce development platform that enables employees to develop the skills of tomorrow.

Verizon is one of the largest communication technology companies in the world, ranked 19 of the Fortune 500. The company’s strategic priority over the next five years is to build its 5G network. This strategy – Verizon 2.0 – requires product development at scale and a workforce with the technical skills across every domain.

With the pace of technological change only accelerating, Verizon has realized that hiring alone would not solve its skills shortage or position its workers to embrace future changes within the industry. With this in mind, a key component of the Verizon 2.0 strategy is to upskill its current workforce, while providing access to a learning environment that enables them to keep up with the changes in technology.

Leveraging Pluralsight, Verizon has been able to define and build over 130 roles for its future and map the skills required for each role. Employees have taken thousands of assessments to date, enabling leaders to quickly benchmark skills, identify gaps and develop their digital workforce.

Using analytics, leaders at Verizon have also been able to see continuous skill gains among its workforce and move people into critical roles based on these outcomes. Overall, by leveraging, Pluralsight, Verizon, has been able to:

  • Upskill across the entire organization
  • Build out roles of the future
  • Deliver product releases more quickly

By prioritizing technology skill development in this manner, telecom operators in the MENA region can also prepare their organizations for the evolving digital technology landscape, readying their workforce with the skills of tomorrow and help their businesses achieve better outcomes.
An essential first step to do so, however, is to assess the digital skills needed and ensure there’s organizational alignment in creating a reskilling program. From there, it’s imperative to create an environment that celebrates learning and development so that workers feel empowered by reskilling initiatives. Finally, there must be clear goals and metrics to measure the outcomes and successes of the program.

This strategy would be common to most telecom operators in the region, as most share the same business models in the delivery of integrated digital communication services. The difference in the types and number of roles that a given operator may define for its future workforce, ultimately, will be a function of ambitions, national ICT visions, economic diversification goals and market dynamics.

A Connected Future Powered by Enterprise Software
Digitization remains one of the key enablers of economic diversification and a capable digital workforce, will be critical to attaining these economic goals. Particularly within the telecom industry, where connectivity empowers technological progress, a robust employee pipeline with the necessary skills to advance the digital economy is imperative.

The digital future of the MENA region looks bright. By keeping talent at the forefront of its objectives and prioritizing the development of digital skills, the MENA region will be well positioned to reap the benefits of connectivity and enterprise software, cementing its leading position in the global economy.

Vista is a leading global investment firm with more than $81 billion in assets under management as of June 30, 2021. We believe the transformative power of technology is the key to an even better future – a healthier planet, a smarter economy, a diverse and inclusive community and a broader path to prosperity. We view education and digital skills as critical to realizing this vision.

*Note: Pluralsight is a Vista Equity Partners portfolio company.