16 December 2019

Invest in technology, skillsets for the digital era, say experts

With new regulatory initiatives providing a clear framework for doing business in Oman, companies that are prepared for the digital transformation will thrive.

In these challenging markets, businesses can stay ahead of the game by understanding and using technology, as well as recognising the need for new talents and skills, experts at a recent HSBC Business Banking launch event in Oman agreed. 

In a panel discussion on digital transformation and adapting to an ever-changing environment, key trends identified included opportunities in the wake of regulatory initiatives, using technology to preserve cash flow, the need to put customers first and a shift towards new skillsets.

Emergence of a clear regulatory framework

The Omani government is taking an active role in making it easier to do business in the current volatile environment. The Foreign Capital Investment Law allows for better ownership and control of companies, including 100 per cent foreign shareholding in some sectors, while a new bankruptcy law will provide a clear framework for business owners and their creditors.

These regulatory initiatives are paving the way for new business opportunities in the Sultanate. The SME Development Fund has financed over 750 companies since its inception in 2014, with a notable number expanding internationally.

Harness technology to preserve cash flows  

During the event, a live audience poll asked respondents where they intended to invest 2020 capital expenditure. Just over half (51 per cent) answered “technology”, while 42 per cent said they would invest in people.

The key to preserving cash flows in the current challenging climate lies in investing in the right tools and technology. This strategy that can be applied on the most basic level, for instance in achieving cash visibility. HSBC is investing in platforms to make it easier for clients to see how much cash they are sitting on, both with HSBC and across banks.

In an environment of cash flow crunch, implementing appropriate technological solutions will help businesses on the operational front, such as moving away from manual payments, and ensuring invoices go out on time to allow for quicker collection.  

But customers must come first

The rush to become a digital trendsetter may sometimes mean that customer needs fall by the wayside. Yet establishing interoperability with customers by tapping into their behaviour and understanding what they want is essential in order to enter new markets and achieve scale, regardless of the business. Customer security is also paramount.

Skills and roles are evolving

Operating in a digital environment calls for a shift in recruitment needs and skillsets. While traditional degrees such as accountancy, finance and law are evergreen, businesses and their people need to evolve in order to grow.

At the highest level, it is now commonplace for companies to recruit Chief Technology Officers to oversee areas such as cloud computing, data security and analysing big data. This advanced thinking by CTOs needs to flow downstream across all employees. Traditional roles are also changing – no longer seen as paper-pushers, Chief Financial Officers are being relied on to drive strategy and transformation through knowing and using technology.  

Investment in staff is also key. Companies, regardless of size, need to know how to maximise the skills of each individual employee, in order to build a creative workforce that can adapt to the challenges of the digital era.

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