Cloud adoption is helping businesses in the Middle East and Africa to cut overall operational costs, boost profitability and seamlessly address Covid-19-induced market disruptions, according to the region's companies and industry experts.
Due to the adoption of the latest cloud solutions, many companies were able to pivot their business strategies quickly, improve customer experience, become more adaptable and agile, and come strongly out of the Covid-19 pandemic that upended the global economy and shuttered many businesses.
DP World, one of the world's largest port operators, was one of the first companies in the region to spruce up its cloud infrastructure when the pandemic hit the world in 2020. It helped the logistics company to increase its business and keep goods moving smoothly around the world.
The Dubai-based company deployed Oracle fusion cloud applications across its finance, human resources and supply chain operations much before the start of the pandemic. The outcomes are encouraging.
DP World's finance team managed to cut the monthly close process time from 15 days to three. The company cut budgeting time in half and accelerated invoice processing by 50 to 60 per cent.
“By running cloud-based applications, we found that we could maintain critical operations during the pandemic with only minimal staff in the office … there were no frictions, and everything went so seamless,” Mohamed Absar, vice president for enterprise systems at DP World, said.
“We were able to run the whole [back office] operation without anybody in the office. We never thought we’d be able to run the company without employees on-site,” Mr Absar said.
The company has 53,000 employees, running 128 logistics businesses, including 90 shipping terminals around the world.
Globally, the cloud industry is booming. The spending on public cloud services is expected to jump 20.4 per cent annually to $495 billion this year, as businesses expedite the pace of their digital transformation in the post-Covid era, US researcher Gartner said.
Total spending is about $84bn more than in 2020 and is expected to surge nearly 21.3 per cent yearly to almost $600bn next year.
“Businesses, public sector organisations, and SMEs [small and medium enterprises] in the UAE and wider Middle East understand the unique benefits of moving to the cloud including higher ROI [return on investment], ability to explore new avenues of growth, drive innovation, deliver new services, save costs and ensure robust cyber security,” said Leopoldo Boado Lama, senior vice president, business applications for Eastern, Central Europe and Middle East Africa at Oracle.
For businesses, moving to a cloud system hosted by a specialised company — such as Oracle, Amazon Web Services (AWS) or SAP — is more economical than creating their own infrastructure of servers, hardware and security networks, according to industry experts. It also brings down the overall cost of ownership.
In the cloud industry, businesses pay only for those selective services or resources that they use over a period of time.
The new reality of hybrid work is prompting organisations to “move away from powering their workforce with traditional client computing solutions, such as desktops and other physical in-office tools”, and opt for the latest cloud solutions, Gartner said.
Abu Dhabi National Energy Company, better known as Taqa — one of the largest publicly-listed companies in the UAE by market capitalisation — is running Oracle e-business suite solutions for its critical business processes.
In 2020, the company adopted a multi-cloud strategy to address key challenges, including the need to improve system availability and reduce outages, enhance security compliance requirements, and implement a disaster recovery site.
Downtime in operations, the company’s most critical KPI, dropped by 80 per cent after the implementation.
The move to cloud infrastructure compute also gave Taqa nearly 30 per cent performance improvement, as cloud solutions boosted availability and scalability to oil and gas users connected to Oracle and non-Oracle systems across continents, the company said.
“With Oracle cloud, we managed to drive certain efficiencies after exactly two months of operation — almost five times what we used to drive through the old distribution centre — resulting in more than 95 per cent availability across all guest touchpoints,” Raed Jameel Monagel, chief supply chain and business support officer at Saudi Arabia’s Nahdi Medical Company, said.
With about 6,000 employees and more than 1,150 pharmacies serving more than 140 cities and towns around the kingdom, Nahdi is one of the largest pharmacy retailers in Saudi Arabia.
The company's order volume jumped from a few thousand online orders per day to more than 20,000 per day during the pandemic.
In order to curb the effects of the pandemic and modernise its supply chain processes, Nahdi implemented Oracle transportation management and warehouse management solutions to optimise its fulfilment operations, streamline its delivery services and tap into real-time data throughout the supply chain.
The company increased its vehicle utilisation rates by an average of 5 to 10 per cent through fully automated shipment planning and tracking using cloud transportation management.
It led to greater stock availability of products in its pharmacies through more efficient deliveries, the company said.
In September, Dubai-based Dulsco Group joined with Oracle to boost its digital transformation programme that aims to enhance customer and employee experience, automate processes and improve operational efficiencies.
“In a rapidly changing market, we needed more adaptability and resilience while continuing to be innovative and reliable for our customers,” David Stockton, chief executive of Dulsco, said.
“Partnering with Oracle will enable us to optimise processes with a complete set of integrated applications, so we can operate more efficiently, embrace continuous innovation and scale our business at the pace we need.”
The new solutions unveiled at the event in Las Vegas, Nevada, aim to help customers to accelerate digital transformation, boost product offerings, improve customer experience and make faster decisions through the improved use of data and analytics.
Despite its benefits, security is always a challenge with cloud.
“There is no doubt that securing data is now a business leader’s top priority. The IT security practices of many organisations that manage their own systems are just not sufficient, on their own, to resist complex threats,” Mr Lama said.
“At Oracle, security has been a priority from day one. We are countering the cybersecurity challenge with the world’s first autonomous database. Self-driving, self-securing and self-repairing, our autonomous database eliminates complexity, manual management and human error”.