Cisco Research: UAE and KSA’s CIOs Identify New Strategies to Navigate Changing World

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Findings Reveal Investments in Security Optimization and Cloud Management as Top Priorities, Supported by Commitment to Empower Teams and Create a More Inclusive Future

Reem Asaad, Vice President, Cisco Middle East and Africa. 

KSA, Riyadh: Cisco’s inaugural CIO Perspectives survey has identified the strategic priorities for 1,300 decisionmakers globally, across markets including the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

As CIOs navigate new territories, how their IT teams operate on a day-to-day basis and how they plan for the future have fundamentally changed. Cisco’s study has revealed that COVID-19 is top of mind for 61% of respondents in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. 

The results of Cisco’s research illustrate four clear strategic imperatives for CIOs in the UAE and Saudi Arabia:

  • Reimagining applications:  88% believe that building fast with the ability to deploy anywhere, intelligently, while being able to observe every experience and act in real time.
  • Securing data: 98% believe in ensuring that customers data is tight and secure, and founded upon trust.
  • Transforming infrastructure: 87% believe that creating an environment that is software-defined, intent driven, and context powered.
  • Empowering teams: 84% believe that providing the opportunity for employees to collaborate seamlessly, across every medium.

While CIOs in both countries recognize the importance of digital transformation, ensuring data security, application optimization and empowering teams, respondents cite difficulties in communicating the strategic value of IT investments to their wider organizations as a key obstacle.

Security-First Approach

For 67% of CIOs in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, maintaining privacy and security is a common challenge. Globally, CIOs surveyed spent $323 million per year (approximately 14% of their annual IT budgets) exclusively on ensuring data privacy and protection, combating cyberthreats such as advanced malware. In the UAE and Saudi Arabia, this spending averaged at 12%, while approximately a third of CIOs have allocated 15% of their IT budgets or more to secure sensitive information.

Looking ahead, 77% of CIOs in the region anticipate an increase in security optimization spend over the next 12 months, while 84% believe investments will also increase over the next 3 years.

64% of CIOs believe that ‘complete trust in data being secure’ is the most important aspect that they can offer to their customers. Yet, 79% struggle to maintain a complete security fabric, while pursuing continuous innovation as their organizations transform.

Migrating to Cloud and Advancing Infrastructure

Cloud adoption has redefined success for all organizations. However, 75% of CIOs in the UAE and Saudi Arabia rate managing multi-cloud dynamics as a top challenge – with issues ranging from processing and data security, to enabling mobile workforces. IT teams burdened by slow, manual legacy infrastructures are often unable to effectively address such challenges

Over a third of respondents in the UAE and Saudi Arabia have already migrated their organizations’ processes and applications to a cloud enabled infrastructure. CIOs identify automatic software updates, reduced complexity and disaster recovery capability as key motivators for adopting cloud solutions.

A staggering 95% of respondents from the region shared varying degrees of reliance on legacy technology, with 20% being ‘completely reliant’ for the running of critical functions.  The challenge for IT teams remains supporting apps and data remotely, while overcoming the complexity that arises from a history of operating in silos.

Empowering Teams and Promoting a Culture of Collaboration

Of the CIOs surveyed, 51% in the UAE and Saudi Arabia believe their teams are ‘mostly empowered’ with the right technology to succeed in their roles. 19% believe that their teams could be ‘much more empowered’, while 23% recognize that significant improvements are required. In an effort to empower teams to work more collaboratively, CIOs identify ‘trust from management’ and ‘cultivating the right working environment’ as key influencing factors. 

76% of CIOs in the region believe that the employee experience is either of ‘primary’ or ‘high’ importance to the organization’s executive team. This indicates potential for CIOs to further push the technology agenda among senior stakeholders, leveraging collaboration technology and robust digital networking architecture to better connect and engage employees with smart workspaces.

Cisco’s CIO Perspectives survey has identified that CIOs in the UAE and Saudi Arabia believe it is vital to put ‘futureproofing’ at the top of their agendas, in order to benefit the organization’s success (77%). 

“For over 35 years, Cisco has defined innovation – helping to build the Internet, reimagine connections and empower decisionmakers to push the limits of possibility. As businesses now re-engineer their IT plans to meet new demands, we believe that CIOs must be the driving force, pushing the innovation agenda – with full backing and support from their management. More unified approaches to security, cloud and collaboration technology will better serve seamless operation and ultimately, help to drive business growth, said Reem Asaad, Vice President, Cisco Middle East and Africa

As the role of the CIO expands to have greater impact at not only a business and industry level, but also in positively impacting society, 84% of CIOs in the UAE and Saudi Arabia believe that it is important to be driven by a purpose which is aligned with ‘doing good’. CIOs identify providing access to technology and encouraging employees to make positive impacts within the community as key influences on an organization’s abilities to contribute towards creating an inclusive future.

About Cisco: 

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the worldwide leader in technology that powers the Internet. Cisco inspires new possibilities by reimagining your applications, securing your data, transforming your infrastructure, and empowering your teams for a global and inclusive future. Discover more on The Network and follow us on Twitter. Cisco and the Cisco logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Cisco and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and other countries. A listing of Cisco’s trademarks can be found at www.cisco.com/go/trademarks. Third-party trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective owners. The use of the word partner does not imply a partnership relationship between Cisco and any other company