Interview with Ahmed Al Zarouni

VP & Head of IT at Investment Corporation of Dubai

Nov 7, 2021

What do you see as the CIO’s top priority? 

CIOs have shouldered heavy burden in 2020 to keep their organizations afloat. As we move forward, I think top priorities for IT will be around digital transformation to streamline processes and enhance efficiency, customer experience to increase sales and customer loyalty, cloud to ensure applications workability and business continuity, and cyber security to protect against security vulnerabilities.

How have you helped move the business forward? 

Our vision goes far beyond the operational processes. Our role is to provide a greater support to strategic projects that are of high value to the organization. We invested in developing custom and open-source programs and applications that addressed our exact needs and easily integrated with other ecosystems.

What is your experience with digital transformation? 

I began transforming business digitally way back in 2004. It was apparent to me that it’s the way forward. The infusion of technologies into our processes helped us increase efficiency and productivity, allowed us to quickly adapt to shifting market forces, and have greater agility. Unfortunately, many are still struggling with DT for various reasons such as lack of customer understanding, proper utilization of the user experience (UX), changes in business requirements, and inability to adapt to new trends.

Where do you see the industry heading in the next three to five years? 

I think self-service and automation along with machine learning. Organizations are gradually adopting self-service technologies as a measure to enhance their services both internally and externally. From restaurants to banks and airports to hotels, the usage of self-service technologies has increased the customer satisfaction as it imparts personalization and ease of use. Self-service will be shaped by many technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, biometrics to name a few.

What’s your strategic plan for your current IT organization for one year, three years and five years out? 

Providing the right relevant information at the right time in order to help management to anticipate needs, mitigate risks, improve customer experience and improve decision making and overall performance.

How do you stay current on innovations and trends? 

Anybody in the technology industry or tech business knows the struggle to stay updated with all the latest advancements and trends. Technology is faster than light and keeping oneself updated is the only thing to stay alive. Today, there many tech conferences and meetups which are a great way to find out about emerging technologies and meet and connect with other with similar interest. Another method is to get hands-on experience with various technical trainings either online or offline.

How do you engage and get buy-in from your diverse groups of stakeholders? 

Gaining trust and cooperation from a diverse group of stakeholders is imperative for success. Without full buy-in from other stakeholders, projects may seem to be progressing smoothly and then suddenly take a sharp turn for the worst, risking the final deliverables. I believe that demonstration, a clear illustration of the objectives, journey, and the desired outcome are key.

How do you retain employees? 

Employee retention is becoming a key competitive differentiator and IT departments specifically have been ramping up efforts to retain valuable employees in the face of ongoing talent gap issues. Our straightforward approach to employees’ retention consists of building relationships based on mutual trust and respect, providing opportunities to employees to improve their skills, creating a culture of recognition and feedback, and offering a healthy work-life balance.

How do you upskill your employees? 

I believe that upskilling is extremely important for business success as the world changes rapidly. We invest in upskilling to boost productivity and ensure employees are up to date with the latest development and industry trends. We provide continued training which gives our teams the chance to explore new alternative solutions and encourage research and development.

How do you support collaboration across departments? 

Collaboration is part of our DNA. We support collaboration across departments by making sure everyone is on the same page through regular sync meetings between the heads. We also promote a culture of communication by spotlighting each team’s role in the organization and that no single team could exist without the others.