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Interview with Hanan Al Zarouni, Executive Director at Dubai Holding Asset Management


Jun 5, 2023

How would you describe yourself?

Technology is my passion. Keeping up with the latest trends and developments is not something I do to stay ahead for work but to satisfy my own curiosity. I am fascinated by how technology can bring and enhance value in many ways, as our world increasingly requires agility and innovation. Contrasting this, interestingly, is that I also greatly enjoy art and folding my creativity into the sometimes rigid elements of technology. It adds a valuable layer to problem-solving and seeing each situation from a myriad of angles.

What does your typical workday look like?

Most professionals in our field can tell you there is no typical day in IT. Each day tends to be quite dynamic, but there are some practices I’ve built in to ensure productivity and focus. I begin by pinpointing my priorities for the day and sifting through the news to see what’s happening in our organisation and industry, as well as on a global level. Technology has become so integral to every facet of society and business that sometimes, current events give you a perspective that may impact your next project or problem.

My team comes together for morning alignment meetings which are valuable in assessing progress and effective resourcing. On most days I also have meetings with my peers, industry experts, vendors and other practices in our business. As the head of IT, it is essential that I understand our business from every level. It gives me a closer understanding of the different processes, interactions, challenges and touchpoints.

What are your key responsibilities in the organisation?

As the Executive Director of Business Technology at Dubai Holding Asset Management, I oversee the development and execution of the organisation’s IT strategy and digital transformation journey. I lead the adoption and implementation of new technologies and processes, be it automation, data analytics or cloud-based platforms, which underpin DHAM’s short and long-term vision and spearhead operational innovation.

How do you leverage technology to help your organisation achieve its business goals?

Our team operates against four pillars: Digital Customer Experience, Operational Excellence, Data Intelligence and Governance and Compliance. Each of these is essential to DHAM’s core business objectives, which boils down to creating a seamless customer journey that complements physical touch points with efficient digital ones. It is satisfying to leverage technology to nurture high-quality business and lifestyle destinations and residential communities that attract and retain tenants, contributing to Dubai’s global reputation as a dynamic and innovative city.

What are the main challenges you face and how do you overcome them?

Whether customers, talent or team culture, people require the most care – and deliver the most valuable results. A primary way for organisations to overcome the various challenges these categories pose is, first and foremost, by recognising that IT is a strategic and value-adding practice, not a supporting arm. Once that mindset is embraced throughout the organisation, it’s essential to find, retain and develop the right kind of talent. Great talent contributes to the team’s culture, unique perspectives and technical know-how that define impactful IT strategies for the group – it is also why diversity is necessary.

A strong IT unit benefits an organisation’s relationship with its customers too. A strong tech structure allows organisations to be proactive and develop a robust and agile approach to changing consumer demands. By offering thoughtful digital solutions, you meet your customers where they are and deliver convenience. Innovation as a regular practice can help organisations stand out from the competition while improving internal processes.

How do you stay up to date with current technology trends?

My fascination with technology drives me to stay in the know. Tech events and news are great supplements for information but connecting with my peers and leaders is the best. I stay in touch with industry experts by networking and attending panels and exhibitions. It’s a great way to see where the industry is headed and what new trends and solutions to keep an eye on.

What are the key technology trends that you consider implementing?

It’s essential to keep up with trends, but you must narrow your focus to those the organisation and the industry require. Technologies such as prop-tech, cloud computing and AI are relevant to ours because they can enhance the customer experience, which is one of DHAM’s key objectives. We’re even keeping an eye on things like ChatGPT and the metaverse to see how their use cases evolve and what they can mean for our industry. This commitment to innovation is what allows us to stay ahead of the curve.

In your opinion, how do you see the future of your industry? And how technology will play a role?

Globally, we are witnessing the convergence of industries with technology at heart – our own included. Technology is no longer a convenient add-on but must be embedded across the business model. DHAM creates enriched experiences for businesses, residents and tourists. Technology plays a crucial part by ensuring that most of our services, touchpoints, customer interactions and operations have digital counterparts for continuity and convenience.