The digital transformation journey will continue for many Middle East businesses in 2020. For others, the journey is just beginning. Whichever stage you are at, we all face new transformation challenges this year. It is how we meet these challenges that will determine whether we grow more agile and innovative, or become mired in a ‘digital deadlock’. Digital deadlock is an issue GBM addressed this year in partnership with analysts IDC. We recognize, when transformation is blocked by barriers, businesses get stuck running disjointed, small-scale initiatives – instead of implementing a real transformation strategy. The solution is to meet new challenges by having the right infrastructure, information architecture, skills and processes, and partnerships. Some new challenges are technological. If we are weak in technology areas where competitors are strong, we cannot transform, and we fall behind. New technologies keep arriving and creating new opportunities, but we need to be ready to adopt them. In 2020, networking will become more flexible and fast thanks to 5G and the new Wi-Fi 6 standard. 5G will provide the backbone for amazing new infrastructure that powers smart cities, IoT systems and digital experiences. The Middle East is leading the way in rolling out 5G. It is set to transform every industry. But do you have the capability to transform with it? AI will evolve further. Talking to chatbots, which have become the standard for customer service, will be more like having a real conversation. AI will also power the next generation of analytics, which will become a business essential. “Companies that still aren’t investing heavily in analytics by 2020 probably won’t be in business in 2021,” wrote Forbes’ transformation expert. Open source AI solutions like the joint offering from IBM and H2O.ai may be a good place to start. Other new challenges are more fundamental. If the way we currently do business prevents us from taking new digital opportunities, we are in a deadlock. That is one reason business process mining and robotic process automation (RPA) are hot topics for 2020, despite being established concepts. Process mining brings the way we work today into the light, so we can see its failings and inefficiencies. It shows us where we stand, providing a start point for the transformation journey. It can even predict what will happen after we implement new processes. We also need capable infrastructure and information systems to enable transformation. In 2020, public, hybrid and multi-cloud approaches will be more viable as new Middle East data centers open. Cloud is not just about scale and economics anymore. Modern apps and services, including powerful new AI and blockchain services, live in the cloud. They are easy to consume, via containerized solutions like IBM Cloud Paks, if your infrastructure is ready for it. Why make the journey alone? Nobody ever said digital transformation was going to be easy. But likewise, nobody said we have to go at it alone. With so many new technologies, skills and solutions to consider, businesses can’t be expected to understand them all. When we want to travel safely, we go with partners who can help us over the obstacles and around the pitfalls. Our focus at GBM for 2020 is to help more businesses break out of the digital deadlock, prepare for digital transformation, and seize the incredible technology opportunities that await us all this year. If you would like to be one of them, get in touch with us.