Juniper Networks, a leader in secure, AI-driven networks, today announced the findings of a survey based in Saudi Arabia examining the understanding of the experience economy among IT decision makers and enterprise employees. The research also considers the strategic influence of the experience economy on future IT investments and gauges the level of digital readiness among organisations in the context of the Digital Economy Policy of Saudi Arabia.The experience economy refers to an economic model where public and private sector organisations shift their focus from selling products or services to offering and monetising memorable and transformative experiences for their customers.The new research, conducted by Censuswide* on Juniper’s behalf, surveyed 304 IT decision makers with over 500 employees across the government, education, retail, oil/ gas, healthcare, travel and transport and manufacturing & utilities sectors of the UAE and KSA’s economies. The IT respondents are directly involved in executing their organisation’s digitisation efforts, technology investment plans and talent development.The research highlights that 45 percent of respondents in Saudi Arabia think their organisation's C-level leadership does have a thorough understanding of the experience economy concept. Additionally, 83 percent of respondents agree that their organisation is already capitalising on the experience economy.Within this context, the findings provide insights into three key themes: digital maturity, value of an intelligent network, AI-driven talent and skilling.Digital Maturity vs. Challenges to Digitisation:Categorising organisations into relative levels of digital transformation, 37 percent of respondents in Saudi Arabia consider their organisation to be a leader in digital transformation. In comparison, only nine percent think their organisation is a digital laggard. Bearing in mind IT investment is a major boost for an organisation on its digital journey, 33 percent of respondents in Saudi Arabia said that their organisation has already invested in capable IT infrastructure to deliver optimised, personalised experiences to employees and customers. A further 52 percent said their organisation is currently investing in capable IT infrastructure, highlighting the importance of the network in driving successful digital transformation.While these numbers indicate the level of appetite among organisations in Saudi Arabia for digital transformation and the experience economy, surprisingly, it is peer pressure and a fear of being left behind that appear to be a key driver in many people’s minds. As highlighted by 53 percent of respondents in Saudi Arabia, the driving factor for the uptake within their organisations is benchmarking competitors and peers performing better at digitisation. While the level of digital maturity and capable IT infrastructure appears to be in place for most organisations, challenges to delivering digital experiences that matter to customers still exist. Additionally, the research found that 32 percent of respondents in Saudi Arabia highlighted lack of digital strategy and planning as their primary challenge, followed by budget constraints (29 percent) and buy-in from the C-level leadership (21 percent).The Value of Investing in an Intelligent Network:While organisations are investing in agile IT infrastructures to deliver on the promise of enhanced products and services, the role of intelligent networking solutions has taken center-stage in this conversation across the board. Laying emphasis on capitalisation of the experience economy, 99 percent of respondents in Saudi Arabia feel their C-level leadership considers the network to be critically important/important. However, in an effort to demand more from networking solutions, 99 percent of respondents in Saudi Arabia believe automation of networks is critically important/important to lead in the experience economy.The experience economy has also impacted workplace trends that are further shaping how organisations work and operate. As the workforce adapts to new and flexible modes of work, 87 percent of respondents in Saudi Arabia strongly agree/somewhat agree that their organisation’s networking strategies need to be elevated to keep pace with hybrid or remote work models. Adding to that, 88 percent strongly agree/somewhat agree that leveraging the 5G network is essential to accelerate the experience for employees and customers.Talent and Skill Building Mandates in the Artificial Intelligence Era:Almost all (96 percent) of respondents in Saudi Arabia feel AI, Analytics and Cloud play a positive role in their organisation, and these areas are considered to be enablers of better digital user experiences and business efficiency.However, an AI-powered future requires adaptability, which can only be achieved through skill building. Nevertheless, continuing the positive perceptions, 96 percent of respondents in Saudi Arabia agree that their IT team members are mostly skilled/completely skilled to leverage AI-driven networking solutions. “While Dynamic technology trends shape industries, and it is evident from our research findings that organisations in Saudi Arabia are keen to step up their digitisation efforts to capitalise on the experience economy. Two key factors that can drive them forward on this journey are robust, intelligent AI-driven networking solutions and building efficient IT skill sets. Hand in hand, both these factors can support IT decision makers and the workforce to elevate operational capabilities to keep up with the pace of an experience-led market. Overall, this also correlates to goals of the Digital Economy Policy of Saudi Arabia that center on advancing digital transformation,” said Yarob Sakhnini (pictured above), Vice President, Emerging Markets, EMEA at Juniper Networks.