Regional Focus: Accenture's View from... Israel
Tuesday, February 3, 2015.
The Accenture ‘View From’ series of blogs will take us to a different country each month, giving a light but enlightening insight into those markets’ characteristics and daily challenges when it comes to implementing mobility across enterprises.
Unique Culture Drives Unique Business Ecosystem
The size of the State of Israel surprises most people who have never had cause to visit or study a map of the region; just slightly bigger than New Jersey, the whole country could fit inside Lake Michigan, measuring under 10 miles (15km) at its narrowest, and only 263 miles (424km) from top to bottom.
This, the on-going political situation with our neighbours and – until a recent natural gas discovery – a lack of natural resources, has had an enormous impact on the way that science and technology have become a vital element of Israel’s economy. Israel is now one of the world’s most respected markets in these fields, despite being only 66 years old. Widely known as ‘the startup nation’, the entrepreneurial spirit of innovation is as strong here now as it ever has been, with the largest startup community outside of the United States.
High-tech and startup activity in Israel is inherent in the culture of the nation. Mandatory national service of two or three years results in the young people of Israel starting their working lives differently to those of similar ages in the West. With an average age of less than 30 years old, we’re also an extremely young country that simply doesn’t have a culture of working for large corporations. Many innovations stem from time spent in the military, and ideas that are hatched there are often realised later in the private sector, such as the first firewall software which was developed in Israel.
One heavily influential element of our culture that cannot be ignored, due to its impact on our high-tech and business ecosystem, is the ongoing security situation. Security – both physical and cyber – is a major priority in Israel. As a result, we now have such a legion of local cyber security firms that it warrants an Israeli Showcase at the annual RSA Conference.
As a country with limited natural resources, the skills and talents of Israeli people are what we focus on to build the economy, and as a result they have been recognised by major international companies who invest heavily in R&D here. Google, Intel, Cisco and Microsoft are just a few of the major international tech companies with a significant R&D presence in Israel, and over 35,000 people work in around 250 R&D centres around the country.
High-Tech and Global Organisations Get Better Benefits from Mobility
In Israel, enterprise technology use is dictated by the small size of the country. Many companies are local rather than global, so there’s no need for solutions such as telepresence suites or internationally relevant governance around communications. We like to have face-to-face meetings, and the distance to travel for a meeting is usually short.
Multinational corporations (MNCs) and Israeli businesses operating in the high-tech sector do tend to utilise mobility and other digital technologies through BYOD schemes, and some MNCs have globally implemented solutions. However, for Israel’s more local enterprises, mobile phones typically were only used for email in recent years, although we’re starting to see a real shift here.
The major industries in Israel have just a small number of companies operating in them, and they have relatively similar – and loyal – market share. Until recently when new legislation opened up markets, there was little incentive for large enterprises to seek differentiation from their competition through technology. These bigger, more traditional enterprises can also suffer from a shortage of talent, as anyone who is innovative or highly skilled in digital technology is likely to be attracted to the startup scene, rather than the corporate workplace.
However, I expect that we’re going to continue to see C-level executives getting younger over the coming years, which will change the status quo. As a young country, we’re inevitably a big user of social networks, and this lowering in age of our senior executives will mean that technologies used in our personal lives are starting to make their way into our working days. This includes smartphones and tablets, and the apps available on them. Right now, the big businesses of Israel have some catching up to do to get the most out of Enterprise Mobility, but this is an issue they are already aware of, and already actively working to address.
Clouding the Skies to Let the Sun Shine Through
At Accenture, we firmly believe that a recent regulatory shift allowing institutions to use the public cloud will herald a sea change in the way that enterprises in Israel manage, upload and access their business data. Watch this space over the next five or so years, to see Enterprise Mobility in particular really start to change the way we operate, thanks to the increasing use of enterprise cloud services. Where now we mainly use our mobile devices to check emails for work, in due course we will start to better equip our field forces in larger enterprises as well as the smaller, more agile ones. The days of paper and pen updates from workforces are most certainly numbered, as the capabilities for accessing and uploading data anywhere become more widely available to us.
The ongoing rollout of a 4G network will help with increased Enterprise Mobility and the adoption of cloud services, and the fact that Israeli consumers have already experienced nearly ubiquitous connectivity will mean a seamless shift into the enterprise world. Almost every public venue, such as cafes, trains and bars has free Wi-Fi access for all, and the use of social networks and other tools via mobile devices for enterprise collaboration is a natural next step for enterprise users.
Where to Next?
Israel is highly advanced in terms of high-tech, and highly focused in terms of what we want to achieve. Only recently, Israel opened a major new centre in the desert city of Beer-Sheva, where our intelligence community and high-tech incubators will work next to each other in ‘smart’ buildings, as part of the ‘CyberSpark’ initiative. Our Prime Minster expects this to become "one of the most important places in the cyber security field in the world," and programmes like this – alongside the continued support of innovation and R&D in the space – means that the future for Israel as a high-tech hub is looking pretty strong right now. As a result, and with younger executives taking the helm, the way we use technology in even our most traditional businesses is going to change.
Enterprise Mobility will be a major enabler of the best optimised, most productive and most highly competitive companies out there, and I firmly believe that as markets open up inside Israel and access to cloud-based tools increases, there will be a marked shift towards enterprises utilising mobility more completely over the coming years.
This article was written by Jacob Benadiba, Country Managing Director for Israel, Accenture for the regional 'view from' series.