INSEAD Participant Interview

Driving Digital Marketing Strategy & the INSEAD Online experience



Tarek El Bably

PwC’s Tarek El Bably was looking for a roadmap to navigate change. The Driving Digital Marketing Strategy programme exceeded his expectations so greatly, he has signed up for a second INSEAD programme.

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Global business is facing unprecedented disruption. And in today’s climate of near-constant uncertainty, it can feel like an uphill struggle to keep track of the game-changing digital megatrends, emerging approaches and quantum shifts in consumer behaviour and expectations that are reshaping the competitive playing field.

So says Tarek El Bably. Senior Manager at PwC Middle East with a focus on SAP software presales functions, solution architecture and organisational change management, El Bably is all too aware of the need to keep pace with change.

“Disruption is everywhere and at PwC, part of our value proposition is to help our clients overcome their pain points. We do this by selling and implementing international software that can help them navigate uncertainty, but disruption from our own competitors is adding layers of complexity to what we do too. What we’re grappling with in our markets are things like price competition and unrealistic expectations from customers in terms of costs, scope and timelines. And our customers are grappling with the same challenges.”

For El Bably and his team, all of this came even more sharply into focus in the fallout of Covid-19, with new players entering the competitive arena across a raft of industries and markets. “

We were seeing it as an organisation within PwC, and so were our clients – disruption coming in from startups whose lower overheads meant they could offer lower prices. And this in turn leading to friction between customers and incumbents.”

To make sense of the situation and help his own organisation and his client companies reach customers more effectively, El Bably was looking for a “learning intervention;” a learning partner to help him see the big picture and devise the right frameworks and tools to see off the salvos from newcomers while better servicing the needs of clients. The field of marketing, he intuited, would be the right place to focus. And this is the intuition that brought him to INSEAD and the Driving Digital Marketing Strategy programme in 2021. “

At PwC we are constantly encouraged to build new knowledge and gain new insights and skills – it’s a function of our ongoing learning curve as a corporate culture. Colleagues at PwC recommended INSEAD to me and this programme dovetailed with my particular interest in marketing, which I see as very much the “brain” of an organisation. I was really interested in seeing how INSEAD faculty would unpack the most urgent disruptions in marketing that are playing out across the world, especially in the wake of the pandemic.”

Going into the programme, El Bably was highly impressed with the integration of rigorous, theoretical frameworks and real-world, practical insights – an approach that was enhanced immeasurably by direct interaction with professors, peers and an experienced learning coach who provided consistent mentorship and guidance throughout.

“There’s a really effective blend of theory and practicality with lots of examples. As an MBA holder, this is an approach that I really appreciate. And I was very pleased with the accessibility that the programme delivered – especially given the restrictions of Covid. It was very easy to connect with faculty and to benefit from peer reviews during and outside live interaction. It’s fascinating to have access to other people’s ideas, their challenges and solutions, and to compare approaches and perspectives.”

A major highlight for El Bably was the Action Learning Project (ALP) – an opportunity to channel new ideas, concepts, tools and approaches into addressing a real-life, specific business challenge.

“My ALP was laser-focused on our own needs as a company and the parallel needs of our clients to respond to disruption. I used my project to build deep understanding of the customer journey and key touchpoints; and to explore how deploying virality, innovation, new business models and a re-invigorated customer-centricity can build loyalty and drive success.”

So effective was the ALP, that El Bably is continuing to implement aspects of it within his own organisation and with clients facing these challenges.

Not only that, he is keep to replicate the entire INSEAD experience in the near future. Next up will be the Leading Successful Change programme, which El Bably is set to complete in 2021.

“INSEAD is a great school. The programmes are incredibly well structured to help you make real sense of the challenges you and your customers are facing, and the additional benefit of a project like the ALP brings the learning into very sharp focus while giving you an implementation roadmap for immediate impact. I would recommend the school and its programmes without any hesitation. You come away with a disruption masterplan.”


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