Continuing on with our list of challenges faced by Middle Eastern companies as they catch up with the West in procurement and supply chain (and potentially leapfrogging other regions), we come to a few additional areas:
- Availability of the right resources at middle management levels remains a challenge. It’s easy to attract leaders from Europe and the US, but finding middle level talent is another question entirely. This is especially true when it comes to more modern procurement roles such as category management, source-to-pay process leadership, etc. Middle Eastern companies often have a much better handle on supply chain talent focused on logistics at the middle management level.
- Technology – we should not assume right to left is simple! As my children, who are learning Hebrew and some Arabic are discovering, the range of computer and other (e.g., mobile) applications configured for right-to-left languages is limited. Many software companies in the procurement and supply chain sectors have focused first on Asian double-byte character set enablement rather than Arabic or Hebrew. We hope more procurement and supply chain software companies will prioritize Arabic localization.
- The cultural side of naming can make it challenging to go back and forth between languages. Don't get us started on all the challenges of transliteration in Arabic in such a short space. Many Westerners don’t begin to understand the nuances of how one person’s name or a place can have some twenty accurate translations.
- The question of stability and security in the region is the potential elephant in the procurement and supply chain room. We are all waiting for how the future of the Arab Spring shakes out and especially whether democracy movements will spread to those regions with monarchies (a giant question for business leaders and policy wonks alike). No doubt Western companies and trading partners feel better doing business in potentially “less free” political environments in the Middle East than those in North Africa and the Mediterranean, but that could change.
As my colleague Peter Smith returns from Dubai, we’ll be sure to feature his views and commentary on the prospects of the Middle East from procurement and supply chain perspectives.