Spend Matters in Dubai – CIPS growing in MENA

Following our Real World Sourcing event in Dubai last week, we talked on Monday about Tejari, the BravoSolution JV in Dubai and the region. Our event was also sponsored and supported by CIPS (the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply). They now have a MENA ( Middle East and North Africa) operation, with a couple of staff based in the region. Chris Gallagher is one of them – he’s been a CIPS Director for years, since my time as President!  He’s worked internationally for many years, and is driving CIPS’ effort  in the region.

In general terms, procurement is a few years behind Western Europe and the US, according to most people I spoke to, but the crash of 2008/9 has made organisations more conscious of the need for better procurement and the tools to achieve that.

Hence the big winner for CIPS is the corporate certification programme. Organisations are very keen to develop procurement skills and performance, and see the certification as a good driver and motivator for that purpose. It also gives internal procurement functions more credibility with colleagues, and there’s also an element of competition – “the firm down the road got this, I want it for my business”! That’s very helpful for CIPS.

The Institute has also introduced a MENA training programme. That has been pitched so far at a fairly introductory level, and has been very successful – Gallagher told me they quickly sold out the first series of courses. I guess our event with Tejari suggests there is also an appetite for more advanced material as well, so more scope for CIPS or others there I’m sure. PMMS, the longest-standing CIPS partners in training delivery in the UK, are again the partner in the region for the Institute, and Ian Heptinstall, regular and erstwhile commentator on this site, is in Dubai leading that effort for PMMS.

In another partnership, CIPS has in effect outsourced their events to Redactive. Redactive act as  partners in the UK on both publishing and events for the Institute of course.  As Redactive sees Spend Matters as competition, you can take this as “knocking the competition” if you like, but several people I spoke to in Dubai volunteered their views that there are some issues with the big CIPS event in the region (a conference and Awards dinner on May 19th).

CIPS has to fulfill dual roles. It must promote and develop the profession for the greater good, but also it needs to make money, so it can achieve the first goal. Redactive exists like any private firm purely for shareholder value and benefit. Might that be conflicting a little with the wider CIPS goal, certainly in MENA, I wonder? Anyway, that aside, it’s a promising picture for CIPS, and their US equivalent, the Institute of Supply Management (ISM), have "no profile" in Dubai, according to my sources.

On the consulting side, as well as the PMMS presence, the big firms are around – it was good to meet Stefan Dent, an old acquaintance, who is now leading the PwC procurement consulting effort in the region. Ernst & Young were also mentioned as having a significant presence.

What about the people who attended our Real World Sourcing event? (See the photo above).  It was a real mix, from consultants  and managers from the UK, including an ex GSK procurement guy now working for Emirates airlines, to local Emiratees, one of whom was implementing Oracle in a huge industrial organisation and clearly knew an awful lot about his subject!

There was also a reasonable proportion of women in the audience, and people from other Middle East countries, including Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi – a very cosmopolitan bunch. It certainly wasn’t the typical conference audience you get in the UK (“male, pale and stale” as a friend of mine once described a particularly event...)

In our next post based on the visit, we’ll pose a radical hypotheses about the fundamental nature of Dubai.

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