Procurement as an industry in the Middle East is growing at an exponential rate. Historically, as a function, procurement across the region has significantly lagged behind many of the leading industries across the world but, as Sam Achampong, Regional Head - Middle East and North Africa (MENA), The Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) believes, the tide is beginning to turn.
“A larger number of experienced professionals are being put at the top of procurement functions to start filtering down and embedding best practice across all their staff and all their functions and the way they do things,” he says. “That’s what’s happening exponentially across the Middle East and if it continues to happen then I firmly believe that the region will become the centre of excellence for procurement.”
One such example of this is Das Holding. In 2014, as part of the DAS Group of Companies, it embarked on a journey of centralising its procurement function and services within the Middle East. This journey was driven by one clear vision – to become the leading UAE holding company and the preferred partner of choice for institutional investors, governments and multinational corporations.
Overseeing this journey is Christopher Bentley, Head of Procurement at Das Holding.
“I have a procurement mission,” he says, “to support Das Holding’ business vision by delivering a preferred, dynamic and strategically aligned procurement service. One that will work closely with the company’s business units to optimise cost space and provide a sustainable, competitive advantage in every aspect of its local business.”
As the company looks to build a mature, leading edge procurement function, doing so in a market that is still growing in its proficiency and capabilities is not without its challenges.
Bentley recognises this and looks to break down the overarching vision to be the leading holdings company across the UAE, recognising and extracting just how procurement can support this.
This saw the forming of a procurement department charter, designed to analyse the market to find best practice in order to deliver sustainable, competitive advantage through a process of continuous improvement.
But how does this translate into the day to day operation?
“We adopt an adherence to a one team, no barriers policy,” says Bentley. “One that will practically involve a global supply base and be based on leading edge technology, coordination of supply decisions and the application of global supply chain processes.”
All of which, of course, while ensuring the ongoing support of Das Holding’s business units.
This is where Bentley feels his particular way of working can truly generate added value along this journey.
“It would be easy to sit in a position at the top and bark out procedures and policies,” he says. “But I don’t work that way. I like to open myself up to our staff and I want procurement to work in a way that is able to look at key objectives, analyse our performance and understand where we can improve and grow. And I’m right there with them in the trenches.”
An organisation can only thrive and succeed through its workforce. Das Holding as an organisation is a firm believer in empowering its employees, empowered employees that will contribute to the exponential growth of the company.
Bentley is a firm believer in this, ensuring that all members of his team feel a part of the process by asking them simple questions. Where are we going? How are we going to get there? What part will you play? How can you make a difference?
The value of this approach, for Bentley, is second to none.
“Das Holding promotes a self-rewarding mentality, so that when an employee gets paid at the end of the month they can really see where they earned that and how they played a key part in our growth,” he says.
“My door is always open, but I encourage them to push themselves, and if there is an issue then we work collaboratively to locate and remove that pain point, and to me the results of this mentality and approach speak for themselves.”
This approach is one that Bentley practices, and does not just preach. In 2017, he was awarded fellowship from CIPS, being fast-tracked as a result of the work he has done to grow the procurement profession.
“Receiving fellowship not only pushed me to develop my own capabilities, it exposed my procurement team to much more,” he says. “A whole new skills cabinet, one that has enabled us to grow and develop our staff far beyond what we ever could achieve without it.”
This was a process that worked both ways – as Bentley was exposed to more and more opportunities to grow, Das Holding has been recognised as a reputable, market leader in the procurement space.
In supply and procurement, you are only as good as your suppliers and vendors and the partners that you work with. For Das Holding, this was one of the very first things it looked to ensure in creating a reputable procurement function.
The company rates its suppliers through five different categories: Alliance Partner, Preferred, Approved, Conditional and Eliminate. This is decided through conversations with the procurement arm that discusses the business relationship, the value and the capabilities and efficiencies that partner can bring.
“So, you look at the business relationship this supplier has with me and DAS,” says Bentley, “and then you break it down further. That supplier has to be the first choice for new business, so what can we do to enable that? This model allows us as a business to be wholly central, to have full control where possible in order to create an efficient procurement supplier model.”
For Bentley, this model “revolutionised” the way DAS operates through procurement overnight. It improved relationships and generated cost savings and truly enhanced the reputation that DAS was already establishing.
In the four years since Das Holding embarked on this journey, the company has already come a long way in its quest to be a procurement partner of choice. Through the way it engages with its suppliers, Das Holding has played in a key role not only in the development of its own procurement, but supporting the development of the procurement industry across the region.
Das Holding works with suppliers through open, transparent communication.
“We invite them into the office and we talk about a number of things,” says Bentley. “What’s going on in the market? What’s happening to the local economy? How are you using that to shape how you work as our partner?
“Increasing that transparency makes a better relationship. We are recognising their achievements, their attitudes and their capabilities as they grow our business and the wider market.”
It is this approach to suppliers, and to the procurement industry, that makes Das Holding a key player in the maturing market as recognised by Achampong of CIPS.
“As a procurement player, Das Holding really are an example of what procurement in this region can be,” he says. “In Chris, the company has hired an experienced and professional to setup a function, professionalise and grow the competency of that function and then instil best practice across the organisation.”
Achampong feels that it’s an exciting time for procurement across the Middle East.
“Expand that across the region and that’s exactly what’s happening,” he continues. “Experienced leaders are working at the top of procurement functions and filtering down and embedding best practice across the industry.
“That's really what's happening exponentially across that region and if it continues to happen, it really will be a procurement centre of excellence in no time at all.”