'Biggest challenge facing MENA procurement is low salary'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
24 February 2016

Khaled Chatila is senior procurement officer at the United Nations World Food Programme Egypt. Here he offers advice on how to integrate procurement within the business and how procurement leaders can move forward in their careers, subjects he will be discussing at the CIPS MENA Conference in Dubai on 26-27 April. An early bird discount on conference tickets ends on 26 February. 

The procurement challenges facing the Middle East in 2016 are numerous but as a believer of 
human power, I am limiting my reply to the perceived low value attributed to procurement in 
the region. To me, one of the main factors driving this reality is the low salary of procurement 
personnel which definitely creates a lack of interest to join this profession. It is increasingly 
important, therefore, that this procurement jobs get more visibility in the region. Universities 
and specialized schools should promote more procurement as viable and promising career. 
Leaders should also contribute to this visibility by marketing more the attractions of working for 
procurement, right in the heart of any agency.
2. What is the hardest part of your job?
As a procurement professional that is passionate about his job, I find it extremely hard to 
start a purchase without knowing each and every possible detail about it. Client units are 
often times so enthusiastic that they omit to do a complete research about their sought 
good or service and go for a generic specification. Such start definitely leads to unsuccessful 
purchases and ultimately, huge losses to the buyer agency. How to mitigate this is quite 
easy and the time taken to do this mitigation is way shorter than dealing with disputes 
around contracts of purchases that were not fully described. A pre-tender launch meeting 
with the requesting unit is the best way to guarantee a fully described purchase request. 
This is a golden opportunity where clients and buyers can discuss technical, performance 
and functional specifications prior to any solicitation launch. 
3. What is the best piece of advice you've received?
“Don’t bring up a problem unless you have a proposed solution”. I heard this advice some 
40 years ago and believe it or not, it still maintains its magic whenever and wherever said. 
Raising an issue or highlighting a risk is always enriching if combined with some thoughts or 
otherwise it dilutes the discussion. Nothing can be more destructive to a work place 
atmosphere than listening to someone that is constantly searching for things that himself 
cannot or does not want to change. Some tend to do this for the only reason of wanting to 
disturb the place or gaining popularity. Such people as easily spotted and my advice is to 
confront them and to tell them “a problem is only a problem when you find its solutions”.
4. If you had one recommendation for procurement professionals looking to integrate 
procurement within the business what would it be?
The only way to guarantee a successful integration is to get involved as early as possible, be 
it in prospect projects brainstorming sessions or projects documents writing and initial 
budgetary meetings. 
5. What does it mean to be "a leader in procurement", and how can procurement leaders 
advance in their profession?
A leader in procurement is a professional that has the skills and knowledge that enable him 
to drive his agency to excellence, setting up models for other to follow and standards for 
others to consider as reference. A leader in procurement should be continuously seeking 
new theories in procurement and learning all new models and initiatives to ensure swift and 
efficient procurement that guarantees positive returns on his agency. By definition, a leader 
should lead so comes with this term a team of junior and less experienced procurement 
professional that should be brought to same knowledge level as their leader.

1. What are the biggest procurement challenges facing the Middle East in 2016?

The biggest challenge facing the Middle East in 2016 is the low salary of procurement personnel, and this definitely creates a lack of interest to join this profession.

It is increasingly important, therefore, that procurement jobs should get more visibility in the region. Universities and specialised schools should promote procurement as a viable and promising career. Leaders should also contribute to this visibility by marketing the attractions of working for procurement.

2. What is the hardest part of your job?

As a procurement professional who is passionate about his job, I find it extremely hard to start a purchase without knowing each and every possible detail about it.

Client units are often so enthusiastic, they omit to do complete research about their sought good or service and go for a generic specification. Such a start definitely leads to unsuccessful purchases and ultimately huge losses to the buyer agency. Mitigating this is quite easy and the time taken to do so is a lot shorter than dealing with disputes around contracts.

A pre-tender launch meeting with the requesting unit is the best way to guarantee a fully described purchase request. This is a golden opportunity where clients and buyers can discuss technical, performance and functional specifications prior to any solicitation launch. 

3. What is the best piece of advice you've received?

“Don’t bring up a problem unless you have a proposed solution.”

I heard this advice some 40 years ago and, believe it or not, it still maintains its magic whenever and wherever it is said. 

Raising an issue or highlighting a risk is always enriching if combined with some thoughts, otherwise it dilutes the discussion. Nothing can be more destructive to a workplace atmosphere than listening to someone who is constantly searching for things that they themselves cannot or do not want to change.

Some tend to do this for the sole reason of wanting to disturb the place or gain popularity. Such people are easily spotted and my advice is to confront them and to tell them: “A problem is only a problem when you find its solutions.”

4. If you had one recommendation for procurement professionals looking to integrate procurement within the business what would it be?

The only way to guarantee a successful integration is to get involved as early as possible, be it in brainstorming sessions, document writing or initial budgetary meetings. 

5. What does it mean to be “a leader in procurement, and how can procurement leaders advance in their profession?

A leader in procurement is a professional with the skills and knowledge that enable him to drive his agency to excellence, setting up models for others to follow and standards for others to consider as reference.

They should also be continuously seeking new theories in procurement and learning all new models and initiatives to ensure swift and efficient procurement that guarantees positive returns on his agency. By definition, a leader should lead, and their team of junior and less experienced procurement professionals should be brought to the same knowledge level as their leader.

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