DWTC: Innovating a sustainable digital shift in procurement
The Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) has been a landmark since the construction of the iconic Sheikh Rashid Tower (SRT) in 1979. Not only was it one of the first skyscrapers in Dubai, but held the title of the tallest in the Middle East until 1999. Following its vision to make Dubai the world’s leading destination for all major exhibitions and events, DWTC has seen significant expansion to over 121,000 square meters of event space. Operating such a substantial multi-purpose facility is a ceaseless and demanding task, requiring a dedicated and experienced team to work constantly. To clarify the way DWTC functions, Jason Tranter, Director of Contracts, shares the role that Procurement and Contracts (P&C) plays in ensuring the facility is always efficient and run an innovative manner. Tranter’s career began in construction, where he became a chartered surveyor working in the UK and the Cayman Islands before moving to Dubai in 2005. This experience saw him join DWTC in 2008 and made him the perfect candidate for Director of Contracts, a job which he started in 2014. “In the last ten years, the number of DWTC annual visitors to events has grown from around 1mn to 3.4mn in 2018,” he begins. “My role is to help ensure that the P&C team are able to constantly innovate and evolve to stay ahead to meet the demands of what is a pretty challenging, but of course exciting working environment here in Dubai.”
Contracts at Dubai World Trade Centre
Though the DWTC is known largely for its exhibition space, there are a number of key operational focus areas, according to Tranter. He goes on to share some of the major areas of business that P&C services:
- Event and Exhibition Management
- Experiential Event Production
Venue Services Management:
- Hospitality and Event Catering Services (“DWTC has one of the largest catering operations in the UAE,” adds Tranter, “with kitchen space that is second only to Emirates Airlines.”)
- Wedding Services
- Facilities Management and Engineering
- Protocol and Security
Real Estate Development and Asset Management:
- One Central: An awardwinning, mixed-use development featuring five LEED Gold-certified commercial buildings and pedestrian-friendly retail at the heart of Dubai’s Central Business District.
- The Apartments Dubai World Trade Centre’s Hotel Apartments
Free Zone Operations:
- As a designated free zone the DWTC Authority offers both onshore and offshore operations licensing and operations across a wide range of industries.
Support (Shared) Services Departments:
- Corporate Strategy, Corporate Marketing, Legal etc.
- Corporate Support services (Finance, IT, HR)
This list is not exhaustive, notes Tranter, and all of these departments require procurement to be conducted by DWTC’s P&C department. “Dubai World Trade Centre is essentially like having five or six companies in one; we have a vast number of products and services that need to be acquired across several different timelines for a variety of clients, both in-house and offsite.” Despite the complexity of the operations at the DWTC, Tranter emphasises that the company is constantly striving for transparency and innovation, in the hope of promoting a new perception of procurement, at a time when the department can often be considered a “roadblock” to business functions. “We want to remove this concept of P&C being a roadblock, and not only become fully integrated into the company, but also have a real impact on its bottom line. As we have progressed through our digital transformation, this is beginning to become a reality,” says Tranter.
Digitalisation of procurement
There are two major projects that assisted in the digitisation of the DWTC’s procurement process. The first was the company’s migration to the Oracle ERP system in 2012 and the second was the implementation of the new e-procurement system in 2017. “The migration to Oracle ERP was seismic,” reflects Tranter. “It was the first major move in our digital transformation.” Previously, the procurement division had been using a variety of platforms, from Excel to Great Plains which was disjointed and disorganised. “Oracle was an extreme benefit across the board, for finance and HR in particular,” recalls Tranter. Once the platform was embedded in the system, DWTC began to focus on how procurement could drive efficiencies, concluding that a personalised e-procurement solution - now known as Tejari Solutions - would be the best fit.
“Though the initial integration provided challenges, and we needed to customise it to suit our internal policies, we have now enjoyed a number of benefits, such as: reduced sourcing costs; ease of access via the app to create a level of transparency not had before; and the completion of tenders remotely, saving management’s time.” Tranter adds that the platform can also be used as a training tool. “Using the e-sourcing application provides hands-on-experience, without compromising company data.” In conjunction with the training of staff, Tranter goes on to share that they have taken a number of actions to ease the migration to the platform. “We implemented the new system in stages: Following the offline design with the developers, we ran hypothetical scenarios within the P&C department and responded to the alterations needed to better suit the team. We moved the trial from department to department, building upon feedback from each team.” Externally, there were measures put in place, particularly to assist with smaller companies who were not familiar with Oracle and Tejari Solutions in general. DWTC provided a 24-hour helpline to support the 5,000 suppliers registered on the platform. Tranter enthuses that this is based on the motto of ‘here to help’, as a part of the department’s drive to change the perception of procurement. As a result, “the migration has been met with tremendous acceptance by our suppliers and the positive feedback has only continued to grow, both internally and externally.”
The next level
As the e-procurement platform continues to set down roots at DWTC, Tranter trusts that relationships with suppliers will evolve based on the core values shared, values that have been made transparent through the centralisation of the platform. “We are now also beginning to build historical data into the system, which will enable us to enhance spend analysis, in depth reporting, planning capabilities and contract management. Creating a dashboard from this will truly take us to the next level,” he says. DWTC is a 40-year-old government-related entity, and we have a responsibility to contribute to the growth of Dubai. Through technology and innovation we will continue to do this.”