A Bright Future for Saudi Arabia
Serco Middle East CEO, Phil Malem, has described the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development blueprint as a catalyst for transformation in the wake of Covid-19.
His upbeat assessment was delivered during a special podcast from the company in advance of Saudi National Day on 23 September, in which he was joined by Khalid Al-Ammar, Standards and Procedures Director at Mashroat, the National Project Management, Operation, and Maintenance Organisation in Public Entities in Saudi Arabia.
Describing the road ahead for Saudi Arabia, Malem talked of the acceleration around meeting the ambitions laid out for Vision 2030. He commented: “If you look at the Giga-projects, and if you look at the Red Sea Development and the first impressions of NEOM, they are incredible and are second to none globally. Whilst of course COVID-19 has impacted every economy in the world, in Saudi Arabia contracts are still being awarded, recruitment is still happening, and as the country diversifies away from its reliance on oil revenues, the speed of development is moving at pace.
“As a services to government company, this is our time to stand up and to work alongside the public sector in a way like never before. I’m a big believer in the outsourcing sector. And this is something that will increase and become more attractive to governments; because you get both resilience to changing conditions and because you get global best practice from around the world, utilising the skills of the right people. This is a transformational time for the Kingdom; it’s a time and opportunity for governments to really accelerate and that’s where company’s like Serco really have a role to play.”
And it’s this support for the public sector that has been realised in its truest sense through the partnership Serco has with Mashroat. Appointed in 2019 to provide management consultancy services, the partnership rests on a very complex and critical scope of work to the Kingdom, centred on transforming the infrastructure asset and facility management sector to be world-class, adopting best practices and standardising the processes and procedures. But during COVID-19, the partnership has really accelerated.
Al-Ammar added: “We are doing things jointly to help the Ministry of Health, such as helping to transform commercial and residential buildings to become places for quarantine, to ensure we have the right facilities in place for those patients. I see the benefit of the partnership happening on the ground and COVID-19 accelerating this in a very real form.
“But the benefits of this partnership go beyond just transformation. We have a clear ambition in mind: to enable government entities to have a strong foundation so that they can build to delivering excellence when it comes to operations, assets and maintenance. So we are partnering to ensure the government is ready and enabled for the future. We are looking to bridge the gap of standardisation to really ensure best practice is delivered on all levels.”
The impact of COVID itself is helping to accelerate the future work in the Kingdom. With the route towards digital transformation happening at pace, many industries and sectors are adapting quickly, including the telemedicine sector, as well as finance, retail sector and e-commerce. Khalid Al-Ammar added that the facilities management sector also has a lot of potential post COVID-19, with the opportunities around outsourcing being absolute.
Echoing these observations, Malem said: “Outsourcing provides the transformation. It allows companies like us to bring in global best practice. Even before the pandemic, if you look at the UK market, which is one of the most mature markets in the world when it comes to outsourcing, it accounts for around 35 per cent of the total public sector spend and you’re able to realise a minimum of between 10 ane 15 per cent cost savings.
“So, with the pandemic and future peaks you would have resilience as you can turn up or turn down the outsourcing provider rather than keeping all resources within your own team. The client is still very much in charge, but with an outsourcing solution you get the output based contract; it’s all about delivery and the outsource has to deliver.”
It is clear COVID has impacted the strategies adopted by most companies operating in the region. For Serco Middle East, doing business as before has simply become impossible. Whilst the company’s focus still clearly rests on its core offering of managing people, data and assets, there was a need to be adaptable and dynamic. As a result Serco has been supporting on the frontline around field hospitals and testing centres, but its ambitions and excitement about the opportunities ahead for the Kingdom remain resolute.
Commenting on how the government is responding to the twin challenges presented by the pandemic and modernisation programme, Malem says: “We are accelerating around cost saving efficiencies absolutely, but we have a key role to play around the acceleration of the Saudisation programme. We want to build a business in the Kingdom, and we want to build a workforce of local national staff who are passionate about Serco, and who are passionate and proud of the work we are doing in the Kingdom.
“We have just launched our graduate scheme – with over 1000 people applying in the Kingdom – and we have identified some really talented individuals who will be joining the business in a few weeks’ time. We’ve been recognised by governments for our commitment to nationalisation programmes, and we have platinum status in Saudi as a result of the high percentage of nationals in leadership roles. So this is something we are extremely committed to and as we approach Saudi National Day, we’re excited to play a role in accelerating towards a bright future ahead for the Kingdom.”