Coming Together

Tejari.com is fanning the e-procurement flames with arguably the biggest signing to its online exchange yet — all 24 government departments in Dubai. The umbrella agreement signed with the Ruler’s Court, gives suppliers to the government departments a three-month window to register themselves, create item catalogues and be in a position to trade online.

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By  Greg Wilson Published  May 29, 2001

Coming Together|~||~||~|Tejari.com is fanning the e-procurement flames with arguably the biggest signing to its online exchange yet — all 24 government departments in Dubai. The umbrella agreement signed with the Ruler’s Court, gives suppliers to the government departments a three-month window to register themselves, create item catalogues and be in a position to trade online.

“This agreement between the Dubai Ruler’s Court and Tejari.com represents the clear vision of Dubai’s leadership in adopting Internet technologies to support the national economy,” stated His Excellency Dr. Khalifa Mohammed Ahmed Salman, Director H.H. the Ruler’s Court, Government of Dubai.

The big attraction of Tejari.com has always been its position as the de-facto e-marketplace for the Government of Dubai. Over recent months the possibility of trading with government owned giants such as ENOC, Dubai Duty Free and others, has helped to build a community of around 60 suppliers with somewhere in the region of 60,000 items. However, the most recent deal is expected to accelerate the migration to electronic procurement. “The government is the biggest purchaser in the market and our presence will create a competitive electronic marketplace,” predicts the IT director of the Ruler’s Court, Thani Zaffin.

“This agreement will speed up the procurement process within government, creating cost savings for everybody,” Zaffin adds.

More critically perhaps the agreement between Tejari.com and Dubai Ruler’s Court ties together the marketplace with Sheikh Mohammed’s e-government declaration of April last year. Sheikh Mohammed presented government departments with an 18-month deadline to automate their processes and commence online services. Some governmental or quasi-government agencies have already signed up with Tejari.com, and “this agreement brings the other government agencies onboard,” says Zaffin.

“This move is part of a higher level strategy to establish Dubai as a leading hub in the information economy.”

The deal with Tejari.com gives Dubai’s government a unified purchasing platform. However, the cross-government purchasing platform is the initial step in a broader deployment of a pan-government enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite, due to start in the near future. “Tejari will act as the procurement system for the whole government, it will be used to add value to the ERP suite. Tejari is the link to the supplier, and we will link to Tejari,” says Zaffin. “ERP is a key part of the strategy. We haven’t selected a vendor yet. We’re going to endorse products at the end of this month,” he adds.

For the last several months, Dubai Government’s E-Taskforce has been engaged in extensive discussions with the different departments to encourage ownership, reengineer business processes and manage the change to e-government. Taskforces have been formed within each department to identify and discuss issues particular to that department. From those departmental-taskforces, separate references groups, composed of people from across government, have also been formed to discuss possible hurdles and solutions. “It’s vital for change management that we create buy-in from the different departments, the reference groups are vital in that,” explains Zaffin. “The taskforces are to enable the work within the departments… they have to be part of this, it’s their project, they are going to do the work,” he adds.

Preliminary studies have already shown several areas where the deployment of ERP can generate internal efficiencies within government. For example, previously with human resources, departments have focused heavily on payment of salaries or the management of other benefits, such as holidays. However, says Zaffin, “we should now spend more time doing things like career planning and development.”

Currently, the E-Government Taskforce is conducting the last round of discussion and feedback to identify localised practices and procedures, prior to deciding on a vendor for the project. “Change management is critical… we have to ensure that we unify our approach to e-government,” comments Zaffin.

Dubai’s government is going to take a phased approach to the forthcoming ERP project, to ensure it delivers a system that is “commonly agreeable to all,” says the IT director of the Ruler’s Court.

The implementation is likely to begin with a pilot scheme in one department, which fits the right criteria, including organisational readiness and the right level of commitment. “From there we are [going] to evolve it,” says Zaffin. During the initial pilot scheme the implementation team will work with a team of consultants to ensure the project follows best business practices.
The deployment of government-wide ERP aims to unify the business processes and information workflow throughout the government. To achieve these objectives will take time, particularly considering the existing instatlled base within different government departments.

“It’s going to be a wonderful world, but it’s going to take time to get there,” predicts Zaffin.

Tejari.com will enable limited online procurement by government agencies in a relatively short period of time. For example, by being able to surf supplier catalogues and conduct reverse auctions; departments will be able to leverage some of the benefits of the exchange.

However, just what materials are traded over Tejari will be determined by the nature of the items and the business of a particular department. As reported last month in ACN, the Department of Health & Medical Services won’t be in a position to use Tejari.com to procure some of its critical medical supplies for some time. However, says Zaffin “Tejari is the only way to go for procurement. It won’t happen overnight, but Tejari will definitely be our preferred [procurement] practice.”
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