Shared Services a Rising Strategy in the Middle East

Ehsan Shammasi

The Shared Services and Outsourcing Network (SSON) is creating a magnet of attraction in the Middle East. Last year, the successful Shared Services and Outsourcing Week Middle East 2016 conference, in Bahrain, highlighted the following:

  • nearly 50% of participants attended the conference to help them shape their views and refine their plans to establish their shared services centers. (i.e new to the concept)
  • 90% of  participants did not have any RPA implementations in their shared service centers
  • more than 44% of participants had a fully captive SSC

SSON's sponsoring partner, Bahrain Economic Development Board (BEDB), provided valuable insight on how Bahrain is positioning itself as a potential center for BPOs and SSCs with low operating costs and plenty of local talent to provide organizations with an advantageous edge over others when it comes to meeting the cultural norms of this region.  Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive Officer at BEDB, shared the following facts with the audience:

  • the Bahraini (local) workforce represents 60% in the Banking industry and 50% in ICT sector.
  • the average cost of setting up a business in Bahrain is 45% lower than other countries in the region.

The conference included speakers from different industries and sectors. Compared with the last similar conference in the region (early in 2016), the audience has tripled in size – a clear indication that shared services is ramping up in the Middle East. The economic situation in the region, where oil revenue has dropped by more than 50%, is adding pressure on organizations and businesses to drive cost cutting initiatives and re-visit their operating models to deliver more efficiencies and leverage technology to improve their governance and internal controls.

Speakers from multinational companies with global operations shared their learnings and insights.

Frederick Reynecke, Change Management Manager SIE at Airbus, emphasized 7 principles of change management and reminded us that every sponsor of a change project must follow the circle of ‘Express > Reinforce > Model’.  He highlighted the importance of leaders walking the talk, and leading by example: ‘Educate now, train later’ was a great insight which resonated with many participants.


Regional SSCs had a chance to share some of their best practices and how they managed to shift mindsets within their organization to get to the stage where they would consider the formation of shared service centers. Hisham Nourin, Shared Services & Performance Reporting Manager at Qatar Foundation, explained their hybrid model of shared services and how it it adapts to the various business units, despite their variety and diverse operating models.

Sara Diab, HR Services Manager at Al Tayer Group, explained how their HR service center operates as a profit center – a model which helped their SSC to positively shift internal customer perception. Today, the SSC operates as a revenue center that creates new services based on their customers’ needs.

Other case studies that were shared at the conference demonstrated similar learning curves that SSCs go through, across the globe. The conference marked a kickoff to be followed by more SSON events in the region. In future, there will also be a focus on functional streams and other specialized areas that will cater to the advanced-level requirements of those SSCs further along in their journey. 

The SSON Middle East Excellence Awards ceremony was a good opportunity to recognize those organizations who have demonstrated exceptional performance improvement in their SSC operations. The Awards covered categories in HR, Finance, and RPA implementations. This year will see even more categories introduced at the event.

With more than 70% of attendees expressing their satisfaction with the conference content, networking opportunities, and exposure to technology solutions and service providers, this year’s conference will continue to provide the thought leadership and learning opportunties that are so in demand across the Middle East right now.

Note: Ehsan Shammasi was the Chair of SSON’s Shared Services and Outsourcing Week conference that took place in Bahrain, last year. He currently heads the Human Resources Shared Services function at Al Tayer Group. He has been with Al Tayer Group in Dubai since November 2006 as HR Manager for their Lifestyle division and has made his progress with the company since then. Ehsan has more than 10 years of experience in the HR field.