solutions by stc: Showing the True Value of Procurement

solutions by stc: Showing the True Value of Procurement

Supply Chain GM at solutions by stc, Bilal Hasan, discusses transforming the IT provider’s procurement operation and being the architect for solutions

Since creating the supply chain and procurement operation for the number one IT provider in Saudi Arabia, solutions by stc, Bilal Hasan has been relishing the challenge of growing its function, transforming the business and finding solutions for its customers. 

He began his career in computer engineering before that path led him to the world of procurement and supply chain management.  “I have had a passion for supply chain from the beginning. I feel it's attractive to my personality and it's what I’ve always been looking for” he explains.  “ I'm always looking for challenges and how to facilitate and fix problems.”

After leaving University as a computer engineer he found his way into the industry programming ERP systems and learning technology supply chains, before climbing the ladder into management and leadership roles.  Hasan feels his background in programming and technology built his knowledge from the ground up and has given him a keen eye for detail. “I have built a strong career understanding the details of a supply chain. I started as a programmer on the kind of systems related to supply chain. So then I built my career to be a solution architect.” 

From those beginnings, he now leads a team dealing with the spending of SAR7bn (US$1.87bn) a year, working alongside approximately 3000 partners across thousands of KSA projects. For a problem solver, or ‘solution architect’, it is an exciting time to address challenges and find better ways of operating for the business and its clients. “This is my passion,” he continues. “To find a problem and solve it, and after, I feel really satisfied.”

It is through identifying and solving challenges within the business, that Hasan and his team are able to demonstrate the true value of procurement to the ambitious and growing IT provider.

Building a procurement function from the ground-up 

When Hasan joined solutions by stc five years ago, there was no centralised procurement function. Elements of the role were scattered across the business, in areas like delivery and finance, so he is particularly proud of the transformation they have achieved. He now feels the wider company views procurement as a ‘partner of success’ rather than an administrative function, such is the value it has added to the organisation. 

For seven years solutions by stc has been the Kingdom’s leading provider of IT solutions, and prides itself in empowering both the public and private sector to rise to new trends and the ongoing demands of today’s digital age.

The demands within the KSA are also challenging. It is currently in the midst of an ongoing technological transformation, with smart cities, the digitisation of education and health, and a countrywide policy of ‘cloud-first’. As an IT provider with 25 years of experience, solutions by stc has developed a wide portfolio covering system integration, connectivity services, business outsourcing, cloud services, IoT digital services, cybersecurity integration and managed services.

Across such a diverse portfolio of expertise, Hasan can identify a central goal in everything the company does, improving the agility and efficiency of any business they enter into a partnership with. “The core mission is always to add value in digitisation and to make things faster,” he explains.”  Once that has been achieved, this can be scaled with on-going cost optimisation, using artificial intelligence to remove unnecessary manual work and improve the speed and agility of how it operates.  

This speed of improvement with clients is being matched by the wider company, as since being at solutions by stc, Hasan has seen a raft of acquisitions to expand its offering in terms of services, global footprint outside of Saudi Arabia, and business profitability. 

Demonstrating the value of procurement 

With the establishment of a dedicated supply chain and procurement operation in the growing business, Hasan has been focused on consistently delivering the true potential and value of procurement to the organisation.  The whole supply chain operation falls under him, whether that be procurement, inventory management or logistics, allowing him the leverage to stay in control of quality, service and optimisation of costs.  “How to store the materials, how to deliver it to the last mile to customers, how to ensure quality and vendor relations,” he says. “All of this falls under the supply chain for a group-wide solution.”

He argues the days of procurement remaining a back office or administrative function are in the past for any progressive business, as the products and services you bring into an organisation can dictate the quality of service you can provide. “The beauty of procurement, especially within the ICT industry, is if procurement isn’t involved at the starting point of sales, you will not know what you’ll sell to the customer,” he argues.  

“You could not even build products because by building the category strategy and the special frame contracts, you will not be able to know what it is you’re selling. You will not know the cost and you will not know your product portfolio. So now procurement becomes much more critical,” he continues.  

When asked about the most effective strategies he has engaged to deliver the value of procurement to the business, Hasan immediately reaches for the transformative power of artificial intelligence in the organisation’s operation. “Today I don't have anything manual within the supply chain general department, it has all been automated to transform all the functions,” he says. 

The ability of AI to reduce the amount of repetitive jobs staff have to accomplish means that his team can focus on more pressing matters, and find areas of improvement that require more human interactions and deliver added value.

Partners and critical supplier relationships

As solutions by stc is not the manufacturer of the IT systems it sells, Hasan speaks with conviction about the importance of supplier relationships to make business a success.  

“It is critical for me because I'm not a manufacturer at the end of the day, I'm signing a partnership. So if I did not sign a partnership with HPE, for example, or with any other partners, I could not sell their products,” he says.  

He also feels partnership with suppliers must always be refreshed, to make sure the systems recommended to customers are always at the cutting edge. His mindset is simple, the better the relationship with your key supply partners, the better the service you present to your customers.  

Making sure the company’s product offering is fresh and high-performing for its customers is essential, and Hasan describes the relationship with HPE as critical for the future.  “We have a huge portfolio with HPE. We have just become new customers with hundreds of millions of Saudi Riyal,” he adds. “They are one of the most strategic partners for us, as we sell its portfolio of hardware servers and laptops. Our relationship is critical because it enables us to go to market in Saudi Arabia in a very strong way.”

Longer-term strategic relationships with partners have also helped form a strong foundation for the growth of solutions by stc. Hasan picks out Strategy&, who the company has collaborated with as far back as 2017.  Strategy& is a global strategy consulting firm that is part of the professional services network of PwC, and Hasan feels they have a long future of collaboration ahead of them. “Strategy& is helping us to put the right strategy in place, the relationship and its role within the organisation is critical.”  

A future of ambitious goals 

For a man so motivated by overcoming challenges, it is not surprising to know Hasan and solutions by stc are setting goals to expand on the level of progress they have already achieved.  He speaks with excitement about goals for the next two years, including plans to action new transformations within procurement and supply chain. “I have just kicked off a new transformation which will concentrate on four main angles, which is to be more agile, to drive more cost-saving and to have more agility on the last-mile delivery,” he adds.  

solutions by stc also has a wider goal within the Saudi government to increase local content and procurement within the Kingdom. Alongside these aims, Hasan will continue to help integrate new acquisitions into the business, which all have different levels of supply chain expertise and maturity.  

The company has ambitious goals to not just be the number one IT provider in Saudi Arabia, but to grow its influence across the Middle East region and become a ‘one-stop-shop’ for technological solutions for the region’s growing economy.  

All these are challenges that excite Hasan, after all, he’s a man who says he never wants to be in his ‘comfort zone’.  With a wide portfolio and a role at an ambitious company, he has already shown how a ‘solutions architect’ can demonstrate the true value of procurement. 


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