Marmore-Markaz: Consultants bring high influence on policies but variable on implementation in the GCC economies


Marmore Mena Intelligence, a subsidiary of Kuwait Financial Centre ‘Markaz’ and a research house focused on conducting Mena-specific business, economic and capital market research, has released a new report titled ‘Consulting in GCC: Understanding the Value Add’. The report explores the very important question that every year, despite businesses and public sector entities in the GCC spending enormous sums on consulting services (approximately $3 billion), is there full understanding among various stakeholders about best practices and effectiveness of engagements? Consultants wield enormous influence with clients and therefore they are the most important invisible players in the business ecosystem. They are important because their recommendations and suggestions will have huge implications for employees and other stakeholders. They are invisible because they work closely with the top management, mostly on a confidential basis. 

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many GCC entities are not fully familiar with the broader consulting landscape nor with best practices in terms of leveraging consulting services. Understanding the consultant’s role and contribution is critical for measurable success. Moreover, selecting the wrong consultant or poorly managing one can result in questionable results. Marmore’s new report will provide readers with the deeper insights and answers needed to understand the complex consulting landscape.

The report is backed by the full understanding that properly and rigorously selecting an appropriate consultant for a mandate is not an easy task and involves several variables clicking together. In addition, this Marmore report profiles major consulting players and their capabilities, covering several international and native consulting companies. One of the critical observations of the report is that the returns from the proper selection and use of consultants can be extremely significant. On the flip side, the costs too can be heavy in terms of both money and morale.

Specific guidance on the preparations needed to engage consultants and the due diligence that consultants have to perform in terms of supporting clients have been studied. Thus, the best practice guidance suggested in the report can bolster several aspects of the overall consulting experience. It must be remembered that clients are not alone in seeking greater involvement by consulting service providers, but the desire runs in several cases in the opposite direction too.

Demand for strategy consulting, which advises top decision makers and managers on major long-term decisions, is increasing. Strategy consulting is the high-end, high-margin part of consulting assignments. In terms of consulting needs, the government (or public) sector and the private sector may have differing requirements There are multiple instances of public sector bodies working with international consulting companies in the GCC region. There are also innovative instances of public sector entities forming joint partnerships with international consulting firms in the GCC.

Generally, Western consultants are brought in to provide greater objectivity on the real state of affairs. However, it has been anecdotally reported that, over time, quite a number of the Western consultants may get so acclimatized to the ecosystem and the general atmosphere that rehashed stereotypical reporting may follow rather than originally incisive or trenchant views

In the GCC, Saudi Arabia is the largest consulting market The GCC region is emerging as one of the fastest growing markets for availing consultancy services. The governments in the region are increasingly recognizing that the global outlook and economy are swiftly changing, and this poses demographic challenges, shift in economic powers, energy markets, investment and employment opportunities. In order to meet these challenges on a real time basis, the authorities have been continuously availing the assistance of external advisory in the form of management consultancies.

GCC has a large spending capacity compared to the other countries in the region. With an increased attention to economic diversification and nationalization of labor force, the significance of home grown management consultancies sin the region is substantial. Although internationally recognized management consultancies such as the Big Four, McKinsey & Company; PwC Consulting take the center stage in advisory, there is a considerable number of management advisory firms that trace their origin to the region itself. According to our analysis, UAE records the highest number of management consultancies. These firms offer services in strategy, finance, operations and human resources. They also offer customized services for the public and private entities in the GCC region

Whether a consultant’s work and the recommendations are useful depends on a number of parameters and is difficult to completely codify. Very often, the best of recommendations can suffer due to poor implementation. The client-consultant relationship has to operate within the complex world of business