Sami Al Qamzi, Director General of Dubai Economy Image Credit: Supplied

Business Excellence Awards is celebrating 25 years of promoting outstanding performance. What was the idea behind setting up the awards?

In 1994, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, wanted to set up a process-based award to improve the way businesses were run in the private sector. As a result, Dubai Economy launched Dubai Quality Award (DQA), which was based on the American Malcolm Baldrige Model. In 2000 we moved to the European Foundation for Quality Management Excellence Model as it was more in line with the kind of businesses we had in Dubai. We needed a model that would fit well with the wide spectrum of industries such as service, finance, manufacturing, hospitality and healthcare.

In 2002 we decided to enhance human resources and that is how Dubai Human Development Award (DHDA) came into being. At the time the focus was only on Emiratisation because we wanted to encourage more private organisations to employ Emiratis. About six years ago, we changed DHDA’s scope because of the way Dubai functions, and it evolved into a human resources award for all the different nationalities working here.

Dubai Service Excellence Scheme (DSES) was also launched in 2002 because we realised the impact of tourism. It is one of the key pillars in His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s agenda and we wanted to encourage service excellence and promote service standards across the industry.

Business Excellence Awards is proof of the inclusive strategy Dubai Economy has adopted in accelerating Dubai’s transition into a smart and future-ready economy. It brings public and private organisations in a single excellence framework where they complement and compete against each other.

How have businesses in the UAE responded to the awards?

The awards have been received very positively. One of the most valuable contributions to the business community is our impartial feedback report. It is a government-led report with five to six people spending three to four months at an organisation, understanding how it functions and then giving their feedback on how to improve and continue with their journey of excellence.

Our satisfaction surveys show businesses’ appreciation of the feedback reports and are run for assessors as well as applicants. An assessor is a potential applicant. We also encourage every applicant organisation to give us assessors from within their teams so that they understand what is required and are able to apply in their own organisation.

Businesses also take great pride in the fact that it is a recognition from His Highness and the government. The branding that comes with winning an award and their presence in all our marketing collaterals are added benefits. Businesses can publicise that they are winners of a particular award category for a particular year for the next three years.

What has been the proudest achievement for Business Excellence Awards to date?

Our proudest achievement is that we have been able to sustain the awards for this long. We have never taken a break over the past 25 years. We have always revised and improved on the models. The awards and categories have kept increasing over the years. We take pride in the fact that we have more than 600 winning companies across different awards and categories. We have had more than 2,000 assessors over the years. The applicants and assessors come from different backgrounds, professions, nationalities and even different emirates. The name is Dubai Service Excellence Scheme and Dubai Quality Award but the scope is the UAE.

Last year we went global with the launch of Dubai Quality Global Award. Assessments for Emirates Business Rating Scheme for the service industry, which was announced in 2017 in collaboration with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), were conducted last year.

Can you shed some light on the learning Business Excellence Awards has acquired since its inception?

One of the core objectives of the awards is to improve the people in an organisation. The foundation of any organisation is its people, not the infrastructure, finances or the technology. We have learnt that we need to involve people directly in the process. So it is no longer the Quality Manager who runs the award, or the HR Manager or the Service Excellence Manager – it is a team that blends in and does the job with everybody’s help.

But leadership drives this journey. People are important but people without a clear direction can go nowhere. Most of the organisations that have won are all driven from the top right to the bottom.

Throughout these years, the awards have fostered a culture that keeps businesses motivated, connected and informed. Benchmarks and best practices have been shared by the winners transparently with the business community, with more than 10 best practice conferences.

What’s next for Business Excellence Awards?

We are committed to further expanding Business Excellence Awards in line with the vision and goals of Dubai and the UAE, including the Eight Principles unveiled by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and the UAE Centennial Plan, to enhance productivity, happiness and prosperity for all citizens, residents and visitors alike.

The awards application and assessment processes are set to move to a digital format with the launch of an online portal equipped with tools for benchmarking, sharing of best practices, learning, development and community engagement.

For Dubai Quality Global Award, we started with multinational companies based here with operations abroad. We will now move on to the next phase where we look at GCC. We have launched the awards in a phased manner so that we can take the learning we acquire from the GCC sector and apply it before we go further beyond.

In addition, the DSES mystery shopping programme and customer satisfaction surveys will be extended to government and private sector entities in the GCC so that the success of the programme in making shopping in Dubai a pleasure and enhancing retail sector competitiveness in the emirate can be replicated region-wide.

We will also take forward our association with Emirates Business Rating Scheme into the next cycle.

To whom do you attribute the success of Business Excellence Awards?

We have a lot of stakeholders to thank. The most important are our applicants without whom there would be no awards. We are grateful to the applicant organisations for the trust they bestowed in us. Every year they apply because of their faith in the government and belief in the integrity and credibility of these awards.

The second is the assessor community. About 60-70 per cent of our senior assessors come back to engage with the assessment process year after year. 

Last but not the least we would like to thank the internal Dubai Economy team that makes these awards possible. They are the backbone, ably supported by our internal shared services.

We are also grateful to the trainers, mentors, jury members, partners and key suppliers for their steadfast support over the years.

The trainers at the awards office have stood by us through thick and thin and have gone from strength to strength. They are highly qualified and come from a good operational background with hardcore industry experience. The mentors play a pivotal role in guiding the assessors through their journey on what to do, how to do and when to do.

I congratulate all the winners of the 2018 cycle of Business Excellence Awards and I invite all organisations to be a part of the awards and join us in the march towards continued excellence.