Charles Dominick, CEO of Next Level Purchasing, recently wrote an interesting blog on certification. In it, he asked, "What is a more professional job: corporate purchasing or fingernail painting?" The answer seems obvious, yet, Dominick wrote, every state requires nail technicians to get training before they get licensed. There’s no such requirement to work in procurement, he says, nor any requirement for certification or licensing.
Dominick, among procurement’s most passionate advocates, developed a certification programme several years ago to train procurement professionals and to provide them a proof of their commitment and their qualifications.
He is not alone in the procurement-certification effort, of course. The Institute of Supply Management in the US has a rigorous and internationally respected program that offers several levels of certification, including a new certification for supplier diversity. Additionally, the American Purchasing Society offers a multi-level certification program. And, the Association for Operations Management offers the APICS certification for production and inventory managers as well as supply chain professionals.
Like the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply in the UK, these organisations require applicants to pass exams to gain certification, and they offer courses of study in various areas of procurement practices. All say that their certifications can lead to career advancement and, by implication, higher salaries.
I don’t write to promote certification or licensing of procurement professionals, or to compare available programs. Spend Matters has a white paper on the subject of certification programmes for those interested. Nor do I write to claim that certification is a sure path to hiring or promotions. I have heard CPOs express different opinions on that subject. While none I have spoken with would require certification, all said it is a good credential to have.
But, I do think that in recognition of the growing influence of procurement and the number of corporate functions procurement professionals interact with, certification programmes should offer courses outside the traditional realm of procurement practices.
Those sponsoring such programmes should offer or encourage enrollment in specially tailored courses that would introduce certification candidates to the general principles of materials, finance, engineering, marketing, human resources and other management areas that depend on procurement. I’m not talking about in-depth courses that the actual practicioners of those functions would normally study, just survey courses of important issues in those fields.
That, combined with the basic and advanced courses the certifying organisations already offer on strategic sourcing, negotiations, project management and other critical areas, would help procurement professionals understand the challenges that are part of their stakeholders worlds. And, there also should be some general information on intercultural communication, since so much of business is global today.
Would these specially tailored courses be a distraction? Hardly. As I have written before, being able to speak the language of various stakeholder groups would go a long way toward establishing credibility for procurement - and will make procurement efforts more welcome and successful.