David Noble in Supply Management part 2: A licence to practice procurement? No, no, no!

by Peter Smith on October 22, 2010

There is a lot of good stuff going on in CIPS, some of which we discussed in our post yesterday regarding the CIPS Chief Executive’s interview in Supply Management.  But today, I’m going to be less positive, because on one particular point, I believe David Noble is pursuing an extremely misguided objective.

He wants procurement people to have a ‘licence to practice’ in the same way that accountants or doctors must have a professional accreditation in order to work in their professions.  Well, actually, you can be a CFO without being a qualified accountant; it is only a few statutory areas, designed for the protection of shareholders, customers, and suppliers that require an accredited accountant’s input.  So I’m not sure the analogy even holds there.  And as for doctors; well, that stationery contract is hardly a matter of life and death….

Presumably the CIPS qualifictaion would give you such a ‘licence’.  Now, I can see some merit in this in the public sector, particularly in the developing world, or if corruption is a big problem.  I could see a Government deciding that any public sector buyers should be appropriately qualified.  Fine – if that’s what he means, Noble should make the extent of his ambitions clear.

But he seems to be implying it should apply also to private sector firms.  So no IT, HR, Marketing, or Production manager would be ‘allowed’ to spend the firm’s money?  This looks far too much like our profession trying to create a  monopoly – just the sort of thing we hate when we see suppliers doing it.

And frankly, while I’m a big CIPS supporter, some of the best procurement managers who ever worked for me weren’t CIPS qualified; and some of the worst were.  I wouldn’t give up my right, as a CPO, a CEO or a business owner, to choose who I employ to spend ‘my’ organisation’s money.  It is not for CIPS to try and create a closed shop and tell me how to run my business, thank you.

If I were a CPO, and someone from CIPS suggested this to my CEO, I would be incredibly embarrassed; no CEO I’ve ever met will treat this as a serious idea.  It risks making CIPS look self-serving and ill-informed about how business works.  Has the CIPS Council and Board really approved this as a strategic aim?

I look forward to some interesting comments!

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