Certification Watch: Will ISM’s and CIPs’ New Collaboration Lead to Something More? (Part 2)

In the first post in this series, I covered the background on the latest ISM / CIPS relationship to foster a facilitated path to cross-certification for group membership. In this post, I'll continue this analysis by providing some insights about how the CPSM stacks up to other options (including the SPSM, which does not require the same academic qualifications -- this can either be a potential drawback or asset depending on your perspective). Before digging into this analysis, it's worth stating one of the challenges of any certification program run by a centralized organization.

The challenge of adapting a syllabus that is often years behind the current "public thinking," as former CIPS Chairman Peter Smith puts it, is meeting the new, current requirements. For example, the CPSM started to place greater emphasis on areas such as global sourcing, but given the fact that supply risk and hedging / advanced commodity management strategies have only become more recent issues, the depth it provides on these newer and more germane subjects does not go far enough to be of material, pragmatic benefit. This will make us wait another 2-3 years (at least) for a centralized certification program that covers these areas, forcing CIPS and ISM members to look elsewhere for specialized training and education programs until then.

In other words, as Peter puts it, "by the time they identify something unique and valuable based on rapidly evolving current needs, two-to-three years has gone by," resulting in a training syllabus which is "not leading edge." Sure, the certification training and qualification can help hiring managers to discern whether or not a candidate or employee is "serious about procurement" by showing a "commitment" to training and learning. But as a result of this latency, neither program guarantees that employees will possess emerging knowledge and skill sets essential to handle the latest challenges and opportunities that the procurement and supply chain professions bring. This topic, among others, is one that I tackled in a Spend Matters research analysis back in 2008 when the CPSM has just emerged as a new certification. The paper, What is Your Best Option? Procurement Certification and Training Today, which is clearly North American-centric, attempts to cut through some of the marketing noise of the certifying authorities. Unfortunately, I did not cover the MCIPS certification in it, but for anyone considering the CPSM or another certification, I think it still provides a useful starting point.

Based on interviews with a range of practitioners, it includes profiles and analyses of the certification programs offered by the Institute of Supply Management (including the new CPSM certification), Next Level Purchasing (SPSM) and the American Purchasing Society (CPP, CPPM). The study also investigates executive education programs and other options (e.g., online training courses from consulting providers). Lastly, the report examines the relative cost / benefits of these options and evaluates the general value of pursuing different types of training and certification initiatives as well as the specific skill sets that individuals can gain from each program.

When it comes to the CPSM in particular, our findings at the time suggested that "for those who have the time to pursue the certification -- not to mention the available training courses and tutoring to learn the material and the basic qualifications to earn the designation -- that the CPSM represents a smart investment that will more than pay dividends over time. However, aspiring CPSM holders should plan significant time to learn the material as well as to budget three half days to take the test in the designated, third-party testing facilities, which may or may not be convenient to travel to." From a comparative summary to the legacy CPM designation, "The CPSM designation marks a significant step forward for ISM and their membership. The exams and study material together test both critical thinking and subject matter knowledge to help procurement professionals perform better in their everyday environment and react to the changing role of procurement inside many companies."

In comparison, Next Level Purchasing's SPSM provides another option, yet one that is not as well known (or recognized), given the reach of ISM and CIPs. Regarding Next Level Purchasing, we found that "the quality and foundational base of the SPSM course of study surprised many of the graduates we interviewed. For them, the SPSM certification was far more valuable from an applied knowledge standpoint than the C.P.M. Unfortunately, it is difficult to draw a comparison between the SPSM and the CPSM given that we did not speak to anyone who held both certifications. Our own cursory investigation suggests that the curriculum is actually quite similar. However, given the reach and breadth of ISM, we hypothesize that the CPSM certification will ultimately become better known among companies whose procurement team members actively participate in ISM and related groups (e.g., CAPS Research) ... [Still,] certification holders view it as a complement that is useful in its own right."

What is your view of the CPSM, MCIPS, SPSM and other certifications (including AIPICS and IACCM)? This is a topic that I hope can spark a good discussion, and if so, should provide some motivation for Spend Matters to tackle it more often -- with perspectives on both sides of the Atlantic, not to mention in other parts of the world as well.

Jason Busch

First Voice

  1. christo:

    Hi Jason.
    Christo here from South Africa Im looking at doing the SPSM certificate. i started at CIPS but there material is outdated when i compare it to Spsm. And it offers much more additional info looking on their web site breakdown. Spms course is $1150.
    Cips is much more for their course and you have to pay extra for everything and to belong to smartprocurement and cips which i think is a waste of money.

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