Earlier this week, we provided extensive coverage (Part 1 and Part 2) of ISM's recently announced acquisition of the North American practice and assets of ADR (ADR North America) and ADR North America's China business. For some, our coverage raised more questions than it answered about the future of ISM, including how it views itself on the global stage alongside organizations like the UK's Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS), which appear to have a much more imperialist -- or would that be mercantile -- approach to fulfilling their mission by prioritizing for-profit initiatives at the expense of what some might argue is in the best interests of a charitable organization.
For example, CIPS has ironically offended the relationship it has built over the years with folks like Peter Smith, a former CIPS Chairman nonetheless! CIPS' for-profit media arm views Peter's blog, Spend Matters UK/Europe, as competitive with their own publications (since when money grubbing journalists/publishers in the trade publishing world trump senior executives in the profession in relationship decisions, I'm not sure). Regardless, as a result, they've banned Peter and Spend Matters from active reference or participation in their own material.
ISM, in contrast to CIPS, has a reputation for acting more as a mission-driven nonprofit with an emphasis on serving its members without putting revenues and margin ahead of relationships. Unfortunately, it also has a historic reputation for moving at a slow pace in reacting to changes in the market from a programming and member perspective, compared to CIPS, Next Level Purchasing (a for-profit US certification competitor) and others.
It's Spend Matters' view, however, that ISM is evolving. From developing a new supply risk conference from scratch to making targeted moves like the recent acquisition to pursuing consulting engagements as a means to get more in touch with its members and the market -- anyone who doubts me that ISM has broader ambitions here should realize how tiny ADR was revenue-wise and how even a substantial growth in revenues of the practice would still make it less than 10% of the size of practices such as AT Kearney's procurement and operations practices -- ISM is moving forward. Slowly, yes: but it's evolving.
Still, ISM has a long way to go to. It's my personal view that the confusion surrounding the recent acquisition is a great case in point that ISM needs to realize how quickly markets communicate today. Simply waiting for a future newsletter or mailing to communicate the essence of what a transaction and formation of a company such as ISM Services, Inc. means for its members rather than communicating directly after the announcement by email to all its members and then actively shaping and participating in the dialogue on Spend Matters, LinkedIn and other online social communities and resources is evidence that ISM is operating an older and slower communications paradigm than where the market has moved.
The future of ISM will be dependent, in large part, based on the actions of its next leader. Paul Novak has done an excellent and commendable job at leading ISM for decades, but upon his retirement, the next leader will need to decide how to best continue fulfilling its mission-driven charter in an era moving at a pace where the flow of information and insight is an order of magnitude faster than what the current ISM is set up to deliver.
It's in all of our interests to see ISM thrive. While no change is easy, how ISM evolves over in the coming years will determine its role and influence in procurement for decades to come. Which is precisely why choosing the right leader to place at the helm is so important at this juncture.