In a recent post over on Procurement Leaders blog, my colleague Paul Teague referenced and quoted an observant (and witty) question from Charles Dominick on the subject of whether those practiced in the art of pedicures, manicures, etc. are "more professional" than those in procurement. The answer might surprise an outsider, but it doesn't surprise us, given our long-time analysis of the procurement function -- and the general lack of regulatory oversight we've observed for sourcing and supply chain roles in the private sector (and in many cases, in the public sector as well). Of course the question of whether oversight and training is required by the local, state or Federal authorities is another question entirely -- we're not in favor of it -- but the point Charles makes is a good one.
In his analysis, Charles suggests that "every state in the United States requires 'nail technicians' to acquire a certain number of hours of training before they are licensed and thus allowed to work in a fingernail-painting job. Alaska requires a mere 120 hours of training. My home state of Pennsylvania requires a below-average 200 hours of training. And the pack is led by Alabama and Arkansas, which both require 750 hours of training. To paint fingernails.[emphasis added]". The next question that Charles asks is whether it is the right thing that "the government has left the purchasing profession in the hands of practitioners and employers" and whether "both have almost abused that freedom by not getting training or requiring certification of purchasing job candidates" compared with nail technicians. His own answer to this, of course, is self-serving given his firm represents one of the fastest growing certification authorities, at least as for-profit organizations in the field go (if not overall).
But if you were to ask ISM, CIPS or just about any other certifying authority, they would likely say the same thing. Here at Spend Matters, we take the view that for most companies in the Fortune 500 today -- or Global 2000 equivalent -- the general skills expectation for procurement is based on a set of underlying capabilities, and in many cases, especially for non-executive positions, certifications as well. It's our perspective that mandating certification in the private sector would serve no one, rather than special interests. The market can (and should) police itself.
The government sector is another question. For one, if CIPS and the UK provide any lessons for the US, it's clear that essentially requiring certifications for public sector employees in procurement does not necessarily up-skill the function as much as bringing in top notch talent. Rather, it creates a culture with a base level of skills. Probably not a bad thing. But without question, it would be best to have multiple certifying authorities compete to offer differentiated and specialized certifications rather than putting stock in a single authority. At least in our view!
As much as we would like to continue this analysis, it's time for our man-scaping appointment next store...