An Interview with Tom Derry: ISM’s New CEO (Part 3)

Please click here for Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

Spend Matters: (continued) In its programming, training and certification, should ISM focus on the truly innovative and top performing organizations or the long-tail of procurement sophistication?

Tom Derry: I believe that what drives someone to become a member of any association or group in part is the question: "do I have an opportunity to expose myself to the best thinking in the field so I can serve my organization in the best capacity?" We aim to be a showcase to highlight the best thinking in the profession. Inevitably, you will work with leaders in the field, but attempt to disseminate information more broadly to all members, at all levels of sophistication. In terms of emphasis, we do not prefer one type of member over another type. We need to make sure knowledge and ideas flows down to the base of the pyramid. This is a critically important role for us to play!

Spend Matters: What is the role of conferences in promoting the dissemination of ideas to the member base?

Tom Derry: There is no question that the conference is an important forum for promulgating ideas to the member base. We are in a position to genuinely say that the value proposition from a conference includes the ability to learn from the best minds in the field. This should always be an important objective of an event. The more we can showcase the best, brightest and most innovative organizations, thinkers and ideas through interchanges among our member base, the better.

Spend Matters: What is your view about the role of an organization like ISM for driving revenue and growth?

Tom Derry: Making money is important to fund the mission. When I covered Congress many years ago (in a previous role), I focused on the healthcare debate at the time. One of the speakers, a nun, ran a large Midwestern healthcare system. She had a message for Congress: no margin, no mission. All nonprofits need to manage the bottom line (and top). Ultimately it is in service of fulfilling the mission (which is separate from creating value for shareholders, as a for-profit).

We do need to earn a return on investments. Looking forward, you will see us look at our cost structure. And you will see us run ISM in a very businesslike way to serve the mission of the organization. We will expand our revenues because it is in the spirit of the organization to more broadly serve and influence the domestic and global market for procurement. But this will never be in the spirit of producing a surplus for the sake of producing a surplus.

Spend Matters: What areas might ISM turn to for growth?

Tom Derry: I have some early thoughts, but I have not discussed it or formalized my views on it. I need to talk to more people and executives in the member base. Training, no doubt, is something we see a huge opportunity to invest in and grow. As you point out, the ADR North America acquisition gave us expanded capability in this area.

I go back to my earlier comments around the expanding role of procurement across a range of areas spanning business, trade and industry including technology transfer, fair labor practices, sustainability, conflict minerals, access to raw materials and commodities and much more. There are opportunities to better address these topics and related global initiatives through programming, services and related offerings that can help us better fulfill our mission while also improving ISM's top and bottom line.

Spend Matters would like to thank Tom Derry for sharing his candid thoughts. We look forward to many more interactions and discussions as he embarks on his role as ISM CEO in late summer.

- Jason Busch and Peter Smith

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