Procurement Training and Certification Beyond CPSM: We Need Serious Boot Camp!

Calling CIPS, calling ISM, calling potential for-profit training companies: procurement needs something like this, which the NYT called out in Dealbook today. What is this you ask? It’s “specialized boot camps” for recent graduates where “fees that sometimes exceed $1,000 a day” to enable “would-be masters of the universe [to] perfect Excel modeling techniques and financial analysis.”

The need for such intensive tutoring is clear – even for those who supposedly studied these techniques in school. As a “senior loan syndication banker at a European bank, describing his recent interviews of newly minted M.B.A.’s in New York,” quoted in the article notes:

“I just want someone who can really use Excel and PowerPoint.”

Don’t we all!

As someone who personally went through on-the-job-training in consulting in the finer arts of Excel and PowerPoint – rather than relying on anything I learned in undergrad or grad school – I can vouch for the fact that most graduates today, even those from top schools, lack the quick-hit and expert skills to build models, presentations and (and storylines) when they’re newbies.

This still holds true in banking and consulting. It’s also is the case in procurement and supply chain. Yet is there a market for truly expert crash courses in the finer arts of pivot tables and modeling? If there’s money on the line, there certainly is! As the Times suggests, “When millions of dollars can be won or lost on one calculation, firms are finding it essential that their new hires can tell the difference between a pivot table and a header row.”

Whether it’s an M&A deal or a big sourcing negotiation involving multi-tier bid analysis and supplier nominated alternative specifications, I’d argue that most people enter both the finance and procurement professions without the surprisingly similar quantitative skills needed to be most effective from day one. This includes not only building financial models – who cares whether they’re accretion/dilution models or total cost models – or telling a story through numbers.

Unlike raw analytical ability that can’t be taught overnight in a highly intensive manner, if ever, quantitative modeling and analysis techniques can, especially if we’re dealing with the right caliber of graduate (which we increasingly are for procurement and supply chain in top organizations). But such training must be intense. As one recent Columbia Business School graduate quoted in the story notes, “An eight-hour crash course on leveraged buyouts … was so intensive that it kind of makes you want to slit your wrists.”

The question is: is ISM, CIPS or others up to the challenge of delivering truly intense boot camps for new grads entering the profession? The slit-your-wrists kind?

There’s a market for it. I know there is. And if traditional institutions don’t step in, someone else will.

After all, just as the CFA Institute – the organization that grants the coveted (and hard to get) CFA designation over multiple years requiring a course of study that is much harder than anything like the CPSM, and has a recent completion rate of less than 15% – has ceded this crash-course financial modeling training to private sector firms, perhaps the procurement and supply chain industries will as well.

Voices (3)

  1. Jason Busch:


    That’s great to hear. It’s a BIG void, but one that ISM will need to evangelize as I think we collectively need to build awareness for better business and quant skills in the profession in such a manner. We’ll help you as much as we can here once the offering is ready!

    This was music to my ears at the end of the day on Friday …

    1. Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2:

      Good thoughts with this post. As always, I love it when you guys address the education angle here on Spend Matters!

      Just wanted to bring your attention to a few things that you may not be aware of, but that fill the void you mention. Please excuse it if it appears self-promotional, but I’m really just trying to bring light to some things that may have slipped under your radar.

      First, Next Level Purchasing has been offering (and regularly updating) an online course entitled “Microsoft Excel For Purchasing Professionals” since 2001. It includes lessons on building models involving PivotTables, should cost models, etc. Does it make our clients want to “slit their wrists” – no! Nor would we want them to! We strive to make the educational experience both valuable and fun, which delights procurement leaders who want to motivate their teams to learn while also simultaneously addressing the myriad of competing priorities.

      Second, just today, we have launched a series of FOUR online Express Courses entitled “Procurement KPI’s & Business Acumen, Parts I-IV.” Spend Matters will be receiving a press release shortly if you haven’t already. It addresses business acumen for procurement professionals like no other offering has. We agree that procurement professionals – new grads and long-time veterans alike – absolutely must develop business acumen and think like CEO’s while also having a laser sharp focus on the fine details of their profession.

      Third, in terms of whether the traditional procurement institutions will cede crash course training to the private sector, my opinion is that they already have…over a decade ago and counting. That’s not to say that those traditional institutions are becoming irrelevant, but that there are niches for those who do what they do best: traditional institutions and for-profit training companies alike.

      Keep up the great work. The new, rationalized site design looks great BTW.

  2. cindy urbaytis:

    ISM has identified the need for business acumen skills at all levels of your career. The recent graduate is most significant because without a clear understanding of business acumen individuals are more likely to develop wrong goals and will fail to recognize the challenges the business faces. These are critical skills to lead change. Managers and above require a level of business acumen that will help them develop high performance teams and engage employees in the organizations goals and objectives.

    As mentioned, ISM with supporting research has idetified the need. We are currently in the process of building content to address the gaps. Stay tuned

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