Supply Business – a review of the new CIPS / Redactive magazine

We wrote the obituary for the CIPS supported CPO Agenda magazine a few months back here. It has been replaced by Supply Business, and the first issue of that new quarterly journal came out a little while ago. It’s published, like Supply Management magazine, by Redactive, in conjunction with CIPS (the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply).

The difference from  CPO Agenda is in the positioning. CPO Agenda was aimed squarely at the senior procurement audience, and started out with aspirations to be the Harvard Business Review of the procurement world, with serious thought leadership type articles.  But for reasons we discussed previously, it never quite established that, and its credentials to that position gradually faded. Supply Business is aimed at CPOs, but also at senior stakeholders of procurement – so CEOs and other members of the C-Suite.

My first impressions weren’t great. The early pages contained too many of the same sort of PR pieces that we see in Supply Management. “Company X has saved lots of money through great procurement”.  “ABC Corporation implements new green procurement initiative and saves the world”. You know the score. I’d suggest to be credible at the level they’re aiming for, this needs to go, and a little more editorial opinion would be valid and expected.

But then things picked up. I found Dick Russill’s page contained some great nuggets of insight (as usual),  and also enjoyed Mike Inman’s piece, despite wondering initially why on earth he had been given a page in the new magazine. The article on low-cost sourcing was readable if not particularly original.

I started reading the features on both Novartis and Diageo with my usual cynicism about self-aggrandisement from procurement leaders, but despite myself got into both and found them genuinely interesting and thought provoking. There as a lot more depth and detail than you tend to get in similar Supply Management pieces, and both firms were pretty open and honest as far as I could tell. And Redactive have a good stable of writers at the moment, which certainly helps the general readability.

But we went slightly downhill with the article on gauging procurement’s performance – getting sound-bites from a whole range of random procurement people about a very tricky topic, without offering any real conclusion or insight, just doesn’t cut it in this context. And the piece on coaching was OK but seemed a little off-topic for the magazine, and I couldn’t imagine a CEO or CFO getting anything out of it really.

So by the end, it is a qualified thumbs up from me. It’s certainly a product that CIPS members could feel  represents the profession well, and yes, you would be comfortable with your boss getting hold if it.

And yet...I’m not sure the CEO is really going to read this, rather than Forbes or the Economist to be honest.  It is still a magazine fundamentally about procurement. I think it is a good read for the CPO – but then so was CPO Agenda, at least initially, and that didn’t work. This is lighter, more business focused  and less “academic” than early CPO Agenda, but it became more populist over time, and that didn’t seem to help.

So will more CPOs buy it, as something principally for them but which they would be happy to pass on to senior colleagues – that might be the way to market it? Or will we really see CFOs and CEOs taking out their own subscriptions?  There’s an introductory half price subscription offer quoted in the magazine, at ”just” £55, but this is the crunch - will people pay that sort of money for 4 magazines a year?  If we can buy The Economist for under a fiver retail (and only a couple of quid an issue on subscription), is Supply Business worth £14 a shot even at the discounted rate? We’ll see.

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