David Noble at Procurious: CIPS President on a ‘License to Practice’ Procurement

Last Thursday I spent the day at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit in London with some 40-50 rather diverse and senior individuals in attendance (from my old colleague Mark Perera, who was one of the co-founders of Procurement Leaders, to a number of CPOs, professors and other folks in and around the business of procurement).

At the event, CIPS President David Noble gave a talk in which he introduced the concept of what some have called a “license to practice” procurement much in the same way as professionals in accountancy or investments must have licenses in their respective fields. David has called for this in the past (my colleague Peter Smith has done a colorful parody of this on Spend Matters UK/Europe – search “James Pond”).

But criticism and parody aside, does David have a strong argument when he suggests that one should have a license in the profession of procurement – or indeed to make it a profession? He argued, “We are very much in the 'public good' space [with our actions]. From slavery in the supply chain to fraud, which is on the increase, procurement is [front and center in the public’s eye]. Effectively, it is saying if you have the right to be the owner of your company’s spend, you have a license of certain competency and behavior.”

David then suggested we need a professional license standard that is the MCIPS – CIPS’ designation, similar to the CPSM – or “equivalent” that becomes a global professional license – a standard by which we can “admit” those into the profession as a steward of good and fair procurement practices.

I’m going to out on a limb and say that while I actually think David’s argument could be further honed – and also that his bias at the Chartered Institute does not make him a neutral party – that is he is right with the general thinking. It’s a daring suggestion. But it could be what this profession needs to reduce scandal and improve its overall standing in business and government, at least in the public sector if not overall.

What do you think? I’m a grown man (I hope). I am prepared to stand on the receiving end of a bunch of rotten eggs being tossed my way for at least partially agreeing with his position (but I also reserve the right to change it if you can convince me otherwise!).

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Voices (6)

  1. Pierre Mitchell:

    There’s an important difference between certification/credentialing and legal licensure. Even financial accountants (and CFOs) don’t need to have a CPA, and even that’s a certification, not a legal license. I think that certifications are probably good enough here – at least for the private sector. If a government wants to set up a license based on its requirements, then maybe that’s OK, but in private sector, nobody is going to like a non-profit industry group trying to create laws that force companies to use licensing created by that entity. And if there is an industry that is sensitive to monopolies, it’s procurement!

  2. bitter and twisted:

    But market knowledge is more important than a passing a course.

  3. Helen Mackenzie:

    I would certainly support more debate on this issue with a view to getting to the “licensed to practice” position. We have worked hard across Scottish Local Goverment to both improve the quality of procurement practice and also to stress that it must be led and delivered by competent CIPS qualified professionals. To think that we can deliver all that is expected of us, not just cost savings but all those ethical and sustainability outcomes, with a bunch of enthusiastic amateurs is to completely devalue all the procurement improvement and reform that we have worked so hard to achieve.

    So no rotten eggs from me for you Jason rather a round of applause for hopefully getting the debate up and running.

    1. Dan:

      Why would they have to be CIPS qualified?

      Anyone with some common sense and commercial nous can do procurement. Similarly, lots of people with a CIPS diploma aren’t very good.

      1. Helen Mackenzie:

        Being CIPS qualified whether through the study method or perhaps the management entry route suggests a base level of knowledge and expertise. OK some won’t be very good and other non qualified people will do ok.

        The point is that we have a lot to deliver these days and it’s not just cost savings. In some countries it’s about moving public procurement away from corruption towards transparency and fair processes. In others it’s about driving forward an ethical and sustainable agenda. Having accredited professionals delivering this process means we can drive up quality and standards. Not having this means perhaps we just need to keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

  4. bitter and twisted:

    I think that procurement licencing is a great idea.

    As an experienced, and, er, ‘pragmatic’, procurement professional, who has absolutely no intention whatsover in being ‘licenced’, I look forward to becoming a highly paid ‘Special Ops’ procurement secret agent,doing the special dark purchasing that the company ‘licenced pro’ cant know about.

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