CIPS Knowledge Partnership – Seal of Approval or Commercially Driven?

Do you understand what a CIPS (Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply) "knowledge partnership" is, and how it works? The latest was announced last week, with Applegate , who provide an online marketplace largely aimed at the engineering industry. Applegate says this:

“As CIPS’ exclusive Marketplace Knowledge Partner, Applegate will contribute to CIPS members’ professional development through a growing suite of material freely available in a dedicated section of the CIPS website. We will also collaborate via research surveys, webinars…”

And how does CIPS position this? From their website:

David Noble, Group CEO, CIPS, said, “We all work in an incredibly fast-paced environment so access to relevant data is important, and even crucial. So much more is required of our professionals than a decade ago. We cannot all be instant experts in all sectors and with all skillsets but a global business environment expects much more of us. Having trustworthy support and access to a range of high-quality resources helps to keep our professionals current, up-to-date and authoritative is one of the most important aspects an institute can offer its members. I’m delighted that Applegate Marketplace has become the latest respected knowledge partner and we look forward to developing these knowledge areas further.”

There are an increasing number of these CIPS knowledge partnerships, and I do have concerns. For a start, I’m not sure CIPS makes it quite clear enough to members that these are commercial arrangements. The brochure here makes it pretty clear (although no price list is provided) that this is a paid-for awareness and lead generation proposition for the partner.

Now to some extent, we’re the last people to complain about this, given this business model is in many ways very similar to that of Spend Matters. Applegate, Cofely, Hays – they are all paying for the credibility, market awareness and direct leads that CIPS can provide, just as Coupa, BravoSolution and others do with us.

However, I would argue that we actually make it clearer than CIPS does that these are commercial deals – we call these firms “sponsors” on our sites for a start! But we also pursue a policy of independence in our writing, and we provide unbiased analysis of the markets we work in. So that means we cover our sponsors, but also their competitors and general market perspectives. (That means our sponsors tend to be pretty confident about their own products, as they know we will be honest about them). CIPS does not do this, so the only FM firm (for example) ever mentioned on the website is the knowledge partner, and there is no independent review of Cofely’s services or capability.

So the two concerns about CIPS are these. Firstly, the organization has a responsibility to be clear to its members and other readers that these are commercial arrangements. These days even YouTube bloggers have to make it clear when they endorse products for commercial gain, or risk the wrath of the Advertising Standards Authority - would it be reasonable to think that CIPS should do the same?

Secondly, there is the perceived CIPS “seal of approval” issue. Has CIPS analysed the recruitment market and decided that Hays is the “best” firm (highly debatable from my experience), or done the work to be confident that Applegate is the best marketplace (no personal experience to report here)? There is no evidence of that, although I would be pleased to hear from CIPS if I’m wrong. Or is it simply driven by who will pay the fees?

And unlike with Spend Matters, there is no other independent coverage by CIPS of the range of potential providers – so no analysis of the whole procurement recruitment market, or of engineering marketplaces, or of FM services (Cofely being the partner here). So a naïve buyer might just assume that CIPS has done the selection process for them –which would be a win for the partners of course!

As I say, I’m trying hard not to be hypocritical here and part of my concern is about reputational risk to an Institute that I care about. I don’t mind CIPS making money in a similar way to Spend Matters. But as a charity, as a membership organisation, as the guardian of procurement good practice, the organisation really needs to be MORE transparent than organisations like ours, not less.

Members - and casual readers - have a right to know exactly how these knowledge partnerships work and to understand what CIPS is really telling them about the firms involved.

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Voices (3)

  1. bitter and twisted:

    The real issue is that Spendmatters and others are not also trying to become the self-appointed monopoly suppliers of purchasing professionalism.

  2. Final Furlong:

    Transparency Peter, that’s all we want. And when organisations aren’t transparent, it’s because someone somewhere has ‘shaken hands’ rather than running an open and robust process

    1. Dan:

      You’d have thought the CEO of CIPS should know about the value of an open and transparent procedure.

      Its hard enough convincing our internal stakeholders about this without our own representative body going about things in the same way as them

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