CIPS Licence to Practice – our readers comment

Last week’s policy statement from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) that all buyers (however we define that) should be licensed (however we define that) before they are allowed to buy (however we define that) led to one of the best debates here we’ve seen for a while, not surprisingly.

So, to no-one’s surprise, we’re returning to the subject, and today we’ll start by featuring some of the comments from our original post last week. Then later this week we’ll pose the key questions that we feel CIPS needs to answer if they want the profession to get behind this idea.

Dan was quick off the mark with some major issues.

This is just plain daft. Anyone with some commercial nous is capable of procuring effectively. And just having a qualification is not a guarantee of quality. The only sector where something like this would be useful would in the public sector ... I wouldn’t trust CIPS to provide this though. I learned nothing new of the procurement regs from my CIPS diploma, and in some cases had to correct my tutor when he got it wrong.

Where would this leave small companies? All companies, regardless of size, need to carry out procurement activity of some sort, even if it’s just the electricity bills for the office and some stationery. Yet the smaller ones might not be able to justify the cost of a dedicated procurement person.

Graham Smith summed up several views.

Not a good idea. Despite the fact that this will never gain any significant traction or ever get close to being implemented it will certainly not help the debate with internal stakeholders on the value a commercially orientated procurement team can deliver.

RJ hit several nails on the head:

I can’t see how this will go anywhere. How would it possibly be policed? What arbitrary thresholds might be applied (value of the purchase, size of the organisation, number of employees, nature of the purchase)? What would you actually be “qualified” in, as there is such a range of skills required to manage procurement to a high quality? And can anyone in CIPS say how being “qualified” ever stopped an individual from being corrupt, misguided or unprincipled? Pure headline grabbing with no real intent, I’m sure.

Ian Heptinstall posed a great question. Several actually.

What problem is this trying to solve? How will a licence make things better? What analysis have they done into obstacles & side-effects of the proposal?

Guy Allen responded:

I suspect the problem it is trying to solve is Procurement Involvement. But you cant fix that by legislation, it will just become a box ticking exercise. What is important is the quality of the involvement, not the quantity. And this in the end boils down to the quality of the individuals involved rather than any imposed rules

Ed Lutterell backed up Guy:

However, as Guy points out (extrapolating), in the end the nature of procurement’s engagement with the wider business will come down to people. My hobby-horse: behavioural flexibility and mental/emotional agility. How will a licence to practise enhance or even address this I wonder?

Bitter and Twisted had a simpler (if somewhat cynical...) answer to Ian’s question:

The ‘problem’ is not enough CIPS profit.

And, as Ben Glynn pointed out:

They would have to set up a PCA (Procurement Conduct Authority!) and who would fund that?

Mr Aardvark (?) broke off from demolishing anthills to explain why he wasn’t impressed.

If CIPS had any influence, I’d be worried.  A good starting point would be for them to publish some evidence of linkage between CIPS qualifications and performance. In my experience there’s no correlation between MCIPS and results, and a negative correlation between FCIPS and results…

As an FCIPS, I’m a bit offended by that. On the other hand...  Anyway, we didn’t get much that was totally in favour but a couple of folk were pretty balanced. Here’s Trevor Black.

This may not be the solution but the fact remains that the profession is falling short as many of its members believe that passing an exam over 20 years ago still makes you a professional. There is a global shortage of commercial skills required by business and CIPS needs to step up to the mark or disappear. Ignore the reality if you wish but constructive proposals I’m sure will be gratefully received.

Rish gave us an excellent comment, including a rundown of how accountancy profession works and some interesting thoughts on other professions.

You are right, in that there is no requirement for anyone to describe themselves as ‘accountant’. BUT: Only certain types of accountants can engage in certain types of work. For example, only ICAEW – the ‘Chartered Accountants’- may describe themselves as such. Along with ACCA (the ‘Chartered Certified Accountants’) these two are the only bodies whose members can engage in providing services to companies such as statutory preparation and Authorisation of company accounts.

He finished with this:

Perhaps MCIPS members should become ‘Chartered Procurers’ or similar? I note that this is exactly what Nigeria has done. They DO require their public sector procurers to be members of their version of CIPS to practice too it seems. Which is Peter’s point on the developing world I guess.

I have no problem with boosting the status of CIPS and MCIPS however we can – “chartered procurers” for instance is good.  But whatever we do has to be feasible and reasonable, not something that makes us look like the Printers’ Union circa 1986.   And thanks as always for comments that far surpass my original post in insight and intelligence! And we’ll have more to come on this soon.

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First Voice

  1. Spend Matters to everyone:

    What I really like about this article is that it is entirely focusing on the comments you get, demonstrating the importance of your readers and their interaction to the success of the blog. Not meaning to be critical, but it is interesting to note how few comments the Spend Matters US site gets in comparision – why is this? Perhaps Peter is more a man of the people? Perhaps the UK culture is one to challenge or engage with public opinion? Perhaps the topics are more relevant to the general interest of the community?

    I don’t know….but I do know that we have had our comments on the US blog censored in the past, which is disappointing and is moving away from the core philosophy of a blog. To my knowledge this has never happened on the UK sister site, and I hope it never will, as such articiles and dialogue as exemplified above will disappear to the detriment of many.

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