An interview with Professor Andrew Cox; procurement guru or provocateur? (Part 2)

As we explained yesterday in the first part of our interview with Professor Andrew Cox, founder of the International Institute of Advance Purchasing and Supply (IIAPS), there are three levels of accreditation within their procurement qualification – Green, Red and Gold.  Assessment is through case studies.  For the first two levels, they are set by IIAPS and take the individual through complex procurement case study. In the case of the Gold award, the case study is a real life example provided by the candidate’s organisation.

So, with their international approach and impressive Advisory Board (see yesterday's post), it looks on the surface like IIAPS may be the most serious challenge for a long time to the established Institutes' dominance of the procurement qualification market?

But Cox asserts that IIAPS is not competing with CIPS directly; “we assume that people enrolling for IIAPS already have a good level of procurement knowledge and experience – CIPS graduate diploma or similar”, says Cox. But he has some interesting words about the potentially conflicting motivations of professional Institutes.

“Organisations that are motivated by getting more and more people through their qualifications don't tend to drive standards,” he explains.  He also questions whether certain qualifications can be defined as a ‘standard’ at all. “You can’t have a ‘standard’ that you can obtain through four different routes” he says.  Hence his desire to make IIAPS an advanced and rigorous international standard – “if you get it, it will mean something” he explains. “It will be tough”.

He is also critical of classroom based training – “it’s just not a good way of skilling people to do real jobs”.  And you need to understand the specific organisation, tools and processes before you can assess people, hence the approach is very much to work with organisations rather than this being the sort of qualification that individuals apply for personally.

“My biggest concern in terms of our success is that people will think this is too hard. We want it to be rigorous and challenging; but the danger is some people or organisations may see it as too difficult.  We have failed a few students already”.

But Cox has never lacked in confidence. “We think we can define world-class procurement”.

I hope IIAPS succeeds; Cox, and others in the organisation, are impressive and do have a vast amount of knowledge and understanding of what really matters in procurement.  And while CIPS and ISM are still the market leaders for procurement education, offering a vast amount of content, much of it excellent, some competitive pressure on the big Institutes can’t be a bad thing.

The real test will be if, in a few years time, recruiting organisations value IIAPS in the way that many value CIPS or ISM on an applicant's cv now.   We’ll see over the next couple of years, but I suspect IIAPS will establish, at the very least, a successful niche at the top end of the market – and maybe more.

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  1. Gary Johnston-Webber:

    For my 2 pence worth, whilst I agree that one needs to establish a real procurement training course that will have acceptance grobally and that case studies are essential, I am concerned at your third phase where the learner’s own company for whom he works would set the case study surrounding their own circumstances and operations. This is inhibit someone wanting to get a procurement qualification when he is not employed as yet at a company.
    As we well know today that very little on the job training is given and the companies only want to employ seasoned and experienced buyer, so where is the chance for an individual to prove his metal, so to speak, before he can have a chance to get employed. He will be precluded by your third phase of training.
    I totally agree that pure classroom teaching does not do the job, except for a few really dedicated and determined candidates who want to learn properly, and those stand out so you can go one on one with them.
    I do believe the days of buyers just falling into the procurement area by chance or as an easy way to get some employment, is fast running out. and what I call order takers or givers and push pencils are no longer sustainable by business in general and these procurement people of the future need to be highly motivated and professional in their field, and this could generate a long discussion, so I leave it there, but business need value adders and not cost centers.
    I have no doubt that procurement’s days of just being a process has to develop into a major player within the larger organisation and so add value and see the bigger picture and really assist in major board decissions and so my statements above.
    The days of simple buyers are over and these department need to grow up very fast and use all the vast experience of older professionals as mentors to absorb the real skill of procurement that cannot be taught out of a book.

    Thank you


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