Positive Purchasing add to the procurement competence debate

Procurement capability and competence development should be high on the priority list for any senior procurement leader who has responsibility for other staff.  We've covered the issue here - for example around IIAPS and Professor Andrew Cox.  IIAPS has gone down the route of accrediting individuals, but of course there are many other organisations engaged in training and development activities designed to help organisations and individuals develop procurement competence.

One of the more successful and progressive in their thinking is Positive Purchasing. It was founded in 2003 by Jonathan O’Brien and Mark Hubbard, who came out of the *QP Group stable, like many of the best consultants and educators still working in the profession.

Anyway, I caught up with Mike Pringle, their Sales Director, recently for a chat. Positive Purchasing offers “education & training, consultancy support, best practice purchasing toolkit and on-line learning and resources” with education and training being at the heart of their business. They’ve got their own TV studio down in Plymouth, their base, and take pride in the quality of their material, which is indeed very professional from what I’ve seen.

They’re into competency assessment, drawing up development plans, and all aspects of implementing staff training programmes. Their new ‘on-line academy’ provides a practitioner toolkit that looks impressive, and allows customisation (including across different languages) so organisations can build their own ‘learning pathways’ as well as collaboration and knowledge sharing – open or closed – with forums, wikis etc. There’s core content, then material that they tend to adapt to specific customer requirements.  So it goes beyond pure 'training' into provision of a best practice and collaboration tool for use by managers in their day to day jobs.

We also had an interesting discussion about the marketplace for education and training. They haven’t gone down the IIAPS certification approach, but clearly there is an element of competitive overlap there, although it is a very large market and still a fairly fragmented supply base. And there are other competitors.

“Some of the large consulting firms have invested a lot in e-learning systems and tools; but frankly they can all be a bit overwhelming to users. We find people like the fact we customise, and our offering is more manageable and user friendly,” was Mike’s comment. They’re also providing blended learning in many cases; a mix of web-based and face to face.

One of the firm's founders, O’Brien, has also recently written a book, “Category Management in Purchasing” which I have just ordered from Amazon. It’s been a surprise hit, and is selling very well. I’m very jealous (look at the respective sales rankings to see why...). But we won’t hold that against him; Positive Purchasing have a good story to tell and are clearly well worth considering if you’re in the market for this type of work. They also support some excellent causes; as you can see on their website here.


*The QP story! Now there’s a topic for a future series of blogs – or perhaps a 3-hour movie. But who would play Robin Kammish?


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