RIP CPO Agenda Magazine – what went wrong?

CPO Agenda was launched back in Spring 2005 by CIPS (the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply) in partnership with Redactive Publishing, under editor Geraint John. It was intended to be the “Harvard Business Review” of the procurement world, a quarterly journal that would feature deeper, longer, more academic articles than Supply Management.

Looking back at that first issue, there are excellent articles from Professor Andrew Cox; Jon Hughes with a typically content-dense and insightful piece; two articles from partner - level consultants (at AT Kearney and Booz Allen Hamilton); and a thoughtful but pragmatic article from a top practitioner (Neil Deverill) on supplier relationships.

But at the recent CIPS Conference, the demise of the publication was announced. David Noble, CIPS CEO announced that “a new magazine, Supply Business will succeed Supply Management’s sister publication CPO Agenda and target stakeholder communities to promote the value of the procurement profession”.

So it sounds like Supply Business is aimed at a wider senior management audience. It will still have a procurement focus, but it’s objective is to promote procurement to that wider readership. Clearly, we can’t comment on how that will work out yet, but it is worth asking the question - 7 years on, why has CPO Agenda failed, at least in terms of its original aims?

Certainly, some of that initial academic focus dissipated over the years. In more recent times, there seemed to be more articles that could have been “standard” Supply Management pieces, and more roundtable discussions and similar features (sponsored by a friendly solution provider). Now maybe that’s because there is less interesting academic work being done in the profession – or fewer academics willing to write about it. My view is that there are more procurement academics around than ever, but many are quite commercially focused these days rather than being interested in real fundamental research.

Or perhaps the target audience, senior procurement people, simply aren’t interested enough in the further reaches of professional thinking – or not interested enough to pay the CPO Agenda subscription anyway.

Another issue that struck me looking at the first issue again is  the stance taken by Redactive – and tacitly approved by CIPS – to give the cold shoulder to anyone perceived to be a “competitor”. So, from that first issue, Neil Deverill was presumably off the list of contributors once he developed his relationship with Procurement Leaders (indeed, he was asked to resign from the CIPS Council for that reason). And Professor Cox would be persona non gratis because of his activities with the International Association for Advanced Purchasing and Supply.

I’m not sure how the consultants would be perceived, and Jon Hughes would probably be OK because his firm, Future Purchasing, partner with CIPS to sell their category management product. Of course, I’m out of bounds for Redactive as well because of Spend Matters.  So if you’re cutting down what is probably already a fairly small field of potentially interesting contributors like that, it doesn’t help create a vibrant, useful publication.

Indeed, it seems a shame CIPS is not positioning itself philosophically at the centre of a more “open source” procurement world.  The way the Institute’s public face, driven largely by Redactive, is turned inwards and ignores anyone or anything who it sees as competitive is, I would argue, doing little for the development of the profession, or indeed to help members. However, it does probably work commercially for the Institute and (I suspect) Redactive, and some would argue that feeds back positively into the resources CIPS has available to do “good works”.

Having said that, I’m not claiming that restrictions on potential contributors was the primary reason for the failure of CPO Agenda. I suspect part of it is just the problem of getting people to pay for any material these days, given how much is available free of charge. And perhaps there just isn’t enough interest amongst our professional community for a generalist high-level publication - my experience is there are quite specific needs, and you have to target carefully to get people to pay up.

Anyway, it’s a shame to see CPO Agenda go, but we await the new publication with interest!

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Voices (4)

  1. Søren Vammen:

    I died when Geraint left the building – since then it has been one long painfull deroute….

  2. Jon Hughes:

    Peter – delighted to see that your “fine organ” has finally been acknowledged. Congratulations.

    I felt I should reply as one of the contributors to CPO Agenda. I probably wrote more articles for them when Geraint was editor than anyone else. For any cynics, neither Future Purchasing nor I received any payment whatsoever for them. With colleagues, I wrote them because I fully subscribed to the vision and strategy Geraint was pursuing.

    Interestingly, as soon as Geraint left, I was completely cold-shouldered by the magazine. I have had very little content with them and have written nothing. The passion for procurement excellence and leadership on my part though hasn’t diminished – indeed I’ve just finished writing a six-part series for Soren Vammen’s excellent magazine, Orientering, in Denmark. There has been zero interest in them on the part of CPO Agenda.

    I remain positive however that there is a lot of interest across the procurement community in the dissemination of really high quality and insightful intellectual property through a wide range of media. The challenge is the creation of that IP, which can be very demanding. I’d be very interested to know what the CIPS strategic intent is going forward in this domain. Top quality IP needs investment to produce it. Without that, the high ground of procurement is lost and others invade the space. It’s also ironic that many articles in CPO Agenda have explored the need for balanced competition combining the strengths of the market with productive and innovative collaboration. Alas, that concept has failed to be pursued properly by the CIPS and CPO Agenda. In a market where there is a real shortage of readily available emerging practice, processes, tools and techniques, there is a need for the creation of it to be actively stimulated and encouraged through a really inclusive approach that embraces any individual or organisation prepared to make the commitment to do so.

    Without addressing the above, I don’t think it matters what a magazine is called, how it is branded or how it is positioned. The medium may be the message but you need a high quality message. Without very significant change in this area, I believe that the new magazine will be a dead duck.

  3. Pete:

    It’s the 21st century and “push” media – paper publications, TV and radio – are giving way to “pull” media – online content largely created by those who sponsor community behavior.

    Old world publications talked at their target audience. The new world success stories are created by the target audience – rather like your own fine organ Peter

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