Supply Management and the CIPS value proposition – a good deal?

Last week, Supply Management (SM) magazine announced that it's print edition was going monthly. Not a surprise as we said here.

SM has invested considerably in their web based presence, which is now active and pretty good, particularly for the latest news.  I personally don't think it works so well for insightful comment or best practice type material, but then the magazine has never been particularly strong in those areas either. And arguably CPO Agenda has taken some of the more serious articles away from SM, making it a little lightweight at times.  (On the other hand, you might argue that people don't particularly want to read 'heavy' stuff in their regular  professional magazine).  SM is also constrained somewhat by not wishing to offend CIPS members or anyone really, which can make it a little unchallenging of what it is reporting at times.

But I have to say I still see it as one of the very positive things about CIPS, so I'm sorry to get it less often, although increasingly I was finding I'd read a lot of the material on-line by the time it arrived.

This does however raise a serious issue for CIPS. Here is one of the comments we had when we reported the change:

It does beg the question – where is CIPS providing value to its members? Right now it’s coasting on its reputation for handing out worthwhile procurement credentials, and that market is fuelled by those insisting on it in job applications.  But what if that stopped?

The magazine traditionally was seen as a major member benefit. If you valued it at, lets say, £2 -3 a copy, not unreasonable, then 26 copies a year meant that about half your membership fee could be 'justified' by the mag.  But now it's only monthly, AND anyone, member or not, can read most of it on the web... the contribution to membership value is basically nil.  So one option is to re-create that value; either put material in the magazine that isn't available on-line; or make the SM website at least in part CIPS members only (which I seem to remember it was at one point - or am I imagining that?)

Alternatively, CIPS has to justify itself in terms of other services.  Now, if you're in a job where you 're getting a hefty annual pay supplement because you're a CIPS member, then it's a no-brainer.  (Although arguably it is the qualification that should trigger the supplement, and perhaps evidence of continuous professional development, rather than simply membership).  OR, if your employer pays the annual fee, the same applies - nothing to worry about. So those two factors probably mean that most UK public sector members don't actually look too hard at aspects of membership value.

But if neither of the above apply, I can imagine this change in frequency being a catalyst for members to look at the proposition now and wonder whether it is worth it.  The discounts available on events, conferences and so on are attractive; some people make good use of the branch events; and of course there are other benefits.  But CIPS may have to work harder to communicate those elements of its value to members.

And coming back to the magazine, the comment we had (see below) seems like a very sensible suggestion - why not give members the option of whether they receive the physical copy?  (Of course this becomes less relevant if the 'new' version starts to contain material not available on-line).

I, for one, feel that SM should provide an option for CIPS members to state their preference ie: hard copy (yes/no)... I receive a weighty ‘quality’ paper output (is it printed on recycled paper or from sustainable sources?), along with other paper-based fliers, through the post (trucks, tyres, fuel…) wrapped in plastic (an oil-based product), where nine times out of ten, it is immediately separated for recycling (because I’ve already read the online version).

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Voices (4)

  1. Peter Smith:

    Interesting! I thought CIPS was a bit more than that – perhaps they charge me a “special” rate!
    I guess the other question is why do you bother with PMAC (that’s Canada isn’t it?)
    But the test might come not with you or me but the next generation who are used to free music downloads, Facebook, Evening Standard etc… they don’t like paying for stuff!

  2. dave henshall:

    Peter, well argued as always. I certainly believe CIPS could be doing more to take the profession to a higher level and ensure employers continue to insist upon a CIPS qualification. But before we get too concerned about the value issue, perhaps I can shed some light as a member of CIPS, ISM, and PMAC:

    Membership of these bodies is correct on last checking in 2010:

    CIPS = £88.20 @ $1.6 = $141 Includes 2 X per month free magazine (high
    quality) + content rich web site
    ISM = $143.20 CAD include 1 X per month magazine + content rich web site
    PMAC = $388.5 No magazine + web site void of real useful content

    As you can see CIPS & SM have been providing excellent VFM, but perhaps now is the time to make some innovative moves and reinvent the business model.

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