Tom Derry takes over at ISM – his first interview

Paul Novak announced his retirement a while back after 15 years as CEO, heading up the US based Institute of Supply Management (ISM). Last week, ISM announced the appointment of Thomas Derry as its new CEO, effective July 30th, 2012. Derry currently serves as VP and COO of a similarly sized organization, the Association for Financial Professionals.

Jason Busch (of Spend Matters US) and I managed to get an introductory phone interview with the man himself the other day. Jason is publishing the interview in more detail, so if you’re interested in hearing more about Derry’s views and plans, do take a look at our US site here. I’ll just give you a summary here, with the key points I took away from the conversation.

1. The first thing that struck me (as far as you can judge down a phone line) was that Derry is a very good communicator. Clear, convincing, personable, no B***S***, but very fluent. Based on that brief evidence, he will go down very well with the various stakeholder groups.

2. He sees procurement as being central to many key business issues , and is very strong in terms of a desire to link procurement to wider organisational and even national strategies. Trade issues, corporate social responsibility, supply chain risk – he seems to have a very good perspective on the critical areas for procurement, given he’s come from another industry sector.

3. He wants to be an advocate for ISM members on these wider issues and play a role at governmental and regulatory level – “the opportunity to raise the level of the corporate voice in policy discussions”. (Something in my opinion CIPS doesn’t really do much these days, being perhaps too much “in bed” with the UK government).

4. He seemed to be quite cautious about expansion of ISM globally – he talked about “influence” as being important. But when I pushed him a little on expansion, he was somewhat more assertive and positive. He does see the CPSM qualification as something that should be “the most acknowledged designation in the field around the globe”.

5. ISM should be providing something for everyone – so whatever stage of maturity an organisation or an individual is at, they should find something of interest in ISM. Derry wants to “highlight the best thinking in the profession” and disseminate information broadly to all members, at all levels of sophistication.

There’s a lot more in Jason’s pieces, but I’ll finish with a couple of observations in the context of the ISM relationship with CIPS (the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply).

In terms of the pure numbers (membership, surplus), I’d argue CIPS has out-performed ISM over the last ten years or so. CIPS numbers are distorted by the huge number of Chinese students that it counts as members, but there’s no denying the effort CIPS has put into China, the developing world and the Middle East has paid off in terms of sheer scale. And there are now CIPS offshoots in Australia, South Africa and Middle East, driving membership, MCIPS as the gold standard qualification, and training / consulting revenues.

CIPS are pursuing a very commercially focused and international strategy – senior hires in the last couple of years have been all about growth and revenue, not developing professional thought or research. Nothing wrong with that necessarily, but Derry will need to decide – does ISM take CIPS on directly in the international arena? Or focus more on extending the membership and revenue base at home in the US?

He might also look at international markets where ISM may have more of a natural advantage. How about South America, or Spanish speaking countries generally? And the US has historically been more of a presence in Indonesia or the Philippines than the UK – are they markets with growing potential?

He will need to look at the education aspect as well, give the strength of MCIPS, if he is serious about making CPSM the “most acknowledged” qualification. On the positive side, he has a huge domestic market as a base, far larger than CIPS can boast. And with what is happening currently in the UK public sector (see our series this week), that “heartland” for CIPS is weakening fast.

So, we wish him good luck, and look forward to hearing more about his plans no doubt when he’s got his feet more firmly under the table in ISM; and we also wish Paul Novak a happy retirement.

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