The Value of the Certification Process (A PI Q and A)

Posted on March 3, 2008


The following is an interesting question that was submitted by an eSourcing and SCM Professional regarding the relevancy of the certification programs offered through a number of associations.
Reader Question:
In SCM, what is the relevance of certifications like APICS-CSCP?
Raheel Ahmad
eSourcing & SCM Professional
My Response:
I actually just returned from a speaking engagement at the APICS Houston 6 Packed conference.
While I both write and teach accredited courses for organizations such as the Purchasing Management Association of Canada (PMAC), this was my first event with APICS.
Based on this preliminary experience, APICS is certainly a first rate organization.
In terms of your broader question regarding the relevance of the certification process, given my extensive research in this area there is really a two-stage answer to your question.
To begin, with the growing talent vacuum the demand for procurement professionals is on the rise resulting in opportunities for salary increases of between 25% and 35%.  A recent European study found that while there were only 5,000 students who graduated from institutions with a degree in supply chain practice, there were 75,000 available positions.  This certainly provides one of the reasons for the salary increase.  (Note: the numbers appear to be similar in the North American market, especially given the fact that very few organizations have a viable succession plan in place to replace individuals who are nearing retirement.)
In this context, association reports demonstrate that designations such as CSCP provide graduates with a better opportunity to be at the higher end of the increased pay scale with the elite companies.
However, and outside of the framework of the profession itself, the designations of CSCP, CPM, CPP etc. do not appear to carry the same weight as say a CA designation in finance.
To many association executives, this is the biggest and most pressing isuue that needs to be addressed.
Certainly a CPO Roundtable hosted by CPO Agenda is quite telling.  I have provided the link to one of the many articles I have written on this subject below.
Titled Procurement’s expanding role and the executive of the future, I analyse the discussion between CPOs from international firms such as Danone and Nestle.
Besides the increasing (and recognized) importance of the supply chain, the general consensus is that purchasing departments are best run by someone with a background in finance versus procurement.  In many instances, the purchasing department is therefore reduced to a functional role rather than a strategic one.
In large part this is due to the disconnect in a number of key areas including how supply practice savings are captured and recorded.
In another article I wrote titled Bridging the Communication Gap Between Finance and Purchasing (see link below), of the approximately 11% of reported savings by the purchasing department, finance only booked approximately 3%.  This represents a significant 73% difference.
What this means is that finance and purchasing are not on the same page.  And since finance is still viewed by a corporation’s senior executive has providing a window on an organization’s overall health, this disconnect to a certain degree undermines rather than enhances the purchasing department’s perceived role and capabilities.
In this light, it is important to evaluate the curriculum of the various purchasing courses to ensure that the core elements are reflective of the market’s requirements that a purchasing professional have an expanded understanding of all areas of an enterprise’s operations.
To summarize, the designations do provide a competitive advantage within the framework of the profession itself (re the difference in pay scale for a professional with a designation versus one without).
However, and in terms of the broader market as a whole, there is still a great deal of work left to do before the desired parity between a CSCP and CA designation can be achieved.
Procurement’s Expanding Role and the Executive of the Future
Bridging the Communications Gap Between Finance and Purchasing
Talent Attraction and Retention in a Global Economy White Paper
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