Procurement Certification vs. Experience: The Delusion of Mutual Exclusivity by Charles Dominick

Posted on June 25, 2012


Editor’s Note: We are delighted to welcome to our group of regular columnists Charles Dominick, SPSM.

Charles is founder, president and chief procurement officer of Next Level Purchasing, which offers the SPSM (Senior Professional in Supply Management) Certification.

Be sure to check out Charles’ Purchasing Certification Blog.

According to the Spend Matters whitepaper entitled “What Is Your Best Option?  Procurement Certification & Training Today” ( “research suggests that fewer than 10% of the procurement workforce in North America has a procurement certification or has gone through a formal degree program in supply management or a related field.”

Ask several non-certified procurement practitioners why they don’t have a certification and a common response you’ll get it is “I don’t need a certification – I have experience.”  The frequency of this type of response indicates that there is a common myth in procurement.  Actually, “myth” is too weak of a word.  “Delusion” is probably a more appropriate word.

That delusion is that there is mutual exclusivity between certifications and experience.  A delusion that, if you have one, you can’t have the other.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

You can have certification and experience.  Leading professionals – not just in procurement, but in other fields as well – have both.

While, in years past, one of the two may have been enough to have a decent career, things are different in today’s world.  There are two things to consider.

First, the job market has been, and remains, very challenging.  Unemployment rates have been at extremely high levels for an extremely long period of time.  And it seems that, for every tenth-of-a-percent drop in the unemployment rate that the news reports, you soon hear of another merger, acquisition or other event that will result in job loss.

Second, how much does “old” experience really count in today’s procurement world?  Someone may have 15 years of procurement experience.  But think back to what procurement was like 15 years ago.  Envision buyers standing at a fax machine faxing 50-page RFP’s to one supplier at a time instead of using today’s eSourcing systems that have enabled sourcing projects to be completed in a fraction of the time they once were.  Think of buyers typing up $20 purchase orders instead of having end users placing them via today’s Procure-to-Pay systems or P-cards.    Think of buyers negotiating by pounding their fists on conference room tables and demanding a lower price instead of engaging in professional negotiations that balance challenging demands with joint problem solving techniques and out-of-the-box ideas that identify opportunities for mutual gain.  Does that experience from 15 years ago serve as an indicator of an individuals’ capability in today’s procurement world?  It’s easy to argue that it doesn’t.  Or at least shouldn’t.

In today’s procurement world, you can never be too qualified to handle the difficult challenges.

And tomorrow’s procurement world isn’t likely to be any easier.

Should procurement professionals rest on their laurels and feel that experience or certification alone is enough?

Only if the business world sits still.  Do you think it will?