The Sourcing Maniacs 2008 Vendor Tour Part 16: Next Level Purchasing

This post is a bit lengthy, so I’ve broken it into Prelude and Purchasing.


  In Part 19, a conversation between the doctor and the Sourcing
Maniacs eventually results in Wakko uttering the following line. The following conversation, which is left out of Part 19, ensues.
Wakko We don’t want to look stupid.
the doctor We’ve been over this already, Wakko. I’m not *that* kind of doctor. You want a plastic surgeon …
Yakko No, no. What Wakko means to say is that we’ve decided to go see Servigistics and we don’t want to show up not knowing anything about strategic service management. We’re getting tired of looking stupid because of our ignorance.
the doctor You could do something about that.
Wakko Hey! I like the way I look!
the doctor I was speaking figuratively Wakko.
Wakko Oh.
the doctor You could get some training.
Yakko Who does training in this space besides the vendors, who, often, teach their own version of the truth and the ISM, who tried to force feed an outdated C.P.M. down our throats last time we talked to them?
the doctor Have you ever heard of Next Level Purchasing?
Wakko Who?
the doctor The creators of the SPSM – the Senior Professional in Supply Management, which was introduced as the first truly global supply management professional certification back in 2004.
Wakko What?
the doctor I thought you read my blog!
Dot We do … but …
the doctor But what?
Dot We tend to skim it … and …
the doctor And?!?
Dot Not pay much attention unless it’s entertaining.
the doctor No wonder you’re so desperately in need of some education! An education that, to some extent, you can get for free, I might add, on Sourcing Innovation.
Yakko Well, I think we’ve learned how remiss we’ve been by not reading your blog … carefully … on a daily basis. By sticking to a single vendor viewpoint, we’ve certainly missed a lot over the last decade.
the doctor Yakko, I still don’t think you have a clue as to how much you missed. It’s not just sourcing, procurement, and supply management technology that’s advanced by light years, but entirely new applications in global trade and supply chain management have appeared on the scene — as well as a couple of good training options in industry and academia and, as per this conversation, the first international certification in supply management — which I’ve discussed numerous times on this blog.
Wakko Numerous?
the doctor Yes Wakko, numerous. I’ve reviewed four of the six core courses:
Mastering Purchasing Fundamentals (Parts I and II),
Savings Strategy Development (Parts I and II),
14 Purchasing Best Practices (Parts I and II), and
Supply Management Contract Writing (Parts I and II);

I’ve reviewed their course in
Expert Purchasing Management (Parts I and II);

I’ve reviewed their Purchasing Assessment of Skills for Success (PASS) program (link);

and I’ve reviewed the following white-paper from Next Level Purchasing:
The Importance of the Job Description to your Talent Management Strategy

Wakko Really?
the doctor Yes, Wakko … Really! I do more than write catchy lyrics. Much more.
Yakko Maybe we should have checked them out when we were on the N’s!
the doctor Maybe you should go check them out as soon as you finish with Servigistics. They’re not a software vendor, so they wouldn’t mess with your insistence on visiting software vendors alphabetically, and you certainly could use the education.
Yakko Maybe you’re right.
the doctor Of course I’m right. And while you’re there, why don’t you see if you can eek out some of their plans for 2009. It will be the fifth anniversary of the SPSM. I’m sure they have some big things planned!
Yakko Will do, doc. So let’s get back to Servigistics.
the doctor Okay. So what do you want to know?


  Immediately after the Sourcing Maniacs finish their visit with Servigistics in Part 19.
Wakko Georgia, Georgia
The whole day through
Just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind
Yakko There sure is a lot to strategic service management! I think we need to listen to the doctor and investigate Next Level Purchasing.
Glaring at Wakko.
What do you think, Wakko?
  Wakko is currently banging his head against a tree rapidly in his best Pileated Woodpecker impersonation.
Yakko Let’s go, Woody!
Dot So, besides what the doctor wrote about the courses, do we know anything else about Next Level Purchasing?
Yakko Checking his new iPhone … obviously the maniacs haven’t been reading Vinnie’s blog either and don’t understand the TCO
Looks like the doctor sent me some links. Give me a few minutes and I’ll see what they say.

(The SPSM Certification on e-Sourcing Forum,
The SPSM Certification Story Continued on e-Sourcing Forum,
Chamber Honors Moon Company on Your Moon Township,
Supply Market Assessment on Supply Excellence,
Online Education Provider Gets High Marks From Buyers on Purchasing,

Tools for Professional Excellence on Supply & Demand Chain Executive, and
The Purchasing Certification Blog by Charles Dominick, Founder and President of Next Level Purchasing.)

  Next Level Purchasing also has the Purchasing Certification Channel on YouTube, but knowing the maniacs don’t read enough, I decided to leave this out.
Wakko Wakko starts humming the Jeopardy theme song. I’m not even going to fathom a guess as to why.
Yakko It looks like Mr. Charles Dominick founded Next Level Purchasing back in 2001 when he noticed a lack of decent private training offerings in the supply management space as well as a derth of on-line training options, and, in particular, a lack of how-to programs for delivering measurable results in the workplace. For the first three years, it just offered training classes, but after a number of students commented that they learned a lot, that their performance improved dramatically, and that they should be certified for their effort, he decided to research ISO 17024 — the international standard for personnel certifications. After examing the marketplace and realizing there were no globally recognized purchasing certifications, he decided to create the first valid certification program in supply management.

It’s a low-cost option, with the basic program currently only $1,149*, and although the average completion time is 4.5 months, it has been completed in less than two months **. It looks like it pays for itself in spades, as the 2008 Purchasing & Supply Management Career & Skills Report found that SPSM Certification holders have an average annual salary that is $19,220 US more than their peers! They have 10 courses now and they currently appear to be adding at least three courses every two years.

As for Charles, he spent much of the 90’s working in, and managing, procurement departments at various large organizations including Kurt J. Lesker Co., US Airways, and the University of Pittsburgh where he noticed that one of the key challenges facing supply management organizations was that staff members were either not being encouraged, or were not acquiring the necessary skills, to be independent actors … which is necessary for leaders to lead. Otherwise, a lot [of work] gets upwardly delegated, and that really attracts from the leaders’ ability to focus on what upper management’s vision is.

  *Yakko’s going to waste more money on his shiny new iPhone in his first year of ownership! And less than what one of the four prepartory courses for the now defunct CPM certification used to cost.
**If you know what you’re doing, relatively up-to-date on your job, and willing to devote yourself all-in to the task, you could do it in a month. (It only took me a [long] day to complete, analyze, and write-up each class I reviewed, and the final exam, which I also reviewed for Charles, is only 3 hours. Of course, I am the doctor and already knew the majority of the material, but an ambitious and intelligent student willing to go “back to school” and put the long hours in could do two classes in a 6-day week. One week for review, final, and documentary requirements and you’re done.)
Dot Sounds like we really should check them out and see if we can learn something. Where are they?
Yakko Back in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Wakko Do you think the Penguins will be having exhibition games yet?
Yakko I don’t know, but we can look into it.
Wakko Great! I can’t wait to see skating penguins.
Yakko shakes his head in disbelief
Dot also ignoring Wakko
Are we off?
  We catch up with the maniacs a few days later.
Dot Well, we’re in Moon Township. I think this is it.
Wakko Are you sure? Looks kind of small … is this another micro-organization?
Yakko No, it’s a small company … you have to remember, not everyone gets massive 500 square foot plus executive offices. Some companies are frugal and only give employees the space they actually need to keep costs down and value up.
Wakko If you say so …
out comes the mini-mallet
Dot taking advantage of the opportunity, knocks on the door
Charles Dominick Hello and welcome to Next Level Purchasing. How can I help you take your purchasing career to the next level?
Wakko I don’t want to look stupid anymore.
Charles Dominick … without missing a beat
Here at Next Level Purchasing we help you find intelligent answers to the many questions that plague your daily job as a supply management professional. Would that help you with your problem?
Yakko I don’t think anyone can help him with his problems, but we’ve recently discovered there’s a lot more to supply management than we ever thought there was …
Charles Dominick That’s certainly true. There have been a lot of changes going on in purchasing, and people in purchasing today are doing different things than they did 20 years ago, 10 years ago, and even 5 years ago. Now it might be easy to say that I’m qualified because I’ve been in my job for 20 years, but that’s not really an indicator of how skilled I am or how capable I am of delivering great performance. I could be doing the same things that I was doing 20 years ago and doing them just as badly. That’s why we developed the Senior Professional in Supply Management, or SPSM, certification here at Next Level Purchasing. Certification provides a best-practice third-party standard that I can follow and have confidence that I’m doing my job well. Could you use the SPSM certification?
Yakko Well Wakko
who’s trying to use an otoscope and a periscope to look inside his own head
is definitely certifiable, but I was wondering how you help professionals advance in their careers?
Charles Dominick At the core of the certification is six core courses that provide you with 44 continuing education hours. These courses cover the basics of purchasing, contract writing, purchasing tools, project management, and savings strategy development. On top of this, we’ve introduced courses in negotiation, expert purchasing mastery, international procurement, and global sourcing strategy with new course offerings on the way in 2009 — which will mark the 5th anniversary of the SPSM on July 1.

However, we understand that continual skills development and knowledge acquisition is vital to a supply management professional’s success these days, and offer a number of free resources to help our students throughout their careers. We’ve been offering semi-monthly purchasing articles for a number of years, I maintain the Purchasing Certification Blog, and we recently created the Purchasing Channel.

Yakko It certainly sounds like your program has a lot to offer.
Charles Dominick We think it does, and we strive to make it better everyday.
Dot So, would you be up to telling us about it.
Charles Dominick Certainly, where would you like to begin?
Dot Donning her grey fedora and black trenchcoat
How about an interview?
For Sourcing Innovation?
Charles Dominick Well, if you think the doctor will run it, I’d be happy to. We’re certainly a believer in education here at Next Level Purchasing.
Dot How many certification holders are there?
Charles Dominick We don’t give that number out as it changes daily. I will tell you that over 3,000 students have enrolled in our paid classes to date, from over 100 countries. At last count, we have SPSM’s in over 40 countries.
Dot I notice that you also have an enhanced results program that comes with an extensive multi-media study-guide on an iPod. What prompted NLP to go multi-media and be one of the first programs anywhere to offer materials on an i-Pod? What type of enhanced results are you seeing?
Charles Dominick Three principles drive how we make our education available: convenience, innovation, and fun. As innovative as it was – and still is – to put multi-media procurement study material on an iPod, it was a natural decision for us given our commitment to those three principles. We’ve done some tests with people who have failed the SPSM Exam then used the SPSM Multimedia Study & Implementation Guide and dramatically increased their scores on the SPSM Exams. If they grasp the material that much better, then it is only logical that they are better prepared to deliver the types of measurable results like other successful SPSM’s. We are in the process now of gathering data on actual performance. Because we’ve only introduced the SPSM Multimedia Study & Implementation Guide about a year ago and the Senior Professional in Supply Management Program allows up to two years to complete the study, we are still gathering the amount of data necessary to be statistically significant.
Dot This year saw the course-offerings kick it up a notch from a global perspective with “Basics of Smart International Procurement” and “Executing a Global Sourcing Strategy”. What is NLP going to offer next year to take it to 11?
Charles Dominick As I answer this question, we are in the midst of finishing and launching four new innovations and improvements that will kick off in late 2008 and gain traction in 2009.

First, there’s PurchSearch – our search engine designed to help purchasers do research more quickly while also getting more authoritative results when compared to doing a traditional search.

Second, we are launching mid-term games. These are multi-media games based on popular game shows like Jeopardy and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire that will not only make our students’ learning experience more fun, but will also help them retain and apply what they’ve learned for real-world results. Sourcing Innovation readers can play a free game based on our PurchTips newsletter.

We will be formally launching the Purchasing Certification Channel on YouTube. This channel will feature what I believe is the largest collection of online procurement education videos consisting of vlogs, interviews, SPSM Certification Success Stories, and more.

Finally, we will be announcing the results of our massive annual update. While we update our material in small chunks throughout the year and do one comprehensive review and update every year, this year we were really determined to increase the value our students get from our programs. A couple of our courses had content increases in the 12 – 15% range. And we didn’t raise our prices a penny!

In early 2009, we have a surprise launch planned that will help deliver our procurement training on an even more global basis. Stay tuned for more information on that. And, as you know, innovation is a continuous process for us. It is not a one-time event. So you can expect more exciting developments throughout 2009.

Dot Any spoilers?
Charles Dominick Not today.
Dot This year also saw NLP start promoting department-wide certification programs, and also showcased a case study demonstrating remarkable results with essentially exponential returns in ROI. What are NLP’s future plans for offering it’s certifications on a department-wide scale? Are you going to offer classroom sessions to accelerate training on a department wide-scale?
Charles Dominick We currently offer an assessment program called “Purchasing Assessment of Skills for Success” or PASS as a first step for procurement leaders to determine whether the SPSM Certification is right for their teams. This assessment is based on our research that indicates that there is a correlation between seven key skill dimensions and the savings that procurement professionals achieve. That program has been wildly successful and has helped many procurement teams. In 2009, we will be expanding the skill dimensions to also assess management readiness and global procurement skills.

In addition, we are developing technologies and services that will be available at no additional charge to our clients who enroll their entire teams with us.

We are actually seeing less interest in classroom sessions than ever. This is due to a number of factors including the quality of our online training as well as the costs and environmental implications of travel.

Dot Next year is the silver anniversary of the SPSM in the “modern” system. What surprises does NLP have in store to celebrate?
Charles Dominick If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise now, would it? But you are right, we have something massive planned for the five year anniversary of the SPSM Certification on July 1, 2009. Let’s just say that we will be introducing an innovative process for giving SPSM’s the assurance that the SPSM is scalable, will always represent the highest level of credentials available in purchasing and supply management, and will adapt to the inevitable changes that our profession will face over the next few years and decades.

And with that, I have to get back to making our purchasing programs better. To your career!

Charles Dominick ducks back inside Next Level Purchasing’s offices and gets back to work.

Dot Wow! There’s certainly a lot to purchasing these days!
Yakko And to think we used to believe that an RFX could solve all your problems!