Last week, I attended the Best Practices XChange (BPX) hosted by The MPower Group in Chicago. This quarterly, one day BPX roundtable, event brings together senior procurement professionals (director and above) from BPX members and interested organizations.* The event was well put together, and I’ll be diving into the presentation by Dr. Lloyd Rinehart in a later post, but I wanted to start by summarizing the emerging themes from the roundtable discussion.
As pointed out by Brian Sommer in his post last week on The New Sourcing Concerns, one of the big concerns is transition management, both in terms of knowledge transfer and change management. Not only will a large number of baby boomers be bolting for the bay doors by the boatload as soon as the economy rebounds and their 401K will allow them to, but most companies don’t have any processes in place to capture their knowledge while they are still here and transition the knowledge to their new employees. Furthermore, they are starting to recognize the need for advanced sourcing systems to help them with their global strategic sourcing projects, but don’t have any processes about how to go about selecting, implementing and switching over to those systems in a risk and hiccup-less free manner. And while many companies still don’t have good answers, it’s nice to see the senior level recognition of this problem because the solutions are out there, and any company that gives this issue priority will find them.
The next major concern is talent availability. Even though the unemployment market has reached a high, averaging over 10% in North America (especially when you take into account all the underemployed “self-employed” and the “discouraged workers” who are conveniently left out of the US statistics to make the situation look better than it really is), there is still a dearth of talent in the sourcing marketplace, which is only going to get worse when the market recovers. Sourcing needs highly skilled workers, and with falling levels of graduates in science and engineering programs, economics, and other programs that train us to think logically and analyze complex situations, these people just aren’t out there in great numbers.
Furthermore, even when you find the talent, they still need to be trained since even most “supply chain” programs don’t prepare students for the complex sourcing environments present in most multi-nationals — which brings us to our third challenge. The fact of the matter is that there is no mass-market training program out there that will produce an advanced sourcing professional, yet alone a senior leader. (The NLP SPSM and the ISM CPSM, in particular, don’t come close enough. While I am a big fan of the SPSM certification program, because it captures the basics that every sourcing and procurement professional should know, but still doesn’t, and, through the SPSM2, introduces them to the world of international sourcing, on the doctor‘s scale of basic beginner – intermediate – advanced – senior expert, it still only gets you to intermediate. Better than the majority of the offerings out there, but still not where you need to be on a technical, EI, or cultural level if you want to be a senior professional at a major multi-national handling 8, 9, and sometimes 10 figure categories in today’s very challenging global sourcing marketplace.) The only answer is to find the best talent you can, augment them with advanced training from one of the leading consultancies who have been doing this in the field day-in and day-out for decades (after you have insured they have the basics), and then put them under the wing of a senior sourcing professional who needs to transition her knowledge to your rising superstar before she retires (because, when you get right down to it, what really makes a sourcing expert an expert can’t really be taught in a [n on-line] class, and can’t be learned until you have the advanced tools, techniques, and processes at your fingertips to learn from a master).
The story I’ve been pulling together lately, reinforced by this event, is that unless you can
- find, and hire, talent while unemployment is high (and some of these individuals are available),
- train them on advanced tools and techniques, and
- use this new talent to lead your knowledge capture and transfer efforts
while working under the guidance of a mentor
(as they will be more comfortable with new systems and processes than your in-house experts)
you could be, to coin a colloquialism, up sh*t creek without a paddle.
I wish you the best of luck in your endeavours. You might just need it.
*In order to ensure best practice sharing amongst peers, each quarterly BPX roundtable is limited to 35 participants. As a result, BPX members get first priority. Remaining slots are then opened up by MPower to senior procurement professionals that are considering membership or interested in finding out more about the value BPX could offer them. For more information, feel free to contact Nicolas Hummer (
nicoh <at> thempowergroup <dot> com ) at any time.