Supply Management is hard. Real hard. And it’s only getting harder. SI has said it before, and it will say it again — in order to excel at Supply Management a Sourcing or Procurement professional has to be a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-one.
But this is not an easy thing to do. The skill set required by today’s Procurement professional is longer than Santa’s naughty and nice lists put together and is growing by the day. And that’s just the basics. The EQ, IQ, and TQ required for an average Procurement professional to get through the day is enormous. It’s to the point where a person of average intelligence can’t cut it. It used to be that only the best and brightest could do law and medicine and engineering but now only the best can do supply management. And, to make matters worse, just EQ, IQ, and TQ is not enough.
A modern Supply Management Professional needs knowledge — and lots of it. With constantly changing market conditions, new inventions, and new modes of operation, whatever a supply manager knows today is unknown tomorrow. As new methods of production come online, old methods become cost prohibitive. As new products are invented, old products become obsolete. As market conditions change, old plans become irrelevant.
Supply Managers need to keep tabs on the market. They need to identify new modes of production that will become more cost effective before they are under-cut by the competition; they need to identify new inventions that will threaten the organization’s market as soon as they are announced; and they need to detect market changes as they happen. They not only need oodles of market intelligence but the knowledge on how to interpret it. Not every new production technique is a threat, not every invention breaks existing or creates new markets, and not every market change has lasting effects — some are corrected in days. But others are atom bombs, iPhones, and extreme supply and demand imbalances caused by a major production plant being destroyed by an earthquake or tsunami.
But where is a Supply Management professional to get that knowledge? Most universities have a curriculum that is still mired in old-school logistics and operations research. Most professional associations are still teaching you old-school negotiating tactics. Most blogs are mired in the noughts and still preaching the gospel according to Ariba and Emptoris (which no longer exist). And the analysts … well, we’re not too sure just what they are inhaling before they do their preaching, tragic quadrants, and dangerous graves.
In other words, not only is education quality in general (especially in North America) bad, with the US ranked 14th (as per the global heat map), but education in Supply Management in particular is particularly bad. We’re desperate for education, but almost no one is giving it to us. We truly are the damned. Let’s hope we can learn on our feet as we are dancing amid the flames. (As we no longer have the frying pan to shield us.)