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Fragmentation Threatens Long-Term Status

January 12, 2011

Yesterday I listened to a program about the aid industry and its declining effectiveness. It struck me that there are some worrying parallels in the field of professional development, especially for groups such as procurement and contract management that lack a robust history of professionalism.

The problems with the aid industry appear to be that today’s networked world has reduced the barriers to entry. Essentially, almost anyone can set themselves up as a coordinator or provider, establish a network of donors or contributors or supporters, and then deliver ‘services’ of some sort, without any external oversight or standards of governance.

Reduced barriers to entry result in fragmentation and proliferation. Not only is this confusing (for both the potential supporters and the recipients), but it tends to drive down service levels. In part this is because upstart providers may lack necessary skills and long-term commitment; but also it is because established providers become distracted by the new competition.

In the business world, competition is generally a good thing and forces continuous improvement. The dynamics in areas such as aid or professional associations are rather different. They are generally non-profit foundations for a good reason. That is because they need objectivity and they need to focus on their core purpose – which is to benefit users of their service, not a set of stockholders. In this environment, competition can have the effect of diverting resources away from service delivery and into more questionable areas of value – such as an army of fund raisers, or marketing and promotion.

In the world of professional development, we see the fragmentation in the form of proliferating quasi-associations. Many are for-profit, set up by individuals, consultants, conference companies, publishers etc. as a way to make money or to support sales of their goods or services. Others are less formal and may be nothing more than a LinkedIn or Facebook group. On one level, it seems good that the professional community has so much choice, but ultimately it will perhaps operate to their detriment.

For groups like contract management and procurement, there are no universal standards of practice. Unlike fields such as medicine, engineering and the law, there is no firmly established professional ethic or body of knowledge. And without this, they can never achieve sustainable professional status. Fragmentation clearly works against establishing such standards and ultimately proves inefficient and confusing for the practitioner community.

  1. What is most interesting about your post Tim is that almost 2 years after IACCM’s Tim McCarthy joined David Clevenger, Cindy Allen-Murphy and Charles Dominick on the PI Window on Business segment titled “Is The Traditional Association Model Dead?” many of the observations made during that panel discussion still persist in some form today.

    Here is the link to the on-demand broadcast:

    Question: has the advent of social networking or social media helped or hindered the situation?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Is Fragmentation Undermining the Purchasing Profession: IACCM’s Tim Cummins Believes It Is « Procurement Insights
  2. Is Fragmentation Undermining the Purchasing Profession: IACCM’s Tim Cummins Believes It Is « Essential Connections
  3. Is Fragmentation Undermining the Purchasing Profession: IACCM’s Tim Cummins Believes It Is « Contracting Intelligence Blog

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