Should you be licensed to practice?
CIPS (the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply) is pushing for procurement to become a licensed profession, similar to accountancy or the law. They suggest that the growth of supply chain risk makes it more desirable to have the rigorous standards that licensing implies.
it is an interesting proposal and merits debate. A few of the observations that come to my mind are:
- is this push for licensed professionals anything but self-serving? To what extent does licensing actually improve quality of decision-making? So far as I know, the accounting institutes were relatively silent in the wake of the banking and financial collapse, but what were their ‘skilled and qualified’ members doing throughout the period of uncontrolled risk-taking? And what about the medical profession? Yes, they perhaps restrain or act on some of the most obvious abuses, but do they not also tend to ‘protect their own’?
- As guardians of a standard, doesn’t licensing constrain innovation? Every professional body I can think of struggles to adapt to changing market and business needs. It is slow to respond and faces inevitable push-back from established practitioners who face a need for dramatic re-learning and should be required to re-certify.
- Is this really any different from the old closed-shop mentality of the craft guilds and trades unions, both of which led to terrible abuses of power?
- Why Procurement? Why not instead move to licensing suppliers based on their visible achievement of standards. This would be far more efficient than having thousands of buyers all doing the same tests to validate the supply network.
- Isn’t this positioning by a procurement association rather opportunistic? For years, the procurement associations have been claiming that their members are professionals and they have been beating the drum over commoditization, cost reduction and squeezing suppliers through unrelenting competitive bidding. Many outsiders have long pointed out that Procurement practises such as these damage quality and undermine supplier integrity – in other words, the very things that this call for licensing says it now wants to guard us against!