Have our professional associations supported procurement in our time of crisis?

Procurement professionals have been firmly under the pump in the past couple of years, delivering for their organisations as crises have raged around them. But they haven’t been doing it alone.

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The word ‘unprecedented’ has been overused in the last few years, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that few people will remember this period of time with much fondness. While global crises aren’t that uncommon, it has actually been unprecedented (that word again!) how many have unfolded since the tail end of 2019.

We can reel off several crises that have wrought havoc across the entire world, including COVID (the worst may be done, but it’s not over yet), the war in Ukraine, and the climate crisis. But there are many that have been unfolding for a number of years, and are likely to continue long into the future.

The climate crisis is causing severe droughts, increasing numbers and intensity of wildfires, and global famines. This, combined with wars, regional conflicts, geopolitical instability and tensions, have caused the displacement of millions of people, creating huge numbers of refugees and immigration, stretching countries’ resources. This has a knock-on impact at a time of skyrocketing inflation, the rising cost of living and increasing levels of poverty. 

For organisations these crises have been felt keenly in the levels of disruption in global supply chains. Resources are more scarce and more expensive, with demand frequently outstripping supply, and there has been a severe shortage of available transportation and logistics options this year. 

The Problems of the Past

Procurement has been working hard to support organisations where it can. The good news is that the profession hasn’t been working alone – key Professional Associations have been right alongside it. Throughout this time of crisis, Professional Associations have stepped up with information, knowledge sharing, and training for all global professionals, not just their members.

In the past it may have been easy to criticise these Associations for a focus that was more about promoting themselves as part of the procurement profession, rather than on what they could deliver for members. Events were arranged centrally and largely took place in major cities (i.e. London; Sydney; New York) that meant the majority of national members weren’t able to attend.

Local branches or chapters existed, but were largely left to their own devices, organising good events, but lacking the support to make them compelling enough for people to attend. Members were even left questioning whether it was worth paying membership fees for access to blogs and the occasional online class or event.

Pivoting to Support the Profession

Now the Professional Associations have collectively pivoted to provide vital support to members and professionals during these crises. There is a great focus on education, qualifications, and training to help cope with new and increasing demands on the profession.

For most, including CIPS and ISM, there are more different ways to study with the Institutes in order to gain professional accreditation. Studying has been made more accessible largely in line with the shift to remote working and studying as a result of the COVID pandemic. This has meant professionals can upskill in ways that suit them best, while getting the qualifications they need to really make strides in their roles in a challenging time.

There is greater support for both individuals and organisations, with ISM in particular increasing the scope of its ‘Group Training’, aimed at training entire teams on everything from basic knowledge through to organisational change. CIPS, too, have broadened their study options, introducing ‘Apprenticeships for Procurement’, partnering with organisations to help bring through more skilled professionals who may have previously missed out on the opportunity for professional accreditation.

Opening up Events

Perhaps one of the most obvious ways that professional associations have made positive changes in recent years is in their events programmes.

Though still driving towards face-to-face networking (and let’s face it, after two years of not having the chance, who wouldn’t prefer to meet in person!), both CIPS and ISM are continuing their drive for virtual events. 

Not only does this provide the opportunity to lower the profession’s collective carbon footprint, but it also makes events more accessible for those who have geographically missed out in the past. Events for the Institutes are focusing more on the current situation in their key regions and how professionals can best deal with this. From best practice webinars, through to knowledge and information sharing with subject matter experts, there is no excuse for missing out.

It is a huge step in the right direction for Professional Associations to truly cater to all of their members. At a time where professionals need support, information and guidance more than ever, our Professional Associations really have pivoted to provide support, ensuring professionals globally don’t have to stand alone.

To understand more about the pressures currently facing procurement and supply chain professionals, the outlook for 2023, and what you can do to tackle these market challenges, make sure you download our ‘Procurement Under Pressure’ Research Report. We teamed up with Ivalua to survey 170 procurement and supply chain leaders on the pressures and conditions they’re experiencing in 2022 and their outlook for next year. Click the link to download Procurement Under Pressure.

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