CIPS? Why?

25 January 2019

After 20 years in IT, a number of my colleagues have asked why I’m so interested in Procurement as a function, and specifically what I am doing within the CIPS network. It probably does look a little odd from the outside, so I thought it would be interesting to try and explain. Happy to discuss if anyone wants to get in touch.

Within my professional life, I have always been excited by working in roles that are varied and broad. Understanding what impact my actions have on the broader business is something that I thrive on, rather than just doing a day job or repeating the same function. In a career that has spanned technical delivery, operational and commercial management, sales and marketing, you could say I get bored easily, but its really more about a desire to understand the bigger picture and be able to influence the end to end process rather than a specific part. In my opinion, you are more likely to excel at a particular job if you truly understand the people you interface with, and what better way to achieve this than having done their job at some stage in your career.

So after a few decades of traversing the IT industry, I feel confident that I understand most aspects of the process. I can confidently talk at an “ok” technical depth, I understand the operational and service management aspects of an IT solution, and can get into a reasonable depth on the commercial aspects of a service.

After ending up in Sales, I realised two things. One, I love the commercial side of technology (pricing, business cases, scoping, phasing) and two, to truly understand the commercial side of things I really need to see a transaction from the “buying” side of the equation. I also had a particular view, based on my experience, that a lot of the buyers within IT were struggling with keeping up with changes in technology so thought I could help them with that.

So I set myself up as an IT Procurement consultant (amongst other things), “poacher turned gamekeeper”, and offered these services to a range of businesses. I used my commercial experience to help clients specify what they wanted, to negotiate based on supplier hot buttons, and to avoid common commercial pitfalls. This generically applied across Local Government, Hospitality, Financial Services and other industries. IT Category Management is very transferrable.

Procurement, I soon realised, has the potential to be a “broad minded” person’s dream job. You need to be engaged with every aspect of the business, specific to the thing you are buying (Direct or Indirect), but also layering Finance, Legal and Contracts and, in some cases, HR into the mix. You need to understand your suppliers businesses, and the things that they value, to give you a negotiating position. And you need to do all this in a way that is personable and relationship based, to broker the best deal possible to everyone’s benefit.

The other thing about Procurement, relative to most other roles that I’ve performed, is you deliver massive and tangible value to a company very quickly. In my most recent project, after 4 months of working at the client, I had delivered 13 times my own salary cost in profitability improvement to the business. 13 times! I doubt many Sales people can drive 13x profit against their salaries in less than a year. That is a very rewarding and tangible metric to live by in your job.

Procurement therefore, should be a career consideration for everyone who has willingness to truly understand and deliver value to a business. If you want to see the full breadth of how a commercial entity operates, Procurement is the best place to start. Interestingly, most Procurement professionals “fall into” the profession, rather than aim to be there – but I think the wind is changing on this. Interestingly, I have just been to a recruitment fair with the CIPS team and had this very discussion with the next generation of professionals (GCSE level school kids). I think we won the debate.

So Procurement is interesting, but why CIPS? Well anyone who has been involved in the Procurement field will be aware that CIPS is the de-facto industry body for “Procurement and Supply” professionals. If you are looking for a senior role within the industry, you need to be considering an accreditation in CIPS such as the Professional Diploma, or after some industry experience, the MCIPS (Member), all of which are enormously respected certifications on a global basis. CIPS represents the industry best practice for Procurement and Supply Chain, and as such is a great place to start if this career path is what you seek.

I have elected to start slowly with my CIPS engagement, but am considering formal CIPS certification in the future. Engaging with my local (South of England) branch in this context has been enormously rewarding. A meeting every 2 months or so, and I’m conversing with a whole range of professional buyers across all categories and all industries. Within what has been a very short space of time, I am already benefitting from knowing some amazing and highly experienced people in this Procurement space. Most companies have a Procurement function, and therefore the opportunity to engage with any industry via this forum has an incredible potential to broaden my options personally and professionally.

So if you are a bit stuck in your role, and fancy a change – consider Procurement. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you fancy an incredibly broad and rewarding job role, where you can leverage your experience in business and extend it across a number of different facets of industry that would have previously been inaccessible. You can engage with multiple suppliers, specialise in a category or field that personally interests you, or engage on a broad foundation across multiple procurements – I have friends who buy Mobile Phones one day, and Electric Cars for Fleet Management the next!

And if you are considering Procurement, look up your local CIPS branch. You don’t necessarily need to be a member to come along and see how it works, and you may not even be in Procurement. But you’ll find that the room is filled with broad minded, experienced guys who can advise you how to move into the function if you want to. And CIPS offer a structured learning path to achieve this formally if you so desire.

I’m mid journey with CIPS and am really excited by it. It’s a transition for me, but if I can help anyone consider it please reach out.

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