Noble: Purchasing must pay for its improved image

24 June 2010

24 June 2010 | Rebecca Ellinor

There’s never been a better time for the profession but a higher profile comes at a price, CIPS CEO David Noble said this week.

Addressing senior buyers at the Procurecon CPO Roundtables event in London on Tuesday, Noble, who chaired the event, said: “The door is open at the top, many senior practitioners, heads of business, public sector and UK government are all starting to talk about these words ‘procurement and supply’. It’s a very hot subject, it’s on the agenda and it’s not difficult for me to get into their space – our function now has a very senior role to play.

“But also it’s a curse of course, because if you don’t know what you’re doing it’s a very exposed place to be. And we have to do certain things to make sure we stay there.”

Ensuring staff are up to the job was one of the key tasks. “One issue we all face is that everyone’s a buyer. There are huge numbers of people buying, committing their organisations with suppliers, without any formal purchasing or supply chain experience, which in the accountancy world would be fraudulent. One of my missions is to pioneer a licence to practice for this profession.”

He said CIPS was making “good strides” with this, having already reached a reciprocal agreement over qualifications with the Institute for Supply Management in the US. Furthermore, a number of African countries now mandate a procurement qualification to practice, he said.

Noble said buyers also needed to get better at selling the function. “As a profession we don’t sell ourselves particularly well, we can do that better in future. Particularly for the Institute, we have to do that for the younger generation to get them more interested in this as a function.”

The profession faced a number of challenges, he said, including rising logistics costs, depleting fossil fuel resources, increased supply risk, volatility in commodity prices, a greater focus on sustainability and wage rises in emerging countries.

“The dream of this global business world is bottom-line improvements and better access to markets. The nightmare is reduced quality, reputational damage, and corporate and personal liabilities,” he said.

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