Back to basics

Alex Martin
15 July 2013
Alex Martin - April 2013Alex Martin is writing a series of blogs about studying part-time for an MBA. You can find his previous entries here. Summer has arrived in the heart of Europe. Temperatures have been averaging 29 degrees Celsius in Geneva and Mannheim, with a personally recorded high of 38 degrees! The first week back to school, after a short break in June, started with probably the most anticipated module of the programme for me – purchasing. Similar to the last module, we had two professors who taught a 60-40 split of the week – the dean of the European Institute of Purchasing Management (EIPM) and the in-company programmes director and resident professor at the EIPM.

What I am sure is familiar by now is the preparation for each module and purchasing is no different. Beforehand, all students had to complete a set of online modules, read case studies and read chapters from Purchasing and Supply Chain Management: Analysis, Strategy, Planning and Practice by Arjan van Weele. I bought the fifth edition and highly recommend it.

I drove down to Geneva earlier this month to spend time with my friend and student colleague over the weekend before school on Monday. We took the opportunity to attend the graduation ceremony and after party on Saturday, which gave us a glimpse of what we can expect in 2014, as MBA students graduate every June. I felt very pleased and proud of my fellow students and the whole occasion really excited me for next year - assuming I pass all the exams between now and then. The week started with an agenda and details of visiting speakers – the strategic sourcing director at Delphi and the former CPO of Nokia and now CEO of Connecting Partners – to discuss the current and future phases of the purchasing profession. The most valuable subjects to me were: category management 2.0; total value opportunity (an extension of total cost of ownership, something that was a completely new concept to me); strategic supplier relationship management; surchasing metrics; and purchasing transformation. I felt enlightened about what I have learned. For example, the EIPM maturity assessment tool (used to assess an organisation’s purchasing department’s maturity) is for managers to generate a project plan of improvement. I can now use this tool and the content I’ve learned to work with my employer to implement a purchasing transformation programme. To end the purchasing transformation lecture, we had a presentation and peer-to-peer session from the former Nokia CPO. The presentation was truly inspiring and the advice from not only the speaker, but also my fellow students, was invaluable. Getting advice and insights from a collection of highly experienced professionals on topics that you are working on with your employer is one of the major benefits of an MBA. Delphi’s strategic sourcing director gave us a very insightful and interesting presentation on his purchasing organisation and its methods. The day closed with a networking dinner at a local restaurant with the guest speaker, MBA students and faculty staff. The purchasing exam consisted of three essay questions – one per hour – and required us to bring together all the knowledge learned in the week, wrapped up into a mini-purchasing solution. The exam and topics throughout the week really gave me inspiration for my dissertation project and now last month’s worries have turned into excitement and eagerness to start writing it. Now back in Germany, I am genuinely excited about finalising my dissertation on the topic of SRM. But as part of the purchasing module, I must now complete the purchasing assignment: use the EIPM tool to analyse my procurement department’s maturity, write up a report and provide an executive summary, briefing the CPO on the results and recommendations – although I still have to finish my marketing assignment from last month first… ☛ Alex Martin is IT business service principal consultant at SAP. He welcomes comments and LinkedIn connections
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