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You Gotta Fight… For the Right… To Manage Your Professional Development Budget

You Gotta Fight… For the Right… To Manage Your Professional Development Budget

“Great procurement professionals are not born, they are bred…"

- Dawn Evans, President and CEO, Sourcing Interests Group, July 2014 'Letter from the President'

I place a great deal of value in the fact that I have been able to work well and productively with all of the professional associations in our space. Each one is a little different and meets a specific need for a particular subset of the procurement professional community. I am not an active member of any professional association – including Sourcing Interests Group (SIG). My comments here have less to do with advocating for them in particular than being concerned about the resources available to the procurement community as a whole. I would have made the same argument on behalf of Spend Matters PRO or Procurement Leaders if they were the subject of some budgetary misclassification.

In SIG’s July 2014 ‘Letter from the President’, Dawn Evans started with the quote above and then went on to relate a conversation she had with a colleague whose membership in SIG was in question because “they had no membership budget for 2014-2015.” Evans balked at being labeled a membership organization, and went on to elaborate on all the services and opportunities they provide. In the end, the situation was resolved to the satisfaction of both SIG and the member, but not for me. I was left with a troubling sensation that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

The core of the budget disconnect was that SIG was being categorized as a membership organization (not approved) rather than as a training organization (approved). Unlike most of the other associations in our space, SIG does not offer certifications. They focus instead on running events – both virtual and in person – that are focused on fostering discussion of the latest topics and trends in procurement and general business.

SIG limits provider contact with their members while also allowing those providers ‘supervised’ access through openly sponsored, thought-leadership oriented webinars and contained portions of their Summits. I can attest to the strict guidelines used to characterize providers. They consider Buyers Meeting Point a provider even though we don’t have anything to sell to their members. We are not practitioners and are therefore a provider. I respect the decision because as a practitioner I would have appreciated the resulting atmosphere.

As I stated, speaking up for an organization like SIG has more to do with my respect for our profession than it does with them as a specific organization. If we allow our professional development budgets to be limited to results that can be directly measured (like certifications or training certificates) we might as well concede to the argument that procurement’s impact can be completely captured by savings. If we want to be recognized as strategic value creators, we need access to blue-sky opportunities to increase our knowledge and widen our perspective.

Don’t get me wrong, certifications and training certificates have their place, as does formal education with measurable outcomes and assessments of performance. But we need the right balance of specific skills development and innovative discussion for its own sake. Will this discussion directly tie to some measurable improvement in savings or spend under management? Maybe, maybe not. Will it improve the quality and creativity of our work? Absolutely.

If you have to classify organizations like SIG as ‘training’ in order to get them covered in your budget, do it. Heck, I think they feed you at those Summits. If need be, classify them as catering. The important thing is to keep finding ways to expand your capabilities in ways that match the dynamic changes being seen in procurement and in the larger business climate.

On the other hand, we should not hesitate to insist that we need non-certification, non-training oriented professional development. We have to have the opportunity to stretch our wings (and minds) for the sake of doing it. We allow ourselves to be contained, in our performance and in our professional development, at our own peril.

Join the conversation by commenting here or on Tiwtter: @BuyersMeetPoint.

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