The Value Proposition of Associations

As times change, professional associations play a growing role in supply chain management


After taking the hit of the recession, the supply chain management industry is ready for some sustained growth. Whether in transportation management, warehousing, consulting, 3PLs, logistics or more, business is ramping up and will require more supply chain professionals.

According to supply chain research and consulting firm Armstrong & Associates, 2011 revenue hit $141.2 billion, a 10.9 percent increase from 2010, and still rising. So, where are these new practitioners going to learn their craft? Yes, college business programs are very good, but as in most industries, there are things you only can learn on the job.

That’s where professional associations such as the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), the Council for Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), Next Level Purchasing, and others can play a vital role.

“The value proposition for joining an association revolves around improving or enhancing their own value and enhancing their skills, their opportunity within their company or another company,” said Thomas W. Derry, CEO of ISM. “People are interested in certifications to demonstrate to their profession that they know what they’re doing and to demonstrate to their employer that they know what they’re doing.

“ISM determined that certification in general leads to [better] opportunities and more pay. Then, when they get to more senior positions in their field, their value manifests itself through the team, so now they’re engaged with ISM to raise the level of the performance of the team, contribute on a more strategic level within the company overall, improve their performance, and network with their peers.”

Burt Blanchard, Director, Business Development at CSCMP, added that education is the “first and foremost” tenet of his association. “Our aim is to provide unbiased, reliable information whether through a conference, research—we’re still in that business and known for that—for the betterment of the industry. There are myriad ways; through local roundtable [chapter] events or annual global conferences. Anything that enhances the individual in supply chain, logistics, distribution, transportation, we view all those folks as one.”

Charles Dominick, President & Chief Procurement Officer of Next Level Purchasing Association, (NLPA) said that associations have to be nimble enough to change with the times.

“The professional association model has certainly changed in procurement as well as other disciplines,” he said. “20 years ago, when business people mentioned networking, the associated image was business people, dressed in their finest suits, gathering in a formal location, and interacting formally (if not uncomfortably). Today, most people associate "networking" with interacting online. And that has affected professional procurement associations. Those that rely solely on traditional networking are seeing their perceived value decline and are essentially competing with social networks like LinkedIn and even Facebook, which are more appealing to younger professionals. Those associations that facilitate the online networking of their members can sustain, and possibly increase, their relevance in a business world that is so digitally connected.”

Pass the torch

Mentoring is vital to growth, to keeping information and skills flowing throughout the company. “More tenured practitioners are retiring or going into consulting,” said CSCMP’s Blanchard. “You’ve got to have that pipeline. We’re really working on what is most important to that young professional: mentoring, career opportunities. They might say, ‘I had a few supply chain classes, I want to do that. What’s out there?’

“The boomers are going out, the more tenured practitioners we’ve had, they’re retiring or looking at step two of their careers. They’re going into consulting. Young people don’t know about us. That’s why we focus on young pros. You’ve got to have that pipeline.”

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