Investing in your career – MBA or industry certificate?

Jon Hansen, exclusive content for Procurement Foundry

You are undoubtedly familiar with the concept of supply and demand.

Using a Coles Notes version, if the price for something such as a specific product or service goes up, there is less demand. Conversely, if the price for said product or service goes down, there will be a greater demand resulting in a shortfall in supply.

Applying the concept of supply and demand, does the ubiquity of courses – including an MBA – create a more significant opportunity/benefit for procurement professionals resulting in more getting their certifications?  

Calculating Value

I can remember when the first calculators came out – mine was a Hewlett-Packard, they cost a couple of hundred dollars. As they became more ubiquitous, the price steadily plummeted to the point where you can now buy one at any Dollar Store for a couple of bucks. Now, everyone can and does get one or two or more.

There was a time that having a post-secondary education, let alone an MBA was a rarity. The number of people who could attend university or college was small because of the high cost. The ones who were fortunate enough to move beyond high school and secure a coveted degree in their chosen profession were “handsomely rewarded” for being members of such an exclusive club.

However, and like calculators, accessibility to post-secondary education, including industry-specific certifications today are as abundant as Dollar Store calculators. But contradictory to the supply and demand concept, at least for procurement professionals, increasing access to education doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a higher demand.

When Education “Smarts”

In a November 2018 Procurement Foundry (previously known as The Real Deal) survey, a noteworthy percentage of respondents indicated that they did not have certification. In reviewing the responses to the survey, I concluded that the respondents were “old school” professionals who fell into a procurement position at a time when the level of someone’s education or certification was not an issue for a job as a buyer. Indeed, the majority of those that indicated that they did not have certification because they did not feel it was necessary may fall into this category.

The other reasons of prohibitive cost and indecision regarding which certification program would be beneficial are also telling in that they suggest that the pain (i.e., time and cost) versus gain (more significant income, higher status) is not worth it.

Looking beyond this one survey, I wonder how many in our profession do not pursue industry certifications, let alone a post-secondary MBA, and why.

Is it indicative of an attitude of apathy on the part of individual professionals, or is it a reflection of management’s lingering belief that purchasing is nothing more than a “buying” at the best price function?

Organization Demand

I recently gave a presentation to an audience in the United Kingdom at eWorld 2019 on the three obstacles to the digital transformation of the supply chain. Of the three, which also includes the paucity of clean data and cybersecurity, I spent a considerable amount of time talking about the growing talent gap.

Referencing the following CPO survey graphic, it appears that the results of the Procurement Foundry survey have little to do with procurement professional apathy or the absence of a bonafide need. Regarding the latter, 62 percent of CPOs believe that their teams lack the necessary skills for them to realize their procurement strategies, meaning that the need is there.

So, what is the problem?

The fact that organizational investment in talent development is not only minimal but has been declining is the telling statistic.

Until organizations address this discrepancy, the question of which certification is best or, if an MBA is better is moot. After all, greater accessibility does not mean that everyone sees the greater value – or is willing to pay for it.