The growing community of purchasing bloggers has been blogging away about the debate between Supply Excellence’s Tim Minahan and Spend Matters’ Jason Busch about which is the better term between “Supply Management” and “Spend Management.” I’m not going to cover that debate here, but I will share some stats that relate to it.

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When we were doing our research for the 2006 Supply Chain Trends & Skills Report, we asked our survey participants (purchasing professionals from throughout the world) this question:

Which term do you prefer to describe the purchasing function?

Here’s how the 601 responses were distributed:

1. Procurement 25.6%

2. Supply Chain Management 22.5%

3. Purchasing 21.5%

4. Materials Management 9.8%

5. Supply Management 9.2%

6. Sourcing 5.7%

7. Other 2.7%

8. Spend Management 1.7%

9. Acquisition Services 0.8%

10. Strategic Sourcing 0.7%

Now one may think, “Should we even bother debating which is the better term among these two that comprise less than 11% of the total?”

I’m not prepared to answer that yet.

I think that we’ll ask that same question when we do our survey for the 2007 report and see which terms are gaining favor and which terms are losing favor.

But I do have a strong opinion on this whole “name of the profession” debate. Not just the Tim vs. Jason debate, but the various, disparate global efforts to come up with a perfect name for what has been called the purchasing profession. We, as a body of professionals, are tinkering with the name of the profession to increase its perceived value to top executives.

But you know what we are really doing?

We are making ourselves look like a bunch of confused, confused people who are confusing the very people we want to enlighten.

My feel is this: it is OK for a profession to evolve, to continuously improve, to expand. You don’t have to rename it as a result!

You don’t see professions like medicine, law, or accounting try to rename themselves. And medicine is certainly an example of a profession that undergoes rapid continuous improvement. Can’t we use medicine as a model?

Sure “personnel” became “human resources” years ago. I wonder if there were 10 or more names that were so hotly debated during the transition.

But I am curious to see if procurement is still on top next year. My gut feel is that supply management will rise as large purchasing departments like the one at the United States Postal Service adopt the term. Stay tuned!

Charles Dominick, SPSM
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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