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SCRC Article Library: The Key Ingredient For Success: Competent People

The Key Ingredient For Success: Competent People

Published on: Jul, 02, 2004

by: Rob Handfield, Director

Supply Chain Resource Consortium (SCRC)

One of the most important drivers for success in deploying supply chain initiatives today is people. A high priority for supply chain executives is to understand what the key skills are for people they recruit, for training their existing people, and for developing career path requirements for the future.

Supply Chain Management (SCM), a decade ago, was one of the newer concepts similar to the Internet and e Purchasing of today. It was in its infancy and no one was really managing it that well. Today we’re looking at much more integrated perspective, linking customers and suppliers, in some cases multiple tiers of customer and supplies, in an integrated holistic fashion.

The Center for Advanced Purchasing Studies (CAPS) has funded three studies to look at the challenge of preparing the supply chain management workforce for the future. First was the “Purchasing Education & Training” study completed in 1993 that looked at purchasing and education-training requirements for supply management. The second was “A Skills Based Analysis of the World Class Purchaser” completed in 1999 that looked at various skills and knowledge required of supply professionals. A third “Key Skill Sets for the Supply Manager of the Future” completed in 2004 and in press, has identified the state of purchasing/supply education and training as it currently exists and forecasts what changes are coming in the next five to ten years.

In researching skill sets for the supply manager of the future, a sample of 55 purchasing executives identified the core skills and knowledge deemed critical for purchasing and supply chain managers to be able to successfully manage these environmental trends include the following:

Team Building: Leadership, Decision-making, Influencing, Compromising

Strategic Planning Skills: Project Scoping, Goal-Setting, and Execution

Interpersonal Communication Skills: Presentation, Public Speaking, Listening and Writing

Technical Skills: Web-enabled Research and Sourcing Analysis

Financial Skills: Cost Accounting and Business Case Analysis

Relationship Management Skills: Ethics, Facilitation, Conflict Resolution, and Creative Problem Solving

Legal Issues: Contract Writing and Risk Mitigation in a Global Environment

Once the required knowledge based was defined, the training and education to support such efforts was analyzed and focus placed on identification of the gaps or shortcomings of the training, consideration was given to what form that future training and education should take. The study looked specifically at the role of formal education, particularly university-based higher education, in relation to the supply management function at the present time and over the next 5-10 years.

Role of Formal Education
Respondents were asked to indicate what the minimum level of formal education would be required to be hired into their purchasing department. While the number of respondents that project only a Bachelor’s degree as a requirement for a purchasing position between 2003 and 2010 remains essentially flat (81% versus 79%, respectively), the percentage of respondents requiring a Master’s degree with a focus on supply chain management is projected to increase from only 2% in 2003 to 15% in 2010.

Respondents were asked to indicate what role they felt that universities and colleges should play in improving the effectiveness of their organizations. The top four responses are as follows:

  1. To provide business students with an understanding of purchasing now and in the future
  2. To conduct research on supply management topics
  3. To offer a specific major in supply chain management. This responsibility was forecasted to increase to second in the future
  1. To provide more technical skill

The growing importance of supply chain management is illustrated by the number of schools offering courses and majors in this area. Although more universities are beginning to offer degrees in Supply Chain Management, many of the programs have been developed from a previous Procurement, Operations or Logistics focus and are therefore remain rooted in those sub-disciplines of SCM. This presents a challenge to the programs to develop a fully integrated Supply Chain Management program that takes account of the integration-oriented skills required of successful graduates.

As these programs develop and refine their curricula, an equally challenging task is to find and attract qualified students to their programs. Master’s degree administrators need to learn who these people are, what they are looking for in a program, and how they are evaluating those programs for potential enrollment.

New Study on Prospective MBA Students in Supply Chain Management
For answers to these questions, the Supply Chain Resource Consortium (SCRC) at North Carolina State University is seeking input from potential students. Specifically, this new study is targeting current professionals in Supply Chain Management to learn if and why they are considering an MBA degree as they map our their career path. We want to learn where you are in your career, what you think is important in considering the investment in an advanced degree program and how you would go about finding the right program.

To kick off this study, we would like to hear from any readers that are considering an MBA in Supply Chain Management.

What do you feel is lacking in your current skill set that prevents your progress – specific skills, an advanced degree, management experience, or perhaps something else?

What career or life choices would cause you to go back to school – layoff, advance in career, qualify for specific job, or some other reason?

What the important considerations are in choosing a program – cost, location, status, curriculum, or some other issues?

What you would need to get out of the program – new job, promotion, career change, or some other outcome?

How would you look for the right program – business magazines, internet searches, professional organizations, or some other source of information?

Please send your responses to scrc@ncsu.edu. We will develop the survey, compile the data, document trends and lessons learned as a result of this survey, and report the results through this column later this year. If you have any suggestions or questions, please contact me at Robert_handfield@ncsu.edu.

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