In December of 1990, an article appeared in NAPM Insights®, now Purchasing Today®, entitled "Job Analysis Reveals Commonality in Tasks." The article described the results of a nationwide study that compared the job duties of purchasing and supply managers in a variety of private, public, and non-profit work sectors, the results of which served as the basis for the development of the Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.) Examination. This article describes the results of a similar type of investigation conducted this past year, to update the ISM certification program examination specifications, thereby reflecting the nature of the purchasing and supply position as it stands today and as we move into the year 2000.
Purpose of the Study
This new job analysis study was conducted for the purpose of obtaining more current and up-to-date information about the purchasing and supply function in a variety of industries, organization sizes, and organization types, and to create updated versions of the C.P.M. as well as the recently introduced Accredited Purchasing Practitioner (A.P.P.) exam. These new exam versions are to be introduced in the year 2001. This study was also designed to reaffirm the conclusions made in the 1990 study with regard to divergence in the work of purchasing and supply managers across different types of organizations. How the Study was Performed
The analysis began with the identification of seven major purchasing work sectors of interest for a comparative study (the same seven sectors were used in the 1990 study) of job functions:
We sought to compare purchasing and supply professionals' job functions in these different settings using a comprehensive survey, the content of which was based on information gleaned from a careful review of descriptions of current organizational requirements and job duties of purchasers, as well as personal interviews with dozens of purchasing and supply professionals from a variety of leading organizations of all types and sizes. The survey contained a list of 100 purchasing tasks or duties, to which the respondent indicated the importance of each task to his or her position along the following scale:
The survey also contained general organization, position, background and demographic questions. The survey was mailed in June of 1998 to approximately 18,000 purchasers selected at random from public, private, and non-profit sector organizations throughout the United States. Of this group, 2,416 purchasers completed and returned the survey to ISM.
Because this job analysis was conducted for the purpose of updating both the C.P.M. and A.P.P. exams, responses to the survey were organized into two categories: (1) Purchasing/ Supply Managers and (2) Buyers. Those respondents with the job title of executive/chief procurement officer, vice president/purchasing or materials management, vice president/supply management, director/purchasing or materials management, director/supply management, purchasing manager, materials manager, supply manager, commodity manager, or contracts manager were placed in the Purchasing/Supply Managers category. Also included in this category were respondents who had worked as the sole purchaser within their organization, or had indicated that they had one or more subordinates.
On the other hand, respondents who indicated that they were a purchasing agent, senior buyer, buyer/planner, or buyer, and had worked for an organization with more than one purchasing professional, and had no persons under their supervision, were assumed to be at the buyer level. These respondents were, therefore, placed in the Buyer category for this study. The numbers of respondents by work sector and position are summarized in Figure 1.
The results for each task appearing in the survey are presented in Figure 2, which summarizes the results for the Purchasing/Supply Manager and Buyer subgroups identified in Figure 1, excluding the State/Local Government, Institutional, Retail, and Food sectors in the Buyer categories, which we were unable to include due to inadequate sample sizes.
Two criteria were employed to determine the relevancy of tasks to a position. A task was deemed applicable to a sector if 50 percent or more of those responding said that they performed it (i.e., gave a response not equal to zero on the scale) and gave a rating of 4 (for "Average Importance") or higher on the scale of task importance. In this way, we were ensuring the identification of only those tasks that were deemed important to a majority of purchasing professionals. Sectors meeting both of these criteria are so indicated in the figure with a filled circle (n) for the particular task. In the left-hand column under the Purchasing/Supply Manager and Buyer categories appears the word "Majority", meaning that the task was applicable to a majority of sectors within that job level (i.e., 4 out of the 7 sectors for Purchasing/Supply Managers, and 2 out of 3 sectors for the Buyers).
An examination of the results of the study reveals the following:
In summary, there were 62 tasks within the list of 100 that were found to be applicable to a majority of sectors at the Purchasing/Supply Manager level, 41 of which were applicable to a majority of sectors at the Buyer level as well. The data provide a confirmation of the progressive nature of the buyer's position to that of the purchasing/supply manager, in that all of the tasks found to be applicable to a majority of Buyer sectors were also applicable to a majority of Purchasing/Supply Manager sectors. On the other hand, there were 20 tasks deemed applicable to the majority of Purchasing/Supply Manager sectors that were not relevant to a majority of Buyer sectors. It appears, therefore, that the work of a buyer is encompassed within the work of a purchasing/supply manager, and that while the emphasis on certain tasks may differ for the two positions, there seems to be few or no tasks performed by the average buyer that are not to some degree part of the job duties of the average purchasing/supply manager.
Eleven tasks were not applicable to any of the sectors at the Purchasing/Supply Manager level, and another 27 tasks were applicable to at least one but less than a majority of the sectors at that level. At the Buyer level, there were 45 tasks that were not applicable to any sector, and another 14 tasks that were applicable to one of the three sectors under study.
Implications for the C.P.M./A.P.P. Exams
Based on the results of the job analysis survey, as well as meetings with purchasing and supply experts to determine the relevant knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to perform these tasks, ISM has developed a new set of specifications for its C.P.M. and A.P.P. exams. By combining the tasks of similar function and grouping them according to their applicability to the Purchasing/Supply Manager and Buyer positions, we were able to develop a new version of the C.P.M. and A.P.P. test specifications that reflect the findings of this job analysis. The general format for the new tests appear in Figure 3. Like the current C.P.M./A.P.P. exams, the new versions will require four modules for the C.P.M. designation, and two modules for the A.P.P. designation. The new test specifications, as well as a detailed report of the job analysis study, will be published shortly.
By Eugene W. Muller, Ed.D. of Industrial and Educational Measurement, Inc.