Is buying a profession?

Everyone is a buyer on daily basis and sometimes buying duties are delegated to children, housemaids and gardeners.

We send them to buy routine items such as provisions for breakfast daily.

In this regard, is buying a profession when everyone can buy? The layman’s meaning of buying describes it as acquiring rights or possession using money for payment.

Buying in this context is merely exchanging money for goods.

Recently words such as purchasing, sourcing and procurement have been used to put weight to the function.

In our daily lives, the word purchasing refers to acquisition of property that has significant value. No one in his right sense will ever delegate purchasing decisions to children and housemaids.

This is because of value of such investment that would need intensive investment appraisal to ensure that the buying decision is correct.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, “a profession is a calling requiring specialised knowledge and often long and intensive preparation including instructions in skills and methods as well as scientific principles, historical, or scholarly principles underlying such skills and methods, maintaining by force of organisation or concerted opinion high standards of achievement and conduct, and committing its members to continued study and to a kind of work which has for its prime purpose the rendering of public service”.

Buying is specifically a profession in relation to the definition above.

Professional buyers contribute at least as much to the success of their organisations as other professionals in areas such as marketing, financing and accounting, engineering and operations.

They provide specialised knowledge in scientific principles of commercial, technical, legal and supplier relationship management to their organisations. In no other profession are the opportunities to contribute greater.

The contribution leverages financial, operational and marketing strategies of an organisation.

A seasoned buyer would have undergone intensive preparation both in the classroom and through on-job experience.

The skills and methods required combine scientific principles with the art of developing and maintaining relationships.

Buying skills have a historic foundation. From the Bible, Israelite buyers were commanded to be honest and accurate in using scales according to Leviticus 19:35, 36.

As with other modern business functions, many scholarly principles on which purchasing and supply are built are derived from economic principles such as demand and supply that are used to determine fair and reasonable prices.

The effects of globalisation and the dynamic nature of our business require continuous improvement of procurement professionals.

The Chartered Institute of purchasing and supply is dedicated to ensuring that buyers are trained and upgraded.

The profession is undeniably offering public service. The impact of professional procurement decisions on business fundamentals such as productivity, cost containment, enhancement of quality are instrumental to organisational competitiveness that enhance national competitiveness as well.

What drives many to regard buying as ordinary in today’s world?

Historically, when the profession was developing, failed accountants, engineers and administrators were relegated to the buying and stores department.

Their role was to perform clerical duties. Business profitability that time was driven by production departments through superior products.

Later, marketing departments’ efforts changed the source of business profitability.

Of late, procurement departments through innovative procurement, in-bound logistics quality management, and management of material costs now drive profitability and sustainability of businesses.

This therefore calls for organisations to reorganise their procurement departments into strategic units that are not subordinated to other functions such as engineering, production, administration and finance in order to enjoy the benefits of the function and profession.

In addition to restructuring, capacity in human resources need to be built through training.

Nyasha Chizu is CIPS Zimbabwe branch chairman. He writes in his personal capacity.

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