Guest Blog- Supply and Demand Gap in SPSM Education

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Have you ever wondered how some educational institutions with the focus on the Strategic Procurement and Supply Management (SPSM) field develop their curricula? How do they acquire knowledge about what topics to teach? How often do they update educational materials?

Ideally, graduate and post-graduate Schools of Business and Management should design their programs based on field research and by finding linkages between academia, organizational needs, and the purchasing career. The aim should be to teach students and working professionals how to develop the necessary skills that will lead to a successful career. So, what are some of the skills needed today?

In one of the studies published in 2018, based on 57 scholarly peer-reviewed articles related to the purchasing managerial skills, the following top ten essential competencies were identified and explained (Karttunen, 2018):

  1. Communication – helps to develop relations with internal clients and external suppliers.
  2. Cost analysis – highlights knowledge of financial reporting and economic principles.
  3. Teamwork – ensures teams’ cohesion despite individual differences and diverse backgrounds.
  4. Problem-solving – enables flexibility and entrepreneurial orientation among professionals.
  5. Negotiation – gives individuals abilities to seek trade-offs that would benefit both parties.
  6. Influencing and persuasion – affects projects’ outcomes and builds satisfactory relations.
  7. IT skills – allow becoming more adaptable to rapidly changing sourcing tools and technologies.
  8. Decision making – integrates rational and analytical decisions with emotional processing.
  9. Change management – includes individual sales skills to communicate challenges, needs, and incentives.
  10. Project management – applies to the understanding of business conditions and required actions.

Unfortunately, there is a big gap between the research findings and educational materials that have not been updated for decades. Today, most institutions teach only cost reduction, contract negotiations, purchasing programs, and project management. Other critical skills including communication, teamwork, problem-solving, influencing and persuasion, decision making, and change management are not part of the curriculum. These additional skills individuals acquire either on-the-job or by attending external workshops.

The good news is the supply chain management and purchasing jobs growth remains strong in all business areas (Sinha, Millhiser, & He, 2016). However, many U.S. companies continue to report a shortage of qualified sourcing professionals. Business schools responded to the increased demand by offering more purchasing and supply chain courses. Unfortunately, the talent crisis still exists partially due to the lack of updated materials that would reflect the list of necessary skills found during research.

My recommendation to those individuals who are pursuing their careers in SPSM is to invest in their education and become highly competitive (and compensated) in the job market. My advice to the seeking organizations is to develop their internal purchasing talent by partnering with either schools or training institutions, such as The Mpower Group, and assist researchers with future studies. Finally, my suggestion to Universities is to incorporate the information found through research in their courses at least every 2-3 years to meet current business demands.


Karttunen, E. (2018). Purchasing and supply management skills revisited: an extensive literature review. Benchmarking: An International Journal, 25(9), 3906-3934. Retrieved from

Sinha, A., Millhiser, W.P., & He, Y. (2016). Matching supply with demand in supply chain management education. The International Journal of Logistics Management, 27(3), 837-861. doi:10.1108/IJLM-03-2015-0058


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Irina Shulman, PH.D.

Irina Shulman, PH.D.

Irina is a Principal level consultant with The Mpower Group and an Adjunct Faculty at the Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). Irina has over 20 years of experience in leading and managing complex projects for Fortune 500 companies. She has demonstrated success in process improvements and cost savings / value creation in consumer products, industrial goods sector, home services, and retail industry. Irina has been recognized for her expertise in effective contract negotiations, building and aligning cross-functional teams, and providing mentorship and coaching guidance to young business professionals. In her role as a Divisional Vice President of Procurement for Sears Holdings Corporation, Irina was responsible for managing over $4 billion in annual spend for purchasing indirect products and services. She led a team of one hundred people situated in the United States and India. Her other responsibilities included conducting ongoing supplier risk assessments, measuring team’s performance against industry benchmarks and standards, and providing continuous training to associates to assist with their personal and business growth and development. Before Procurement, Irina was a Compliance Office for Home Services organization at Sears and was responsible for ISO 9000 standard implementation in over 300 field locations, as well as adherence to statutory and regulatory requirements for the service industry. She also has extensive experience with business divestitures, mergers and acquisitions, business process outsourcing, and spend analysis. Irina is fluent in both English and Russian. Irina has a Ph.D. in Business Administration with specialization in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Northcentral University.
Irina Shulman, PH.D.

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