Advance™: Advancing the Profession and Supply Management Organizations

March 15, 2022
By Sue Doerfler

With companies facing continuing supply chain challenges, from component shortages to logistics disruption, talent can be the differentiator in how well they respond to and manage risk. That means it’s imperative to know the skill strengths and weaknesses of individual employees, as well as those of the organization.

Institute for Supply Management®’s (ISM®) new Advance Digital Platform helps companies determine those talent strengths, skills gaps and organizational maturity levels. The platform, which offers multiple assessments and is patent-pending, enables administrators, managers and employees to view their own dashboards, with real-time reporting. Results are available as soon as the assessment is complete.

One of the assessments is based on the 16 core competencies and the more than 70 sub-competencies of the ISM® Supply Chain Capability Model (formerly known as the ISM Mastery Model®). It assesses talent according to the competency-based standards for high-performing supply management practitioners.

“Companies are looking for a tool to help them understand the skills their team members have at the moment and measure their progress over time,” ISM CEO Thomas W. Derry says. “Advance solves that as well as enables record-keeping and data analysis in real time.”

ISM Chief Product Officer Susan Marty adds that Advance can help organizations determine where they need to spend time upskilling or helping the maturation process. Organizations are able to set up their target levels or use professional benchmarks, she says. “That’s important because every company is at a different place,” she says. “Advance can be used as part of an organization’s talent development process and to help the organization mature. … The ISM assessments help them get where they want to go and connect organizational maturity with the talent.”

Advance assessments, which were developed with supply management professionals, can be viewed by competency, sub-competency, greatest strength or biggest skill gap — for individuals, teams or the organization. For example, in the Supply Chain Capability Model, one of the competencies is quality management. Through Advance, an organization can see specific areas or sub-competencies, like supplier relationship management or quality planning, in which it has strengths, as well as areas that require focus.

What might be a strength for one company could be an area of focus for another. “Assessments allow you to see, in a very granular way, specific training requirements for the organization,” Derry says. “And you can track the history, so over time, you can see the company’s 2021 baseline and where it is this year, as well as the goal for 2024.”

The platform offer a data-driven approach to talent management and roadmap approach to organizational maturity, Marty says. Talent data from the assessment can be used to create individual development plans tied to company objectives, including talent planning, hiring strategy and building bench strength.

“Companies have a real need to measure the progress of their talent objectively and to invest in their talent,” Derry says. “Advance™ does both. Executives I talk to understand that Advance is as much a career development tool for them as it is about measuring their team.”

For employees, Advance provides transparency into company expectations and can aid in professional development: Practitioners can use it to learn which skills are needed to move up the ladder, Marty says: “If there’s a job you aspire to, what skills does the organization expect you to have to get to that point?”

Through the assessments, organizations and their employees “aren’t guessing anymore,” she says. “Because Advance ties into organizational expectations, individual development plans and talent development are meaningful to the employee and the organization. It's a win-win.”

Learn more about Advance at

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Petri Oeschger)

About the Author

Sue Doerfler

About the Author

As Senior Writer for Inside Supply Management® magazine, I cover topics, trends and issues relating to supply chain management.