Data Is The Alpha And Omega Of The Future

Do you feel like your procurement team is in good shape when it comes to your existing e-procurement solutions? Sure you won’t get  “stuck” with an obsolete system? Eric Wilson talks on the importance of data. The event might be over, but you can still  register for The Big Ideas Summit Chicago to access footage  from the event. 

It’s not an exaggeration to say 90 per cent of today’s procurement technologies will be obsolete in the coming years. While much of today’s tech has some great functionality, when you put it up against the backdrop of a world where the big value is in the data more than the tactical functionality, it’s clear that they’ll simply be left behind!

Don’t believe me? Think this is “out there”? Let me elaborate…

Why can’t Alexa answer my questions?

Nowadays, many of us use Amazon’s intelligent personal assistant, Alexa, or similar AI applications. If you have, you’ll know that they’re not always adept at answering the questions we ask of them. Why? It’s simply because they don’t have enough data…yet!

Imagine machines that could:

  • Manage all your discrepancies for you
  • Detect fraudulent procurement
  • Code your non-PO invoices

This is the point at which technology gets a lot more exciting, and we’re not far from reaching these dizzying heights. The question procurement teams must ask is whether their organisation has the volume, quality and completeness of data to allow these machines to learn, provide accurate predictions and take accurate actions on the organisation’s behalf.  And to be sure of that, we need to look ahead…

The here and now won’t help you tomorrow!

I’ve spoken before on the downfall of Siebel as an example of what happens when organisations only live in the here and now, solving the problems of today without looking ahead to tomorrow.

In 2017, the situation hasn’t changed. But this time, it’s not just about Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Procurement technologies, and technologies in general, have fully embraced SaaS and the big tech shift that’s coming next is data.

If the system you’re looking to install is not capable of actually capturing all your transactional data – and doing so in a centrally architected manner such that you can get more value from data beyond just the data that your organisation itself generates – then all those snazzy pieces of functionality, all that beautiful user interface, all those pretty little graphs aren’t worth a dime!

Not only will your existing business case completely fail.

Not only will you not receive the ROI you planned on today.

Tomorrow the system will be obsolete, and you might as well have selected Siebel!

When it comes to selecting SaaS procure-to-pay systems, business cases are built on the ability to:

  • Eliminate maverick spend
  • Identify opportunities for strategic sourcing
  • Consolidate the supply base
  • Automate approval processes
  • Automate matching
  • Eliminate paper
  • Take advantage of terms discounts.

Indeed, organisations build up very detailed business cases based on these factors. But the basic assumptions and prerequisites for those components of the business case to actually generate real ROI are based on three things:

  1. You get 100 per cent of your suppliers connected to the system
  2. You get 100 per cent of your end users actually using the system – all the time (not just some of the time)
  3. You run all your invoices through the system – 100 per cent of them – not just the indirect invoices, but also direct, facilities, vertical specific invoices, non-PO invoices, the whole gamut!

In procure to pay, if you don’t have those three things, not only does today’s business case fall apart, but more critically for this conversation, you can’t leverage the power of all that data in the future.

There’s no two ways about it: You can’t use artificial intelligence if you don’t have the centralised data for those machines to learn from. It is data that feeds AI and other emerging technologies – you need data more than anything else for success in the future.

And so, my key takeaway now and always is: when you are putting together your RFPs for systems, data better be first and foremost on your mind.

Want to see more from The Big Ideas Summit Chicago.  Register now  (It’s FREE!) to gain access to all of the day’s action including video interviews with our speakers and attendees. 

 

How Much Business Does £300m Of CSR Get You?

That might sound subversive – after all, CSR isn’t about the bottom line. Is it…?

There are many definitions of CSR. In general terms, it is about delivering benefits for economic, social and environmental stakeholders. On the ground, we’ve seen fantastic work going on – exemplified by organisations like Business in the Community. We genuinely believe that for a number of businesses, CSR isn’t an add on – it’s seen as a key ingredient of a sustainable business model.

As a CEO of a for profit, the bottom line is, well, the bottom line. How do we get more customers? How do we make the ones we have happy? How do we get the best out of the team? How do we ensure our product is usable and therefore shippable?

I understand any skepticism around CSR.

But it is there. And it’s not going away. Moreover, in many countries it’s now backed by legislation.

How could we improve the conventional model of CSR? Let’s come back to that. First a few more numbers.

We carried out some research a few months back. We looked at 30 of the biggest suppliers to UK government, including Capgemini, HP, Balfour Beatty, Babcock, Fujitsu and Barclays.

What we found…

  • They account for up to 15% of government expenditure
  • The total UK Community Investment spend of the 8 companies who share their figures is £9,533,461
  • The total Global Community Investment spend of the 12 companies who have share their figures is £328,249,901.

And, according to the Charities Aid Foundation, FTSE 100 companies donated an average of 1.9% pre-tax profits in 2014.

What we ask…

  • Is there a direct link between this CSR spend and sales? Short answer: no.
  • Should there be?
  • Why not? What if you could demonstrate a clear ROI on this spend?

We think this not because we think CSR is an afterthought or an add on. If it is a a core component of business strategy it has to be a core component of your financial strategy – because these two things are so intertwined. This is what we mean when we think we can square the circle of CSR.

Why not do well by doing good, if you could demonstrate that your CSR budgets and resources were going into local community projects that were delivering clear outputs, and were rewarded for that with sales?

Why not do well by doing good and demonstrate this in terms of clear ROI for your CSR spend?

That would be a good thing right? If you want CSR to be a core part of your business strategy it has to be a core part of your financial strategy.

Social Value is increasingly a differential in government tendering – how much you give can determine how much you win. At the Social Value Exchange we use market design to ensure CSR is paid for at a fair and efficient price – the sweet spot between making sure community projects benefit and suppliers don’t break their business models. Suppliers have used this approach to win more than £20m of government contracts.

With this option, why wouldn’t you use CSR to get more sales? 

Firesouls make digital products that drive innovation in, and get more resources to, the public and community sectors. Our latest product is the Social Value Exchange, an online marketplace that gets more funding and resources into local community projects.