Tag Archives: analytics

The Dangers Of Dirty Data

Is your organisation working with ‘dirty data’? How would you know? And, what impact is it having? This article has everything you need to know about doing a quick spot check, spotting procurement problems, identifying savings, and more importantly, making sure your data has its COAT on.


We all think we know what dirty data is, but it can mean very different things depending on who you speak to.  At its most basic level, dirty data is anything incorrect.  In detail within procurement, it could be misspelled vendors, incorrect Invoice descriptions, missing product codes, lack of standard units of measure (e.g. ltr, L, litres), currency issues, duplicate invoices or incorrect/partially classified data.

Dirty data can affect the whole organisation, and we all have an impact on, and responsibility for the data we work with.  Accurate data should be everyone’s responsibility,  but currently across many organisations data is the sole responsibility of a person or department, and everyone trusts them to make sure the data is accurate.

But, they tend to be specialists in data, analytics and coding, not procurement.  They don’t have the experience to know when a hotel should be classified as accommodation or as venue hire, or what direct, indirect or tail spend is and its importance or priority.

How many times have you been working with a data set and noticed a small error but not said anything, or just manually corrected something from an automated report, just get it out the door on time?  It feels like too much of an inconvenience to find the right person to notify, so you just correct the error each time yourself, or you raise a ticket for the issue but never get round to checking if it’s resolved. 

These small errors that you think aren’t that important can filter all the way up to the top of an organisation through reports and dashboards where critical decisions are being made.  It happens almost every day.

How does this affect my organisation?

There are many ways, but one of the most widespread and noticeable impacts is around reporting and analytics.  If you’re in senior management, you will most likely receive a dashboard from your team that you could be using to review cost savings, supplier negotiations, rationalisation, forecasting or budgets.

What if within that dashboard was £25k of cleaning spend under IBM?  I can already hear you saying “that’s ridiculous” – well, it is obvious when pointed out, but I have seen with my own eyes IBM classified as cleaning.  It can happen easily and occurs more frequently than you might think.

Back to that dashboard that you are using to make decisions, you’ll see increased spend in your cleaning category, and a decrease in your IT spend, which could affect discounts with your supplier, your forecast for the year, monitoring of contract compliance etc…  It could even affect reporting of your inventory,  it appears you need more laptops, and unnecessary purchases are made. 

When there are tens or hundreds of thousands of rows of data, errors will occur multiple times across many suppliers.  And for the wider organisation, this could affect demand planning, sales, marketing and financial decisions.

And then there are technology implementations.  Rarely is data preparation considered before the implementation of any new software or systems, and there can even be the assumption that the software supplier will do this, which may not be the case, and if they do provide that service it might not be good enough.

It can be very far into the process of implementation before this is uncovered, by which time staff have lost faith in using the software, are disengaged, claim it doesn’t work, or they don’t trust it because “it’s wrong”.  

At this point, it either costs a lot of money to fix and you have to hope staff will engage again, or the project is abandoned.  In either case, this can take months and cost thousands, not millions of pounds/euros/dollars in abandoned software or reparation work.

You might also be considering using, or engaging with a 3rd party supplier that uses AI, machine learning or some form of automation.  I can’t emphasise enough the importance of cleansing and preparing your data before using any of these tools. 

Think back to the IBM example, each quarter the data is refreshed automatically with the cleaning classification, that £25k becomes £50k, then £75k the following quarter, it’s only when the value becomes significant that someone notices the issue.  By this stage, how many decisions have been based on this incorrect information?

How can this be resolved?

Truthfully, it’s with a lot of hard work.  There’s no magic bullet or miracle solution out there to improve the accuracy of your data: you have to use your team or an experienced professional to get the job done. Get your team to familiarise themselves with the data. If they are reviewing and maintaining it regularly they will soon be able to spot errors in the data quickly and efficiently.

If you think about data accuracy in terms of COAT, this will help to manage your data.

It should always be Consistent – everyone working to the same standards; Organised – categorised properly; and Accurate – correct.  And only when you have these things will it also be Trustworthy – you wouldn’t drive around in a car without a regular inspection would you?

How to spot procurement problems and identify savings

Accurate data is important, but in its raw state, it’s not the whole story.  As a procurement professional you’re tasked with ensuring the best prices for products or services, as well as ensuring contract compliance on those prices, along with cost reductions and monitoring any maverick spend … to name but a few!

Accurate data alone will not help achieve this, I strongly recommend supplier normalisation and spend data classification to help quickly and efficiently manage spend and suppliers, monitor pricing and spot any potential misuse of budgets.

How do I get started?

With a spreadsheet of spend transactions over a period of time such as 12 to 24 months, the first step should be Supplier Normalisation, where a new column is added to consolidate several versions of the same company to get a true picture of spend with that one supplier.  For example, I.B.M, IBM Ltd, I.B.M. would all be normalised to IBM.

Data can be classified using minimum information, such as Supplier Name, Invoice/PO line description and value. To get more from the data, other factors can then be added in, such as unit price. Where unit price information is not available, the quantity can be divided by the overall value.

A suitable taxonomy will then need to be found to classify the data.  It can be an off the shelf product such as ProClass, UNSPSC, PROC-HE, or a taxonomy can be customised so it’s specific to your organisation or industry.

This initial stage may take months if you are working with large volumes of data. It might be worth considering outsourcing this initial task to professionals experienced in this area, who will be able to complete the project in a shorter time, with greater accuracy.

Avoiding common pitfalls

There are a number of ways to classify the data> However, to get started, look for keywords in the Supplier Name and then the Description column.  The description of services could include ‘hotel, taxi, cleaning services, cleaning products, etc., however, it’s important to carefully check the descriptions before classifying, or errors could be introduced.  A classic example is “taxi from hotel to restaurant”, depending on which keyword you search for first, it could end up being misclassified as transport, or venue costs.

I wouldn’t advise classifying row by row, as it could take more than twice as long to complete the file using this method.  Start with keywords, followed by the highest value suppliers which you can get from a pivot table of the data if you’re working in Excel.

Identifying opportunities

Once classified, charts can be built to analyse the data.  The analysis could include, ‘top 80% of suppliers by spend’; ‘number of suppliers by category’; ‘unit price by product by month’;  ‘spend by category’; or ‘spend by month.’

Patterns should start to emerge which could reveal unusually high or low spend in a category, irregular pricing, higher than expected use of services, or a higher than expected number of suppliers within a category. 

Why you should strive for data accuracy and classification?

Data accuracy is an investment, not a cost.  Address the issues at the beginning: while it might seem like a costly exercise, you will undoubtedly spend less than if you have a to resolve an issue further down the line with a time-consuming and costly data clean-up operation.  And by involving the whole team or organisation, it will be much easier to manage and maintain the most accurate data possible.

Spend data classification shows you the whole picture, as long as it’s accurate.  You can get a true view of your spend, allowing improved cost savings, better contract compliance and possibly the most important – preventing costly mistakes before they happen.

So, does your data have its COAT on? What does ‘dirty data’ mean to you? Let me know below!

Susan Walsh is the founder of The Classification Guru, a specialist in spend data classification, supplier normalisation and taxonomies.  You can contact her at [email protected] https://www.procurious.com/professionals/susan-walsh

Procurement’s Time To Lead Is Now. Here’s How to Take Advantage.

A new survey of 500+ professionals reveals where procurement must focus to establish leadership and earn executive trust.


Procurement: it’s your time to lead. New research from Procurious and Coupa, released today, reveals that nearly two thirds of professionals have seen trust increase with the c-suite over the past three months. Similarly, more procurement leaders report having a seat at the executive table today compared to May, when we asked the same question as part of our Supply Chain Confidence Index.

“Procurement leaders continue to step up and executives are taking notice,” said Tania Seary, Founding Chairman of Procurious. “Procurement plays a critical role in navigating the uncertainty we face today. The function’s stellar performance opens the door for more – more recognition, trust, and opportunities to lead. It’s time to take advantage.”

Procurious and Coupa surveyed over 500 procurement and supply chain professionals in July to assess the state of the function and what’s on tap for the second half of 2020. Reflecting on procurement’s strategic position within the organisation, just one-fifth (21%) report that they are still being viewed tactically internally. While that number is still higher than we’d like, most would agree that for a function that’s historically struggled to stand out and get the recognition it deserves, we’re moving in the right direction – in a big way. Consider that over the past three months, only 7% said they did not see trust increase between procurement and the c-suite.

“Procurement today has a clear opportunity to capture our seat at the table. The findings of this survey highlight how important it is for us to think strategically and ensure our objectives are aligned to the board and our peers in the c-suite,” said Michael Van-Keulen, CPO, Coupa. “We must step up to help our organizations not only control costs, but also mitigate risk, maximize value, and increase the agility needed in today’s business environment.”

These results build off Procurious’ research findings from earlier this year. “In June, we uncovered clear indicators that the c-suite was paying more attention to procurement and supply chain. This trend is accelerating as executives recognise procurement’s unique and essential position in the ongoing recovery,” said Seary.

Procurement leaders looking to capitalise on this newfound opportunity should focus on delivering results that increase resiliency and continuity, and improve the bottom line. According to our research, the top three areas the c-suite wants procurement to contribute to are mitigating supply risk (70%), containing costs (69%) and driving business continuity (64%).

“At first glance, we’re seeing a back-to-the-basics approach for procurement teams, with a laser focus on savings, spend visibility, resilience and risk mitigation. However, when you step back you quickly realise this approach is anything but traditional. The desired outcomes may be similar, but companies are investing more strategically, aggressively and intentionally,” commented Seary.

Second Half Procurement Priorities: Controlling Costs and Risk 

Procurement’s top three priorities for the second half of 2020 are similar to what we referenced above: containing costs, mitigating supply chain risk, and supplying the products and services needed to maintain operations.

Naturally, managing supply chain risk remains front and center for organisations across the world. But risk takes on many different forms. What are executive teams most concerned about right now? The top five areas, in order of concern, are:

·       Operational risk

·       Supplier Risk

·       Business environment risk

·       Reputational risk

·       Cyber risk

Interestingly, the most prominent risk differs geographically. In North America and Asia Pacific, executives are most concerned about cyber. In Europe, the primary concern is operational risk. Either way, stronger investments in supply chain risk management will undoubtedly become one of the lasting marks of COVID-19. Mature procurement teams will never take supplier health, collaboration and risk lightly again.

When it comes to business risk, there’s often more than meets the eye. The survey also found that more than 80% of organisations have significant gaps in spend visibility, which is its own risk. This finding poses an important question: How can procurement teams lead and control supplier risk if they lack full visibility into where money is being spent?

Equipping Procurement to Lead and Thrive

Looking at the next 6 – 12 months, economic uncertainty was the number one concern for survey respondents, followed by cash and risk. Given the stakes – and procurement’s proven ability to add value in business-critical areas, including risk, resiliency, and cost containment – the majority of organisations (93%) are investing big to propel procurement forward. The top three investments organisations are making in procurement leadership are:

·       Data and analytics

·       Talent development

·       Technology

“COVID-19 continues to act as an accelerant for procurement transformation. The business case is right in front of us, and organisations are investing accordingly.” said Seary. 

While organisations are finally stepping up to fund procurement initiatives, the function still has an important role to play to shape the future. 

“We need to ensure the investments are strategic, and not tactical. We need to set the agenda, and ensure the c-suite’s vision for procurement is aligned with what we know is possible. It’s our time to lead, and we need to do it right,” said Seary.For more insights – including details on procurement priorities, operational gaps, investment strategy, supply chain risk and more, join Procurious and get the full report: Procurement’s Time to Lead.

Procurement 101: Why We Need Data Analytics

Do you want to leverage big data in procurement but are unsure how to article the benefits? Here are four ways data analytics is changing the procurement profession.
 

1. Supply Chains Will Be More Transparent

Data analytics will make it possible to have visibility of more factors than humans could ever analyse on their own. With customers demanding the country of origin and the practices surrounding the acquisition of everything in the products they buy, data can help track products through the supply chain. Additionally, procurement professionals can find ideal suppliers with predictive data. Doing so will make it easier for products to adhere to a specific code of ethics throughout the supply chain.

2. Risk Focus Will Shift

As more information trickles through the supply chain, the timeline of risk will shrink. With more visibility, you’ll be able to concentrate on immediate disruptions in the supply chain and respond to those.

Tracking weather, traffic conditions and other disruptions that could affect your supply chain will allows for more rapid adjustments, which will in turn lead to fewer disruptions in the supply chain and of the business. Planning for these factors becomes easier with data analytics that can juggle far more pieces of information than humans can.

3. Procurement Professionals Will Become Knowledge Leaders

The information procurement professionals will use will make them knowledge leaders for the entire company. For cost savings, the data used in procurement will be invaluable. To take one example, a commercially sold multivariable freight optimisation program saved one industrial company 25 per cent on its air freight costs. The marketing department may consult with the information procurement professionals gather from social media to determine demand.

4. Automation in the Supply Chain Will Gather Pace

The Internet of Things (IoT), which combines sensors and data analytics, will ramp up automation in the supply chain. Automation will ease the supply management professional’s job, as much of the ordering becomes part of the system. Sensors on store shelves can measure how fast a product is selling, then alert the manufacturer to adjust the amount to deliver to individual stores — or even the total number of products to produce. The head of JDA Labs, an operations planning software company, describes big data and sensors as answering manufacturers’ demands for product placement information. The sensors show where stores place products on their shelves, and informing manufacturers of their product placement is the first step toward automation of meeting consumer demands.

Implementing Data Analytics for Procurement

Walter Charles, CPO of Biogen, advises companies to include data analytics in their processes and claims businesses do not need a large team of scientists. All they need are a category manager and a group of six to 10 people who know how to use the software to examine bids.

Charles used such a team to work with $12 billion when he was at Kraft Foods and had a similar group for $10 billion in work at Kellogg’s. Ernst & Young, EY, suggests the team members know how to work with quantitative data since quantitative risk management will become a critical part of procurement. With the right people and software, you can make data analytics a reality for your business.

Analytics will make use of unexpected data. Ernst & Young predicts that by 2025 social media, mobile technology, big data and the cloud will be the primary sources for data analytics in procurement. Analysing this information will be necessary with the right software and people to unpack it.

Security and Big Data

Part of using shared information in the cloud and big data will be keeping the information and your company secure. You cannot ignore the problem, so make sure you always have updated virus screening software. Additionally, keep a firewall for your business. When in doubt, hire a trusted IT security professional to keep your information secure.

Is Data Analytics the Future of Procurement?

Data analytics will become an integral part of the future of procurement and the supply chain. If you don’t start the process of implementing it in your operations today, you could be behind tomorrow. The information from this process will save you money and make your business more efficient. Data analytics is one investment where the ROI will continue to benefit your business for years.