Tag Archives: big data in procurement

How Big Data Insights are Revolutionising Global Procurement Strategy

More companies than ever are using Big Data insights to drive their decision making. But what key benefits are they realising by doing so?

big-data-insights

This article was originally published on My Purchasing Center.

Advances in technology are making it possible to generate more data than ever before. We can quantify, measure and track every interaction, transaction and engagement in excruciating detail.

And when we collect these “big data,” we can gain tremendous insights into business processes, including global procurement strategy.

Because global procurement is focused entirely around obtaining greater efficiencies and streamlining purchasing operations, global procurement is primed to be revolutionised by the insights that stem from big data.

Businesses that collect big data insights are finding that they can refine global procurement strategies and processes with greater precision than ever before. They also can intervene more effectively to resolve problems and challenges, and they can use concrete data instead of intuition and instinct to accomplish this work.

One study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, finds that among companies in the top third within their industry, the use of data-driven decision-making made a company 5 per cent more productive and 6 per cent more profitable than a company that didn’t use data-driven decision-making.

Let’s explore the specific ways that big data insights are revolutionising the global procurement industry:

Shorten order-to-delivery times

Traditionally, the procurement timeline has been based largely on individuals using their best judgment and insider knowledge to get the right products and resources to the right place at the right time.

No matter how talented people are, however, they’re often no match for a computer algorithm that is specifically designed to optimise timelines and manage all aspects of the ordering and delivery process.

Computer-based analytics also can adapt to changing conditions in real time, ensuring that no matter what happens, nothing will slip through the cracks, and order-to-delivery times will continue to be optimised.

Increase supply chain efficiency

As with managing a procurement timeline, individual people can only manage a supply chain as efficiently as the human brain will allow.

Analytics software goes past the limitations of the human brain, processing and interpreting more data points about a supply chain than anyone’s brain could possibly synthesise.

In the end, these big-data insights yield more precise predictions about how to optimise the supply chain – and better predictions yield better decisions.

Lower costs

The goal of global procurement is to achieve cost savings, so it makes perfect sense to use big data insights to optimise all opportunities to lower costs.

Analytics software can instantaneously and accurately compute more possible combinations of events and items and scenarios than any human brain could, and computers can also thus make the “sweet spot” recommendation that appropriately balances all of these competing factors.

Improve supplier-client relationships

Both the supplier and the procurement client benefit from big-data insights. The supplier gets access to invaluable information that helps the supplier more effectively allocate its resources, as well as make plans to deliver on time and on budget.

The client benefits by no longer being forced to actively manage every aspect of the procurement process. Rather, a computer-based management approach frees the client to focus on building and enhancing relationships with suppliers, and on developing creative, out-of-the-box solutions that further enhance procurement processes.

Eliminate arbitrary decision-making

As much as businesses like to think their managers are making sound decisions, some will inevitably make decisions based on emotion, gut instinct, and self-interest.

Big data insights dramatically reduce the chances of this by forcing managers to not only use data-driven analytics to make decisions, but also to be prepared to defend those decisions.

As more businesses turn to big data insights to drive global procurement strategy, it’s important to provide adequate resources to support this transition and to provide adequate time for this transition.

When big data insights are integrated effectively into procurement processes, businesses can count on shorter order-to-delivery times, increased supply chain efficiencies, lowered costs, improved supplier-client relationships, and less arbitrary decision-making.

With more than 30 years of experience working with and providing excellent customer service to companies of all sizes, Rick Bender now is the Sales Director at CenterPoint Group.

CenterPoint is a management consulting firm that specialises in reducing purchasing expenses of businesses in areas such as office supplies, janitorial supplies, and industrial supplies.  

The Internet of Things Driving Procurement Change

In the business world, organisations are waking up to the possibilities afforded to them by the Internet of Things, connectivity and Big Data.

Internet of Things

The 2015 Gartner CEO and senior business executive survey found that technology-related change was viewed as the primary tool to achieve growth in 2015 and 2016.

37 per cent of respondents to the survey highlighted customer engagement management as a key technology priority, with 32 per cent highlighting digital marketing. Cloud-based business also had high recognition, as CEOs came to realise that the Cloud is where new disruptive industry platforms (think companies like Coupa) get created.

However, on the other side of this were concerns about potentially increasing levels of risk that are seen in line with increased connectivity. 77 per cent of survey respondents agreed that the digital world was creating new risks for businesses. However, 65 per cent also felt that investment in risk management practices was not keeping up with new and higher levels of risk.

Cloud Security – Or a Lack of It

This is a key area for procurement to consider when using Cloud-based technology and Big Data. You’ll all have seen reports and stories in the press about hacking and cyber security problems. This is frequently raised as one of the key issues with moving from traditional systems, to Cloud-based software.

It’s estimated by HP that around 70 million ‘smart’ devices have serious vulnerabilities, including privacy concerns, lack of encryption, inadequate software protection and insecure web interfaces. Worse still is that individuals and organisations either aren’t aware, or don’t have the capability to secure their systems.

The current state of Internet of Things security seems to take all the vulnerabilities from existing spaces, e.g. network security, application security, mobile security, and Internet-connected devices, and combine them into a new (even more insecure) space, which is troubling. 

Internet of Things Driving Change

A number of senior procurement leaders we have spoken to over the past few months have highlighted the potential issues of developing and managing suppliers as we move to operating in an era of the Internet of Things.

The growth of new technology and digitisation of processes mean that traditional procurement methods for managing suppliers need to be changed and updated. While in some cases, long term contracts of 3 years or more may be applicable, but there are certain areas where this cannot be the case.

More than ever, we are actually buying technology more so than the actual product or service. Think about driverless mining trucks – we’re really buying the technology to manage and maintain these vehicles, more so than the trucks themselves.

As technology increasingly becomes the product, we need to keep our options open in order to take advantage of the frenetic pace of change. Our tenders and contracts will need to more broadly define the functionality and utility we require of a product or service, rather than the exacting specifications we know today.

We will also need to ensure we keep our minds, doors and sourcing processes open to engage new suppliers with break-through technologies. Where contracts are 3-5 years long, CPOs will need to build optionality into their contracts to ensure they have the agility and can be opportunistic in adapting and adopting new technologies.

Changing Supplier Engagement

The alternative is to use different supplier engagement processes, potentially dynamic purchasing systems, or supplier panels, or ensuring that you are working closely with the suppliers in order to build innovation into your contracts.

New technologies aren’t necessarily going to be 100 per cent applicable to you, but your suppliers should be able to help with new product development and innovation.

But they will want security in this to know that they are not going to outlay a vast sum of money for development, only for the contract to be taken elsewhere under 3-year procurement processes (where they exist). In this way, Supplier Relationship Management will become even more critical.

4 Ways Procurement Should Be Using Big Data

While it might be a difficult term to define, there are a number of practical applications for using Big Data.

Using big data effectively

In our previous article, we looked at defining (or rather, not defining) the term ‘Big Data’. Now we are going to explore the potential big data analytics and computing may hold for the procurement function.

There are a number of high-profile ways in which organisations are using Big Data. For example, hospitals and public health organisations are using Google’s search trends and history to predict future outbreaks of the flu and colds. You can read the details here and see the counter argument here.

The application of Big Data in the procurement space is a little less apparent, or at least, less well publicised. With that in mind, we’ve put together four ways that procurement could be using Big Data to its advantage.

1. Understanding supplier risk

By leveraging the vast amounts of unstructured data now available to organisations, procurement teams can get a far better understanding of their key suppliers.

Previously supplier information could be found through the media, suppliers’ websites and personal relationships with the people being bought from. Data mining allows procurement to go much deeper than this and provides an unbiased, opinionated view of their suppliers’ standings.

2. Uncovering new savings

In the same way that harnessing data allows us to understand more about our current suppliers, correctly utilised, it can also help procurement understand more about its supply markets and where it sits within them.

By understanding the global supply market at a more granular level, a whole new set of opportunities to uncover savings is opened up. These savings can come about either through direct pricing improvements or through new innovative solutions.

3. Predicting negative external factors

In the past, Big Data has been used to predict unforeseen weather events with varying degrees of success. However, many organisations and governments are investing heavily in this technology.

These insights and predictions would, understandably, garner strong commercial interest, particularly from procurement teams looking to understand just how exposed their supply chains are to both natural, and man-made, disasters.

4. Opening up collaborative supplier projects

Understanding and using Big Data means understanding a category more clearly. Organisations that are able to get this level of understanding are in a position to open up conversations around innovative solutions.

The critical part of this is that transparent relationships with suppliers must exist first. The companies can then work together to solve problems and benefit from opportunities, even if some of these opportunities are not even visible yet.

In our next article, we’ll be be looking for some real life procurement examples where Big Data has been leveraged successfully. If you know of any great examples, please get in touch.

Big Data will be one of the themes discussed at the Big Ideas Summit on April 21 in London. Tell us your Big Data story and pose questions for our experts on this subject by registering today.