Tag Archives: data

Is Data A Promise Or A Peril? 3 Things That Really Matter

Why do organisations and leaders face such a challenge in using data at all, much less using it effectively.

By red mango/ Shutterstock

It’s everywhere and it’s generated every second. Just texted someone? You created data. Just booked an Uber. You created data. Did some grocery shopping? You created data. And that’s before we even get to your professional context. Sending an email, making notes in a meeting, paying invoices, assessing your business strategy. It’s all data.

With ninety per cent of the world’s data having been created in the last two years, Domo’s recent report shares some staggering facts about the explosion of information; equivalent to approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes per day. Not quite sure what quintillion is? If I say a massive, it’s a huge understatement. But you get the idea.

So, with all of this data, why do organisations and leaders face such a challenge in using data at all, much less using it effectively. And with all the talk of digital transformation and the role of analytics driving new insights, why is it proving so hard to translate data into meaningful actions and outcomes? These three things really do matter:

1. Upgrade your business and your thinking

Historically, legacy systems, fragmented business models and poor documentation are all elements that contributed to the difficulty of accessing meaningful data. Historically, organisations would have to work for months to collate important data on every aspect of the business; customers, sales, financials, and forecasting to name a few. Data would often be incomplete, unclear, or in some instances, missing. If you weren’t looking for it, you would be working on cleansing it, a painful by-product of the adage of ‘garbage in, garbage out’. The paradox of the digital world is that this becomes so much easier and harder at the same time. Easier because the capabilities of technology allow analysis of data to be faster and more insightful than ever before. We can now find patterns in historical information, and create predictions that help businesses position resources where demand and customer expectations intersect. And prediction is the alchemy of organisational success. Studying classics at university, I understand that prophecy and prediction are all about enabling the competitive advantage. And technology can enable that with thankfully a lot more clarity than a Delphic oracle.

The flipside of this however is that systems, processes and models are not necessarily well positioned to take advantage of what is now possible.  Doing things the same way is not designed to deliver a different outcome and for many organisations looking for quick wins, the foundational and cultural changes required to achieve foundational transformation are too complex. It’s easier to implement a digital technology. While that will improve the current state, the absence of a more comprehensive improvement strategy means an organisation will only go so far. To capitalise on the real opportunity data must become part of the DNA.

2. Don’t tell me more, tell me what matters

Along with internal and market data, organisations are now able to access a new world of data. Social media, third party data including weather and GPS, IoT and devices. Today data is literally and metaphorically, Big. The opportunity for an organisation here is that they can learn and use so much information that was previously unavailable. The agriculture industry can use weather and IoT to identify optimal harvest time, and retailers can use their own loyalty and purchase data with social media to target customers with highly personalised promotions and offers. And so with the quantum of data being so big, leaders are faced with another well known conundrum; that of analysis-paralysis. Where the challenge previously may have been not knowing enough because it wasn’t available or feasible to access, leaders are now confronted with the proliferation of data that creates a risk around not knowing enough because there is likely more that should be known. The organisational problem this creates then is that leaders are unable or unwilling to make a decision because the breadth of information is just too confusing or because there is personal risk in making a decision that may be proven to be incorrect if more data presents itself. Another mindset shift is required here and that is for leaders to make a decision based on the best possible facts at the time, and be ready to adapt and course correct should new data provide a different option.

3. How you use it matters even more than what you have

Data and big tech companies present very interesting case studies for cross-industry insight on how data can be used, and misused.  Some companies, like Apple’s Tim Cook, have come out very publicly to discuss privacy and how consumer data should be used, and how it should be protected. Others, like Facebook, have been conspicuous in their silence and their absence on their use of data given it underpins their business model. The last two years have seen a significant change in sentiment on what we, as citizens and as consumers, are willing to accept and condone. And while the conversation is still being played out, and the resolution is unclear at this time, it does provide valuable insight for any organisation that is collecting data and contemplating options for how it can be used. Trust in brand, and trust in leaders cannot be separated from how an organisation conducts itself.

Six Reasons You’re Still Stuck In Procurement 1.0

Robobai surveyed 250 procurement specialists and asked them what their pain points are within a growing organisation. Chairman and Founder, Julian Harris, shares the top six reasons you’re stuck in procurement 1.0…

Every business has the desire to grow and succeed and as a result of this targets are set to support the overall objectives of the GDP. It is natural to encounter many roadblocks along this journey and procurement is seen as an important area as it can both block or support growth.

We have recently surveyed 250 procurement specialists and asked them what their pain points are within a growing organisation. We then established the six biggest pain points from their perspectives.

1. The companies had outgrown their supplier base

79 per cent of the people we spoke to said that their businesses were not driving innovation in supplier relationships. The common theme being their existing suppliers weren’t adapt enough to support their growth model and that they did not have the correct systems in place to evaluate potential new supply partners in an efficient and fast manner.

2. Their current systems were inadequate

85 per cent of our survey said that they overall procurement process was to complex and resource heavy. The existing systems and processes simply aren’t up to the job and as a result Account Payable are constantly battling to keep on top of the processing and payments of invoices.

3. Poorly equipped for investment or acquisitions

According to our results, 76 per cent of procurement specialists said that with their current systems and processes, they would not be able to provide the relevant due diligence to any potential investors. This is a massive barrier to a company that is looking to expand in anyway.

4. Managing rising costs

81 per cent of companies admitted that they don’t challenge suppliers enough on cost or performance. The truth is, they are struggling with rising costs against income which is effecting profits, but they have inefficient systems in place that don’t allow them to manage their supplier contracts properly in these areas.

5. Ineffective supplier management

44 per cent of our specialists said that they need to manage their suppliers more effectively. They basically don’t have access to enough good quality data on suppliers to allow them to effectively challenge and negotiate the best deal for them.

6. Not enough control over spending

In our research 40 per cent of respondents said that they need to improve their budgeting controls. There are compliance issues surrounding using approved suppliers, and to fix this change is required to both their systems and culture to give the required visibility of spend.

Is Data really the answer?

For optimum results, you need optimized data

The benefits of good data are no secret. You will constantly see things written and hear conversations about how powerful data can be with regards to driving efficiency, reduce costs and even keeping customers within any business. But, in the world of procurement it is a must have. Why? Because with the right data you can massively improve your return on purchasing goods and services.

High quality, cleansed data helps to drive a more strategic view of procurement. It enables teams to make informed decisions, earlier in the procurement lifecycle. If you don’t have it, then sure you can view total spend, but in a very inadequate way doesn’t allow you to understand the size of the cost saving opportunities that exist. These opportunities may include variance in pricing, contract terms, consolidation, payment discounts or duration. You need cleansed, granular data to be able to provide good insights to make the right purchasing decisions. You simply can’t do this efficiently without having access to a platform that provides this quality of data in a timely manner.

Often, one of the biggest challenges in an organization sits in the realms of data. Without good quality data cleansing and data classification you will never have a genuine spend visibility.

When a company has good spend visibility they get timely, accurate, complete, and detailed data which offers invaluable intelligence and insight on their spending patterns, compliance and performance. These insights help them identify savings opportunities, drive compliance, and develop purchasing strategies which reduce cost.

Julian Harris, Chairman and Founder – Robobai, spoke at Big Ideas Summit Sydney. 

Data: You Complete Me

AI has the potential to shoulder a vast amount of the #procurement workload. But machines can only do the work for you if you capture all the data in the first place.
Last month Procurious hosted the very first Procurement Thought Leadership Forum in Chicago to discuss the evolution of procurement; what the future holds for the profession; how we can effectively determine the size of the global market; the importance of professional associations and maturity levels across the globe. 
The event, sponsored by Basware and attended by a number of the world’s leading procurement consultants, sparked some fascinating discussion and debate.

Dealing with Data

Remember that Tom Cruise movie – Minority Report? Eric Wilson, SVP Basware North America, certainly does. “In the movie Tom Cruise swipes things on a giant screen, he then predicts a crime and the team prevents it before it happens. It was pretty cool. Especially, back in 2002 when we didn’t even have touch screens on our cell phones and artificial intelligence (AI) was in the realm of science fiction.”

Of course, today we all use AI in our daily lives, whether we realise it or not. As Eric asserts “AI is the new electricity. When we replaced steam powered machines with those using electricity, we transformed transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare and so on; increasing efficiency tremendously.  AI has the same, huge potential, but nobody truly knows yet how it will change the world.”

Indeed, as  Eric pointed out it’s difficult to think of an industry that is not being impacted by AI;  IT, FinTech and Healthcare, to name just a few, are all being totally transformed. Self driving vehicles is an industry that is built entirely on AI.

But holding the right data is critical in order to harness the benefits of new technologies. If an organisation can turn all the data they hold into tangible customer value by leveraging machine learning and AI they can actually begin to benefit from these technological advances in the market. But to do so relies on having the right volume, quality and completeness of data .

“If you don’t have a view to the future when you are evaluating automation options, not only will you not achieve your business case for today, but three years from now, your system will be obsolete,” states Eric.  “It will be obsolete because it did not capture all of the data in the first place.”

In Eric’s mind there are no two ways about it: you can’t use AI if you don’t have the centralised data for those machines to learn from. “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!”

The conversation century

Elizabeth Linder, Founder and CEO of The Conversational Century joined Youtube in 2007 and often thinks back to that year, a significant time for Youtube, in order to understand the social media space.

It was an exciting and life-changing time for skilled amateurs. A time that had millions of people singing in their bedrooms or racking  up millions of video views for a commentary on something they would never otherwise have been considered an expert in. Youtube ultimately offered them the opportunity to be heard.

Elizabeth is a strong believer that the internet is the best place to build trust. “The people” ( i.e. you and me) have already got this all figured out. But the reason so many people still believe the internet is destroying trust is that our leaders are still so far from getting it right! We simply don’t have leaders at a political level that have invested in a voice on social media.

Some key things to remember when trying to start conversations online:

  • Most leaders fear that they have to move at an increased pace because of today’s internet culture. You don’t. Go at your own pace but keep people informed as you do it. It’s ok to communicate to people that “the discussions are still in progress” or “we don’t have information on this yet” so long as you’re communicating something!
  • Believe in the power of primary sources because the public certainly do. Hearing directly from the source rather than a paper adds a lot of value to your communication. If you’ve ever been quoted in an article, blog or feature you’ll know the producer of that piece never quite gets to the meat of what you were trying to say because youdon’t own the conversation or drive the discussion – they do!
  • Embracing in the hacker culture, i.e. making it up as you go along, is key. EU politicians, for example, only see social media as a tool for outbound communications and not for their inbound policy making. Hacker culture dictates that they need to consider the latter.

Elizabeth’s take away advice on owning the social media space? “Be yourself online and talk to people in a way that lets them in but not in a way so casual that you’re treating them like family.”

The value of professional certifications

Rick Blasgen, CEO – Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and Tom Derry, CEO – Institute of Supply Management ISM led a session on the evolution of procurement  and supply chain and the value of professional certifications.

Both leaders are very optimistic about what the future holds for procurement and supply chain professionals . “I think [these professions]  will be an embedded feature of every competitive global company around the world because they see so much of what goes on,” argues Rick. “We see it really growing into the fabric of successful companies.”

And Rick believes professional certifications “are a normal part of continuing to educate yourself and continuing to be knowledgeable about such a dynamic and ever-changing field.”

“One of the things important to CSCMP is to advance the logistics, supply chain and procurement professions and the careers of those working in them. The only way we do that is by being thought leaders and thinking about using the new technologies and tools that have never before existed.

“Our certifications will educate you on these things and then test that you have the understanding and can utilise the complexity within them.”
“An association used to function as the place where people felt obliged to belong,” says Tom. But nowadays he doesn’t believe professionals feel such a sense of needing to belong to an association  just for the sake of belonging  “They need value for money and they expect a professional body to provide tools and skills that enable them to be successful at a critical moment in their career.”
Sizing up the procurement market
Braden Baseley, ProcurementIQ Analyst discussed the size and maturity of the global procurement market, revealing preliminary  insights from their specially commissioned research report.
The research reveals…
  •  There are 554, 560 procurement pros working in the US, which make up 0.4 per cent of the workforce
  • The average salary for a US procurement professional is $72,199, which is pretty good considering the average US salary is approximately $55, 000
  • California, Texas and New York employ the largest number of procurement professionals
The report will also explore how procurement skills are changing and evolving and the skills that are most desirable in procurement teams.
The Procurement Thought Leadership Forum was sponsored by Basware. 

Teeing Up For AI in Procurement: It’s All About One Thing…

The benefit of AI for procurement is clear – the question, then, is what will it take to effectively put it to use?

Over the last year, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have graduated from the class of “emerging tech” – they’re here now, they’re increasingly sophisticated, and their adoption will only continue to accelerate.

We’ve seen machine learning and AI go mainstream in consumer tech environments, and they are rapidly shifting from hype to reality in enterprise environments as well; however, enterprise executives are still working to understand how AI applications can move beyond specific product features to influence broader business functions and strategies.

Let’s take a look at the procurement department, for instance. Procurement and purchasing professionals have a lot to gain from leveraging AI. In fact, AI has the potential to completely transform how organisations manage their spend, from automating invoice coding based on learned criteria, to predicting potentially fraudulent transactions, and preventing rogue spending before it happens.

The benefit of AI for procurement is clear – the question, then, is what will it take to effectively put it to use?

Gartner’s report, “Start Preparing Now for the Impact of AI on Procurement,” states that “technologies’ need for data will force application leaders in procurement to ensure access to the necessary internal and external data sources.”

Essentially, the first step to getting predictions out of AI is to capture all data – internal data, external data and third-party, public data. Furthermore, procurement professionals should be asking themselves if they have the volume, the quality and the completeness of data needed to leverage AI within their department.

Ticking each of these boxes can feel like an arduous process, but a good starting point is to hone in on three particular sources of data that provide the greatest visibility into spend:

1. Supplier Data: This means capturing data from 100 per cent of suppliers in the procurement system. Not just the largest multi-national suppliers who use sophisticated EDI or XML formats, but the whole tail. This should include mid-tier suppliers that may be using online portals or emailing PDF invoices, all the way down to the smallest “mom and pop” businesses, who continue sending paper invoices. Using an open commerce network that accepts and supports all invoice formats and requires no changes on the supplier’s end enables 100 per cent supplier onboarding and captures all transactional data. To gain true visibility and power future platforms, procurement and finance leaders must aggregate as much financial data as possible beginning with supplier data.

2. User-Driven Data: The ability to capture user-driven data–specifically, buying insights that track 100 per cent of all purchasing requests that run through the system, is vital. Visibility into employee spend ultimately depends on how user-centric procurement tools, technologies, and processes are designed. The bottom line is: procurement systems shouldn’t be designed for the procurement department. They should be catered to potentially thousands of employees around the world that are buying things in their organisation.

Searching for orders, dynamic routing and approvals, and guided buying, for instance, should be easy to navigate and fit seamlessly into the way employees already work. The key is to create a system that users adhere to not because they have to, but because it’s the easiest way to get what they want from preferred vendors at the negotiated price, providing another layer of spend visibility.

3. Invoice Data. By nature, the accounts payable function is primed for intelligent automation. There is a huge opportunity to use AI for things like improving processing efficiencies and reducing costs, increasing discounts and eliminating late payment fees, for instance.

But, these enhancements can only be achieved if the invoice data feeding into AI is complete. That means procurement needs to capture 100 per cent of invoices, irrespective of format (paper, PDF, electronic) and irrespective of invoice type (PO-based, non-PO based, invoices for direct spend, for indirect spend, for facilities and utilities, etc) –  truly, any and all. Whatever the invoice, it should be captured.

These three particular sources of data can truly position a company to take advantage of all the benefits AI promises just over the horizon. Elements of machine learning, AI and predictive analytics already exist within procurement today. Forecasting budgets for approvers, alternative cost-effective suggestions during a user’s shopping experience and intelligently aggregating POs based on purchase trends are just a few commonplace applications. But to take advantage of any of these applications, and future opportunities to gain a competitive advantage, data is an absolute prerequisite. Only when armed with data – especially from suppliers, users and invoices – can procurement make the most of their investment in AI technology, enhance spend visibility and optimisation, and ultimately, boost the organisation’s bottom line.

Continue reading Teeing Up For AI in Procurement: It’s All About One Thing…

6 Ways Procurement Pros Can Dominate Their Data Strategy

Building a nimble process, speaking the right language and gathering your data from the right sources will have you nailing a flawless data strategy in no time!

When most procurement professionals think about data they imagine a darkened back-office room and a huddled group of silently-working number crunchers.

But it’s data that gives your organisation’s senior leaders the most important insights, helping them to win new business.

Data can help procurement climb up the value chain and earn you a seat at the table.

If could only change the time we spend gathering data and the time spent actually using it  from a 80/20 split to a 20/80 split, its potential is limitless.

And this is a mistake procurement makes too often.

Ahead of today’s webinar Basic Instinct: Are You a Data Hunter or Gatherer, we’ve outlined some top advice from data experts; Marco Romano, Procurement Chief Analytics Officer, Global Procurement, Transformation Technology – IBM and Edward D. O’Donnell, Chief Data Officer for Procurement – IBM, on how to dominate your data!

1.Build a nimble process

Ed has, in his own words, enjoyed ten years working in transformation but admits he has made plenty of mistakes along the way! His advice? “If you’re going to fail. Fail early.”

As he points out, making mistakes is not the problem, it’s the way it’s done that makes all the difference, “The most significant challenge [for procurement pros] is managing data of all size and scale.”

In the past, IBM have approached this challenge with the old-school  waterfall methodology; the development team is engaged and a plan is might be made and executed with care over the course of a year.

“It’s smarter if you can do it in more agile chunks,” explains Ed.  “The drops are not quarterly or annually for the big bang but rather maybe in weeks we’ll run sprints.”

“This allows smaller, more manageable content.” Which, of course makes a lot of sense. Why spend a whole load of money to wait for the last two months of the year to realise the value?  “Can’t we build a process thats more more iterative, more nimble, more flexible more agile?”

“Then, of course, if the client doesn’t like it we can get immediate feedback and correct it straight away.”

2. Use your time more wisely

Procurement pros have, for too long, been gathering data from too many sources because that’s what they think they should be doing. It’s time consuming and, often, it’s also futile.

“So much time spent is spent gathering data. Procurement pros need to start at the end and work backwards. First and foremost you need to ask what’s the outcome or insight you’re trying to achieve and what are the business behaviours you’re trying to change.”

Develop a joint understanding of business requirements. From that you work backwards to determine three things:

1. What data you need

2. How you acquire  it

3. What enrichment that data needs

In doing this “you’re not only gathering data that’s fit for purpose, you’re also considering business process that drives that data and building improvements into this process to ensure data quality and data consistency.”

“Of course it doesn’t stop there our role is to automate that takes gathering filtering, sorting data away from practitioners

Ideally we don’t want our practitioners spending time analysing or shipping raw data rather looking at results or process insights. but spending time

So what drives this behaviour off trying to get all sorts of data?

It’s driven by wrong metrics or misunderstanding of those metrics.

“You absolutely have to make sure you measure what really matters, such that you drive the right behaviours in data acquisition and move away from concept where people are just acquiring a whole lot of data and not able to put it to good use or understand why they’re acquiring in the first place.”

3. Gather your data from the right sources

IBM source their data from a wide variety of sources.

“We look at RFX data, procurement and customer contracts, internal client demand and pipeline data,” explains Marco.  “Internally it’s a very broad base of data which includes procurement and our clients.”

They use “market intelligence from MI providers as well as MI from structured and unstructured public data sources, social media and various other sources.”

“The data we get from suppliers  is really important and includes things like machine failure rates, product life-cycles [and ]configuration options.”

“It’s a broad base but it’s not about gathering all of that data but rather targeted to achieve a specific objective.”

Do IBM have a particularly ‘hot’ data source? “Not so much the hot data source” says Ed. “It’s the way you use that data!”

“assembling the data in a coherent way where the buyers can have it at their fingertips – assembling quickly, linking the data and then presenting it to the buyer in a new user experience is where the power comes from.”

4. Listen to your client

“Listen to the voice of the client” says Marco.

“Start with an understanding of what you’re trying to solve, really understand what the practitioners needs are and work backwards from there to figure out what you really need”

Set up engagement meetings, engage with the client regularly and continuously share and showcase your work with your internal team.

5. Focus on data quality

“Focus on data quality and ensure that your procurement processes enable the acquisition and enrichment of good quality data,” says Marco

“It sounds very obvious but it is so often overlooked and it causes tremendous frustration in the system.”

6. Speak the same language

Spending more time in front of our customers or clients and less time behind closed doors, simply gathering and analysing data, is crucial.

When procurement teams start a program it’s important that everyone is on the same page; speaking the same language and communicating regularly with all the key stakeholders.

“One of the things historically that the procurement practitioner hasn’t done so well is being completely transparent with the data,” explains Ed.

It’s important to present it in a way that “it’s clear and simple to understand [and so] that the outcomes are obvious. The best chart is one you don’t have to try to understand, where the messages are clear.”

If you’re referring to units per hour, what do you mean by units?

If you use the term FTE, does everyone know what exactly that represents? Is it a 40 hour week at x cost or a 35 hour week at y cost?

Our webinar,  Basic Instinct: Are You a Data Hunter or Gatherer takes place at 1pm BST TODAY . Register your attendance for FREE here. 

Are You A Data Hunter Or A Gatherer?

Are you trying to stay afloat  in a huge “data lake”?  Trust us, there are better ways to manage and manipulate your data to make an impact. Are you a data hunter or a gatherer?

ArtMari/Shutterstock.com

There’s a whole lot more to data than simply having it…

If you’re one of those procurement professionals who’s anxiously sitting on an ever-growing mountain of data, wondering how on earth to make sense of it all; it’s time to shift your mind-set and your approach from gatherer to hunter….

Data on its own means very little unless it’s actually actionable.

But procurement professionals are so used to a deluge of data that it often ends up discarded in someone’s top drawer, never to be seen again! Perhaps it’s not fit for purpose but one thing’s for sure – nothing useful is done with it!

Can procurement teams do a better job in ensuring they get a decent ROI on their data?

Our latest webinar with IBM, which takes place on 28th March, will teach you how to become an astute data hunter!

We’ll be discussing…

  • Why every procurement team needs a Chief Data Officer
  • Unstructured data – How do you make sense of it all?
  • How to make sure your data is fit for purpose and get an ROI on your data investments
  • The biggest mistakes Procurement teams make when it comes to data and analytics?

Webinar Speakers

 Edward D. O’Donnell, Chief Data Officer for Procurement – IBM

Edward is IBM’s Global Procurement Data Officer and charged with the mission to advance Business, Intelligence, Deep Analytics, and Cognitive functionality across the procurement portfolio.

Marco Romano, Procurement Chief Analytics Officer, Global Procurement, Transformation Technology – IBM

Marco applies more than 15 years of experience as a procurement practitioner and project manager to understand complex environments that separate the noise from real issues and determine near-term and strategic solutions in realising business value. He leads a team that has saved IBM Procurement a significant amount in third-party costs and efficiencies through analytics data solutions and innovative sourcing strategies over the past three years. His team is also developing commercial analytics and cognitive procurement offerings leveraging data and technology for IBM clients’ competitive advantage.

 Tania Seary, Founder – Procurious

A true procurement entrepreneur, Tania is the Founding Chairman of Procurious, The Faculty and The Source. Throughout her career, Tania has been wholly committed to raising the profile of the procurement profession and connecting its leaders.

After finishing her MBA at Pennsylvania State University, Tania became one of Alcoa’s first global commodity managers.

In 2016, Tania was recognised by IBM as a #NewWaytoEngage Futurist and named “Influencer of the Year” by Supply Chain Dive. She hosts regular procurement webinars, and presents at high-profile events around the world.

How do I register for the webinar?

Registering for our webinar couldn’t be easier (and, of course, it’s FREE!)

Click here to enter your details and confirm your attendance. We’ll send you a confirmation email with a link to the webinar platform and a handy reminder one hour before we go live!

I’m already a member of Procurious, do I still need to register?

Yes! If you are already a member of Procurious you must still register to access the webinar via this platform. We’ll send you a confirmation email with a link to the webinar platform and a handy reminder one hour before we go live!

When is it taking place?

The webinar will take place at 1pm BST on 28th March 2018

Help! I can’t make it to the live-stream

No problem! If you can’t make the live-stream you can catch up whenever it suits you. We’ll be making it available on Procurious soon after the event (and will be sure to send you a link) so you can listen at your leisure!

Can I ask a question?

If you’re listening live, our speakers would love to hear your questions and we’d love for you to pick their brains . Questions can be submitted throughout the live stream via the webinar platform.

If you think of a brilliant question after the event, feel free to submit your question via the Discussion Board on Procurious and we’ll do our very best to ensure it gets answered for you.

Our webinar,  Basic Instinct: Are You a Data Hunter or Gatherer takes place at 1pm BST on 28th March 2018. Register your attendance for FREE here. 

Is Your Procurement Data Fit For Purpose?

How do you know when your data is fit for purpose? Start by putting the why before the what!

Robyn Mackenzie/Shutterstock.com

There are many factors that require careful consideration to bring about effective cognitive solutions.

It’s akin to conducting a group of musicians – it might be possible (easy even!) to attain a pleasant sound from a solo instrument… 

But, if expertly managed,  you could accomplish a symphony from the entire orchestra! 

This week, our podcast series will guide you through the five steps required to conduct a dazzling cognitive symphony. 

On Day 1 of the series, Marco Romano – Procurement Chief Analytics Officer, Global Procurement, Transformation Technology, IBM, talks about the development of data strategy, how to determine if a data source is fit for purpose and understanding the data that you want to see.

“To me the cognitive and analytic strategy really starts with the data strategy” explains Marco, “how we acquire, enrich, store and curate our data. Then it really becomes about what you do to that data to bring business value and actionable insights.

“I’d argue anything’s possible quite honestly, limited only by our imagination and one very important point, which is the quality and quantity of the data that’s available to us.”

The orchestra analogy

So where did the orchestra analogy come from?

“When you sit there at the start of a performance invariably you’re hearing these individual members tuning their instruments – warming up.

“It’s very melodic and you really get to hear the class of the instrument and the performer. But it’s really when the conductor walks on stage and all of those instruments are played together in harmony, that’s when it really becomes incredible.

That’s when the goosebumps come in and you hear the power of the sound.”

So how does this translate into data and insights? “One good piece of data is absolutely valuable and can really help you make better business decisions” says Marco. “But like an orchestra, a collection of this transformed data, properly orchestrated to provide these varied and powerful insights at the right time and in the right format for the intended audience really gives you that competitive advantage and operational efficiency.”

“You really need everyone playing from the same sheet of music, or the same hymn sheet!”

Putting the why before the what!

If the foundation to cognitive strategy is the acquisition of data, what kind of data should we be seeking to acquire? It’s easy to think about it in a one dimensional way, only considering one or two sources of data. But in reality data is coming from multiple sources. So where should we be looking for it?

“I think before you even answer the question of what data is it that you need, you really need to address the question of why you need it” explains Marco.

“What is the business outcome that you’re trying to drive? What is it that you want to achieve by acquiring this data? Then I think you can start to determine what data you need, and how you go about acquiring it and enriching it.

“I’ve seen an awful lot of effort go into acquiring data that never results in a business action. Not because it was bad data but it was just not fit for purpose. I think the importance here is that it is fit for purpose at the time that it’s needed and of course for the intended recipient.”

How do you know when your data is fit for purpose?

What are some of the things that you do to determine if a data source or a potential data source is fit for purpose, before you go down the road of actually trying to acquire and cleanse and build it into your models?

Marco firmly believes that you have to start with establishing what the intended outcome is that you want.

Secondly, “there is a point, which we of course have to consider, and that’s ROI. We can’t afford to throw manual resources off to fully invested activities. Some data is extremely difficult to come by, or extremely difficult to get to the level of quality that we need.

“I think you need to have a clear line of sight, of how these insights are going to allow you to change business course or alter business strategy and effect an outcome. Then you can start to also establish to what degree this data will help you achieve that?”

Ask yourself “how much impact is that data going to have, and in turn you can start to then make sensible decisions about ROI and the type of data that you need.”

Striving to conduct a cognitive symphony but in need of some expert guidance? Our podcast series starts today! Register here.

Strategic Sourcing Tech Investment Is The Key To Transformation

Are you running a little late to the digital transformation party? They do say better late than never!

As we’ve explored previously, digital transformation is changing in the world of supplier sourcing.

According to The Hackett Group’s Sourcing Cycle Time and Cost Measurement study, firms are spending around $275,000 a year on software that streamlines sourcing — from supplier discovery, to e-sourcing, to contract lifecycle management (CLM).

So while it’s a sector still driven largely by traditional methods — with their corresponding disadvantages and inefficiencies — companies are starting to see the benefits of a software-driven approach to sourcing.

A little late to the digital transformation party? Perhaps. But better late than never!

Insights into increased efficiency

Respondents report that using supplier-discovery software they can reduce the time it takes to find and qualify a new supplier by 31%. The average time spent doing this the old-fashioned way is in the region of 40 hours. That’s an entire week’s work — and even then the process isn’t fool proof. Around 14% of projects fail to meet expectations, meaning the bidding has to begin again.

Powered by the right software, many time-consuming processes are eliminated. With access to system-recommended suppliers based on predefined criteria, sourcing staff can instantly improve their productivity and speed supplier discovery. On the e-sourcing front, the right tech can reduce total sourcing time by 30%. While CLM software can improve compliance by increasing the use of standard terms and conditions by 38%.

Adapt to succeed

It’s obvious that businesses are seeing benefits. Although that’s not to say new technology adoption isn’t without its own challenges. Processes need to be assessed and adapted, and staff have to learn new ways of working. Cultural change isn’t easy, but it’s one of the hurdles that all firms must clear in pursuit of digital transformation.

In a highly competitive business landscape, it’s vital that your processes enable you to get results quickly and cost-effectively. And this is the bottom line of why organisations need to revisit their approach to strategic sourcing.

A little adjustment today opens the door to far greater efficiency tomorrow.

To discover how your organisation can embrace digital transformation and reduce strategic sourcing costs and cycle times, read The Hackett Group report now.

Whose Services Are You Really Procuring?

The workforce is fundamentally changing and it’s increasingly important that you can access the skills you need when, where and how you need them. But with the increase in corporate usage of external workers comes additional challenges and risks.

Driven by the digital age, we’re seeing a shift in the way work gets done. Globalisation and new ways of working are rapidly changing how talent interacts with companies, making it increasingly likely that the top talent needed by a business might not be – and might not want to be – on their payroll.

As a result, organisations increasingly rely on the external workforce – including contingent worker, Statement of Work (SOW)-based consultants, freelancers, specialized talent pools and more. In fact, these resources now account for nearly 40 percent of the average company’s workforce.

Why is this happening?

There are four factors impacting the way work gets done:

  1. Data: Data is the currency of the digital economy and we hear a lot about it these days. Big data is powering new insights and enabling better business decisions and outcomes.
  2. Digital technologies: Advancements such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are speeding processes and increasing efficiency. Looking forward, technologies such as blockchain will disrupt industries by facilitating the exchange of goods and services.
  3. Design-thinking or user-centered design: This is driving better experiences by putting people at the center of technology, not the process or the product.
  4. People: Perhaps the most profound change we are seeing in how work gets done is with people. Many of today’s workers – millennials, in particular – are looking for different experiences rather than spending decades with one company. As technology has enabled people to be untethered, the external workforce has boomed.

The result is that a significant portion of the external workforce is now comprised of service providers. To stay ahead of the competition, you need to be able to easily access this specialised and you need to be able to manage it effectively.

Challenges in services procurement

With more and more companies using external resources to fill vacancies, compensating for skills gaps and staffing ad-hoc projects, how do you know you’re getting the best talent at the best price?

With products, it’s relatively straightforward – prices are fixed and margins are small for suppliers. When it comes to services procurement, the situation is very different. Margins vary hugely and tend to be relatively high for the supplier.

For example: you’re looking for a plumber to work onsite at your facility for a specific time. Rates will vary depending on their experience and grade. When engaging your suppliers, how can you ensure that the person they send isn’t someone with little work experience who is charging a premium rate? Without insight into who is actually working for you at any given time and confirming that they are providing the level of service you expect, how can you ensure you’re not overpaying?

Organisations need a single place to go to source, engage and manage service providers. But many are managing this key labor segment with fragmented systems and processes which puts them at risk for excess spend, compliance issues and decreased quality.

A lifecycle approach

A solution lies in an external workforce management model. This model should include:

  • Visibility across multiple service providers and headcount tracking so you know who is working for you across your entire enterprise.
  • True demand management to enable the correct buying channels for each category of service.
  • Financial control, operational efficiency and collaboration, both internally and with suppliers.
  • Risk mitigation and compliance to rates and budgeting against contracts, along with the ability to discover how much a service cost last time to better forecast.

Enabling a services procurement solution to drive better operational control and rigor around services engagements not only enables cost savings opportunities, but enables key value levers including compliance, cost, visibility, efficiency and quality.

Procurement plays a strategic role in helping their organisation gain workforce visibility, be more agile and derive more value from their services procurement management. But executing the service only gets you halfway there – full potential is reached with management of the entire lifecycle.

Interesting in learning about more about the SAP Fieldglass External Workforce Management Model? Click here.

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.

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