Tag Archives: procurement Big Data

Data. Tech. Talent. Giving Procurement The Edge

Today’s challenging business environment is marked by social and economic uncertainty, weakness and volatility in emerging markets, and increasing geopolitical risk. How can  procurement teams ensure they have the edge?

Dramatic changes in the role of the procurement function over recent years have meant a remit that exceeds traditional operational responsibilities, often having a critical impact on shaping business models. The challenge is to continue adding value – addressing new opportunities and risks, and becoming a strategic business function – without increasing overall cost.

CPOs need to think differently about three key assets – data, technology and people – and how to bring them together to deliver for their stakeholders.

Data deluge

Today’s procurement teams face a deluge of data from internal and external sources, and in the digital age, new data streams are emerging every day. Many companies have yet to overcome the problems of poor quality data, held on disjointed legacy systems. Historical spend data is often uncategorised and needs significant cleansing before it can form the basis of a forward-facing outlook.

So, while procurement teams can access an immense amount of information, it’s a challenge to deliver valuable, actionable insights. Used wisely and effectively data can deliver robust insights to underpin every decision and tackle today’s challenges head on. Mismanage it, and it can swamp internal teams and lead to indecision and paralysis.

Tackling technology

Technology is frequently seen as being the answer. We heard an enormous amount about digitalisation, and the promises of AI and ML in 2017, yet few organisations are ready to adopt these new digital technologies. Many procurement operation teams recognise they have yet to make the most of existing technology, and tackling the problems that come with legacy systems, so their focus is on getting the basics right.

The first task is to understand which technologies are applicable to organisational challenges and maturity, and this assessment is important to create a digital roadmap for the future. Technology is only an enabler – not the complete solution – and needs to be fine-tuned to match individual business contexts.

People power

In theory, putting data and tech together creates intelligence, but all too often the process fails to produce relevant insights. It is the third asset – people – which can have a major impact on the potential to generate valuable business information.

There are plenty of talented individuals in existing procurement teams, yet many CPO’s believe their teams lack the skills required to turn strategy into results. They recognise that unless they have greater visibility and insight, it’s difficult to make the right decisions. For category and contract managers, the largest skill gap is in analytics, where teams struggle to use levers including external market intelligence, supplier portfolio optimisation and actionable spend analysis to best effect.

As procurement’s influence in the organisation grows, innovative technology gets introduced, and new data streams become available, roles of procurement professionals also evolve. This necessitates continuous review and addition of new skills and capabilities which may not exist in the current team.

Helping hand

We have launched a white paper looking at what solutions can be used to overcome the data challenge, decode technology, and plan how the skills gap can be resolved, to help procurement teams become more active influencers and respected decision makers in 2018.

Big Data Success Stories in Procurement?

At the end of our last Big Data article, we indicated that we were going to track down some Big Data success stories from the procurement function.

What we found, or rather what we didn’t find, was a cause for concern. A criticism of Big Data has always been that it is nothing more than the latest marketing buzzword, and that Big Data is something that everyone talks about, but very few people or organisations actually do.

We remain unconvinced by this, but based on some fairly high level research and trying to find some real world examples, it would appear that procurement either isn’t properly utilising Big data, or it isn’t actively promoting its use, and celebrating successes, externally. The latter is bad enough, but the former is worse.

A search for how Big Data is being utilised in procurement around the world returned very few real-life examples. There were a number of great case studies around how other business functions have used big data to solve business problems, but procurement solutions appeared to be fairly thin on the ground.

Rio Tinto Trucks

One of these Big Data success stories, leading towards cost savings and procurement-led wins, that appeared as a result of our search was from the Australian mining giant, Rio Tinto. The company is using Big Data to monitor the state of the roads at their mine sites.

Site roadways are a critical asset for mining organisations and, in the past, their maintenance checks have been carried out by members of the workforce. This makes for a very time consuming and costly manual process, which ultimately is still vulnerable to human error.

Rio Tinto has recently improved this process dramatically by using a data driven approach. The company’s mining trucks now carry 300-400 sensors that constantly send data back to an operations centre.

A team in this centre processes the information received to provide the business an understanding of the condition of site’s roads, feeding back on the state of degradation and any maintenance work that might be required.

This analysis is carried out at a remote location, where staff are provided notifications on when an issue is likely to occur, rather than once it already has. This saves precious time and money that would be spent on manually reviewing the road condition, while also enabling preventative maintenance to be carried out, rather than disrupting operations when a larger issue is reported.

Challenges for You

Maybe we have missed something, or our search hasn’t been focused enough to uncover more Big Data success stories in the procurement space.

There are are guaranteed to be more examples in the business world of how procurement teams have used data analytics to improve the processes and performance of their business. In light of this, Procurious lays down the gauntlet with a couple of challenges for you:

  1. If you know of a great example of a successful application of Big Data in procurement, let us know! We would love to tell your story and share your experiences, thoughts and plans with the rest of the procurement community.
  2. If you think your organisation has a great example, find out who you have to speak to and get it publicised. Making more people aware of this can position your organisation as a leader in this area, and get people talking about it too.

Comment on this article, or send us an e-mail at [email protected] and we’ll profile it in an upcoming article!