Tag Archives: procurement technology

Why Predictive Analytics is Changing Procurement’s Future

The opportunity for predictive analytics and Big Data in procurement goes well beyond spend.

Predictive Analytics in Procurement

Hackett’s 2016 Procurement Key Issues Study shows that increasing agility is a critical development area for organisations. It also shows that predictive analytics and forecasting tools are identified as having the greatest transformational impact on procurement in the future.

A confluence of high volatility, technology-led innovation, and hyper-competitive market conditions, has accelerated the rate of change in business to unprecedented levels. Agility is the key to success in this environment. In a procurement context this has four attributes:

  • Proactive Decision Making: Leveraging information and predictive analytics to improve the quality and timeliness of decision-making.
  • Value Chain: Industry leadership in digitising their value chain, including supply and demand chains, as well as internal operations.
  • Planning: Customer-centric planning processes and day-to-day business decisions.
  • Operational responsiveness: Permitting swift response to changes in the supply chain, customer preferences, the competitive landscape, and business strategy.

Overcoming Obstacles

However, accessing this data, information and market intelligence is a significant obstacle that must be overcome.

Becoming information-driven should be a primary focus area for procurement. The function must develop the tools and skills that will allow staff to apply market data and intelligence to decisions on spending and sourcing strategies. Creating deep, consultative working relationships with business leaders, demands that procurement bring this valuable expertise to the table.

This level of insight requires high-quality, real-time market intelligence. However, over half of the Key Issues Study respondents lack a formal market intelligence program or are in the very earliest stages of adoption. At the same time, establishing data governance and building a continuous improvement culture for data management and quality, are also tactics increasingly adopted by organisations.

Access to market intelligence, and ensuring that sourcing and supplier relationship management teams are using high-quality category and supplier intelligence, are prerequisites for agility.

Transformative Impact of Predictive Analytics

As procurement’s role matures from transactional facilitator to trusted business advisor, proficiency with the next generation of analytics – a.k.a. “big data” – will be a key enabler. Big data has been a game changer when it comes to customer analytics, offering an unprecedented ability to quickly model massive volumes of structured and unstructured data from multiple sources.

Good examples from the digital world include Google’s insight into customer behaviours and preferences, and Amazon’s ability to anticipate orders and ensure on hand stock to meet demand.

Source: The Hackett Group Key Issues Study 2016
Source: The Hackett Group Key Issues Study 2016

Predictive analytics refers to the use of statistical and mathematical techniques to predict the probability of future events occurring.

The predictive analytics and forecasting use case for procurement can be an increased focus on business outcomes, through greatly enhanced forward looking decision support capability; and automated and real-time information and analysis availability. Both of these are underpinned by greatly improved data quality.

Combining predictive analytics with cognitive tools will allow, for example, upgraded end-user buying experiences and automated sourcing actions to anticipate supplier and market events. It will also allow for forecasting of and acting to mitigate the impact of supply chain disruptions, and reduction of the severity of supplier risk events.

How do we respond?

As procurement leaders this situation poses challenging questions:

  1. What are the business outcomes and specific use cases for predictive analytics?
  2. How can we accelerate the organisation towards a single view of data and segmentation?
  3. Do we need to access new sources of meta and domain data?
  4. What is the value from faster, more frequent and higher quality information and insight?

Taking advantage of advanced analytical tools and methods requires appropriate staff with the skills to use them, as well as new technology roles, aligning business agendas, and elevating the overall level of technology knowledge. Future talent management plans should reflect the importance of training and hiring staff to handle the sophisticated analytical tools and methods, to deliver the full potential of Big Data.

Analytical projects are not without challenges. Procurement leaders who have not already started down this path should use the high-stakes competitive environment of 2016 as a burning platform.

About Hackett’s Procurement Key Issues Study

The results of this annual study are gathered from executives from over 180 large and global companies operating in the US, Europe and rest of the world, with annual revenue of $1 billion or greater. Find out more at the Hackett Group website.

Chris Sawchuk will discuss why procurement needs to be more agile during his keynote address at the Big Ideas Summit on April 21st.

If you’re interested in finding out more, visit www.bigideassummit.com, join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.

Showcasing Your Big Ideas – Procurement-as-a-Service

Ahead of the Big Ideas Summit 2016 on April 21st, we’re on the hunt for your Big Ideas. Philip Ideson discusses his Big Idea of procurement-as-a-service models.

At the Big Ideas Summit 2016, which takes place on 21st April,  we will be asking our speakers and attendees to record their ‘Big Ideas’ live on camera for the whole of our Procurious community to see.

But we also believe that every single procurement and supply chain professional has a unique vantage point in the industries, communities and businesses they work in. You have been submitting your Big Ideas to us, and so far, we think they have been great!

Philip Ideson, Host, The Art of Procurement

Philip believes that procurement-as-a-service delivery models will transform the procurement value proposition. Companies will be able to access procurement talent and technology “on-demand”. This means the cost of accessing procurement expertise becomes a variable cost rather than a fixed cost.  

The result? Organisations of all sizes can now access specialist domain expertise which allows us to pull value levers that over and above cost savings that elevate our role and transform our value proposition. 

Philip elaborates on this big idea further here. You can connect with Philip on the Art of Procurement website, or on Twitter at @aopshow or @pideson.

How to Submit Your Big Idea

We don’t mind if you film your submission on your phone, tablet, laptop or PC. However, to help you out we’ve compiled a list of some of our recommended methods for reaching out.

Once you’ve completed your film, you can reach us by email ([email protected]); on Twitter (@procurious_) or via Google Drive or Dropbox (using [email protected]).

You can find all the information you need on recording and submitting your Big Idea here.

Want to know more about Big Ideas 2016? Then visit www.bigideassummit.com, join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.

Procurement Software – Weighed Down by Unnecessary Ice?

Is the procurement software created to make jobs and lives easier actually doing the opposite? Is it all weighed down with a glut of unnecessary features?

Procurement Software - Unnecessary Ice

Paul Blake leads the technology product marketing team at GEP, a leading global provider of procurement technology solutions.

Have you ever wondered how many power stations are needed to make all the ice that no one uses? Or how about this: what does the internet weigh?

These are the sort of questions that I have found coming to mind on long journeys. I know, it’s sad, isn’t it?

Another one was, what is the quickest way to transfer a really huge amount of data from one place to another?

Answering the Abstract

You’d be forgiven if such questions fall into the category of “things I never think about,” but increasingly the answers to seemingly abstract questions might indicate the kind of thinking we’ll have to do to solve more complex problems that really matter.

The journey that brought our opening question to mind was one homeward bound after a procurement conference, one where I had engaged in a fascinating conversation with some specialists in procuring energy. We all know that one firm’s indirect can be another’s direct category, and energy is a perfect example.

The power appetite of some businesses is simply staggering and the strategising and planning effort that go into managing what, for us, is such a trivial everyday concern is equally impressive.  More on energy in a moment but…

How DO you transfer a vast amount of data in the quickest way possible? The answer may surprise you. FedEx. (Other global courier firms are available.)

100 terabytes of data is a large, but not unimaginable, amount. Given that you can buy a card today for your camera that can store 960GB, then you’re pushing a terabyte (more or less) into something the size of a thumbnail. Stick a hundred of those in a padded envelope and you can have it anywhere within a 25 mile radius within the hour or anywhere on the planet within 24.

A 500-megabit broadband connection would take you the best part of three weeks to send that much data to your neighbour, let alone to your colleagues 7 time zones away.

As the complexity of business information increases and subsequent data volumes explode will we begin to see a hybrid solution to data transfer? SneakerNet 2.0?

Combatting Waste

Equally, as energy becomes more of a limiting factor, businesses may look for novel methods to combine traditional and emerging technologies into a solution that works for a new era. Some years ago I was surprised to find, in my local DIY store, a display of low energy compact fluorescent light bulbs on sale for, if I recall correctly 30p (50¢) each.

As I puzzled at how they could be sold so cheaply, a fellow shopper pointed out that they were branded with the logo of a major utility and his comment was, “which is cheaper, give these away at 30p each or build another power station?”

When you do a bit of scratch mathematics on the back of an envelope, and realise how much energy is spent putting ice in places where it doesn’t need to be (a couple of kilos, for example in every hotel room in the place I’ve just stayed as part of their “turn down” service), then you start to think about a whole host of other seemingly trivial things, which add up to huge profligate waste.

Cocktail umbrellas? Sachets of salt and pepper served with in-flight meals that nobody ever opens but which all get discarded? The printing of the words “allergy advice: contains mustard” on jars of mustard (it’s true).

Makes you think doesn’t it?  All that energy adds up to a vast amount of fuel burned for no really compelling reason whatsoever. In solving one small apparent problem (like the inability to get through a night without some ice nearby), we can create another that is much trickier to solve, and they require us to be creative and develop different, perhaps non-obvious solutions.

Perhaps nobody would immediately think of using a traditional parcel service to move data about, or giving away energy saving devices instead of producing more energy.

The Foibles of Features

When it comes to developing procurement software the obvious path is to develop features and functions. Capabilities if you like.  The tools to let you do stuff.  This is natural for developers, it’s what they do.

What they may actually be doing is attempting to solve small problems that aren’t necessarily real in any significant sense (the operational equivalent of running out of ice while you sleep), and at the same time creating a much bigger, more intractable issue.

In trying to deliver every bell and whistle in order to reach feature parity with a competitor, technologists end up building monstrously complex systems that actually hinder the very process they were intended to facilitate.

But perhaps there is a different approach. How about, instead of developing an ever more elaborate set of features in some kind of arms race, we look at developing processes; processes and the means to shape them to suit a business?

What would that mean in real terms? Perhaps the future of business and procurement software is about making connections between people and groups work better, instead of creating more and more levels of complexity in the tools they use.

Shifting Thinking

My contention is that one way to dramatically improve productivity in the modern work place would be to outlaw email. Heretical, perhaps, and probably impossible to implement. But I bet most of you reading this are both shuddering in horror at the thought and, at the same time, recognising the truth of the situation – that email is the static that swamps our day, the noise that is disrupting the signal, so to speak.

Technology has the capability to drive improvements in business but it has also the capability to tie us down in thrall to evermore complex tasks and activities. When looking to what we might develop next, we should not lose sight of the human aspect that is central to what procurement is all about – establishing and managing relationships across an entire supply chain for mutual benefit.

Whilst not proposing a sudden panacea to cure all ills, this approach might start to move us towards better, more natural productivity, and away from being weighed down by increasing complexities.

But that new idea would require a shift in thinking in the customer too. The process of procurement software selection has for too long been dominated by an almost obsessive compulsion to assess suitability by ticking boxes against features and functions, instead of an examination of how a company’s problems might be solved.

Enlightened procurement pros are starting to “get” this idea. They are looking to their own operations to see what the really big problems are, and getting to grips with how to solve them using procurement software as an enabler, rather than as an end in itself.

Time to Lighten the Load

So how much does the internet weigh? Not the server farms or storage devices, or drives or memory chips involved, but the data itself? It might seem like an utterly meaningless question. Surely an acre-sized data centre weighs the same whether it is full, or as empty as the day it came on-line? Well, apparently not. Data requires energy to exist. And every megabyte of data you add to your cloud corpus, adds just a little more energy.

The world’s most famous equation tells us E=mc2. Therefore, every unit of energy you require to store a unit of data, equates to a corresponding unit of mass. A full data centre really does weigh more than an empty one, but of course only by a tiny, tiny amount.

Correspondingly, every email we receive, and every feature we add to our already complex systems, adds just a little bit more mass, literally. We’ll never notice it, of course, but every time we feel weighed down by an information overload, or stymied by ridiculously complex procurement software, at least we can comfort ourselves in the knowledge that we’re not imagining ALL of it. And one day we might work together to lighten the load.

For more high-energy thinking on procurement software, visit the Smart by GEP website.