Conducting a Data Collection Process for a Global Spend Analysis (“Einmal um die Welt”)

Spend Matters welcomes another guest post from Brendan Carney of The Hackett Group.

Or, "once around the world."

Much like any global initiative a corporation will undertake, a global spend analysis presents a host of challenges requiring considerably more diligence, coordination, and communication than a normal domestically-focused procurement initiative. What makes a global spend analysis uniquely difficult, however, is the process of collecting, tracking, and synthesizing an immense amount of data from numerous locations around the world—and across multiple languages, time zones, and data sources. The purpose of this article is to highlight some of the key processes and steps that will help your organization be success in this endeavor.

1. Training

Before any data collection can proceed, a well-organized training presentation for data collectors around the globe must be delivered in a clear, easily understood common language. Ideally, this is English, which is today's "lingua franca" for international business. Coordinating across multiple time zones and in a language that is invariably not local can derail even the most aptly organized project plans. To help overcome this hurdle, the following is recommended:

  • Ensure the language in the presentation is simple and easily translatable.
  • Conduct multiple training sessions to accommodate multiple time zones.
  • Record presentations and make them easily accessible for future reference if the need arises.
  • Develop a taxonomy of spend categorization, which can give data collectors tangible examples of what kind of spend they are actually capturing.
  • Advise data collectors to provide keys (GL code mappings, translations if necessary) for their unique data systems, as well as how to accurately link data sets to one another (i.e., PO data to AP data through a common PO number or identifier).
  • Provide essential field headers that are absolutely necessary for the analysis portion of the project (i.e., Vendor name, GL name, PO text detail, etc.)
  • Most importantly, make sure someone who is intimate with the data systems (AP, PO, and P-card) is present, and understands the accurate scope of the data collection process and how to conduct the data extraction. This is usually an AP clerk or purchasing professional.

2. Collecting

Collection of data may seem simple enough, but making this as seamless as possible for the numerous sources around the world is vital. First, a single destination must be identified for all data submissions. Most commonly, this should be a secure group email address that can be diligently monitored by multiple team members able to assist data collectors in any questions or problems that may arise. This can help ensure confidentiality of the data while also providing ongoing follow-up support to guarantee the data is comprehensive and accurate. Because some data sets can be quite large, a secure file transfer facility should be established and made available only upon request. By funneling all communication through a single address, data collectors do not have the confusion of having to decide how best to submit their files. Once gathered, all files should be saved in a confidential, hosted location in their "raw" format under a clear file hierarchy by region. This not only saves the files from being lost, requiring re-submission and invariably delays, but is also essential for tracking what may be hundreds of different files.

3. Tracking

The goal of data tracking is to make sure all regions have submitted complete and comprehensive data. Because this usually involves hundreds of data files coming from business units in disparate countries and regions, it is recommended that a single resource is dedicated entirely to this process to diligently monitor, record, and follow up on data submissions. The best way to record this information is through a Master Data Tracker, which one can easily leverage to both ensure submissions are complete and cover all types of data (AP, PO, and P-card), while also providing insight as to who has not yet submitted data. This information is necessary to provide interim updates to management, who can reach out directly to local data submitters and resolve any submission issues.

4. Synthesizing

Before a thorough analysis of the spend data can begin, there must be a synthesis of all the separate data sets. This is a two-step process. First, separate data sets from one location must amalgamated into one file. This involves linking PO spend detail to specific AP line items. This is best done through common PO identifiers and GL codes, which are present in all data sets. Each location should have submitted GL mappings or PO codes so this process can be done accurately. Next, once each location's data has been synthesized into their separate and respective single files, all the files can be combined to provide a cohesive and comprehensive view of the organization's spend detail. To do this, each file must be harmonized into a common template that incorporates as many common field headers as possible, so as to provide an "apples to apples" comparison of spend from multiple regions and countries.

The processes delineated above can help your procurement organization complete a global spend analysis efficiently "once around the world," and ensure comprehensive data integrity for a strategic and accurate identification of sourcing and savings opportunities.

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