Business Intelligence in procurement – Iasta workshop at eWorld

At the recent eWorld conference, software firm Iasta led an interesting workshop, titled “Removing the barriers to business intelligence in procurement.”

The session started by looking at some of the reasons business intelligence projects regularly fail. One rather fundamental point put forward is a lack of understanding of the whole concept. Organisations aren't clear what they mean by business intelligence and they don't contextualise the programme – there is a lack of understanding around why they are looking at data and what they are going to do with it.

Then we have financial resource issues. Business intelligence projects are too often seen as low priority and procurement is not good at making the business case for the necessary investment.  Then we have the problem that data is often not up-to-date enough. To be valuable it needs to be real time, it is simply not good enough if it is months or even a year out of date.

Data quality is yet another big issue. One delegate spoke about the experience of acquiring other companies and finding that everyone had a different system with no consistency around (for instance) spend classification. There can be many different finance codes used, no consistency of classifying small or minority owned suppliers,  and the driver for data is often finance not procurement, so systems are not designed around our needs.

“The organic nature of business gets in the way” as someone put it. We need therefore the skills and technology to turn data into information and as Constantine Limberakis from Iasta said, “what is the point of looking at big data, if we can't get basic transactional data and compliance in place”?

Being more positive, technology is improving all the time. Systems will pick up Twitter feeds for instance, taking unstructured data and turning it into structured information,  helping us identify supplier developments or issues, and identify entrepreneurial opportunities. Self service will be key, giving users (both within and outside the procurement function) access to procurement and supply related reports.  And those reports will be tailored for different purposes and spend categories.

The CPO / procurement director will have an overall dashboard, looking across the whole enterprise, but with the capability to dig down quickly into more detailed information about spend, suppliers, and transactions.

Given their leadership of the session, you won’t be surprised to learn that Iasta asked see themselves as a major technology player in terms of providing this sort of platform, and indeed they are already well advanced in terms of their ‘dashboard’ concept, already used by clients.  And the final comment from the workshop is one we certainly agree with. This sort of business intelligence development is going to be an area where we see a real divergence between the leaders in procurement,  who will ‘get it’, and others for whom this may just go into the ‘too difficult’ bucket!



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