Procserve on big data and spend analytics – but what will REALLY help the CPO?

The potential power of big data and of spend analytics in our procurement world has become something of a cliché, and also perhaps a topic that is more discussed than actually delivered. I’ve starting asking anyone who starts blathering on about the topic this question - “so what is big data going to give a CPO that (s)he doesn’t have, or could have, today”? Often the answer isn’t very convincing or exciting.

One company however that is doing more than most to really think about what data might do for us is Procserve. I’ve facilitated a couple of roundtables for the firm this year, which is enjoyable for me because I do more listening than talking, and I genuinely learn something - not just from the firm but also via their delegates, a mix of public and private sector senior procurement folk, plus some of their partners on the solutions side.

(They have also produced a neat World Cup info-graphic!  Have a look here - very good. Did you know "enough paint has been bought through the Procseve network to paint the lines on every one of the 54,000 football pitches in the UK"? )

Back to business - Procserve’s core business is their supplier marketplace and network. Whilst it is not yet at Ariba or Coupa level, they’ve now had £2 billion spend going through it, and are quietly innovating – the latest step being an integrated link with Fieldglass technology, to support the UK government’s contingent labour contract, operated by Capita. More private sector clients are coming on board now, with a couple of large blue-chip firms represented at the recent event, but the UK public sector is still very much their heartland.

At the recent session, Procserve also presented their progress on developing analytics ‘dashboards’ that will enable users to look at their spend through the platform in different ways. They also used the roundtable to ask clients what they wanted from the data – and whether users wanted to be able to shape the analysis themselves, or take off the shelf type reports. The answer generally was “we’re not sure what we want until we want it, or even till we see it”, which maybe isn’t too helpful as a steer!

But more usefully, the consensus seemed to be that users do want the ability to flex the analysis and define their own reports, but also want the ‘basic’ set of reports and dashboard as standard, all presented in an easy to use and straightforward manner.

There was also an interesting debate around using benchmarking data derived for the platform and driving comparisons between user organisations – that might include pricing but could include other metrics too, such as contractual compliance, use of SMEs, etc. There’s definitely potential there, but in the first place, such analysis is likely to be used within closed communities. So we might see different Police forces able to compare spend and price data with each other – but keeping it within that family.

Procserve also now have a LinkedIn group here which they’ve titled “The Great Procurement Debate”. Some of those key issues around data, benchmarking and related topics are covered there in more depth and Procserve are hoping to get some debate going around these issues.

Another highlight of the roundtable was a presentation from Martin Kochman, a partner at PA Consulting. We’ll return to that in a further article, but going back to where we started here, let’s just say he did come up with something I’ve never considered in terms of what big data and analytics might do for the CPO.

So tune in to part 2 next week to find out what that was ...

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