Posted by  Charles Clark  Published on  19 Jun 2014
  • Spend Analytics

For too long, data was seen as something not to be trusted, and the old adage of “lies, damned lies and statistics” rang all too true, but, slowly but surely, we’re seeing an evolution in the mindset of organizations – focusing more on the “why” than the “what” and understanding the value data analytics can bring.

Without a doubt leaders are coming round to it and are beginning to challenge and reframe the way they use data and information. This grassroots movement is going to accelerate.

Procurement and Finance Innovation

Procurement and finance are great examples of this mindset change – just last week I was invited to attend an exceptional workshop hosted by Optimum Procurement. The topic was “Predictive Procurement,” and the week before I spoke at the CFO Day in Holland where the topic was “Unlock the Power of Technology”.

Spend data is a perfect example of how analytics and mindsets are changing – by itself it provides a good view of past expenditures. However, if you start linking this to multiple other data sources, thereby establishing different and interesting relationships, the more powerful your data becomes and opportunities abound. By adding sources such as credit ratings and include geospatial analysis and news, it becomes more contextualised, relevant, and useful.

But it is also important to break down the barriers of who uses spend data, and look at its value more broadly, not limiting it solely to procurement.

Beyond Procurement

For the most part, spend data has been used to reduce costs, but it has vast potential in so many others areas, and this is critical to take into account: Think about how much of that data is about how the enterprise behaves, and interacts. The opportunities with spend data lie in far more than just procurement, but we’ve found that most organizations don’t tend to appreciate this.

Spend data has got massive value and is just one data set that should be thought of as the oil to run your organization: You can use it in almost every single division of the firm for not just cost savings, but operational efficiency, reporting, financial control, risk management and product development to name a few. So, for organizations to make the most of spend data, it has to be more widely available and consumable.

The challenge is, that in many enterprises, there tend to be the haves, the have nots and the uber-analytical, and these disparate personas just won’t work effectively with the needs of today’s business. There can no longer be a disconnect between these personalities or data – the more that information can (and is) shared with colleagues, the more valuable it becomes, and the more value that is added to the organization as a whole. True business leaders are those who view data as an accelerant for performance, and put it at the heart of everything.

Complexity is an Opportunity

We’re conscious of the huge challenges our clients have with their spend data and beyond. These are not trivial, and are largely ignored by the hype and buzzwords that have gripped the industry. Vendors are doing all of your data a disservice by representing this challenge as easy to overcome – its not. But the fact that it is complex, is where the opportunity and interest lies. Not understanding, and embracing this complexity means that organizations are held back by multiple half-finished analytic projects, poor data and half-formed ideas.

Data is becoming our fourth factor of production and may well be to the 21st Century what the combustion engine was to the 20th.

Linking and connecting all types of data is huge, and the technologies are now here to enable clients to successfully address the issues that stand between them and becoming more analytical. Data is filling every aspect of our business lives and it's not just about the number of places where data comes, it's about connecting it together.

And when you connect data together, you get power in a way that doesn't happen elsewhere.