5 Tips for Using Data in Procurement

This is the century of data and every purchasing professional should be a data person to some degree. How you use data can enhance your career?

Here are five top tips to improve how you use data.

1. Source – Most organisations have spend data to analyse. Think about other sources of data – 80 per cent of stored data is estimated to be unstructured. Text analytics can give insight into supplier information on social media. Visualising social media data related to a supplier can give timely insights. Note that different parts of the world favour different social media sites, so make sure the countries where your suppliers operate are covered.

The timeliness of your source is also an important consideration. Real time data will allow you to monitor strategy implementations and allow the tweaking of plans to increase success. For example, monitoring maverick spend on a new contract means it can be quickly identified and reduced.

2. Focus – Don’t try and cover too much information in one presentation. Be concise and only include relevant information. Avoid unnecessary ‘chart junk’, the most important parts should demand the most attention. Data experts try and keep the data to ink ratio high. That way your message will be clearer and it will be more likely that your audience will remember it.

3. Story telling – People love and remember stories so include one around your data to make it captivating. You can use a narrative based around time or geography. Add human interest as this engages your audience emotionally.

For example, if you are presenting data on the success of a supplier relationship management programme, you can narrate you presentation around how the programme has developed over time and include anecdotes from individual stakeholders that highlight an aspect of the programme.

Don’t forget that the title can be used to tell the story. For example: ‘Supplier Relationship Management Data vs Improving Supplier Relationships’. The latter will instantly tell the audience what to expect.

4. Visualisation – People are programmed to understand patterns, so graphs are more instantly understandable than numbers. Use appropriate colours. You want colour to emphasise your message not detract from it. Layout the data out with the audience in mind and chose a chart that tell the story you want to tell.

Good design improves user engagement. My key bugbear is pie charts. While they look pretty, people find it hard to compare areas. Length is easy to compare so in general, bar charts are more useful than pie charts for comparisons.

5. Analysis – Use trend analysis to show patterns and to predict or forecast the future. Those that know the data will ask the best questions and be best placed to analyse it, rather than using a specialist analyst.

Access to self-service analysis tools makes this possible. Use this analysis to show your knowledge of the situation and form conclusions that will inform decision making in your organisation.

So get out there and enhance you career and improve procurement by using data effectively.

Juliet Frost is the P2P Business Analyst at the University of Oxford and a procurement and big data expert.