Wednesday 21 May 2014

It’s Not All About the Stats – Learn to Love Your Analysts

By Andrew Heywood

Statistics and reports are great for showing that you’re managing spend: True or False?

Churning out the same report month after month is all very well, but only if you’re actually doing something with what you’re seeing and those reports are actually monitoring the key risks and categories in your business. Figures for the sake of figures can be futile. Be honest, when did your management stats last change? And how often do you create them?

Finding insights in data when you’re running a procurement organisation probably isn’t going to feature that high on your agenda amongst everything else you have to monitor. However, if the insights are easy to obtain and interpret, they could and arguably should form an important part of your management toolset.

So who’s going to do them for you? Well, the same person who does all the procurement stats...correct?

Some key points to realise when you’re dealing with analysts:
  1. They can’t make up what isn’t there in the data. If it’s not there, challenge those who are responsible for its input.
  2. Garbage in / Garbage out is everyone’s responsibility, but least of all your spend analyst's.
  3. It’s a time consuming job if you don’t have the right tools. Give your team what they need.
  4. They need your support to investigate anomalies and provide real insight on which you can act.
  5. Producing the same report over and over which is then not used for anything is pretty dispiriting. So if you don’t need it or use then there’s no point in asking for it.
One key thing that I’m continually amazed about is that the people who complain about the data quality are often the same people who approve the purchase orders in the first place. What is input on a purchase order will directly influence the quality of the data that you and your analysts have to work with. So whilst it may be a pain to split that purchase order into the component parts when you have a deadline to work to, it does at least give the analysts a fighting chance to give you something better to work with.

So what should you look for in your reports?
  • A report that enables you to challenge and ask questions – think compliance reporting.
  • A rota of category reports – perhaps one or two per month where you examine a category in depth.
  • That anomalies or points of interest are highlighted by your analysts.
Whilst I may not receive any praise from the analysts who are given these reports to produce, I hope it might mean that spend analysts get a greater share of the recognition for the contribution that they make to Procurement.

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