Monday 9 June 2014

Apps are Changing the World - Don't let your Commercial Team fall behind

By Henry Shepperd

Back in 2007 Steve Jobs walked on to a stage and proclaimed that Apple was going to reinvent the phone as we know it. As it turns out, it did much more than this. The mobile revolution that Apple began has fundamentally changed the way the majority us go about our day to day lives. Today, many of us use mobile apps to help us improve many aspects of our lives, but one area in particular I found most interesting was the use of mobile apps to improve one’s health and fitness.

There is an abundance of apps marketed towards those seeking weight loss or improved fitness, providing intelligent tools that collect, process and display a wealth of personal data allowing users to manage all aspects of their personal health. Increasingly these are also linked to wearable devices that can track heart rate, blood pressure, steps taken, calories consumed, blood sugar and sleeping patterns. Apart from the incredible amounts of data that these apps can collect, they do a very nice job of presenting users with colourful pie charts and graphs that make it easy and fun to track health or fitness performance.

The availability of such comprehensive health data has led some to question whether our smart phone will soon know more about our health than our Doctors! Rather than replacing Doctors, I believe it’s highly likely that health data collected from a patient’s smart phone will help them build a more complete medical profile, thus enabling them as professionals to diagnose illnesses or identify future health issues at an earlier stage.

If the healthcare industry was able to gather data from apps and wearable devices from much larger groups of individuals, it could help in identifying trends and commonalities among certain populations. It is clear that the presence of such data, combined with intelligent tools to help medical professionals interpret it, could have a profound effect on the future of global healthcare.

Whilst (proudly) wearing my procurement hat, I believe we can learn a lot from the above; what is true for smart phone users or the healthcare industry is true for organisations also. The amount of data we have at our fingertips is growing exponentially and hidden within the data are opportunities and risks. As more of our day to day work, transactions and interactions with suppliers are carried out electronically, we have started to collect large amounts of data about our commercial performance and our suppliers. The challenge organisations often face is that this data is sitting in multiple systems, and without intelligent tools to process and display such data it is of little use.

As a procurement professional or as a business leader, are you making the most of the data that is hidden within your procurement and financial systems? Does your organisation have the tools or apps to get this data and present intelligent reports highlighting trends, risks or opportunities in the supply chain? But most importantly, are you actively looking for ideas to help your organisation increase its earnings per share or meet overall cost reduction targets?

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