I believe the most important tool available to the procurement professional, since the introduction of e-procurement software, is the new wave of business information and data visualisation now available.
Most procurement professionals are used to working with raw data, it is one of the reasons we make sound factual decisions. Some of the difficulties we face with this include extracting data from various sources such as ERP or accounting software, databases, personal Excel files and so on. There are then problems in presenting this data in a meaningful way to stakeholders so it is easy to understand and to see where the data has come from.
Data visualisation tools answer both of these problems. I know from experience the difference having a good data visualisation package has made to getting key stakeholders to understand what is happening with the company’s spend – highlighting key facts in a simplistic and aesthetically pleasing way. I was really surprised at the change of reception I received from stakeholders looking at my original basic excel graphs and charts to the interactive dashboards that I had now set up. It was the same data just in a much more user friendly, interactive and visually stimulating format, but you would have thought this was completely new information I was providing! (It was also only taking me minutes rather than several hours to update well).
This is a great way for procurement to market what it is achieving throughout the business. An interactive dashboard with drill-downs available on the intranet highlighting procurement’s actual results, compared to its forecast on KPIs, will really help build the department’s brand. It not only highlights the benefits we are producing for the company but also shows we are leading the way with new technology.
Five top tips for a procurement dashboard:
- The dashboard should be kept to a single page, keep it simple
- Highlight results from your departments KPIs. Remember it is “key” performance indicators, so quality is better than quantity
- Include both financial and non-financial reporting. Non-financial may include stakeholder feedback on the procurement service
- Data should be validated to ensure it is correct. Remember, rubbish in equals rubbish out
- Allow certain stakeholders to drill down to see where data comes from, for example finance directors or internal audit teams may need to validate your data.
☛ James Williams is a partner at Optimus Business Solutions