The simple act of placing data in front of people changes their behaviour.
For example, as per this recent blog post from Andrew Winston’s Harvard Business Blog, if you put an energy meter inside a home and show people total usage in real time, a miraculous thing happens: they use about 10% less energy. This is because data makes people smarter and inspires them to make small changes to save money.
So get yourself a real data analysis solution. And by this, I don’t mean a “spend visibility” system that gives you a high-level spend report once a day that isn’t useful to anyone. Nor do I mean a “spend analysis” system that doesn’t allow you to drill down and re-dimensionalize your data on the fly to find out not only which departments are spending more money on telecommunications or energy than they should, but why. Knowing that marketing is driving up your phone bill is useless if you can’t find out it’s because they never switched to your new long distance carrier. Knowing that a particular manufacturing plant has a 30% higher than average energy bill isn’t very useful if you can’t pinpoint when they are using the energy and who they are buying the energy from at that time. Maybe they are buying too much energy from the back-up supplier at a higher rate, maybe one of their machines is drawing too much power, or maybe they are just inefficient. You’ll never know if you can’t drill into the data and provide the plant manager with the information he needs to track down the reason.
You need a solution that lets you do analysis … anything else is just flash without substance. And, as David Bush astutely notes in this dead reckoning post over on e-Sourcing Forum, unless you’re shopping for lemons, beware the Purchasing Magazine list. At least half of the “solutions” on this list are not spend analysis solutions as far as the doctor is concerned.