Do You Have a Data Foundation?

Last week we asked Where’s the Procurement Management Platform as the future of procurement is a platform that allows Procurement to build up, maintain, and evolve the solution it needs to be successful over time, over time. Such a platform needs to be the foundational data source for Procurement, but not necessarily the data hub that is used to integrate all of the organizational and external data into the core data source (which is either the internal data store or the data store supported as the platforms foundational data source).

While a procurement management platform could be the data foundation, since it’s primary purpose is process based procurement solution integration, it isn’t necessarily … after all, an API / Integration Engine focused on process doesn’t need to support every data source out of the box, nor does it need to make integration with arbitrary data sources easy, and, most importantly, it doesn’t need to support advanced data processing and transformation features, which is key when trying to integrate multiple data sources into a foundation that can be universally processed by the platform and support true end-to-end spend, and risk, analysis.

Like a Procurement Management Platform, which we may see four (4) of by year end, Data Foundation solutions are also quite few and far between. The reason? Most “data” solutions are focused on BI [Business Intelligence], Spend Analysis, or Contract/Document management, etc. and most “data” feeds on risk data, supplier data, catalog data, etc., which means they are built for certain data types and processing operations. This means that they will support a straight-forward integration for any data source with similar data types, or data types with compatible processing operations, but not any others.

When you look across Source-to-Pay and the broader Supply Chain spectrum, there are a lot of different applications that support a lot of different processes that need a lot of different data requirements of different types and formats. You need a modern MDM [Master Data Management] solution that works on web and cloud data, can pull in and process data on the fly, and push it back out enriched as needed. And support any data format and standard, not just flat files or relational tables in text (like old school MDM).

This capability is a lot rarer than you think. Most suites are built on transactions, most supplier networks on relational supplier data record, and contracts on documents and simple, hierarchical, meta-data indexes. But you also need models, meta-models, semi-structured, unstructured, and media support. And that’s just a start. But there are possibilities emerging. Just watch this space.