Daily Archives: September 29, 2023

There are NO Perils of Big Data in Procurement!

First of all, no organization has enough data, and those that come close don’t have big data.

Secondly, the more data you have, the better.

Third, if you think you have too much data, you’re not getting it!

So where’s this rant coming from? The rant-inducing headline du jour. The CIO Review recently published an article on The Perils of Big Data in Procurement which is complete non-sense, as there are no perils to having more data (because there’s never enough), unless it’s bad data (but the assumption in the article was that all the data was correct), just perils in terms of how that data is presented and accessed.

The perils in terms of how that data is presented and accessed can be significant, but that’s not due to having big data, that is due to poor system design — and that’s a different issue!

According to the article, buyers and procurement managers … have available a huge and unprecedented amount of data … [and] start to measure everything in order to manage it and that with this approach, several data lakes are created, feeding various dashboards, scorecards, reports, and metrics as procurement professionals try to understand spend analysis, price trends, market fluctuations, volume, cost savings, negotiation performance, and other essential factors. And this is true.

It goes on to say it is very easy for a person to be lost in the sea of numbers and details and miss the big picture entirely because you don’t know what is the crucial data that would give you critical insights. And if that wasn’t enough, it goes on to say it is the same as someone that enters the hospital with a broken leg but has everything else checked. WTF?

This is so dumb it makes you angry!

  1. If a person gets lost in the sea of details and numbers it’s because they don’t know what they should be looking for and how they should be looking for it, not because there’s too much data.
  2. If they don’t know what is crucial, it’s because they don’t know enough about the project they are doing to identify what’s critical and what’s not.
  3. What health practitioner is going to be so stupid as to not see a broken leg on a triage? Come on now! And what Procurement practitioner would check all but one dashboard randomly and then not check the last remaining dashboard? (And that’s what the article is implying with its ridiculous statement.)

In other words, the headline, and claim, is bullcr@p. Don’t blame a mountain of data for a lack of capability in your people, poor vendor technology choices (that bury you in useless dashboards), and your unwillingness to train your talent in modern technology and best practices so they can do their job properly.

And while the author is completely right in that you need to

  • understand what matters
  • start with a top-down view
  • have people who are good at interpreting the data

It still misses the point in that you need to, for any application you buy and any project you wish to undertake

  • define what’s relevant up front
  • find a solution that is configured/configurable to show that up front
  • make sure the data is easy to interpret, is accompanied with written guidance, and that your talent is trained on how to properly interpret the data and
  • if the goal is opportunity finding, the solution needs to identify and present the top opportunities across all of the analysis done, with deep supporting dashboards buried under the high level summary dashboard

More data is always better, especially if you want to use machine learning. In other words, it’s not the data, it’s the application, or the people, so don’t blame the data for your organization’s shortcomings.