December 17, 2014

Exec’s are the root of data evil’s

We are told this is the age of ‘big data’ that has the potential to change the way we operate, provide incredible insights into current behaviour and future trends, and increase the speed and accuracy of decision making. However, for the majority, this is not reality and for many it is not even a pipe dream.

So often as I talk to procurement executives I hear the phrase “if only we could turn our data into insights” (or something similar). That begs the question of where the gap lies, is the data quality poor or is the insight capability poor?

With the tools, processes and technology available today, there is no reason why data cannot be turned into an asset. The business case is clear, self-funding, and often provides a return of many multiples over many years so we cannot lay the blame with data.

I am therefore going to blame the executive class and offer three reasons why they are the root cause. Sounds a little harsh but hear me out.

  1. Exec’s are falling into the trap of being spoon fed information by others.
  2. Subordinates are asked to scrub data and turn information into bite sized chunks.
  3. It is easier to blame data and not engage than take ownership and action to resolve.

We are moving into a new era and this naturally will have organisations that are innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. The likes of IBM’s Watson initiative is an example of innovators seeing new opportunities and finding solutions that are in themselves now offering commercial applications that were previously unimagined.

Within the ranks of execs the same profile will exist. Some will be knee deep in the data and revel in the new insights it offers them. They will be experimenting with tools and leading their teams from the front. Others will be silently hiding their lack of ability or even vocally opposing as a defence mechanism.

As this is the Christmas season, I will share good will to all and close by offering some suggestions to those Exec’s that I have probably offended.

  1. It is never too late to start!
  2. Begin with the end in mind – what are the answers you need in your business, then work back to see if the information exists.
  3. Be crystal clear on the vision before you start on strategy or solutions.
  4. Once you have your vision and business requirements go to IT as an enabling partner but do not abdicate responsibility, data and technology are means to an end not the end in themselves.
  5. Governance and organisation are critical to making people successful. Have explicit lines of accountability and success metrics in place so everyone is aligned on what matters most.

If I could sum this up with an analogy, I would tell any Exec to define what hill they want to capture. If you do not know the objective you cannot formulate a strategy. Once the strategy is agreed, focus on execution to see the task through. Do not get distracted my noise, there will be skirmishes along the way but these are not the goal, stay focused.

Grant Watling is a Principal Consultant and Advisory service line leader at HICX Solutions. HICX Global Consulting has the mission to help clients make the most of their SRM investments in the shortest possible time and specialise in providing advice on all aspects of supplier management.

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by Grant Watling

Chief Customer Officer

Grant has 11 years management consulting experience specialising in supplier data and analytics advisory services. Grant holds a Master’s Degree (MSc) in International Business, is a Prince2 practitioner and holds certificates from the Institute of Financial Services and the Chartered Insurance Institute.
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