It is trendy to talk about the need to improve data analytics skills within our procurement organizations. This is a proposition that few would argue with. However, in our experience we see a couple of issues to address. One, it is usually the case that data analysis rests with one or two highly skilled people who have these responsibilities written into their job description. There is nothing wrong with this, but we believe that some basic to intermediate skill level should be acquired by a majority of your employees. Two, data analysis is often focused on spend analytics and pushing standard reports out to internal customers. We encourage this, but also would like to see a heavier focus on using data analytics capabilities to solve operational problems, increase procure-to-pay efficiencies and enhance customer service. The best place to build capacity for greater strategic activity is by reducing the wasted and inefficient effort currently devoted to recurring problems. Having clear goals and objectives to guide your data analytics capabilities is important.
Consider the Harvard Business Review article referenced here (link to article) and ask the following 2 questions:
1. Basic Data Analytics Skills: How many of my employees have intermediate to advanced Microsoft EXCEL and PowerPoint Skills? and
2. Operational Problems: Have we linked our data analysis skills to solve important operational problems?
Acquiring decent Microsoft office data analysis skills, combined with an ability to reduce large data sets to their key salient points and then tell a story that is connected to solving a business issue in a simple way using basic data visualization techniques will enhance the influence and career progression of anyone spending the time to acquire them.