Written by: Mike Edmunds

Posted on: 02/07/24

Turning Supplier Data into Meaningful Insights

Maybe you’re collecting lots of supplier data, but you’re not quite sure what to do with it once you have it. Perhaps you have the best idea of strategy ever, but your database is full of holes and takes forever to update. Possibly you have the strategy and the data, but you struggle to communicate your success to higher-ups who lack context.

“The benefits of data governance are enticing and evident. However, many organizations still struggle to implement it due to various factors, such as the lack of a one-size-fits-all approach, organizational complexity, resistance to change, and insufficient resources allocated to this.” – ‘Data Governance: Your Key To Unlocking An Insights-Driven Business’, Jayesh Chaurasia, Feb 5th 2024, Why Data Governance Is Key To An Insights-Driven Business (forrester.com)

Here are all the aspects of data-driven insights collated in one place, to give you the absolute best chance of overall success.

Outlining a Clear Strategy

You need a clear, concise strategy to be able to glean the insights you want and need from your data. If your strategy can’t be summed up in a few sentences or less, you need to shave it down to a simplified version.

Your strategy should be defined by what you are trying to achieve. Are there any specific policies which could use tightening up, or a target which is a particular priority? These measurable, definable goals should drive the strategy to which your processes are beholden.

For example, if you’re trying to improve your sustainability rating overall as a business, drill down your strategy until it becomes obvious – you want to reduce your carbon emissions, therefore you need to identify where your emissions currently sit, what is the biggest cause of them, and then devise a reduction plan.

This might involve stricter policies around your supplier’s carbon emissions, as these directly impact your own.

Collecting the Data

So, you understand your strategy – you have defined, concise goals, and you have a plan to tackle them. Now what?

Now you need the supporting data, and lots of it!

Following the carbon example, a good starting point for data collection would be to find out existing suppliers’ carbon emission levels and mandate that new suppliers be able to prove a certain level of carbon emissions at tender.

You can be as particular as you like, operating with the understanding that the data you have can be managed further down the process as well, and that the more data you collect, the better the understanding you will have of your suppliers.

With the help of certifications and accreditations you can be assured of your data’s accuracy, and there are solutions out there which can help to collect this information, so it doesn’t become unmanageable.

The challenges often faced here are to do with keeping data up to date on an ongoing basis, as well as being able to trust the data is accurate. Integrating with trusted external data sources and automating updates can ease the burden of responsibility.

Visualising and Analysing Data

The next two are connected. You have your data collected now – as much or as little as you’d like. You can now do a deep dive into the analytics and see what patterns you can find which might offer insights into your carbon emission levels, or you might find it easier to present the data in a visually interesting way first. It depends on the individual, and how they are best able to work.

In any case, the ability to present data in a visually interesting way is useful when it comes to ensuring that your findings and insight can be easily presented to stakeholders who have not been directly involved in the process yet.

Bringing data from multiple sources into one system allows you to be able to compare easily, identify patterns or trends or issues and risks, and ultimately have greater visibility over your process.

The Competitive Edge

The points I’ve detailed here are just a framework for turning supplier data into meaningful insights. By using this as a guide and customising your own strategy to suit, you’re all but guaranteed to see more from your supplier data and feel more in control.

To give your approach a boost, however, you might consider supplementing it with the help of one of the aforementioned solutions. There are many to choose from with a whole suite of offerings to suit, but really you want one which places a large focus on automation.

As much as you can, automate. You’ll save time, but also see more accurate data, which leads to more frequent and accurate insights and findings on which to base strategies and policies.

It’s the future, and the only way to really secure your success for the long-term. Automation and other smart technologies have become a new baseline, dare I say a new basic?

So, start with the ‘basics’, and enjoy a supplier data governance strategy that works.