Summer, February 2014

PEP Graduates Tackle Big Data

The Competitive Advantage for Procurement

“90 per cent of the all the world’s data has been produced within the last two years and it continues to grow exponentially from multiple structured and unstructured sources,” says David Langley, Category Planning Manager – Network Plant and Materials, Energex Ltd.    

Although some might dismiss ‘Big Data’ as simply the buzz word du-jour, the convergence, of social media, multimedia and internet traffic, means it is here to stay.  According to David, business leaders, regardless of their function or industry, are grappling with the implications of big data - not only data-oriented managers.  

He goes on:  “Category managers need to get wise to this trend because Procurement, as much if not more than any other function, will be impacted – potentially transformed – by Big Data.”

Graduate of the 2013 Procurement Executive Program (PEP), David is representative of the next generation of commercial leader who are already seeking to identify new areas of competitive advantage. 

As part of his PEP qualification, David and his fellow graduates undertook a syndicate project on a topic of their choice.  Harnessing Futures Thinking skills learned during the executive education program, David and his team used models, problem solving tools and strategic frameworks to anticipate and understand how trends, threats and opportunities associated with Big Data will transform Procurement over the medium to long term.

On Big Data as the next frontier of competitive advantage and innovation, David explains: “Data has always been fundamental to developing a fact-based category strategy. What’s changed is the amount of data now being captured and harvested and the sophistication of the tools used to make sense of it, and most importantly, our ability to act on these trends before our competitors do”. 

Despite this potential, Big Data is sometimes dismissed as being so complex and unwieldy as to be ultimately meaningless. Certainly, the availability of data to Procurement has exploded in breadth and depth, making it impossible to gather, let alone analyse it all.

While acknowledging there are infrastructure, security and IP issues associated with Big Data collection and analysis, David believes the real challenge is in extracting and analysing the right data, at the right time, and using this to draw meaningful insights which can be used to generate tangible and positive actions for the business. 

“Big Data allows businesses to make forward looking predictions with greater accuracy and investigate trends in more granularity,” says David,

“The challenge for Procurement, is to use these data sets as key category indicators:  What to buy, when to buy, who to form long term strategic contracts with, how to manage your supply chain vulnerabilities and more importantly improve your ‘speed to market’.

“Attention spans are short, consumer habits can be fleeting but when a trend takes hold, it can transform the business and Procurement needs to be prepared well in advance to ensure the products and services are available.”

Post-PEP, David is working to apply his Big Data learnings to his categories at Energex, agreeing that the syndicate project has opened his mind to using Big Data to compliment good ‘old fashioned know how’ and years of category experience.   

In terms of the value of his PEP experience, David reflects he gained the most value from being able to go ‘offline’ and meet and share experiences with other Procurement professionals.

“I really enjoyed the challenge of working with people from diverse backgrounds in the development of the syndicate presentation and being asked to deliver research that could hold up to the scrutiny of our peers and members of The Faculty Roundtable”.

Learn more about The 2014 Procurement Executive Program and mingle with graduates and course leaders at PEP Information and Networking Evenings hosted in both Melbourne and Sydney. To register for these free events, click here