A couple of years ago, I was in Italy and had the chance to trudge up the still-active Mount Vesuvius and walk through the ancient city of Pompeii which, along with its neighbor Herculaneum, had been buried in ash by Vesuvius’s volcanic eruption in 79 A.D. Thanks to technology, we’re still learning about that ancient land two millennia later.
In the 18th century, a library of 2,000 scrolls was unearthed, 600 remain unopened and too fragile to unroll. Today, enter science. Technology that produces X-rays 100 billion times brighter than those used in hospitals is being used to decipher the papyrus scrolls without damaging them. In a bonus discovery, the technology has shown that the ink was mixed with lead, something science didn’t believe happened for another four centuries.
Just think about how remarkable that is! Scientists have the ability to read the text in an ancient document without opening or damaging it. To those of us in supply chain, equally exciting are the seemingly exponential advances in data mining and analysis—yes, Big Data—that will give businesses the means to extract sense and meaning from chaotic masses of information without having to invest many weeks and months in preparing and gently teasing apart the various layers.
Technology, of course, is making a huge difference in procurement practices and driving value from hard-to-read data will become commonplace. Steve Jobs said that “computers themselves, and software yet to be developed, will revolutionize the way we learn.”
What are we learning? What will we learn in the future?
The emphasis today is on visibility. Identifying patterns and trends in past activity to find better ways of delivering value today is the core of Procurement’s data analytics activities. But tomorrow we will be in the realms of predictive analysis……
Yesterday, there were spreadsheets with the great risk of a misplaced decimal wreaking havoc on the bottom line. Not only did revenue suffer, but the deficiencies created in sourcing and procurement operations affected product creation, on-time deliveries and more.
Today we have procurement software that has eliminated the spread-sheet way of doing things, as well as greatly improved upon earlier generations of software. Data, workflows, analytics, reporting—the full breadth of sourcing and procurement—all provide efficient operations and huge cost savings.
Tomorrow: Well, analysts say the inevitable next move—and it’s already happening here—is going to be away from the desk to mobile devices. We’re ready to deliver a supply management platform aimed at the tech-savvy, mobile generation entering the workforce. They expect it and, once they acquire industry knowledge to go along with their tech know-how, they’ll be very, very good at it.
Where else is technology taking procurement? Stick around. It’s going to be an interesting—and fast-paced—ride.