The ‘Wide Open’ Spaces — and Possibilities — of Data and Analytics

By Dan Zeiger

A zettabyte is 1 trillion gigabytes, also expressed as 1021, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes of storage capacity. Whether the zettabyte era is defined as starting in 2012 (when the amount of digital data in the world reached that level) or 2016 (when the level of global internet traffic did), businesses are well into it.

And the bytes and zeroes continue to compile: “As more technology is implemented, it generates more data at an exponential rate,” says Jim Fleming, CPSM, CPSD, Program Manager, Certification at Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®). “That means you have to analyze that much more of it. So, it’s become a snowball effect.”

It’s an overwhelming amount of digital data, and many companies are still learning just to harness and understand it, let alone use it to guide decision-making. However, the value of data and analytics — from mitigating disruptions to measuring demand — has long been evident for supply management organizations.

Leveraging this information has become a procurement prerequisite and a skill that ISM’s new Data and Analytics Committee aims to help practitioners develop, Fleming says.

“The goal is to develop ways to help companies manage data volumes,” says Fleming, a member of the committee. “When we talk about big data, it can be overwhelming, and some are not sure how to extract and use it. So, we’re trying to build a maturity model, an assessment process and tools to teach people how to manage data.” Marco Romano, PMP, PMI-ACP, procurement data and analytics Officer at IBM, is Chair of the Data and Analytics Committee.

The criticality of data-driven decisions has been driven home by a madcap three years for supply management organizations, starting with the global trade war, the growing threats of climate- and geopolitical-related disruptions and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The data and analytics discipline is evolving from a core procurement function to a core business function, states Gartner, the Stamford, Connecticut-based global business research and advisory firm in its Top 10 Trends in Data and Analytics for 2021 report.

“The speed at which the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted organizations has forced (data and analytics) leaders to have tools and processes in place to identify key technology trends and prioritize those with the biggest potential impact on their competitive advantage,” Rita Sallam, Gartner distinguished research vice president, said in a press release.

Procurement metrics have been a monthly topic in this space since 2017. While Fleming says they could be discussed by the committee at some point, metrics are more about setting a target. Measuring progress means making sense of the rows of information in a database.

The ISM Data and Analytics Committee has “built good momentum,” Fleming says, in its meetings to date. And as gleaning and leveraging such information becomes more of a core business function, the possibilities could be as limitless as data itself.

“Right now, it’s wide open,” Fleming says. “Sometimes, it seems everyone has a different interpretation of data and analytics, as well as a different view of how to measure performance. So, we’re trying to help the conversation and raise the focus, so organizations can say, ‘This is where we are, and this is where we want to go. Here’s how we can get there.’ ”

About the Author

Dan Zeiger

About the Author

Dan Zeiger is Senior Copy Editor/Writer for Inside Supply Management® magazine, covering topics, trends and issues relating to supply chain management.