Author: Adam Stennett
Are your procurement dashboards a little lacklustre? Follow these steps to build dashboards that punch above their weight & powerfully communicate your strategy’s value.
Dashboards are an important tool for selling your ideas and communicating the value your procurement strategy (and team) provides.
Obviously, anything tasked with such an important role should be good. Really good.
Now before I lose you, let me clarify. I’m not saying your procurement dashboards should be Mona Lisa good. There was only one Da Vinci, after all. However, what I am asking is that you present something that’s a strong-A-minus-in-senior-Art-class good.
Unfortunately, procurement dashboards like I’ve just described aren’t as common as they should be. All too often, dashboards are lacklustre, to say the least. They’re not even D-plus-in-seventh-grade good.
You’ve probably seen it before. The procurement dashboard stuffed with 60 pages worth of content – the dashboard that was meant to communicate everything, yet ended up communicating nothing.
Dashboards like this are all too common. And that’s a huge problem. Because if your procurement dashboard sucks, what’s to stop people thinking your procurement strategy sucks too?
With that in mind, today I’m going to share three key steps you can take to build a procurement dashboard that really performs – one that sells your ideas and communicates the great value you’re offering. These aren’t just ideas I thought of in the shower one day, either. They’re the steps I work through with the procurement teams I consult with.
So, let’s get started!
Understand the business (better than the back of your hand)
I know I’ve harped on about this before, but I can’t emphasise it enough. Your procurement strategy MUST take a broader view of your organisation – a view that goes beyond the buying process.
To do this, you need to understand your business or organisation intimately. Most importantly, you need to know what success “looks” like for your organisation.
Procurement is only truly effective when it’s focused on adding value to the business in ways that matter most (not just money!). Only then does procurement move from a business inhibitor to a business enabler and promoter.
I’ve described how to identify what matters most to your business or organisation previously, so I won’t repeat myself now (if you missed it, check out this post).
Armed with a knowledge of what success “looks” like to your business, the next step is to define what the key metrics of your version of success are. Then you can work back to identify how procurement supports them, or how it could support them.
To do this, it’s often worthwhile breaking down your organisation’s performance into its key three to five domains.
For a mining company, this may mean breaking down your supply chain against each mine, then breaking it down again into each stage of the process. For a not-for-profit or a government agency, this may mean breaking your organisation down into its core purposes or functions.
Gather data in relation to your newly identified success metrics around each of these domains. Build a picture around each one that explains trends and causation. Then identify any opportunities or areas where specific actions should be taken that will help your business achieve success – whatever that may “look” like for you.
The places you identify in this step are the places you should be adding value or fixing problems. And once you have a clear idea of what they are and how they support your organisation to succeed, you’ll be better equipped to communicate them in general – including via your procurement dashboard.
Swap the crayons for oil paint (or at least watercolour pencils)
I’ve seen many procurement strategies fail because all the money was spent on amazing, in-depth analysis, but virtually no time or money was spent on presenting the words and numbers to communicate these ground-breaking findings.
Usually, the way things look on your procurement dashboard is a complete afterthought – if it can even be described as a sentient thought at all.
And that’s a huge mistake.
Remember the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”?
Well, the saying-gods were wrong. Generally speaking, a picture’s actually worth a whole lot more.
A well-used picture, a carefully-chosen graph, or a particularly pertinent article will often be worth far more than hundreds of pages of (possibly ground-breaking but ultimately dry) analysis.
Why on earth wouldn’t you leverage that kind of efficiency and power?
Well-placed, well-designed dashboards and visualisations allow you to communicate complex information simply. In turn, this means you can focus attention on the key trends and data that back up your message, and eliminate all the other noise.
To get this bit right, you need someone who has more of a design-centric mind.
One mistake I often see is procurement dashboards that were created by operationally-minded people. These dashboards are like the ones I described before. The person assembling the dashboard has tried to put everything on there, complete with bad images (or none at all) and 60 pages worth of content. The result: a near incomprehensible message that loses even the most invested of your audience members.
If you want your procurement dashboard to succeed visually (and therefore succeed in general), keep in mind that everything needs to be carefully chosen for maximum communication efficacy and impact. That’s everything from the colour palette and icons to the volume of written information.
We all know that when it comes to engaging with senior executives, you have less than twenty minutes to sell an idea. And most of their pre-judgements about your idea will be based on the first 10-20 seconds of your presentation. Yep – you guessed it. That means they’re based on your procurement dashboard.
So for heaven’s sake – let someone who has both a talent for design and an understanding of its effects take responsibility for your dashboard’s visual appearance.
That said, remember: while the output is visual, the inputs are still a combination of strong business and commercial analysis. So be sure to get that stuff right!
Talk to an outsider (who knows what they’re talking about)
Sir William Osler once observed “a physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient”.
Sometimes, one of the most valuable things you can do is get an independent person from outside your organisation to look over the data and trends you’ve identified and help you put the “picture” together.
Expert consultants (like us at Stennett Consulting) have entire teams dedicated to both strategic analysis and presenting the results of that analysis in a clear and compelling way.
WARNING – this bit is a total plug.
If you’d like to see how your organisation can leverage dashboards to provide a more strategic view of what’s going on in your organisation and powerfully communicate the value your procurement team brings, give Stennett Consulting a call.
Whatever your organisation’s needs and preferences may be, we have a solution to match.
We can work with your procurement team to build internal dashboards in your organisation or we can build wholly external dashboards, complete with an external procurement analysis to give you the benefits of independent insight and analysis plus additional team capacity (without worrying about the costs of an internal data analysis team).
Now you know the process for creating powerful procurement dashboards that help rather than hinder. And I want to hear what you think about it. Whether you love what you’ve read or hate it, please drop me a line. You can send me an email.
Like what you’ve read?
This is an excerpt from my new e-book, Beyond category management – new thinking in procurement teams, which is available here.
Like I said at the beginning, whether you love what you’ve read or hate it, please drop me a line here (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thanks for reading!
Have you heard about PASA CPO Summit in March? ‘Future Proofing You’ will be held on 13 & 14th March 2018 in Sydney.