Don’t Blame the Messenger (or The Category Manager!)

Posted on January 12, 2023


I haven’t had the opportunity to listen to Kelly Barner’s podcast yet, but the first, middle and last thoughts come down to three words (ignore the “and”) – Data and Actionable Knowledge.

I read several interesting articles recently on the JAGGAER blog regarding category management and technology and the analytical skills required by category managers to extract actionable knowledge. Reading these posts, in addition to my own research and experience, I conclude the following:

  1. Unlike years past in which extracting procurement data from an ERP platform was a laborious task which delivered nominal value because the information’s value was usually long past its shelf life, today’s technology is amazing. With multiple real-time data capture points you can easily access, I am convinced that the problem isn’t with the technology.
  • Has procurement continues to evolve beyond its traditional role of buying goods and services for the lowest cost to one of strategic importance, the skills of procurement professionals are also evolving. In other words, it is not a people issue. (Note: Dinosaur Hunters Tom Mills and Daniel Barnes may not necessarily agree with me on this point.)

“Eighty-five percent of the reasons for failure are deficiencies in the systems and process rather than the employee. The role of management is to change the process rather than badgering individuals to do better.” – W. Edwards Demming

In the context of the above Demming quote, it is the process that likely undermines the potential and efforts of technology and people for any shortfall in category management potential.

To what process am I referring? Data Modernization.

As I have cited many times in the past, Rob Handfield’s assertion that digital transformation without clean data is impossible continues to resonate. From establishing a sound data governance model and “processes,” including what I call the four D’s of Data Modernization: data quality, data access, data compliance, and data security, leadership has failed to establish a true “data culture” within their organization. As a result, despite incredible advancements in digital technology and steadily improving professional skills, “less than 5% of all data” is analyzed. The process part of the “people, process, technology” equation is the missing bridge between people and technology.

With the demands and complexity category managers face in this volatile world, the failure to address the data gap is like bringing a bicycle to a funny car drag race and expecting to win. If we fix the data issue, we will solve many problems.