Big data and why I don’t want extra pineapple with my credit card statement

Big data and why I don’t want extra pineapple with my credit card statement

This is 2012 and still my bank appears not to know who I am. This is despite the fact I have credit cards, insurance, checking accounts and mortgages with them.  Shouldn’t their customer relationship management systems be able to identify me? Maybe they do have a clever CRM system and maybe I’ve just been segmented into the “who the f*** is this guy” category. It’s one of the great disappointments of the 21st century that the local pizza place knows me better than my bank.

Purchasing Insight logoI really don’t expect the banks to change. They’ve had years to get this right but the solution to the problem – how do you pull together everything you know about a customer or a supplier so that you can use that intelligently – is becoming more and more accessible.

The problem is called “big data” and new methods of managing big data is revealing some new ways that we can manage more effectively business functions like purchasing and accounts payable.

Big data includes not just the data that we understand traditionally – the records that are kept about customers, supplier master data etc. It includes the nebulous supplementary information we hold.  Financial information and credit histories, public domain information like news articles, recorded telephone conversations and social media records as well as paper records and hand written notes. The problem with business today is that our IT infrastructure and the rules that it imposes upon us together with the constraints of the standards we are forced to employ, give us tunnel vision. It prevents us from seeing the big picture. We’re restricted. Our hands are tied and we make the wrong decisions.

Let me illustrate the problem with a real world P2P example of tunnel vision. You get a call from a supplier. They’re about to put you on credit hold. Some payments are outstanding and there’s nothing the supplier can do to prevent to block on supply. They are a critical supplier and without them, your business will be in dire straights. You pull every string you can to identify the unpaid invoices and get them paid. This is no time for SOX controls. Approval is required at the highest level but without it, the whole business survival is at stake. You get sufficient money in the hands of the supplier to be able to fight another day when you get another phone call from the supplier. Your accounts receivable department has put your supplier on hold.

Back to square one!

The management of “big data” is going to have a major impact on business in the coming years and it will have a direct impact in purchase to pay. Whether we’re talking about purchasing or payment, automation efforts have been frustrated by the wide variety of standards that dictate strict and inflexible ways we need to communicate. Being able to manage big data means being able to discard the reliance on strict data standards and, in the near future, sophisticated new methods will revolutionize purchasing and P2P processes.

I’m looking forward to revisiting this topic.

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