Source One's Data Scientist Explains the Process Behind Developing Spend Consultant
If you haven’t heard yet, leading procurement consultancy and creators of the only free e-sourcing platform WhyAbe.com, announced today the official launch of its Spend Analysis as a Service web platform www.SpendConsultant.com. The unique tool bottles decades of sourcing experience, combined with the spend visualization tools of leading spend analysis software to deliver a rapidly deployable and actionable spend analysis.
Complete with a proprietary taxonomy designed specifically for procurement professionals, visualization options for digging into the spend data, and cost reduction tips and advice, Spend Consultant is built to serve as the foundation for companies looking to quickly launch cost reduction initiatives. So, what did the development process of Spend Consultant look like? We sat down with Source One’s Senior Data Scientist James Patounas to get the inside scoop behind the operation.
What was your role in the development of www.SpendConsultant.com?
I was but one of the many people involved. I just happened to be fortunate enough to be given the role of Team Lead. We had a wide range of resources supporting the development process, from extremely bright interns offering tactical support to our Analyst team designing the user experience to our C-level providing the strategic guidance. It was certainly a holistic effort, including folks with technical and non-technical backgrounds.
Why was a data scientist involved in this project?
As our VP of Professional Services has covered before – the role of “Data Scientist” is emerging as a necessity for Procurement in today’s data-driven decision-making world. Like our clients, Source One needs to be proactive and take advantage of automation – recognizing that “simple business rules and access to the right data can easily change the way sourcing professionals do their work.” And that’s really how Spend Consultant came about – out of true necessity.
But what really is “Data Science”? As any person with a technical background founded on uncovering truth would do, I am going to quote Wikipedia:
“Data science is an interdisciplinary field about processes and systems to extract knowledge or insights from data in various forms, either structured or unstructured.”
To put it simply: data science is the art of acquiring data, making it orderly, doing “stuff” with it, and representing the output of said “stuff” in some meaningful way (KPIs, tables, charts, graphics, etc.). I would be remiss not to note that data science is founded on the scientific method. I can’t stress enough that the methodologies and processes used must be repeatable and verifiable. I was involved in the development of SpendConsultant.com because this is exactly the process that we followed.
What were the major milestones in developing SpendConsultant?
First, we finalized the standard supplier taxonomy. Our proprietary taxonomy is designed specifically for procurement professionals based on how we would categorize the spend in preparing for a cost reduction project. Developing the taxonomy was the first step in creating Spend Consultant as an effective spend analysis and opportunity assessment tool that serves as a jumping off point for launching those strategic sourcing initiatives.
Second, we completed a prototype of the tool that included the spend analysis database structure, underlying supplier enrichment processes, and classification system.
Next, we determined and implemented the algorithms, methodologies, and KPIs necessary for quantifying strategies and spend data at both categorical and project management levels.
Finally, we connected the backend processes, determining appropriate visualizations that simultaneously allow for self-exploration, and making them accessible via an interactive web portal.
Next in our Q&A with James, we’ll take a look at some of the challenges the team faced when creating Spend Consultant and how they navigated those challenges.