A single source of truth for global marketing spend for a procurement firm.
A global marketing services firm operating in over 40 countries needed help streamlining their internal reporting operations. A small, central procurement team was responsible for coordinating marketing budget and spending across 60 different suppliers, while keeping their primary customer updated on a monthly basis.
The challenge: data accuracy and human error
Over the years, this firm had developed a set of tools and processes based on Microsoft Excel. A typical month involved hundreds of sheets being emailed back and forth between suppliers, internal stakeholders and analysts. From this, they produced manual reports for presentation back to their primary customer on a regular basis.
There were several challenges with this approach, the largest one being data accuracy. Relying on hundreds of people for data input, with all reconciliation work being done manually, meant the processes were prone to human error. This required exhaustive double-checks on all reporting, occupying a large amount of time.
The solution: custom set of new online capabilities
Amberstone designed, implemented and rapidly iterated a set of new online capabilities for this customer. The work proceeded in several phases, the first of which was to produce a web application to serve as a drop-in replacement for their Excel sheets.
This first version of the platform was designed for straightforward, user-friendly data capture as an alternative to the use of spreadsheets. After going live, it ended up being used by over 60% of the suppliers in less than 3 months.
The second iteration introduced a time utilization capture module, allowing suppliers to submit detailed utilization reports back to the firm. This information was then used on an ongoing basis to benchmark expected vs actual delivery across the globe.
The third iteration introduced a flexible reporting engine, allowing their analysts to write raw SQL queries against the data, producing reports across the entire historical dataset at once. This opened up new possibilities for executive reporting: Their analysts were able to create dashboards that could be updated daily, instead of monthly.
The benefits: efficiency and consistency
The solution provided by Amberstone yielded several benefits over its lifetime:
- Major efficiency gains. With the burden of manual Excel reporting lifted, the procurement team was able to focus more effort on improving the quality of the data.
- Reduced time-to-insight. The firm can now generate new reports within minutes, not days – and they have access to all historical data in one place, enabling multi-year reporting.
- Standardized processes. After bringing their suppliers on board, the firm was able to implement common reporting standards and processes across the globe.
- Consistent data management. With a single source of truth for commercial data, the team is now able to centrally manage the reference information that the budgets and pricing rely on.
- Bespoke reporting. Built atop the analytics solution, Amberstone has rolled out dozens of bespoke reporting exports (in PDF, CSV and Excel format), offering one-click downloads of reports that were typically built by hand.
The result: single source of truth
The impact of this platform has been nothing short of transformative. Core monthly reporting processes have been reduced from hundreds of Excel files, to a handful of follow-up emails. The firm now has a single source of truth for global procurement, with an analytics component that can be queried at any time.
The procurement team is now able to do more, with less. Leveraging the platform’s capabilities (and extending it where necessary), the team is able to capture and process entirely new datasets from their suppliers, without being overwhelmed by hundreds of Excel files.
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