What’s better than making a difference in your organization? Perhaps, it’s making a difference to many organizations. Conor Quarry, analytics as a service lead at IBM, has helped his company leverage analytics to help their consulting clients. Quarry, just 26 years old, was recognized this year by the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars recognition program, a jointly sponsored initiative of ThomasNet and the Institute for Supply Management (ISM).
Quarry started as a sourcing analyst at IBM. In that role, he spotted inefficiencies in the way category managers were evaluating requests for proposal (RFP) and developed a What If analysis tool that helped his coworkers and put him on a path within the organization. The platform let category managers assess variations from the proposals using a few key data inputs to quickly evaluate negotiation approaches. Using the tool, IBM shortened the RFP review period for quantitative aspects from weeks to days. Further, the first strategic even using the tool drove 40% savings that added up to $10.6 million. In its next iteration, the What If tool leveraged IBM’s Watson Analytics technology as its backbone and replaced Excel in the organization. Now, five years later, analytics is central to his job.
We sat down with Quarry to get his thoughts on the evolving role of analytics in the supply chain as well as to find out more about his thoughts on the modern supply chain and the career potential of the supply chain field.
EBN: How do you see analytics changing the nature of the procurement and supply chain role? What benefits will a “what if” stance offer to organizations?
Quarry: Analytics is my entire job. It’s what I do and what I like to do. I can’t believe they pay me for it, I like it so much. Analytics in the future will play an integral part whether it’s in supply chain, procurement, and business. Being able to understand data and efficiently decide what to do and being able to build a plan using available structured and unstructured data will be the future of how businesses operate. Data is growing at exponential rate. Companies are realizing that they have the natural resource of data, so they want to extract the data. Analytics is the bridge between data and action and being able to appeal to the human element of the data.
Now, What If analysis is very beneficial to any organization. Being able to plan and assess potential outcomes is essential to planning and risk mitigation. Clients want us to present different choices and options when they are making decisions. Being able to develop an action plan is the best way to be prepared when talking to clients who are decision makers. That’s what I do on a day to day basis. My job is to enable them to be successful. You’ll never be able to mitigate all the risks but by presenting options with expected outcomes and percentages to weigh options against each other is a lot of what we do to enable risk mitigation.
In procurement, it’s all about savings and efficiency gains but how much risk is mitigated is often overlooked. Bringing that into the decision-making process is something we see as very valuable to clients.
EBN: Can you tell us a little more about leveraging IBM’s Watson Analytics technology as the backbone of What If? Has it actually encouraged clients to step away from the traditional spreadsheet?
Quarry: With Watson analytics, you can upload spreadsheets to make them more powerful. In my opinion, organizations are entirely too spreadsheet focused. Dasboarding, infographics, and story boarding are the future of delivering insights and assessing the data. Execs want something that tells them what to do better, what’s happening in organization, and how to make decisions. We create dashboards compelling from procurement centric perspective. We focus and when we talk to client, we talk about execution, to really tell them how do fix it and get more value and mitigate most amount of risk while continuing integrations.