Update from Spikes Cavell; turning data into action

by Peter Smith on October 1, 2010

I spent a morning with Luke Spikes and Hayley Wienszczak at Spikes Cavell recently getting to understand better their products and thinking.  As I’ve mentioned before, Luke is a very stimulating guy to spend time with and I came away with copious notes which I’ll try and distill here!

Spikes are particularly strong in the local authority and emergency services markets.  They are pretty much totally public sector focused, with a rapidly expanding prescence in the US, largely through their innovative link-up with the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (which we will come back to at a later date).

What do they do?  “We present information in a format that customers can use to make decisions and ultimately transform procurement” is Luke’s take on it.  They perceive themselves as in the business of “data management, not spend management”; they may start with spend data but look to enhance it and add value to make it more useful for clients.

Their four key product / service areas are:

  • Spend and contract analytics
  • Measurement and benchmarking
  • Sourcing
  • Transparency

They take a pragmatic and flexible view of life generally; so will take spend data for example, then look to cleanse, amplify and improve it and use different sources (e.g. incorporating purchase card spend into their spend reporting).  Tools can be combined; so having got a spend map, a user can carry out further analysis to see how much of their spend is going against ‘corporate’ contracts and how much is maverick; then compare that against how other councils or police forces perform in that area.  That combination of spend analysis inside the organisation with external benchmarking across a sector is probably their most unique point from what I’ve seen.  And their coverage in some sectors (such as local authorities)  is now strong enough to make that benchmark data powerful and credible.

Another example of their anticipation of client needs is work around the ‘transparency’ agenda in local government.  Spikes were probably the first commercial firm to recognise this need and come up with ways to help Authorities; hence they are now market leaders in this area with “Spotlight on Spend“.  For instance, Windsor and Eton, who have been seen as a leader amongst local authorities in terms of transparency, use Spikes’ product.

Similarly, they have been fast to respond to the growing need for buyers to be able to report on the proportion of their spend with smaller suppliers (SMEs).  They are also incorporating the ability to search for local firms who are not currently suppliers to that customer; again, getting on the front foot in terms of meeting public sector needs.

I can’t really tell if their technical ability and capability is market leading, although they clearly have some clever developers.  But the common theme across their offering is real strength in understanding their public sector clients, thinking ahead in many cases to anticipate future needs, and then looking to meet those needs through business solutions.

I guess my only note of caution would be that Luke Spikes is such a smart, visionary and motivating guy, it is easy to spend time with him and feel that anything is possible!   So as a client, I would want to check that the practical capability to deliver anything non-standard is up there with his vision …   But all in all, a very interesting operation and one that has established a pretty unique position in the UK public sector.

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Our Associate Sponsors – Supplierforce and Spikes Cavell — Spend Matters UK/Europe
November 3, 2010 at 12:50 pm

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Florence Gregg October 1, 2010 at 8:49 am

I’m not sure if you expect endorsements of your blogs, Peter, however I would support what you’ve said of Luke and the Spike Cavell solutions. As a one person consultancy business, I have engaged Spikes to completed spend analysis on behalf of a number of clients and been able to identify quickly, opportunities for collaboration and the identification of which of the bodies is, probably, best placed to lead the procurement.
The ability to see a view of your suppliers in terms of size, geographical location etc means that you can develop sound procurement stratgies based upon fact being able to understand the likely impact of moving to larger arrangements (leveraging your spend). This may (will) be the expected route, however, you will be able to develop support strategies for your current supplier base, perhaps, holding awareness sessions to outline what lies ahead etc
I suppose my only (minor) reservation is that sometimes the organisation can feel swamped with the amount of information, so my advice is use the suite of standard reports and, when you need to, delve into the extraordinary level of detail that is available.

Peter Smith October 1, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Florence
It is a great point about being swamped with data – and although I didn’t get into it here, I know that organisations often end up needing some support (from Spikes themselves or experts like you) to make sense of it all!
And it’s really good to have endorsements – I feel reasonbaly capable of assessing these things, but a couple of hours demo and chat is no substitute for working with a firm / software product / whatever in a ‘real life’ situation over days, weeks or months!

Florence Gregg October 1, 2010 at 5:57 pm

The thing is that, deep down, I’m a mathematician and I could get lost for hours in the data.

Mike February 25, 2011 at 11:30 am

I agree with Florence Gregg. I think companies should start thinking deeply about their procurement strategies and make them suit for both parties.

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