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The Truth About Auto-Mapping

Spend analysis vendors don't want to talk about it, but automatic mapping always requires manual corrections and enhancements. There are lots of reasons why, but the simplest reason is that the way you use a vendor is not necessarily the way that another company uses them. For example:

Should CDW be mapped to:
  • IT Hardware,
  • IT Software, or
  • IT Services?
Should Shell Oil be mapped to:
  • Direct/Raw Materials,
  • Logistics/Fuel, or
  • T&E/gasoline?

Another reason is that automatic mapping makes lots of mistakes. "95% accurate" sounds terrific until you realize that it means 1 in 20 mappings are wrong. Inaccurate mappings lead to red faces in meetings, since a glaring mistake in a spend cube can throw the whole initiative into disrepute.

That's why you'll find full-service spend analysis vendors typically quoting extra time (usually measured in weeks) to produce a spend cube. If automatic mapping was the panacea some try to pretend it is, then they'd be able to produce your cube in minutes, and your cost would be minimal. Neither is the case. They have to roll up their sleeves to fix the errors, and then map all the items that the automation didn't.

Automation does make familying and mapping faster. In the case of familying (for example, grouping like Vendors together), well-tuned automation such as Spendata's can do almost all of the work. Automation can also perform a significant chunk of the mapping process. Whether the cost savings from automation's speed advantage always accrue to customers is less clear. If mapping services are outsourced to a vendor or to a third party, a cynic might speculate that those cost savings would tend to accrue to the services provider rather than to the customer.

Spendata gives you full access to both our automated tools and our manual tools. Both are easy to use. After automation is finished, you have many options, including refining the mapping yourself, or contracting with Spendata Services or a third party to do so. Or, you can map just those portions of the cube that appear to offer sourcing opportunities, and skip the rest. There will be plenty of time later to loop back and refine the mappings for tail analysis.

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