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How big data is shaping the supply chain in the public sector

Public sector organisations are under huge pressure to stick to stringent budgets and meet targets. As such, a small hiccup in a supply chain can have big consequences – and for some already strained organisations, like the NHS, procurement problems really could be a life or death issue.

But what if these organisations could prevent such procurement problems from happening in the first place?

The benefits would be far reaching across a range of public sector organisations. While it’s unrealistic to think we’ll ever be able to eliminate supply chain problems all together, the advent of big data means organisations can ensure they’re well equipped to reshape their approach and significantly reduce common issues by using the tools at their disposal effectively.What actually is big data?

It’s a phrase that gets used (and understood differently) by many. But that’s little wonder, given the precise definition of big data is up for debate. Gartner defines it as: ‘high-volume, high-velocity and/or high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing that enable enhanced insight, decision making, and process automation.’

This is admittedly not the easiest definition to digest – but at its heart, big data refers to large data sets that can reveal patterns and trends. These patterns, when analysed correctly, can change the way supply chains functions forever. Public sector organisations typically process significant amounts of information and so are ideally placed to make the most of big data.

What impact will big data have on the public sector supply chain?

The interplay between big data and the supply chain is complex, but there are a number of key benefits for organisations who can store and analyse it effectively.

  • Big data can help to prevent loss of stock by keeping track of inventory. This minimises delays and the heavy costs associated with valuable and expensive public sector equipment going missing.
  • It can improve efficiency and boost productivity, a key target for many budget-strained public sector organisations.
  • It can also prevent long lead times by forecasting what demand will be, helping public sector organisations to strategise effectively for their equipment needs.

Essentially, big data is shaping the supply chain in the public sector by helping organisations to prevent problems instead of dealing with the fallout once an issue as occurred. Big data can help you to be proactive rather than reactive. And what big data can’t prevent, it can help plan for – if an organisation knows a weather event is going to disrupt a key delivery, a contingency plan can be put in place to find alternatives before it’s too late.

Storing and backing up big data: cloud computing to the rescue

Evidently, there’s a huge amount of value in collecting and analysing this level of information. However, the part that often gets forgotten about is the necessity of storing all this data. Not to mention, backing it all up. Which is a serious problem, because the bigger an organisation’s big data gets, the more strain they’re placed under when it comes to finding room to store it all. Fortunately, there’s a solution available which surpasses the limits of physical storage servers – the cloud.

With cloud computing, data can be managed and processed on a remote server. This can be scaled up and down as required – meaning no matter how big your data gets, storage and processing will never become a resource drain. Better yet, built in physical and virtual security benefits mean IT teams can focus on using big data to drive optimisation in the supply chain, instead of dealing with day-to-day issues. Cloud backup can also be used to protect this data, too, which is essential for the public sector.

No matter how advanced technology gets, supply chain disruptions will never be 100% preventable. But the insight offered by big data – combined with the storage power of cloud computing and the security of cloud backup – means public sector organisations can optimise their supply chains like never before.