Transcript: CSPS Data Demo Week: Harnessing Data for Better Procurement
[The CSPS logo appears on screen.]
[Taki Sarantakis appears in a video chat panel. He sits in a home office, backed by bookshelves.]
Taki Sarantakis, Canada School of Public Service: Good morning. I'm Taki Sarantakis, president of the Canada School of Public Service. And it is my great pleasure to welcome you today to the first series of our second series of data demonstration projects in the Government of Canada. So, a little while ago, we did a data demonstration week. And it proved so popular and so, interesting that we're now doing our second series of data demonstration projects. And this week, we are partnering with our friends at ISED.
[Four more video panelists join the chat.]
Specifically, we are partnering with Innovation Canada, which is a branch, a unit, an all-powerful entity at ISED that focuses on the promotion and the support of small Canadian innovative companies that are going to help build the future of Canada. And every single one of our entities that we'll be showcasing this week throughout the week are entities that have received funding from ISED. And with that, it is my great pleasure to introduce one of my colleagues, Andrea Johnson, who is the assistant deputy minister of Innovation Canada, to give you some words about this week and why it's important. Andrea.
Andrea Johnson, Innovation Science, and Economic Development Canada: Hello everyone. I am happy to be here with you today. Thank you to Taki for your nice introduction. I'm pleased to join you today from the unceded traditional territory, the Algonquin Anishinaabe for this important learning event. Taki did a great introduction of what ISED does and what Innovation Canada does, but just a quick reminder, Innovation Canada has financing programs like the Strategic Innovation fund, Canada's Superclusters, and we fund companies large and small, and we're always in the lookout Canada's next game-changer. Last year, we funded over 560 companies, and totalling over 1.5 billion.
But as we like to say, there are hundreds of programs and services for businesses in Canada, but if entrepreneurs can't find them, they can't take advantage of them. So, we work with data every day to fuel the Government of Canada's Business Benefits Finder. And if you want to check that out, that's at innovation.canada.ca. This data enables us to improve our clients' experience, measure our programs' success and streamline the implementation of these programs. Having access as standardized data is key when it comes to delivering our accelerated growth service. We call it AGS. With 30 innovation advisors working across the country in collaboration with about a dozen federal departments, we work closely with SMEs to figure out what they need at the right time and the right place. I am pleased, very pleased that some of the businesses with which we have worked will participate in the data demonstration week. Three of them are led by women.
You'll get to hear from them firsthand about their innovative approaches to tackling data challenges in Canada, and how their solutions and services could even apply to the federal government's own business needs. Tomorrow, a woman-led company called Plum has found a novel way to improve employee recruitment and predict job success using data. On Wednesday, you'll hear from Shinydocs out of Waterloo, who is using AI to auto-classify data at machine speed.
Thursday's speaker will be from Arteria, a company using data to streamline contracting processes. And Evidence Partners from Kanata will be here on Friday. They'll be speaking about AI is enhancing the medical field and how they're prototyping with specialists at CHEO Research Institute. But today's topic is data and procurement. It's a tough nut to crack for many firms, and one of the top questions that our innovation advisors face when working with entrepreneurs.
The government in Canada is actually the largest buyer of goods and services in Canada, about $22 billion a year. However, traditionally, government procurement has been driven by price which often advantages large firms. In addition, Canadian SMEs have told the government that its procurement process is complex and administrative burdensome. Yet having government as a first customer sends a powerful validation signal to a market that these firms have something of value and can directly increase domestic sales and exports.
And we're trying to do better within the Government of Canada. We're using procurement to drive innovation linked to government priorities in marketplace gaps, which in parallel support SME growth and scale up. In addition, the Government of Canada is starting to implement a mandatory requirement for federal government departments and agencies to ensure a minimum of 5% of total value contracts are held by indigenous businesses.
But let's delve into the procurement topic from a business perspective. We have an incredible company called TealBook. Headquartered in Toronto, TealBook is a B2B supplier data company with over 80 employees and growing. Most data companies use a human manual effort to create a database of supplier information. TealBook is the first company that uses a technology-led solution through machine learning and AI to proactively gather information on suppliers globally. In COVID-19, their database was particularly helpful to government entities that were looking to find and source new suppliers globally due to supply chain shortages. TealBook also works with ESG reporting and self fomenting data to power existing procurement technologies. This company is led by a woman. Fifty per cent of its employees, including its board of directors, are women. I'm very happy to present Stephany, as well as her team, Michelle and Tyler. So, over to you. I believe it's Michelle and Tyler that's going to do the presentation.
Michelle McLennan, TealBook: Thank you so much for the introduction. As discussed, we have our CEO, Stephany Lapierre on the call today for the Q&A portion. And Tyler Koopmans will be driving the majority of this presentation with the live of demonstration. And my name is Michelle McLennan, and I'm just going to give you a brief introduction to TealBook before we hop into the demo today.
So, prior to creating TealBook, our CEO, Stephany Lapierre, ran a consulting business where her and her team would go into organizations experiencing hyper growth, and they would set up best-in-breed procurement technologies. And they would ask their customers simple questions around supplier information, such as "where are you housing all of your supplier data for the suppliers that you're working with already? But also, the suppliers that you are looking to work with in the future, where you may not have active contracts?"
So, the companies would answer referring to disparate spreadsheets spread across the organization in different regions. And one customer actually brought out a physical black book of business cards of organizations they had met at conferences that they want to procure with in future. So, very quickly what her team saw was that regardless of the organization's maturity in procurement, there was no digital single source of truth for B2B supplier information for any of these companies.
And so, that's really what our CEO, Stephany, sought to solve creating TealBook. And so, when we think about what's been happening with COVID with the supply chain, we saw very similar challenges magnify over the past couple of years, where it was clear that government entities and enterprise organizations didn't have access to the supplier data, they needed to be agile within their supply chain. And we had so many organizations and entities reaching out to us over the past year who needed access to supplier data in order to find and source new manufacturers and distributors for things like N95 masks, or hand sanitizer, and more. And this goes well beyond necessities needed for COVID.
But if you think about supplier data, there's already organizations that exist in this space. But what really sets TealBook apart, and what makes us unique is the technology that we've built. And so, we are using machine learning and artificial intelligence to proactively gather information on suppliers today. And as we go through the demonstration today, you'll be able to see each of these supplier profiles, the types of data that we're collecting for our customers today.
But if you think about why this is helpful, we are working with our customers to have more agility within their supply chain. And that has to start with that data first approach. So, a lot of our customers are investing in many different procurement technologies today. We're working with some of the most sophisticated organizations. But those technologies are only as good as the data going into them. And so, we help our customers really focus their supply chain and procurement strategies from a data-first approach.
And so, when we think about the major themes that we've seen over the past year or so, especially while having conversations with government entities, there are three key themes we're going to walk you through in our demonstration today. The first being everybody wants to make purchasing easier. Centralizing B2B supplier data to have that one single source of supplier information is important to everybody. And so, TealBook allows you to do that by autonomously updating information and really removing that manual effort.
The second is getting access to a global database to source new suppliers. So, we have over 4.8 million suppliers in our database today. That is growing rapidly. But you can use filters to navigate to the right supplier, including things like diversity certifications, or NAICS codes, or simply by location if you're looking for local suppliers.
The last, and what I think is important to this group as well, is ESG reporting. So, we work with a lot of our customers, helping them quantify how much of their total spend is with minority suppliers or woman-owned suppliers. We're collecting a lot of certificate information on LGBTQ suppliers, veteran-owned suppliers, and many more. So, we will walk you through each of these use cases in the live demonstration today. And the one thing I'll leave you with is our live demonstration today will be within the TealBook cloud platform, but we do have APIs that our customers use as well to integrate this supplier data into existing technologies. And so, there's many different ways to utilize the TealBook information, such as an ERP system or a source-to-pay solution. But for today's presentation, we will be focusing on walking you through our supplier cloud platform.
Taki Sarantakis: Thank you, Michelle. And before we jump into the presentation, I just want to kind of bring this back to the Government of Canada because we have 700 people watching this today. And you're kind of going, well, B2B, what does that have to do with me? Or APIs, what does that have to do with me? Or ESG, what does that have to do with me?" It actually has a lot to do with you. And as you heard Andrea talk about at the beginning, the Government of Canada does billions of dollars of procurement and every year. And procurement is one of the key policy instruments that the Government of Canada has. And when you procure something, you don't just want to buy something. Sometimes you want to pursue other objectives, whether those other objectives are supporting Black-owned businesses, or indigenous businesses, or businesses led by women, or companies that are Canadian-owned, or companies that are of a certain size. You name it.
And so, this now is what brings it back to the public service, which is how do you execute on that mandate that our political masters give to us from time to time. And again, some days it's A, some days it's B, some days it's C. But if you have the data and you have the tools to understand the data, then you can do your job, which is executing on what the democratically elected government of the day wants us to do vis-à-vis procurement. So, Tyler, let's get going. Let's stop talking and actually see some of these things.
[Tyler shares his screen, taking up a large panel. On the shared screen, an internet tab shows the TealBook platform. The video panels shift to the righthand side, showing panelists only as they speak.]
Tyler Koopmans, TealBook: Yeah, sounds great. And thanks for bringing those points together because I think it really is important. And what we'll hopefully uncover through the demo is how having the data available about your suppliers allows you to start to answer those questions, whether it's "how much are we spending with A, B, or C?" When you have the data, you can start to answer those questions. You can start to drive your spend towards those initiatives as well. And so, those are the things we'll look to go over within the demo to today.
Now to set the foundation, before we really get into the use cases, I want to just talk a little bit about how we're using this data to enrich the vendor master of our customer. So, Michelle mentioned, we have rich data on over 4.8, 4.9 million suppliers globally. And that's useful. Certainly, allows for searching, but how does that help your own vendor master, your own existing suppliers?
And the way that we do that is first by matching our customer's vendor master to these records. And so, what we're looking at here is the report we generate as we ingest a customer's vendor master. And the key to note is that sometimes this is one clean set of data, set of suppliers, that they have in a system, but more than not, we tend to see a lot of disparate systems that different departments or entities are using. And so, there's maybe the same supplier listed in different systems, different naming conventions, different data points that are captured or missing across those different systems. And so, we look to alleviate that by ingesting data from any number of systems that our customers have.
We see certainly with a lot of the government entities that we work with, that they have a lot of challenges with managing that data across systems. It's just difficult to manage at scale and maintain that data over time. And so, this is really that first step of ingesting those data points from any and all systems and bringing them together to first off, be able to enrich the data with what we have, but then start to identify where do we have duplicates? Where are there inefficiencies? Where can we roll up that spend and use it to better negotiate things of that nature? And so, those are some of the initial outcomes we can get.
[Tyler's mouse moves around the platform in a sub-tab called "consolidation." It shows statistics about suppliers, how man have contacts, tags and other database details.]
So, in this example, I can see the handful of suppliers that my organization's doing business with, how TealBook was able to match those. We'll do things like weed out the individuals that often exist within a vendor master, so we're just looking at the actual suppliers.
We'll identify those duplicates, whether it's the same unique supplier in different systems, whether it's unintended duplicate IDs that have been created over time. We see all of these from our customers. We'll help to clean that up to the actual unique number of supplier entities our customer's doing business with. And then on the right-hand side, you can actually track the overall completeness, and actually, the overall growth of your data over time. And that's important and unique to TealBook.
[On the righthand side of the sub-tab, a category marked "completeness" shows bar graphs of supplier's info, and a circular graphic reading "91%."]
Typically, when our customers are trying to manage this data themselves, they're doing manual enrichments or having another company or service bureau enrich their data. It's going to be its best at day one, and then start to degrade from there. With our approach, our initial enrichment's actually going to be the worst that data's ever going to be. We're constantly refresh our sources, adding new sources to our data set, further training and coaching our machines to target that data.
And then the last piece, while we're not dependent on suppliers to come in and manually provide this information, we're not dependent on users to manually maintain it, our suppliers have the ability to come in, review their profiles, make additions, make changes, and round out those profiles. And it's the combination of those that allow for an ever-growing data set.
Taki Sarantakis: So, Tyler, I'm going to pause you here and I'm going to kind of summarize what you said. And then we're going to jump into the demonstration.
Tyler Koopmans: Perfect.
Taki Sarantakis: If I heard you, right, and I'm not that smart, so I might not have heard you right, but if I heard you right, basically what you're saying is there's a bunch of data out there. When that data could be in people's notebooks, it can be in business cards, it could be on the internet, it could be in filing cabinets, it could be written on a piece of gum wrapper in somebody's pocket. And that data, then number one, you kind of grab it, you put it somewhere. And the fact that it's kind of now in a central depository, that gives us great benefits.
And once it's in that central depository, now we're able to actually do stuff with it, which is, like, how many suppliers do we have in Canada that sell pencils? How many companies in Canada do we have that sell pencils, but that have fewer than 50 employees? How many companies in Canada do we have that sell pencils, that have fewer than 50 employees, that are owned by women? How many and on and on and on and on. And so, now once you start thinking of your problem, not as a procurement problem, but as a data problem, now you're able to start doing your job in a magical way. And so, let's start seeing some of the magic, Tyler.
Tyler Koopmans: Absolutely. And it's a great point. And how do you answer those questions if you don't have the data points on your suppliers? And so, that's what this step's all about. That's why we start here is to lay that foundation of being able to map those. But then where the magic starts to happen is jumping into our "suppliers" page.
[Tyler navigates to a page marked "suppliers." It shows a search page with a list of suppliers and a right-hand bar filled with filters. He selects a filter marked "existing." As he mentions specifics, he shows corresponding search filters.]
And so, we can see this entire network of nearly 5 million suppliers that we have. And we'll look at how we can search across that. But to get to some of those questions, Taki, that you mentioned, I want to know who are my existing suppliers? Maybe I want to break those out and see them by geography. Who are my suppliers in Canada versus other regions? Who are my suppliers that have a certain categorization? We're capturing NAICS codes across these suppliers. We ingest our customer's category structure as well. So, we can actually allow you to filter by your own categories. Maybe I want to see who are the existing suppliers that have diversity certifications, or that specifically are woman-owned businesses. I'm quickly able to navigate my entire supplier base and start to answer those questions. And we'll look at—
Taki Sarantakis: Now, Tyler, again, I'm not a genius, but you just seem to be clicking. Like if I were to ask you how many businesses are owned by women, you just kind of did a click. You didn't say, "Well, I don't know." You didn't say, "Well, let me hire a bunch of students and we'll start combing through our contracts and I'll get you the answer in a couple of months. And by the way the answer will probably be wrong because students, they're great, and we love them, and we all love them, but you know..." You just seem to be clicking across all these things. Is this make-believe, or is this like a real database?
Tyler Koopmans: No, it's a real database. And by identifying those existing suppliers and by maintaining this data on our side and bringing those together, that's how we're able to answer those questions. And I actually want to touch on something you said because let's even say that those students do an absolute fantastic, perfect job. They identify which of those suppliers are woman-owned, which of those are minority-owned. Well, there's changes in status all the time. Whether it's companies getting newly certified, a company that no longer meets the requirements, things of that nature, certificates that expire, even if those are perfectly identified yesterday, tomorrow those data points may change. And so, that's the other aspect is the autonomous maintenance of that data that we do that allows for that maintaining of data over time, that even when done perfectly manually, fails as days and weeks pass.
Taki Sarantakis: So, you have one source for your data, which is really important. And then that data doesn't get put there and then left alone for the rest of its life. And you don't come back to it two years later. It's actually actionable data because it's real-time data that people can use. So, Tyler, let's buy something. Andrea, what do you want to buy...Andrea?
Andrea Johnson: I want to buy a ventilator, a COVID ventilator.
Taki Sarantakis: A ventilator. So, Tyler, let's figure out first where we can buy ventilators. And then let's just start digging down in terms of getting granular. So, let's buy a ventilator. And hopefully, Andrea, you don't want to buy a ventilator because you need one. You just are anticipating that somebody might need a ventilator someday. So, let's find a ventilator.
Tyler Koopmans: Yeah. So, we'll run that search. One thing that I do want to call out is that TealBook is not used to actually make the purchase of goods. So, we'll show how we support that upstream process, how you get to that point. And a big piece of that is identifying who are the relevant suppliers? Who could we use to do this? Do we have existing suppliers that meet that need? Those are some of the other questions that we can answer. And so, I can come over into my search here. And if I do want to add anything right out of the gate, like filters, I can do that. But I can also jump-
Taki Sarantakis: Let's not filter first. Let's actually see the big universe, and then the granularity as the minister or the deputy or your director general, or your director, or your manager tells you more and more what he or she wants you to find. So, now we've got 62,000 ventilators, or is that 62,000 companies that sell ventilators?
[As Taki talks, Tyler types "ventilator" into the search bar, and almost 62,000 results appear.]
Tyler Koopmans: That's 62,000 companies. Now what's worth noting is this may include companies that service ventilators. And so, that's where we can even get to some of these categories where I can hone in if I'm looking for a manufacturer of ventilators, I'm looking for companies that service ventilators. And I can start to apply these additional filters to hone in on the types of suppliers I'm looking for.
Taki Sarantakis: Let's just find manufacturers of ventilators.
[Tyler selects a sub-tab of the results reading "manufacturing." The results change to approximately 21,000.]
Okay, so you've just ... 40,000 people you've just pushed to the side, which is ordinarily not a good thing. But here, it's a good thing because you're like now you've made our universe smaller and more relevant to us. Now let's say that the ventilators can only be made by Canadians. And again, let's say somebody says to you, "I only want to buy Canadian-made ventilators."
Tyler Koopmans: Yeah. So, we can start to apply filters to narrow this down further. So, if I want to look for--
[Tyler selects a "Canada" filter, and the results narrow further.]
Taki Sarantakis: Holy smokes, so now we're down to 1,273. So, we started with 60,000, then 21,000. And now we're down to 1,273. Andrea, what other objective might you have when you're buying a ventilator?
Andrea Johnson: I would like a prairie-based company.
Taki Sarantakis: A prairie. All right. Let's try that.
Tyler Koopmans: So, so is that going to be certification-based? I just wanted to confirm. I'm not as familiar.
Andrea Johnson: No. So, let's say Alberta based.
Tyler Koopmans: I apologize. Yeah.
Andrea Johnson: That's fine.
[Tyler selects Alberta.]
Taki Sarantakis: All right. So, now we're down 141 choices, which to me is a lot better than 60,000 choices. All right. So, Andrea, what else are you looking for?
Andrea Johnson: Indigenous-led.
Taki Sarantakis: Well, you know what, actually, can I try something? I saw their HEPA. I don't know anything about ventilators, but I know HEPA is good. Can you, Tyler, can you just give me people that use HEPA?
Tyler Koopmans: Yeah. So, we can either add that as a keyword within our search. We can also get to our advanced search and add it that way.
[Tyler opens an "advanced" window that gives more narrowing options to be typed in, such as "Doesn't have" and "Name contains." Tyler adds "HEPA to the search.]
Taki Sarantakis: Let's do it. I only want the best. I only want HEPA. So, now I'm down to 10. Holy smokes. All right. Now, Andrea, what else did you want?
Andrea Johnson: How about a portable ventilator?
[Tyler adds "portable" to the search.]
Tyler Koopmans: Yeah. So, we may, at some point, start to get too specific to what's typically out there, but I can even keep adding those things and eventually we'll run out suppliers.
Taki Sarantakis: So, here we go. We're down to five. So, again, 60,000, through a couple of clicks. I don't know how many clicks you did, Tyler. It was maybe, let's call it 5. Let's even call it 10. Let's say you really, really gave your finger a workout. And from 60,000 with a couple of clicks, we got down to 5. And if I were to ask somebody in the public service, or even outside of the public service, I want to know how many Alberta-based companies sell ventilators that are portable, and have HEPA filters, that might take me a week. It might take me a day. It might take me a year. I literally don't know, but I know that if I don't have the data and a platform that kind of can search the data in a useful way, it only takes a few clicks.
[As Taki speaks, Tyler clears the search.]
So, now let's go back. What else do we want to buy? Can we buy...55What have we been buying during COVID? Desks? Can we buy a desk?
[Tyler searches "desk."]
Tyler Koopmans: Yeah, absolutely. So, that's going to certainly bring back a lot of suppliers that maybe we want to look for manufacturers. And maybe there's a specific type of desk that we want to delve into next.
Taki Sarantakis: Let's do standing desks. Or I don't know what they're called, like up and down desks.
[Tyler adjusts the search to each added detail with his filters.]
Andrea Johnson: It's stand up.
Taki Sarantakis: Standing desk. All right. Can we now, with apologies to the whole rest of the planet, can we say we only want Canadians?
Tyler Koopmans: Absolutely.
Taki Sarantakis: All right. Now, are any of them owned by women?
Tyler Koopmans: So, we can see that we've got just two suppliers that are woman-owned that come back with these search results. And it looks like that's not maybe the prominent offering of these companies but is something that's relevant to what they do. So, we do have, in this example, desks and workstations as one of the many things that the supplier does.
Taki Sarantakis: So, now this is pretty cool. So, now tell us some other things we can do in this platform.
Andrea Johnson: Can we, do-
Taki Sarantakis: You know the platform.
Andrea Johnson: Taki, can we do sustainable wood for standing desk?
Taki Sarantakis: Sustainable wood?
Andrea Johnson: Yeah.
Taki Sarantakis: All right. Let's try that. Can we get that granular?
Tyler Koopmans: To an extent. And so, let me jump back in here with my standing desk search. So, we've looked at some diverse examples, but we are capturing sustainability certificates. So, I can apply those. And then maybe I want to identify suppliers that have ISO 14,000s, or environment management certification. So, I can start to apply those as I drill down.
Taki Sarantakis: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. So, what you're saying now is not only do I have access to the data and the companies, but now I also have access to the credentials of the companies. So, it's not just kind of the company saying, "I am the greatest standing desk maker in the history of the planet." You're like, "Yeah, of course you are. I'm very happy. But do you have an ISO certification? Or do you have some other designation? Or do you have a green procurement designation or whatever the case may be?" Is that correct?
Tyler Koopmans: Yeah, absolutely. So, we're going out, we're getting diversity certification, sustainability, quality, which was a big focus, certainly as companies were trying to find PPE. They wanted to deal with suppliers that had quality certifications. We're getting security and now even food certificates. So, it really allows our customers to be flexible and drill down to whatever it may be that they're looking for for finding new suppliers, but also understand those same details about their existing suppliers, asking those questions, being able to answer the questions like who are the sustainable businesses that we're using today.
Taki Sarantakis: Exactly.
Tyler Koopmans: And how much are we spending?
Taki Sarantakis: So, now, my boss comes back from a meeting. And my boss looks at me and says, Taki, I want you to buy 27 standing desks. And I want them to be of sustainable wood. And I want them to be manufactured in Canada. And I want them to have ISO designation. And I want the company to be owned by women. And I want it to employ no more than a hundred people. So, if my minister or my boss came to me and said that, I would start crying because I would say, "I can't. That'll take me like a year to do that. Or it'll take me a thousand summer students to start combing through."
But I could have that answer back to my boss, who could be a minister or a deputy minister or a cabinet. It looks like I could have that answer in real-time. I can actually say, "Well, hold on. Let me grab my phone or my laptop." And instead of kind of going away for a month and kind of having this period of nobody knows what's going on, I can actually do these things in real-time. We can actually have a conversation and say, "Well, looks like there's 27 Canadian suppliers. And if you want to do this in an area of high unemployment, we can tick off this, or this, or this."
[The screen share ends as Taki speaks.]
So, now, again, the power of data. So, we're going to open this up. We have 700 people on the line right now who are watching this. And I hope they're as amazed I am because this is the kind of reasons why I joined the Public Service of Canada, which is to do good things, not to kind of comb through notebooks and business cards and pieces of bubble gum and kind of write all these things down.
I actually joined the Government of Canada because if people above me wanted to do good things, like buy from women-owned companies, or buy from companies that are using sustainable products, or whatever the case may be, I can facilitate that rather than frustrate it through my lack of knowledge or my lack of getting that knowledge to the decision-makers. So, while we start getting questions, I want to bring in now, I want to bring in Michelle and Stephany. So, Stephany, we haven't heard from you yet. So, why don't you tell us a little bit- what was your Eureka moment, if you had a Eureka moment? Or what was where you kind of went, "Holy smokes, wait, we can do this a better way?"
Stephany Lapierre, TealBook: Yeah. So, I mean, I think Michelle alluded to this binder, but that was the first moment I was with a customer at a large Fortune 100 company. And I was talking to her as I was leaving to get my flight. And she said, "Hold on. I need to introduce you to this really innovative company. These guys just started this startup. It's amazing. They're driving so much value for my business."
And she bent and grabbed a two-inch binder under her desk and then started flipping through business cards. And I had a flight to catch. So, I was like, "Oh, Kim, just send it to me." She goes, "No, no, no. I don't remember their name because they have a funny acronym, but I'll find the card." So, she starts flipping. And I'm sitting there thinking to myself, "This is crazy." Because I knew that the organization had engaged one of the large consulting firms and spent millions of dollars trying to consolidate their supplier base from 150,000 suppliers by 50%.
So, they're doing this, and they have no idea of this company, that's in a binder, that could drive a lot of value for the business. And they're consolidating based on very high-level data, which is spend, and maybe risk. And they're aggregating a lot of this spend with large companies without, again, having to really define insight on who's driving actual value. And these could be the small, the diverse, the local businesses that are introducing so much innovation.
And it stuck with me. As soon as she was done, and she found the card, she says, "Write their contact information. Give it back because I don't want to lose their contact information." And then put the card back and the binder and the binder back under her desk. And as I driving away, not only I was thinking about the corporate challenges of having access to this information, but I was also thinking about the supplier that's stuck in a binder. And only because I was there physically with this customer that she reminded herself to recommend them, and for them to do business development, even within an organization where they already have a contract.
So, they've been going through diligence. They've been onboarded. They have a contract. They spend a lot of time going through that and become a supplier to that large organization. And most of us know how difficult that is, but there's nothing promoting them across the company so that globally, all the different businesses could leverage this amazing, innovative supplier. But they couldn't because they didn't have access to this data. And so, that's where it started.
That was 15 years ago. And 6 years ago, as I built my consulting firm and start working with large companies, started building procurement functions with small, hyper-growth companies, it always came back to data. Everything that we do, all the processes that we put in place, a 7-step sourcing process that we're so famous for, it's all as a way to get access to the information. And the business, the government is asking better. They're asking for speed. They're asking for quality. They're asking for agility to shift when the market is changing, and the business requirements are changing. And if we don't have this data, we're really paralyzed.
And the other false notion that I've seen is that software came out a few years ago because they moved from on-premise to the cloud, sold this story that software was going to fix data. And that was another thing that I didn't buy into it because software requires services, requires implementation, requires integrations between systems. And that's very, very complicated. It's very expensive.
And so, developing a data platform, what was really important is how can we make the best possible data, put it in the hands of people through software or directly, and if we're going to put it through software, it has to integrate and power these legacy systems that have been already invested, because no organization will rip out their legacy systems.
And if we think about the public sector, all the databases that have been created with profiles of companies that are not talking to each other, just that alone, if we're able to connect the dots and unify this data, empower all these databases and all these different solutions across different sector of procurement that it's provincial or federal, then we could really help not only procurement make better decisions, having more insight into these small, local, indigenous-owned businesses that are driving value for the public sector, but we would also help those small businesses not having to maintain 500 different databases just to be visible across the government. That's really the problem that I was really focused on solving, and the computing power combined with cloud technology and the access to machine learning, not to learn from humans, but using machines to actually do things that human can't do fast enough at scale in a way that makes things easier and faster.
Taki Sarantakis: Yeah. And Stephany said a lot of important things there for our audience. And I want to pull a few of them out and really kind of hammer them home. The first is she said information. And I think that was kind of the first time that the word information came on. A lot of us have information. But until you convert the information into a form that's usable and reliable, you don't have data. You have a business card in a binder. And that's not data. As much as some of us think it is, it's just the piece of information. It's not able to be shared easily. It's not able to have a lot of characteristics like who owns the company. What are the characteristics of the company? Is this still accurate? Is it historical data? Is it real data, et cetera?
The other thing that Stephany said that's really important, and a lot of us kind of have these moments during the day, is she said there must be a better way. And you have to think about that as a public servant because every time you find yourself saying, "There must be a better way," if you say that over and over again about the very same thing, then you're just kind of working like a hamster works on spinning in a wheel. Like the wheel will keep spinning, but the hamster's not going anywhere. It's getting a benefit. Like its little heart rate is going up and it's getting its exercise, but the hamster's the not actually going anywhere. And you don't want to be that hamster. If you find yourself saying over and over again, "There must be a better way," on the same core issue, then start thinking about instead of how do I run even faster, yet faster again, start thinking about how do I start to work differently?
And then the other thing that Stephany said that was really important is how does the data now start talking to other data? The fact that not only now have I liberated this business card from a binder and made information data, but now I have taken this data and people can start looking at it now. People can start slicing and dicing and analyzing.
So, now we have a thing that you're going to see over the course of the week, which is there must be a better way and making that jump to the new way. And the first way that you make that jump is mentally because if you don't make the mental jump about you know what, I'm going to put away the Excel sheets. I'm going to put away the bubble gum. I'm going to start doing this other thing. Maybe Michelle, Tyler, maybe talk to us a little bit about what's a typical profile of somebody that comes to you. Are they like, "I've had it with my Excel sheets?" or "I'm putting away the bubble gum wrappers, please help me." Like, what's that mental jump that people make when they first see your data solution?
Michelle McLennan: Yeah, I would say there's a range of client challenges that come to us. So, one of them is just not spending the time manually updating things. So, Tyler talked about this a lot. Even if you hire consultants, even if you have tonnes of summer students doing a specific project, whether it be around diversity, or sourcing new suppliers, once you complete that, it's going to be a challenge for the next opportunity. And so, it's people that have spent a lot of resources, a lot of time, and they're just not getting a long-term solution, and they know they need to use technology to do this at scale, but they just don't know how.
That's a piece of it. And then we've also seen a lot of really unique challenges around supply chain data for people who maybe weren't focused on it prior to COVID realizing that they just don't have access to data to be agile. Whether it comes to COVID, or whether it's a new unprecedented circumstance that comes up in the future, they want to get ahead of that and be proactive, and just have to have the right information at their fingertips. So, various client challenges, I would say, that come to us, and then we do have a lot in the ESG space as well.
Taki Sarantakis: Yeah. And now I'm getting a lot of questions that are all kind of in the same vein. So, I'll kind of summarize the question in the same vein. And this is a question that all good officials ask. So, kudos on you for asking these questions or this particular question. How do we know that the data is reliable? Walk us through, as Tyler's doing all his clicks, how do we know that at the end of his clicking, like what's in front of us is real?
Tyler Koopmans: Yeah, absolutely. And so, certainly quality of data is one of the challenges. It's one of the reasons why a lot of customers come to talk to us. And so, it's obviously very important that we then are feeding quality data back to them. And so, we're going out and harvesting data from all kinds of different sources, including supplier sites. But we also have over 600 other databases and registries and data partnerships that we're collecting data from. And so, as we pull in all of this data from different sources, we're then going to cross-reference it, and basically for every point, come up with a corresponding confidence value. And we're not going to expose data unless we have a high enough confidence value. And there's not some static number, it has to be over this, because it varies by every single field. Right? There's fields that are very dynamic and have a high rate of turnover. There's others that are more difficult to capture but are very static. So, every individual field has its own corresponding thresholds that we have to exceed before we're going to house that data within TealBook.
Now that said, it's impossible to have 100% perfect data, whether you're doing it manually, whether you're doing it, even in our approach, it's impossible to have 100%. But our goal is to constantly be moving the needle towards that 100% and coming up with new ways to continue to level up our data. And we work with our customers to understand where there are challenges and figure out how that could be addressed in the future. And so, by no means do we ever promise perfect data, but we're going to promise the pursuit of perfect data over time.
Taki Sarantakis: Yeah. Another question that a few people have asked is kind of like what are the drivers? Is value in procurement? Is it price? Is it people trying to save money? What do your customers come to you for?
Tyler Koopmans: Yeah. And I'll maybe touch on this first. Michelle, I'm sure you can add to it as well. We see a lot of different challenges. Obviously, they all tie back to data in some way, whether the customer actually realizes that the data is their problem or not. Sometimes it's data spread across this systems and they just have no idea how much they're actually spending with the supplier. Maybe they're trying to report on their diverse spend and they have no idea which of their suppliers are diverse or sustainable. Maybe they've spent a lot of money on expensive systems, but they're not getting the value they expected out of that because there's not good data going into that system. There's challenges with finding new suppliers. We looked at some examples of sourcing. So, there's a lot of different pain points that we can address.
At the end of the day, it's through the data that we're capturing and whether they're using us to find suppliers, like some of the examples we looked at, whether they're wanting to use our diversity reporting, where we get detailed reports down to how much money they're spending with African-owned businesses. Whatever it may be, they have that ability to then access with that data and report on or see or collaborate within the profiles. So, there's a host of different challenges that we see customers come to us with, and we can then help whether they're using our tool like we saw today, or we're integrating our data into their other systems. We can look to support them to address those.
Taki Sarantakis: Michelle you want to supplement?
Michelle McLennan: Yeah, I think the only couple things I would add to that is typically it comes from using resources towards manual tasks that are just taking too long. So, they want those employees to be more strategic. They're certainly not hired to do things like manual efforts of googling where they can source and find new N95 mask manufacturers, et cetera. And so, we have a lot of really sophisticated customers who have been in the procurement industry and investing in technologies for years, but they just don't have access to the right data. And so, it's removing that time spent on manual tasks.
And then a lot of our customers also come to us because executive teams, or investors, or board members are asking questions that they can't answer. So, simple things like what is the percent of spend that we're spending with indigenous-owned suppliers right now? A lot of people cannot answer that question very easily. And as we said, it's very dynamic information. Any kind of diversity certificate expires annually. And so, to proactively keep up with that information changing, it requires a lot of manpower internally. So, that's why people are really looking to new innovative partners for this.
Taki Sarantakis: Yeah. And that's a great point, Michelle, because it's not just kind of the buying things, but there are people above us, whether they're a board of directors or whether they're a ministry or whether they're a cabinet, they want to make sure that this spending is ... Well, first of all, they want to understand this spending. And if I'm hearing you correctly, there are a lot of companies, not just governments. There are a lot of companies that even have challenges understanding their basic spend. Did I hear that properly?
Michelle McLennan: Yeah, that's correct. Because this data is in so many different regions or different procurement technologies, there really isn't that one source of truth where they can easily answer questions about the supplier information of people they're already working with today. And if you think about it, a lot of organizations or government entities know their top suppliers. They know a lot of in information about the people they're spending the most with, but it's those tail-end suppliers, which can be 50, -60,000 suppliers that government entities are working with where they just don't have a lot of information. And we can really turn the lights on for the entire supply base that you're working with.
Taki Sarantakis: Yeah.
Stephany Lapierre: Also, it levels the playing field. For those small, indigenous, women-owned, African-American-owned businesses that may not have the resources to lobby and trying to get in front of the government contracts. But if you're able to include them as part of other suppliers and it really does give them the opportunity to bid for business that otherwise it'd be quite difficult to access.
Taki Sarantakis: Yeah. And that's a very big point too because interacting in terms of making a sale with a large entity, and the Government of Canada is like the largest entity in Canada, there are a lot of transaction costs associated with that. It's not easy to get on a procurement list. It's not easy to get the attention of somebody who can buy things. And on the flip side, the people who buy things also kind of default to what they know, which is what we all do as humans. We default to what we know in the absence of a better way.
And so, what this is doing is it's bringing some transparency and some sunlight into the process too, because you can actually say... Instead of somebody saying, "There are no women-owned companies that I'm aware of," and that's always kind of the big, not excuse, but the kind of the get out of jail free card, "That I am aware of that do these things." And just because you're not aware of it doesn't mean they don't exist. And so, now we're able to bring that forward.
And I have another great question. This is a really good question. And the question is what kind of modifications or changes do you see in companies or governments that now have access to this power? What do you see as a result of ...? What differences do you see in how they do business or what they do?
Michelle McLennan: Yeah, a couple of things. So, one is agility. All of a sudden, they have confidence in their supplier data. They understand who they're working with. They know all of the metrics. And so, there's this level of confidence in their supplier data that we always hear about after they onboard with TealBook, which is excellent. So, having access to those resources, knowing that if anything were to come up in future, they have access to the information at their fingertips, and that this is a long-term solution. So, this is something that if you are housing supplier information in your existing tech stack, it can be integrated into those solutions that you have, making your supplier data better in multiple areas of the government's technologies.
The second piece is also around diversity. So, we work with a lot of customers who really want to be able to find and source Aboriginal-owned businesses, minority-owned businesses. And we get quite granular in the information to be able to search for African-owned businesses or Hispanic-owned businesses. And a lot of companies are tracking those metrics and holding themselves accountable, even publicly sometimes. But having access to that information to source those new suppliers, as you said, if it may be people outside of the network that they're used to working with.
We've worked with so many top Fortune 100 organizations who have nothing but data that they've invested in, data companies and consultants. But they are always able to find and source new suppliers when they use TealBook. And that's something that they really appreciate from being introduced to our data that is ever-changing and it's always growing. So, I think the ESG piece is huge for a lot of our customers and just simply being able to answer really easy questions that prior to working with TealBook were actually quite hard to manage.
Stephany Lapierre: I'm just going to add that what we found recently, found out from the data perspective, is that 95% of businesses that meet requirements to be small and diverse are not certified. So, if you're only going to certifying agency database to include those businesses, one, it takes time because you have to go through separate databases. And by the time you come back to a business decision, it may be too late because it's manual.
But the other thing is how do you identify businesses that should be certified, but are not? And there's a lot of reasons. Often, it's cost-prohibitive or it requires a lot of resources. Companies may not know about the upside of being certified or that they qualify to be certified. And so, our technology helps also identify these businesses that look by size. We've captured keywords that look like they're women-owned or they may have been certified in the past to show that there's also a huge ecosystem of businesses that may qualify and invite them to self-certify. And so, that's what our technology also enables.
Taki Sarantakis: Yeah. Thank you so much. You got kind of our first session of our second data week, data demonstration week, off to an excellent start. I really like Stephany's notion of there must be a better way. And that's what we're going to see four more times this week. There must be a better way. Andrea, I want to thank you for the important work that you and your organization do in supporting these small companies, these small Canadian companies that are kind of the lifeblood of the future economy of Canada. And the fact that they exist in some small way, or in some cases in some not small way because of the efforts of ISED and others that support these entities at critical moments is something that we should all be aware of. So, again, to those of you out there, data, data, data, but don't confuse information with data.
If it's not real-time, if it's not actionable, if it can't talk to other things, it's not really data. And if you kind of pull up a spreadsheet and your boss says, "Okay, this is great. Let's do it. Your spreadsheet says this." And then you say, "Oh wait a second. That spreadsheet was from six months ago. I'm not sure if it's still accurate. Let me check." You don't have data. You have out-of-date information.
And so, thank you for being here because the 700 of you that are here don't want to do that. You want to be here with real-time, actionable data for the people of Canada that we all serve. So, thank you so much to our friends from TealBook and our friends from ISED. And please join us tomorrow for our second instalment of the CSPS Data Week. Take care and be well. Thank you.
[The panelists wave. The video chat fades to CSPS logo.]
[The Government of Canada logo appears and fades to black.]