Right after the World Cup had held its opening ceremony and the games were about to get underway, the tournament’s popularity and hype began to escalate. One news outlet, which will remain nameless, went on to report a projection that 36 billion people would be tuning in to watch the games. That’s right: 36 BILLION. Go ahead and google “36 billion people” and the results page will have Google asking you: “Did you mean to search for: 36 million people?” According to the United States Census Bureau, the current world population is almost 6.9 billion.

Therefore, the first question that comes to mind is: Where did this figure come from? This is a question that you may commonly ask or be asked in procurement. In this specific case, no real details were provided as to how the number was determined and who performed the actual analysis. These two pieces of information are vital to all sourcing initiatives. My guess is that a decimal point was intended to be placed between the two digits. Another possibility is that the 36 billion people represented the number of people watching mutually exclusive games. For example, if an individual only watched the U.S. vs. Ghana game as well as the England vs. Germany game, they would be counted as 2 out of the 36 billion. But that would just get complicated, wouldn’t it?

If my guess happens to be right (which we will never know), decimal points have a great deal of purpose. However, there are some situations in which they do not serve a purpose at all. One example would be within a presentation which provides a spend breakdown. A PowerPoint slide can become too crowded if decimal points are utilized and spend is extended out to the exact penny. You don’t want to get to that slide and find yourself saying, “Now, in the past year, you have spent $2,497,583.08 on office supplies.” I think you are better off saying “about $2.5 million.”

When working with numbers, and this goes beyond the world of procurement, it is first always important to make sure the numbers make sense. There is always room for human error. Also, know where the data is coming from and who is actually working with the numbers. If you see a savings of 50% by transitioning to another supplier, do not celebrate too quickly and blow your vuvuzela. There is a good possibility that quality is being compromised for price or that it is really only a savings opportunity of 5.0%.
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Kathleen Jordan

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