Frequently Asked Questions
For assistance on analysing spend based on size or locality of suppliers, see our dedicated page on this topic.
For assistance on identifying categories with too many suppliers, see our dedicated page on this topic.
In order to see the top 50 suppliers in a specific category, go to a report in the Observatory and click the Data tab. When the Data tab loads it will show all of the suppliers (as per the Base description of the report) sorted to show the highest aggregate spend at the top of the list. You will then need to filter the report for the specific category by using either the grid filters in the Data tab or building a filter and applying it to the report.
Export the Data tab to Excel and delete all the suppliers (rows) after the 50th supplier.
To begin comparing your own spend to other Observatory customers, see our dedicated page on this topic.
To assist with using the Observatory to identify new collaborative opportunities, see our dedicated page on this topic.
The matching routines run overnight so it does not slow down the performance of the Observatory. Therefore, when contracts have been uploaded they will be visible in the output reports the next working day.
Once a contract has been uploaded into the Observatory and submitted it will take one overnight refresh (the overnight Observatory regeneration process) to appear in the output reports. If you have submitted a contract and it has not appeared after one day then please contact Support
All mandatory fields on the contract must be input in order for the contract to be submitted.
In addition, any queries that the Observatory has highlighted in red are critical issues which must be resolved before the file can be submitted. Queries marked in blue are possible errors that will not prevent submission; however we do suggest that you double check these to ensure that the data is correct.
If there are any collaborative contracts contained within the upload file then the names of those other organisations need to be selected from a pick list. Please see the Uploading Contracts user guide on this page for details of how to do this.
When contracts are uploaded to the Observatory the expiry date field asks for “Expiry Date (including extensions)”. This means that the date entered into this field must include any extension months if they are applicable to the contract. The next field on the upload form asks for “Extension Months” and the number of extension months for the contract should be entered into that field.
Because there is a possibility that the extension months will not be used, the Observatory deducts the number of months entered into the Extension Months field from the date entered into Expiry Date (including extensions) field. If there are no months entered into the Extension Months field the Observatory will not deduct any months from the Expiry Date (including extensions).
The calculation is then presented as the Assumed Expiry Date in the Current Contract Register report. It is the Assumed Expiry Date that determines whether the contract appears in the Current or Expired Contract Register.
- The Current Contract Register report shows all the contracts that are in date as of “today” (the day you are looking at the report) and any date in the future.
- The Expired Contract Register report shows all the contract that have an expiry date of yesterday (on the day you are looking at the report) and any date in the past.
If the extension months are to be used then you will need to “activate” those months in order for the Assumed Expiry Date to move forward and include the additional extension months. If the extension months are not activated then the Assumed Expiry Date will stay as it is following the Observatory’s calculation.
Activating extension months can be performed before the Assumed Date or after it; the Contract Distribution reports will also update to reflect the extension months that you have activated.
To activate the extension months:
1) Go to Compliance > Contract > Data Input > Contract Maintenance > Edit tab.
2) Search for the supplier and click on the row to open the supplier details.
3) Enter the number of extension months used in the ‘Extension Activated (Months)’ field
4) Click the Next button
5) Click the Submit button to save the change.
6) The change will be visible after one overnight refresh.
The Buying Entity Supplier ID is the unique code in your organisation’s finance system for the supplier. It is not a mandatory field in the contract upload form and therefore it is possible to submit a contract without populating this field. An example of when this might happen would be when a contract has been awarded for a brand new supplier but there has yet been any spend with supplier.
The Buying Entity Supplier ID will have to be added to the contract at some point because without it the contract cannot match to the supplier’s spend record and any spend will therefore show as non-contracted.
To add a Buying Entity Supplier ID to the contract after it has been submitted, download the document Maintaining Contracts from Upload and Maintain Contact section of the Support Site
For any further help please contact Support.
The Buying Entity Supplier ID on the contract record does not match to a supplier for whom there is Core Trade spend. This will either be because the supplier has been flagged as a non-trade supplier, or because less than £1,000 of spend has been uploaded with this supplier within the current financial year.
‘No Match’ means that the Buying Entity Supplier ID on the contract has not yet matched to the Buying Entity Supplier ID in the periodic spend.
This could be related to new contracts for which there has not been any spend uploaded, or that the contract needs to be manually matched to the supplier as the Buying Entity Supplier ID did not match.
For more information on how to add a Buying Entity Supplier ID, please download the Maintaining Contracts document Upload and Maintain Contact on this section of the Support Site
The Contract Type is a code that is appended to each contract at the point of upload to the Observatory. It is used to identify the owner of a contract by the type of organisation.<br>
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When your Observatory login is first set up you will be given an automatically generated password. To re-set that password to something more memorable first make sure it meets the following criteria:
– Must not match or contain your Observatory Username
– Be 8 or more characters long
– Contain one upper and one lower case letter
– Contain one number
To change your password simply access any of the Observatory applications, expand the Tools folder and select My Account.
Please visit our System Requirements page.
You may sometimes find that when exporting data from the Observatory you get a Text file instead of the file you were expecting, such as Excel or Access. You may see that the Text file is also empty and if you click the export button again you’ll probably get another Text file.
This is a known bug that occurs sporadically across browsers and though it is difficult to replicate our I.T. department are investigating it.
In the meantime there is a workaround.
Close down the empty Text file and go back to the Observatory tab you were trying to export.
You will now need to sort one of the columns, so right-click on any of the column headers and select ‘Ascending’ or ‘Descending’.
When the report has re-loaded click the export button again and you should now have a working export.
If you find yourself in a situation when your user account is locked, please contact the Support Team and they will be more than happy to unlock you and get you going again.
Unlocking your account does not necessarily require your password to be reset so please state, either on the call or in the email, whether your account simply needs unlocking or if Support should unlock your account and reset your password.
In the UK local is defined as suppliers within the same local authority area as your organisation based on postcodes.
In the US Local is defined as suppliers with a ZipCode within the same City or County as your organization. To see the Zip Codes considered to be local, click on the Zip Code tab at the proximity report.
When viewing any of the composite size reports, the definitions are as below:
Small – Less than 50 employees, regardless of revenue, or, if the number of employees is unknown, then revenue of less than £5.6m/$5.6m will be taken as an indicator that it is a small business.
Medium – Between 50 and 249 employees, regardless of revenue, or, if the number of employees is unknown, then revenue of greater than or equal to £5.6m/$5.6m and less than £22.8m/$22.8m will be taken as an indicator that it is a medium business.
Large – Greater than or equal to 250 employees, regardless of revenue, or, if the number of employees is unknown, then revenue of greater than or equal to £22.8m/$22.8m will be taken as an indicator that it is a large business.
Risk in the Observatory refers to suppliers who are potentially “at risk” due to the proportion of their revenues generated by business with public sector bodies.
Suppliers are identified as ‘At Risk’ when the proportion of spend and transactions fall into one of the three Risk categories.
- Risk Category A: Either 50% or more of the supplier’s revenue is dependant upon spend by the public sector body or the amount spent by the public body per employee of the supplier is greater than or equal to £50,000.
- Risk Category B: Either 30-49% of the supplier’s revenue is dependant upon spend by the public sector body, or the amount spent by the public sector body per employee of the supplier is greater than or equal to £20,000.
- Risk Category C: Either 20-20% of the supplier’s revenue is dependant upon spend by the public sector body, or the amount spent by the public sector body per employee of the supplier is greater than £10,000.
The Base is a small line of white coloured text that is displayed under all reports in the Observatory which informs you of what data has been used to generate the report.
If you have applied a filter to the report, the name of the filter will also be displayed in red coloured text beside the Base description.
The “What?” tab of the report will provide a definition of the Base description.
When the Observatory is being updated or the Product Team are undertaking routine maintenance you will be diverted to the Mirror, a visual copy of the Observatory which allows users’ access to the Observatory reports, analytical functionality and information whilst the Live Observatory is down.
Because the Mirror is just a visual copy it means that data cannot be uploaded to or saved on it, so whilst on the Mirror there are some things that you will not be able to do:
In addition some other processes such as overnight refreshes and password resets which may also be affected whilst on the Mirror.
A neat, all encompassing term to describe a sub-set of your organisation’s supply base and translates as “Above Diminimus Trade suppliers and Social Care providers”.
Above Diminimus: A supplier with whom your organisation spend over £1,000/$1,000 in aggregate in the year of analysis. A Below Diminimus supplier is one where less than £1,000/$1,000 was spent in the year of analysis.
Trade: A commercial supplier.
The highest proportion of your organisation’s spend which can be influenced will be with Core Trade suppliers.
N.B. Social Care providers are classified as Non-Trade suppliers which means that they are not considered to be commercial suppliers. They are included in the Core Trade definition because the spend with them can be influenced.
The unique code used to identify a supplier in your organisation’s finance system is referred to as the Buying Entity Supplier ID in the Observatory.
You can see the Buying Entity Supplier ID in the Duplicate Creditor Analysis report, which is in the Methodology folder in the Analyse application.
In the rest of the Observatory reports you will see the SCC ID (Spikes Cavell Co ID) which is the unique code that Spikes Cavell appends to your organisation’s Buying Entity Supplier IDs in each year of analysis.
When looking at supplier data in the Observatory you may see the words “Redacted Personal Data” in place of a name in the Supplier Name column. This is because if during the analysis process a name cannot be verified as a supplier then it is redacted to protect identity.
The redaction process occurs before a dataset is published to the Observatory.
Initially, all suppliers are redacted.
Suppliers are then unredacted if they meet any of the following conditions:
• The supplier has been appended with a main business trade classification description (such as vCode) in Spikes Cavell’s supplier database.
• The supplier name is a single word.
• The supplier name contains any common business words (Limited, Ltd, & Co, etc).
• The supplier name contains a business keyword (e.g. telecommunications).
• The supplier was paid via purchase card.
• The supplier has a contract (in date or expired) in the Observatory.
• The supplier name matches a pattern (“Davies & Sons” for example).
• The supplier name is an acronym.
• The supplier name and post code matches that of another supplier in Spikes Cavell’s supplier database that has also been appended with a main business trade classification description.
If a supplier does not meet any of these conditions, and, it has not been manually unredacted by the data owner, then the supplier’s name will appear as “Redacted Personal Data” in the Observatory and, if purchased as part of your organisation’s Observatory subscription, in spotlightonspend.
Getting visibility of the redacted supplier name
You are able to see the real name of a redacted supplier in an Observatory report. Go to Analyse, expand the Methodology folder and click the Duplicate Creditor Analysis report.
Use the grid filter in the Supplier Name column and search for “Redacted Personal Data”. The column next to the Supplier Name column is called the Un-Redacted Supplier Name column and it is in this column that you will see the real name.
The information in the Duplicate Creditor Analysis report is only visible to the Observatory users in your organisation. No one outside your organisation can see the real name of your redacted suppliers and you won’t be able to see the real name of a redacted supplier in any other organisation’s Duplicate Creditor Analysis report.
Organisations are free to redact or un-redact the name of any supplier in their data. Please contact Support for more information.