So You're an SAP Shop — What Are Your Options? (Part 2)

In yesterday's post, I suggested alternatives for SAP customers to consider as they await the first new major SRM product release in the past couple of years. In today's post, I'd like to continue this discussion by suggesting alternatives for SAP shops in the areas of spend analysis/visibility and sourcing (we'll leave contract management for a discussion in the coming weeks). Please note that in each of these areas, the recommendations are by no means exhaustive -- they are meant as a conversation starter. If you are in the market to consider an SAP alternative, I would strongly recommend that you get multiple opinions on the subject.

Let's begin by examining the spend analysis/visibility realm. While this is SAP's least mature product area relative to competitors, they've come quite a long way in the past year when the idea was little more than a cool looking Flex-based front-end (not to mention a past arrangement with Zycus for data cleansing and classification -- this arrangement no longer exists). In SAP's favor today, I'm impressed that they've come to understand the importance of data enrichment and classification; look for them to tell a better integrated story here in the coming months. But even while this capability will be available in a seamless capacity soon, there are numerous other vendors to consider in the market today which already have integrated capabilities.

From a spend visiblity perspective -- including analytics, data enrichment, classification, content, etc. -- procurement organizations would do well to put Ariba, Emptoris, and Zycus on any shortlist. AECsoft, BravoSolution, CVM Solutions and Ketera are other alternatives with a solid suite of capabilities as well who are worthy of consideration. If you're looking more for true spend analytics, BIQ should absolutely be on your list (and a decision to go with SAP or another spend visibility competitor should not eliminate the BIQ option from a data analysis perspective). Please note there are numerous other vendors as well (e.g., Global eProcure) offering spend analysis capabilities, but I have not spoken to reference customers nor seen a demonstration of their product to suggest how it stacks up.

From a sourcing perspective, SAP has a competitive product set today acquired from Frictionless in 2006, though it is quite remarkable that it will take over 3 years for it to become an integrated component of the overall SAP SRM suite of capabilities. Given this, SAP shops can -- and should consider -- many options in addition to SAP. Top-name providers who I can recommend without hesitation from a sourcing perspective include Ariba, BravoSolution, Emptoris, and Iasta. Each of these companies offers different features, approaches and interfaces, so demo each and see what you think (I say skip the PowerPoint and head straight to the product).

Other best of breeds to consider include industry exchanges which have either created or licensed a sourcing capability, Co-Exprise and Global eProcure (CombineNet, another vendor to consider, is a highly specialized provider which focuses on enabling more complicated negotiations leveraging advanced combinatorial/optimization technology).

If you have any other suggestions to add to this list, please post a comment. Last, there are dozens of providers such as Trading Partners who offer the option to run full-service sourcing events / reverse auctions on their own platforms (or others they license). This approach is a logical option as well, especially for companies just getting started with strategic sourcing (and in fact, SAP offers similar hosted and managed events as well). But to compare apples to apples, make sure to ask what is included from each provider in a full service event.

As a final note, Oracle -- including PeopleSoft / JD Edward -- also has capabilities in the sourcing arena (and limited capabilities in the spend analysis area, in the case of Oracle). However, since SAP shops are unlikely to ever consider these solutions independent of a complete ERP switch-over, I have chosen not to emphasize them in this analysis.

Disclosure: I do not directly hold stock in any of the companies listed in this post. Of the companies discussed, Ariba, BIQ, BravoSolution, CVM Solutions, Emptoris, Infosys, Ketera, SAP, and Zycus are current or past clients or current or past sponsors of this blog.

- Jason Busch

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