Catching Up With IBX (Part 1)

Last week, I had the chance to attend and speak at IBX's Executive Procurement Summit at Oxford. Nearly all of the two days were devoted to sharing and trading ideas. In short, the conference was anything but an advertisement for IBX though Leif Bohlin, IBX's CEO, did deliver a short keynote address that touched on IBX's strategy going forward. While I plan to dig into IBX strategy and market offerings in more detail later this fall after talking with the provider in more depth and sharing what I've learned from discussions with some of their reference customers, I thought I'd provide a bit of background on what I learned at the event and provide some additional context and detail in an initial series of two posts.

To date, IBX's growth has been primarily organic in the Nordic markets and by acquisition elsewhere (including its acquisition of German sourcing provider Portum). But it's also recently had some success expanding into other European markets, including the UK, and appears to be eying a number of global growth possibilities for the future. In other words, IBX no longer views itself as just a strong regional player, but a provider with a number of potential opportunities on the global Spend Management stage. Moreover, IBX leadership appears poised and ready to take on these opportunities.

Leif Bohlin, who I had the pleasure of meeting last year in London before the event this year in Oxford, is no stranger to the procurement world. Having worked under Bo Andersson at Saab/GM and previously as a consultant with AT Kearney and Booz-Allen, Leif has observed the sector from multiple angles for quite some time and is comfortable looking at the more challenging issues as practitioners see them (not just how consultants or software companies want to help solve them). He also seems to have a solid grasp on both the technology and process elements required to drive overall Spend Management success.

During Leif's talk -- which was obviously inspired graphically by Hasso Plattner's famous chalkboard sketches at SAP Sapphire -- he outlined the four key layers of IBX: competence (including strategy, commodity expertise, operational support and implementation), community, tools and an overall on-demand wrapper. Leif shared that IBX's focus going forward from a product development standpoint into 2011 will focus on the following areas: invoice management, supplier portal, sourcing pipeline planning, purchasing portal, supplier management, spend performance management, end-user experience, supply chain financing and contract execution.

These areas will complement and enhance existing IBX offerings including a suite of sourcing and procure-to-pay capabilities (and a rather significant consulting services group comprised of roughly 50 team members). IBX's current on-demand offerings include a suite of sourcing platforms that I outlined in a post earlier this year. These sourcing platforms are based upon Emptoris, Portum and, most recently, SAP. At the time that Spend Matters originally covered the news, I wrote that SAP had planned to give the "Nordic provider new SAP sourcing functionality ahead of features that will ultimately be included in a general On Demand release in Q1 or Q2 2010. These 6-month exclusive capabilities will include advanced pricing and bid optimization, reverse dutch auctions, and a simplified way to download and upload offline questionnaires and supplier responses in Microsoft Excel."

At Sapphire, it felt to me that SAP clearly appeared committed to their IBX relationship. And at IBX's conference, my hypothesis was confirmed by the fact that the SAP contingent at the event consisted of a number of key individuals in the SAP organization (not sales people). Might this signal a broader and deeper SAP/IBX collaboration in the future? Perhaps.

Stay tuned for further coverage and analysis of IBX in Part 2 of this post next week (including a look at their P2P offering based in part upon SAP SRM). And later this fall, I hope to do a deeper dive on their capabilities and technologies after taking more time to study IBX in greater detail.

Jason Busch

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