Earlier this fall Rosslyn Analytics, a UK-based provider of spend-analysis software and solutions, announced that it would deliver what I believe to be the first free spend-analysis platform in the market. I’ve had the chance to use the tool during the past couple of weeks, and I’ll be sharing a number of observations in this post and in a follow-up later this week. To begin with, it’s worth noting that with “free” come conditions and/or limitations, for sure. In the case of Rosslyn Analytics' RA.Pid®, “free” entails foregoing a number of central capabilities that nearly all other spend-analysis tools include, such as the ability to easily classify spend to taxonomies and validate/enrich spending data as necessary with third-party information (e.g., parent/child, diversity and risk information, etc.). In other words, what you upload to the free SaaS-based application is essentially what you get (think of it as a kinder, gentler web-based Access-like tool specific to a limited set of spend-analysis queries).
So in summary, Rosslyn Analytics' RA.Pid® is not really spend analysis as we think about it; it’s really a partial solution designed to whet your appetite for the real Rosslyn Analytics tool, which I believe is precisely its goal. Certainly, the application is straightforward enough and can provide value to users who’ve never sliced and diced their spending data before, provided the information they have is relatively clean already. With flat files or other static data sets and reports in hand, users “load spend data into rapidintel.com through the RA.Pid® Load Manager application,” a process that, though I’ve not used it, seems simple enough. Then, if you believe the marketing lingo, “In minutes, one company-wide view of spend intelligence by supplier is presented in ready-to-use, advanced on-demand analytics including dashboards and ‘slice and dice’ reports.” All of which is well and good in theory, but how does it actually work in practice?
Once a user has uploaded their spending information, they are presented with a screen that shows a handful of queries and reports they can run. These include A/P trending analyses, including high-level spending overviews (e.g., by geography, chart of accounts, company, or cost center), or transaction summaries (with flexibility on looking at information in multiple currencies, ranges, values, etc.). Users can also drill into spending data by dimension, supplier code, supplier name, and parent relationships (although Rosslyn does appear to offer data enrichment around parentage as part of the free offering). It’s also possible to look at spending details by category as well as whip up some pretty decent comparative tables and charts that look at trend analyses over time (e.g., supplier trending and category/dimension trending).
Of course, what’s missing in this is the ability to analyze spend using more advanced parameters, and to drill into data in more flexible and deep ways (both of which are available in Rosslyn’s paid offerings). Analyzing spend based on payment terms, invoice descriptions, and supplier types, as well as looking at spend information in the context of an overall supply risk rating (using D&B risk data) all fall under these premium services and capabilities. However, I must say that the free offering does present a relatively quick way to get at least a handful of views into spending and trending data that an organization might otherwise have to organize and analyze using Excel or Access. Still, I suspect anyone who has used a spend-analysis tool before will find Rosslyn’s free teaser offering just that: It’s better than looking in the candy-store window in that it allows you a free taste of a sample on the spending street corner, but it does not compare to going inside the confectionery itself.
From a usability perspective, Rosslyn Analytics is highly intuitive and easy to grasp without training or even a walk-through. The application is proof to me that spend-analysis tools focused on reports and high-level queries -- especially where only limited data drilling is required -- are getting easier and easier to use. But I suspect that, unlike users of cheap or inexpensive sourcing products such as Ketera and WhyAbe, most users of a free spend-analysis application like this will quickly find themselves wanting to upgrade to gain a complete picture into what they’re buying and how best to reduce costs. Moreover, while spend analysis without classification and enrichment might be helpful for putting a finger in the wind to develop basic sourcing strategies, such an approach will quickly fall apart for most companies when it comes to developing accurate and comprehensive category-management strategies.
In case anyone is interested in additional facts on the free offering, Rosslyn notes on their website that the solution is: free [only for] the first user, provides visibility at the supplier level, allows for 100MB data uploads, is encrypted, includes “advanced analytics,” and allows data exports to Excel, PDF, CSV and other formats. If that’s not enough for you, stay tuned in the coming weeks for my analysis of the rest of Rosslyn’s product suite, and whether it’s worth investing the time in this “free” capability with the thought of upgrading down the road.