Science Warehouse: When the Spend Devil is in eProcurement/Catalog Scientific Details (Part 1)

In the US, SciQuest is a vendor I'll be taking a closer look at later this summer and fall. They have done a remarkable job of beating out best of breed competitors and the ERP providers to capture the largest market share within life sciences and higher education for core eProcurement. But SciQuest is not alone in vertical specialization within eProcurement in these areas. Science Warehouse, a UK-based vendor we spoke with earlier this summer, has managed to build out a similar following in the UK market, albeit with greater focus on catalog content management and search than delivering a broader eProcurement suite (which they are capable of if a customer requests it).

In a series of posts looking at Science Warehouse's capabilities and specialization, I hope to provide a perspective that suggests it's still possible to carve out a much needed niche in the broader Spend Management market, despite aggressive solution expansion and sales moves from larger providers. I'll start our analysis with a screen shot because even in such a technical and process-oriented subject as eProcurement, it's true that a picture can tell a thousand words.

What you see above is an example of a k. lactis Expression Kit that offers "an easy method of expressing a gene of interest in the yeast kluyveromyces lactis." A paperclip or stapler in an eProcurement catalog it is not! The SKU attributes, images and related materials and attachments are all important to the potential buyer, yet it's unlikely that a standard catalog content management solution could easily manage all of the attributes and information, especially in an environment where suppliers self-manage at least some aspects of their own information.

Science Warehouse excels in the cataloging, search and presentation of this information to a technical buying audience. Not surprisingly, this capability is the perfect complement to the weaknesses of other eProcurement systems in the technical target market segment, especially in ERP provided environments. Getting into the trenches here, it is important to understand why (which we'll do shortly). Yet before diving deeper into their solutions -- and specific catalog management capabilities -- in a subsequent post, I'll provide some additional high-level background on them right now.

Science Warehouse provides a range of eProcurement and related capabilities aimed at markets with "technical specialization," as they put it. Realizing over 50% sales growth in the last year, Science Warehouse is growing fast, and counts many of the UK's big pharmaceutical and higher education institutions as clients. Yet Science Warehouse is not new to the eProcurement stage -- they've been around since the early days of the B2B market, going back ten years. Their product suite includes a range of capabilities, but they're most known for their catalog and content management capabilities. Additional modules include: e-Requisitions (eProcurement), e-ERQs, e-Reports (basic spend analytics for eProcurement data), e-Integration (into back-end ERP systems), e-Invoices, Configurator (a product configuration engine/system) and e-Stores (for managing inventory levels).

Why are numerous research universities and over a dozen private sector organizations in the UK using Science Warehouse's tools today? Stay tuned as we get into the details next week. Even organizations with no interest in life science, biotech or higher education procurement requirements may find the nuances of the discussion relevant as they map out the content and catalog management requirements in their own procurement programs.

Jason Busch

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