SciQuest — On the Public Stage Once Again, But What’s Behind the Curtain? (Part 2)

Check out a video we previously posted on this subject here.

In the first post in this quick-hit series looking at SciQuest, I provided some very high-level background on where SciQuest sits in the overall Spend Management and eProcurement market. I'll continue the high-level analysis in this post, looking at a range of areas, beginning with the customer environment that typifies transactional buying in life sciences (especially within an R&D context), higher education and healthcare. In my experience, the purchasing environment that pervades these sectors is marked by a culture that abhors mandates. I could argue that these cultures marks the logical and complete extension of decentralized buying with centralized rule sets, but quite often, it's one where practitioner, researcher, scientist and physician preference for many items and services outweighs the ability of a small procurement organization to create a center-led environment with decentralized controls.

In this context, those who do the buying will always find a way to purchase what they want. In the most extreme example, a researcher at a university may opt to purchase only a certain type of laboratory equipment, at a specified amount, because they believe they need to purchase planned items at the price they requested at the time of submitting third-party grants (which are often funded by outside parties like the NIH). So what does the price matter to them, you might ask? It doesn't, in most cases. That's the problem. All they care about is making sure the grant is fully funded. Which is why, in part, our healthcare system is so expensive -- but don't get me started on that.

In this environment with extreme decentralization (and autonomous buying), SKU proliferation and often highly unique products and services, the quality and availability of content in the purchasing process is critical in helping requisitioners make the best buying decision. For example, if a university is able to provide detailed information on like-for-like chemical reagents in a catalog environment (including detailed specifications, graphics, etc.), it takes away any concern over using a brand that a researcher might not be familiar with. This is precisely what SciQuest (and focused competitors like Science Warehouse) is able to provide from a tactical buying perspective. In short, SciQuest can make compliance something that users actually look forward to, because it makes the buying process better through information enablement and transparency for highly, highly specialized items and services instead of more cumbersome, controlling and cost-only oriented. Yet at the same time with SciQuest, organizations can still reduce costs, drive compliance, stop maverick purchasing and implement better overall purchasing and cost controls.

Stay tuned for the final installment in this mini-series, where we'll summarize SciQuest's strengths and weaknesses.

Jason Busch

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