Forrester's eProcurement Wave Captures the State of the Market

Duncan Jones recently authored Forrester's latest eProcurement Wave (which we'll dissect and analyze in more detail soon). Ariba and Basware have licensed the report and made it available for free, if you're interested. I've suggested before that exercises in graphical vendor comparisons are always bound to get analysts in trouble, even if they carry out their research in a manner as thorough and objective as possible (as I sincerely believe Duncan did in this case). In my view, the Forrester ranking methodology, generally, does a better job than Gartner because it provides better transparency into the criteria that contribute to a ranking on each axis. If subscribers want to model the impact of a score change for something that is less relevant than the product itself -- or the offering, for that matter -- such as corporate strategy, installed base or financial resources to pursue strategy, they can.

While I'll leave it to Spend Matters readers to chime in with their views about the relative placement of vendors until I have the chance to go over each specific provider in more detail, I thought it would be prudent to suggest a number of things Duncan gets absolutely correct in his analysis. Granted, I could quibble with the placement of certain vendors. For example, Basware's offering scored higher than I would have anticipated and Coupa was excluded based on what I'm guessing was a failure to meet revenue criteria for inclusion. But in general, I think the report does a solid high-level job of creating a credible segmentation for a sub-set of the vendors in the market. And perhaps most important, some of Duncan's summary points are quite reflective of what we see in the market as well.

For one, Duncan is right on the mark when he suggests that the eProcurement software sector is a maturing market with a range of good solution options. Among the 11 vendor products he included in the report, "there was little to broadly differentiate" among providers, at least on a feature/function level. This analysis mirrors our own. Indeed, we just got through creating a functional shortlist of vendors in a selection we're working on and found more than six vendors who could more than meet the basic needs of the client in question. Granted, they'd probably spend a whole lot more depending on the vendor they ultimately select (e.g., to work with SAP or Oracle directly would require additional investment in third-party solutions). But most any solution in Forrester's ranking could meet their basic needs.

This also raises another question that's now fundamental to looking at the eProcurement market. To wit: given the relative parity in basic functional capabilities among many vendors in eProcurement -- our own recent analysis of eProcurement products in areas such as basic supplier portal capability, workflow/process management, requisitioning, order management/visibility and basic invoicing/payment shows that such providers as Ariba, B-Pack, Coupa, Intenda, Ketera/Rearden, Oracle, SAP and Verian all meet basic functional requirements -- it's important to look at other related eProcurement solution areas to understand relative competitive differentiation (more on this in a follow-up post).

Duncan was also right to include some of the customized offerings by folks like Hubwoo and Capgemini in his evaluation. In both of these cases, the underlying DNA may be SAP, but the degree of customization both providers have built on top of it with their own or third-party IP can make the difference between successful and unsuccessful deployments. Take catalog management, for example (a continued sub-standard area of SAP SRM -- and Oracle, for that matter). Hubwoo has their own solution, while Conexa has partnered with jCatalog (as has Perfect, Quadrem and others).

When looking at the Forrester report, companies should keep in mind that this analysis -- and any analyst ranking or commentary -- should only be one of a number of starting places in creating a vendor shortlist for their own needs. Before getting very far in the short-listing and subsequent vendor analysis regardless of sector, it's absolutely essential to develop a broader perspective outside of the written report. I've learned over the years that talking with in-the-trenches systems integrators and existing users of potential solutions can be just as valuable as an initial first step to getting smart on a market as any published piece of analyst or market research -- or blog for that matter. And when it comes time to make a selection, none of these is a substitute for a detailed RFP that includes a request for a vendor to show specific live demonstration scripts based on the organization's requirements.

- Jason Busch

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