No Half-Steppin’ Here — FullStep Tackles Manufacturing-Centric Procurement in Spain/Beyond (Part 1)

This past summer, I caught up with two members of the FullStep team during their first visit to our office in Chicago. They had recently relocated here to launch the Spain-based Spend Management provider into the North American market. Since that time, I've had the chance to demo their solutions as well as speak to a customer in their home market. Even though the value FullStep provides is undeniable, I don't think the globalization efforts for the firm will be as easy as it is for some software products that are easy to put into a box (or resell, for that matter). That's because FullStep is undeniably its own unique product and platform beast -- in the best of ways. In a series of posts looking at FullStep, we'll first consider how best to compare and define what they actually do compared to more traditional sourcing, supplier management and related tools. Then we'll dive into their specific functional capabilities.

At first glance, it might be easiest to compare FullStep to providers like Pool4Tool and CoExprise, which also tend to focus on direct materials sourcing and purchasing environments. There are certainly some functional similarities here (although each of these vendors is very, very different with their own unique capabilities). But instead of direct comparisons based on spend type and customer focus, I actually think the DNA of FullStep is a bit closer to more pure play platform vendors like Intenda, TradeShift and Rearden, that have built far more than just a suite of enterprise software. Like these other platform providers, the real power of FullStep is not just in the ultimate feature/function tally regarding how it stacks up in competitive situations. Specifically, the power is the ability to deliver what I'll term extreme configuration -- capabilities that in certain cases blur the line between custom module and app -- in a relatively rapid time scale which is highly tailored for the job at hand.

FullStep positions their configuration capability as part of the broader professional services and deployment component of their solution suite. This process and operations consulting DNA is in the blood of the company's founders, so perhaps it's not surprising. Yet the application is anything but a consultant "leave behind". It includes a broad suite of capabilities including a management dashboard, spend analysis, T&E, eProcurement, strategic sourcing, contract management, project and category management, supplier performance management, budget management, quality management and supplier information management.

Examining the modules on an individual (or collective) basis within digging into the platform itself does not do FullStep justice. Part of this is owing to the somewhat dated interface (think Ariba and Emptoris, not Coupa or Zycus) that at first glance detracts from the modules underlying capability. From a platform perspective, the solution's power begins with the ability to create different workflow and classification schemas at the same time, such as one broadly built on an organizational and corporate/divisional hierarchy, another on purchasing category and materials structure and specific sourcing/purchasing roles.

FullStep's entire approach is geared to support a manufacturing-buying environment, including the ability to roll-up part and line-item information on a total cost basis. As our investigation of FullStep continues, we'll explore, among other areas, how a company might deploy its sourcing module in a manner that enables clear apples-to-apples comparisons for direct materials spend evaluations factoring into account such areas as tooling costs, raw material costs, supplier processes and the cost of supplier quality. But perhaps most important, we'll continue to call attention to this concept of a platform deployment model -- and how the combination of greater flexibility and rapid deployment must begin to come together more frequently in the Spend Management sector.

Jason Busch

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