Continuing on in our analysis of Capgemini's forthcoming February release of the IBX Cloud Procurement platform, we'll first explore the native search/shopping ability. Reviewing our earlier posts, however, it's important to remind readers that all of the shopping activity within the IBX platform occurs outside of the UI wrapper of the SAP SRM toolset (although all actions are tightly linked back into it). This has two key benefits. First, it completely changes the user experience to making shopping and search quicker and more intuitive, with better results across different search models -- self-managed catalogs, supplier managed catalogs, punch-out, etc. Second, and arguably as important, it makes it possible for a user that rarely interacts with the system to walk up and use it on a periodic basis (e.g., quarterly) without need to call a help desk or go through an online training program.
When users shop in the IBX platform, they're greeted with recommended products, vendors and even services based on their function and profile. Users can also "shop" in a free text manner using their own keywords )e.g., "printer, toner") using a feature that corrects for miss-spellings using the same logic as a search engine. When it comes down to viewing products and the requisitioning process, the platform is flexible on the taxonomy it uses to display products and classify purchases (e.g., eClass, UNSPSC, NAICS, etc.) Display-wise, the IBX platform streamlines the amount of information it presents to a user back on an item (e.g., a notebook computer), providing the options to "nest" information in a variety of forms and drop-down structures. For example, just as someone would configure a purchase on the Apple or Dell site, the hard drive and RAM capacity options can be nested or stored in a drop-down menu so that users see multiple available configurations via a single search. It's pretty slick -- and light years ahead of what the standard SRM content management tools would enable a company to achieve without significant customization.
The February release of the IBX Cloud Procurement platform also allows for the relatively straightforward buying and configuration of known services within the re-skinned SRM shopping environment. For example, a user could create a forms-driven request for print services from a specific vendor, inclusive of category-specific services fields such as paper requirements (size, thickness, quality), color requirements (2 color, 4 color), etc. However, the form that IBX provides in this context is not to drive competitive bids (that is offered elsewhere in the IBX suite), but to issue a request to a pre-defined supplier that is already in the system.
In a competitive bidding context, users would use the RFQ options (also contained within the same UI environment) and deploy a similar forms-based request outside of the "services catalog" one would use to simply to configure a requisition without the need for competition-driven price compression. When it comes to additional features and capabilities, the IBX platform supports multiple punch-out scenarios and search features in a manner that is not altogether different from what solutions like Vinimaya can provide, at least when it comes to the basics of Federated capabilities inclusive of punch-out and cross-catalog simultaneous search.
Even though we only had time for a cursory hour-long demonstration of the upcoming IBX Cloud Procurement release, we came away impressed with how Capgemini has been able to continue to leverage the core expertise of the IBX team and develop using the foundations of what the provider had previously on its own. At the very least, potential SAP SRM users now have two official SAP BPO partners to chose from (Capgemini and Hubwoo) that have taken it upon themselves to improve upon the overall search, shopping and requisitioning experience of SAP SRM through delivering a new UI experience to frontline buyers. Add to these folks providers like BuyerQuest, Vinimaya, Simplifying IT and others -- all of which can take users out of an SAP environment for the search, shopping and buying process -- and it becomes increasingly clear that SAP SRM users (and potential users) have a wide choice of potential partners.
Still, IBX's SRM and broader Spend Management platform capabilities combined with Capgemini's procurement BPO services for procurement (inclusive of both category-driven sourcing and broader tactical and transactional buying services support services) combine to create a differentiated and unique one-stop shop for SAP customers looking at technology, transactional and process outsourcing for procurement. Moreover, these capabilities combined with Capgemini's reputation in the market for aggressively pricing/bidding on BPO deals should make for an interesting 2012 on the competitive procurement outsourcing front.