Zycus — Building Up the Solutions Arsenal Behind the Scenes (Part 2)

Please click here for the first post in this series.

We believe that Zycus is taking a tried-and-true conservative approach to building out what is really quite an ambitious set of modules and products in its Spend Management suite. Zycus shared that insofar as "peripheral applications around spend analysis will provide value to customers," it will strongly consider incorporating them into its suite (which is built off of a common data model and data elements across sourcing, supplier management, contract management, etc.) However, Zycus has no plans -- at least none that it shared with Spend Matters -- on taking an ecosystem or network-based approach to creating value through its applications or extended groups of suppliers, partners, etc. For example, we inquired if Zycus had any plans to expose a set of APIs and service interfaces to allow third-parties to build apps on top of its applications in a plug and play app-store manner -- as TradeShift has done in the e-invoicing space -- and they told us it was not in the spend cards. Zycus did suggest a "content ecosystem" might be a possibility, however.

At its innovation core, Zycus has opted to focus on reaching parity and building competitive leverage and advantage through functional modules themselves rather than a new delivery model or networked ecosystem approach. How does this manifest in the products themselves? For sourcing, Zycus positions its core module, iSource, and add-on capabilities (iOptimize and iManage) as "easy-to-use" and "comprehensive." At this point, we agree in large part with the former statement and partially with the latter.

What's perhaps most interesting from our vantage point is just how straightforward the toolset is to use, especially compared with other solutions in the market. Zycus has even taken this extreme usability paradigm and extended it into the realm of optimization by creating a tidy set of basic constraints that users can apply with little or no prior knowledge of how to use such an approach.

Image source: Zycus (Spend Matters does not endorse any assessments contained within)

When Zycus shared its last sourcing update just prior to its analyst event earlier this winter, it provided a 3-month snapshot of the sourcing toolset adoption, suggesting that since the summer months, 675 different buyer users had created over 1000 RFXs and 500+ auctions. The spend breakdown for these events comprised a good mix of direct materials, indirect and services. In general, much of this volume has been tied to the uptick and adoption within new users, although Zycus was monitoring an increasing trend at the time toward organizations coming up to the end of previous contracts and considering moving their sourcing activity to new toolsets.

In these competitive replacement situations, Zycus' ease of use puts it at an advantage for companies not requiring the 100% solution in specific areas (e.g., the flexibility of the capabilities that more powerful approaches to optimization within solutions like CombineNet, Trade Extensions BravoSolution and Emptoris can enable, at least at this point in time compared with Zycus). If these products represent the Porsche 911s of sourcing optimization (with the ability to specify a near limitless number of options and then hit the road or the track), then Zycus has developed the Honda Accord that virtually drives itself.

Like a Honda, Zycus brings significant differentiation in its overall UI (i.e., cockpit), which makes it easy to walk up the solution for the first time and start hitting the sourcing road. For example, consider the combined abilities to drag and drop different elements into an RFX (e.g., items, supplier lists, etc.), build basic cost models, creating supplier scorings and ranking based on price and non-price criteria and then analyze the overall results of an event (or multiple events) across a range of fields and parameters. The execution of these capabilities is among the most intuitive we've seen in the broader sourcing market.

Creating an event begins with choosing from a graphical menu. Users have the options of creating an event "from [the] start," "from [a] template," or "copy[ing] from existing" materials. These options, in a large format on the left hand side of the screen, flow seamlessly into the main area where the choices that pop up are based on the option selected on the left. For example, creating an event from existing content pops up previous documents (e.g., RFQ templates). This may sound like other solutions in the market, but it's not. The execution and flow is completely intuitive and simple. It reminds us a bit of what Ketera (now Rearden) has done with their sourcing application interface, although Zycus' functional capabilities are much more substantive.

Continuing on this path, Zycus has created perhaps the most simplistic yet effective means of dragging and dropping different question types into an RFP. Users can chose from a menu of options for questions types (e.g., text, yes/no, single choice, multiple choice, attachment, tables, etc.) to insert or can create more complicated options on their own.

Stay tuned as our analysis of Zycus continues.

- Jason Busch

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