During the second day of the Zycus Horizon customer event, I got a quick overview and demonstration of their new eProcurement solution. Zycus P2P, you ask? Yes, it's something new. And it represents the latest suite extension for the Zycus product line. While the solution is not quite yet ready for prime sales time for a broad audience outside of early adopters, we suspect that by the middle of 2013 you'll be hearing a lot more about it. As of Q4 2012, Zycus is offering the eProcurement product as part of a pilot program to targeted customers. Pilots last three months, and the scope of these deployments includes five suppliers (up to three catalogs), multiple business users, and multiple locations. It also includes onsite training and implementation spread across a deployment lasting 1-3 weeks in total.
Those who sign up for the pilot program pay implementation fees, but license/rental fees (the application is delivered through the cloud on a subscription basis) are waived for the first year. We will withhold deeper judgment on the current depth of the pilot technology until we go through a longer demonstration and talk to early reference users, but Zycus claims that the solution spans the following areas:
- eProcurement (including auto-matching, e-invoicing, payment approval, discounting)
- Zycus supplier network (including flip PO to invoice, track payment, acknowledge order, notify dispatch)
- e-invoicing (approval, requisition, order, receipt, catalog, etc.)
In our quick look at the application, it is clear that Zycus has placed early emphasis on the eProcurement components, including one area that it believes will materially differentiate the solution in the market. We have not yet looked (or seen) any of the supplier portal or self-service capabilities or the broader e-invoicing capabilities. Later in this post and series, we'll report what we did see in the demonstration and provide our analysis of how the application appears to stack up to the crowd on first glance.
In framing the need for the solution in front of a customer audience (and later in a one-on-one meeting with Spend Matters), Richard Waugh, Director of Business Development and internal P2P evangelist at Zycus, suggested that the past focus around eProcurement has been typically based on a requisition-to-order process. (Richard is an old-timer in the space with great war stories going back to his GE days with Orville Bailey, Glen Meakem, Gary Hare, Bill Blair and other GE "legends" in the procurement space). But going forward, he believes that the market (and Zycus' capabilities) will drive end-to-end process enablement, not just requisitioning capability.
The future Zycus observes for eProcurement will include consumer-like UIs, supplier self-service and catalog management and, certainly most original and interesting of all, "guided buying" capabilities for off-catalog requests. This is how Zycus hopes to separate itself from the crowd by leveraging and repurposing its auto-classification technology from spend analysis and master data management to help take "the guesswork out of buying." This vision includes reducing opportunities for non-compliance and miscoded buys based on wrong GL codes through guiding buyers not only to the right categories and suppliers leveraging built-in, configurable category templates, especially for basic and complex services to support non-catalog buys, but also enabling them to easily select the right taxonomy and coding structure without having to give this administrative component a second thought.
Before we examine the guided buying capability for off-catalog buys, we'll quickly touch on what the application looks like. Users are greeted by a configurable home page with a massive search bar in the middle of the screen (clearly Zycus has been taking lessons from Coupa on UI design). Users can select from different options to search catalogs, punch-out sites or embark on an off-catalog guided buying exercises. From the left navigation pane, users can select categories and then drill down the taxonomic structure from top-level categories to specific requirements (e.g., from "IT" to "notebook computers"). Depending on where a user is in the application, they can quickly navigate to look at past activity ("my requisitions"), look at frequently ordered items ("my favorites") or check out their shopping basket. Other navigation panes enable navigation to requisitions, approvals, POs, invoices and reports.
Overall, the very basic catalog search, navigation, comparative product evaluation and general shopping experience, based on first glance, appears closest to Coupa's current product and where Ariba and SAP are headed with P2P and SRM respectively in forthcoming releases. However, users can also get a similar experience to this new UI experience by using third-party solutions on top of ERP and Ariba toolsets including Vinimaya, WALLMEDIEN, jCatalog, IBX/Capgemini and Hubwoo.
Stay tuned as our analysis continues and we look at the Zycus "guided buying" concept in more detail. And Mr. Mitchell (Pierre, that is) ... I hope your check is in the mail from Zycus for inspiring them to head down this path from your days at AMR Research (when you introduced the vision for guided buying a decade ago)!