Certainly the most differentiated aspect of where Zycus is headed with its P2P vision is the notion of "guided buying," as we previewed in the previous posts in this series. The basic premise of guided buying is to piggyback off of the artificial intelligence (AI) spend classification capabilities to guide buyers to the right tactical buying and compliance decisions. The metaphor Zycus shared at their event earlier this week is to think of it as a GPS for tactical procurement or P2P. Ideally, it's one that will actively route us to the best decision based on varying conditions. Moreover, like Apple Maps (we hope), it can get smarter over time as it learns from all of those using it. Albeit hopefully it starts with a level of built-in intelligence that will actually get us from point A to point B (unlike Apple!)
As Zycus applies the notion of guided buying, a user can launch a requisition either through a structured search for a particular category or can enter free-text search in the big search bar. The search bar option attempts to find the right category as text is entered based on the letters and phrases provided. Once this occurs, the Zycus P2P application then presents what they describe as a context-sensitive form (although it is more than a typical form as we'll see in a minute). At launch, Zycus currently has 500 of these forms already created, including specifications, attributes and other information specific to a particular category.
Within the context of this guided search, the system presents preferred vendors and picks the appropriate GL code (one hopes!) based on the AI-based driven entry criteria. In showing a PPT walk-through of the application (screen shots) to the broader audience during the event and then later in a one-on-one demonstration of the application itself – yes, we confirmed it's not vapor – the Zycus teamed walked through the example of janitorial services. Once a user begins a term such as "cleaning" or "janitorial" they are presented with the specific category option to choose that best fits their description of the free form entry text (i.e., in this case "cleaning and janitorial services").
They are then presented with the right form for the category and asked to fill out additional category specific information. For example, for this specific category case, they might be asked whether the requirement was for commercial or residential locations, the location of the office, square footage (or meters outside the US), unit of measure, expected charges per hour, currency, add on services (lighting, landscaping, pest control, etc.)
The application walks the user through the process and can make coding, supplier and related recommendations along the way based on previously negotiated agreements, contracts, etc. (all tying back to master data that can reside in other Zycus modules or third-party applications). Underlying this simplified front-end UI is quite a degree of complexity and predictive analytics. The concept is that once you've assigned the right category code (and GL-coding), it is possible to automatically assign not only the right templates, but also the right workflow and approvals.
The reason this is important is that today, in a free-form requisition situation, if you pick the wrong category and assign the wrong coding, you are likely to end up picking the wrong supplier without even having the requisition routed to appropriate approvers, including procurement, who may wish to get involved in a sourcing or bidding exercise depending on the size, complexity and other characteristics of the spend.
For the guided buying capability (and the rest of the suite for that matter), Zycus has built their customization capability (e.g., workflow) based on configuration that does not require development. It allows for multiple workflows, business/rules and conditional statements like many of the other P2P systems in the market. However, the Zycus P2P difference, if they can get it right, will be to provide for a guided shopping experience built not just on ease of use and underlying system analytics, but predictive intelligence. Moreover, we believe this guided buying concept may begin to blur the line for services procurement between P2P tools and VMS tools for SOW and project-based assignments.
After getting a more detailed demonstration of the system (we only got to see it for a few minutes and did not get to dig in the sandbox) in the coming weeks, we'll offer a detailed take on Spend Matters PRO, including how the solution stacks up to others currently in the market.