The Virtual Category Room: Accenture and the Future of Procurement Technology


What will the future of category management look like? Accenture has a strong opinion on the topic and shares it in its recently published brief, Procurement’s Next Frontier – The Future Will Give Rise to an Organization of One, when introducing the concept of the “virtual category room.”

The notion of extending category management into a digital age is a complex one, especially considering many organizations are still barely crawling in building out category management teams outside of only a few top areas of spend. Yet the technology to support a new type of category management thinking and capability is not that far away. In fact, much of it is already here – it just needs piecing together. Consider what Accenture has to say about the future of the “virtual category room”:

This is a virtual central gathering place to which a company’s category managers will go to keep track of their in-flight projects based on where they are in the process by category. In addition, category managers will be able to find relevant market intelligence data for their category – both what the category managers upload themselves as well as content that is pushed to them automatically by content aggregators. Because the virtual category room is powered by social media, it is context driven. Category managers’ preferences and collaboration behavior will influence recommendations they receive, for example, for contacts or opportunities.

There’s a lot of ideas grouped together in one concept here, including:

  • Supply market intelligence “speeds and feeds” in one place
  • A social construct, built on big data, that learns and recommends based on context
  • Integration among and across different functional modules, including sourcing, contract management, spend analysis and savings tracking

Arguably, the vision is not all that different from when first generation sourcing products from Ariba, Emptoris, BravoSolution, Iasta and others hit the stage a decade ago. Yet the execution will be very, very different compared with what it used to be. (Of the 4 players listed above, 2 are well along in the journey toward a new view of category management.)

But whether that ultimately manifests itself in Accenture’s view of the virtual category room remains to be seen.

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