Spend Matters View: Analyzing the Concept of Accenture’s Virtual Category Room

supplier network

In introducing the concept of the “virtual supplier room” in its recent forward looking paper, Procurement’s Next Frontier – The Future Will Give Rise to an Organization of One, Accenture draws a line in the sand that category management will still be an important part of procurement in the future.

The notion of having one place to truly manage a category rather than just execute the various functions associated with sourcing, contracting and procurement goes so far beyond how category management works in practice today, where the vast majority of activity happens in multiple business applications, loosely or non-coupled applications in Excel or in reading PDFs centered on supply market intelligence. The idea of a true category workbench as Accenture envisions will require integrated technology that is useful enough for those who leverage it to want to work in a common space.

I think perhaps a more refined vision than Accenture lays out here is what Slack does for messaging and communication. Rather than replace applications – which it does in part – it actually does more to unite them. So it’s essentially a new corporate messaging layer on top of existing applications and infrastructure, which does not require a user to operate in a legacy world.

If you believe the Slack example is the right archetype for future category management solutions and Accenture’s virtual category room, then providers will need to get in gear and not think about data overlays and cockpits to existing modules, but something new entirely. It’s a vision that intelligence providers like Beroe and Procurement Leaders have had for sometime – but that we’d bet against from an execution perspective unless the vendor is completely technology-centric versus dabbling in it as an extension of its core business.

I believe the future of what Accenture is suggesting here belongs to a Slack-like tool. But I certainly haven’t seen one yet.

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