Why Services Firms are Finally Developing Successful Procurement Technology Applications — and Why You Should Sometimes Consider Them [PRO]

big data

For well over a decade, consultancies, business process outsourcing (BPO) firms, managed services providers (MSPs) and other services firms in the procurement ecosystem have tried to develop procurement technology solutions that can stand on their own. Just about all of these early efforts were either failures or just never could be properly sustained and supported as standalone software products (i.e., something beyond a captive internal tool like spend analysis used as part of service engagements or pre-sales diagnostics). Examples include AT Kearney, FreeMarkets, Mitchell Madison and Silver Oak Services Partners. It was easy to recognize the inherent conflict between the billable hour (and solution objectivity) and the investment and expertise to run a software business. But the times have changed for services firms. Not only are some firms developing solutions that can compete on the basic feature and function software level, but the solutions now don’t necessarily walk out the door when the consultants wrap up an engagement. Rather, they are retained in areas such as sourcing, analytics, services procurement, supplier management and even procure to pay (P2P). This two-part Spend Matters PRO research brief explores what has changed to enable this, where and how services-centered firms are building applications (and in certain cases, managed services that involve software) and some of the challenges that firms still face in commercializing their technology efforts — and tips for overcoming them. It also highlights three examples of services providers that developed innovative procurement technology solutions in different areas, either within their current structure or inside new organizations run or owned by the same principals.

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