For Small and Midsize Businesses: Time to Talk About SpendBoss

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When it comes to software, regardless of stripe, our attention is frequently drawn to the maneuverings of the larger, more established procurement technology providers, because they deal with the bigger, more recognizable companies. But from best-in-breed to S2P, modern software has so eased the pain of data integration that the playing fields, when compared with what once could have been imagined, are now leveled.

Still, while the cloud has surely democratized the ability for far larger audiences to consume great software, license fees, maintenance and subscription costs still govern who gets what.

Let’s face it: while supply chain and procurement practitioners who live in the world of big business may share the same aches and pains as their small business counterparts, the remedies for the latter group are few and far between. And that’s a tough pill to swallow for successful entrepreneurs, as their operational effectiveness has a direct impact on their personal incomes.

While it may not be intuitive, successful small business owners are notorious early adopters of whatever enabling, affordable technology options are available to them. The problem, however, is that there aren’t a lot of options. Regardless, the ones who win are almost always known to be the most clever, yet the tech options they choose and how they apply them is not widely understood or publicized.

QuickBooks has become a synonym for accounting. SharePoint and tools like it are used to facilitate project collaboration with customers that small businesses tend to work with far more closely than their larger counterparts. Of course, email, instant messaging and all-things-social are now staples, right along with the throng of recently introduced mobile apps that have made it even easier for owners and their employees to work more flexibly and effectively from home or office. The cloud has been huge for smaller businesses, as data storage capabilities seem limitless and everything is networked, providing access to everything from anywhere.

In fact, large organizations are not the only ones making data driven decisions. Small businesses have that same opportunity, as the data brokers are everywhere, and the tools required to make sense of it all are now packaged with the small business owner in mind. While apps like Google Analytics and Twitter Analytics provide valuable insight for marketing purposes, the point is, for the small business owner, these tools are foundational to their marketing strategy development and execution.

But what about spend management? Is procurement automation a stretch for the small business owner? Isn’t operational maturity a differentiator for companies of all sizes?

Let me put it this way: For a small group of entrepreneurs who join forces to build their dream by opening franchises, are procurement automation’s rewards less than meaningful for them?

Say the business owner is part of a network that combines corporate owned locations and independent operators. That means location-specific and seasonal purchases, as well as both compulsory and non-compulsory items and services to manage (some purchased from corporate and some on the open market). Add in about 1,000 changing items, shared inventory, dynamic cost/credit arrangements per location and order/lead time challenges driven by small, fixed production runs. Will a combination of spreadsheets and email work any better for a store short-staffed with multitaskers than it would be in an overburdened, yet dedicated, procurement department?

Enter SpendBoss

SpendBoss was founded by Scott Schneider. His objective was simple: Develop extraordinarily easy-to-use spend management software that integrates well with the other technologies typical of the small to midsize ecosystems. This required making the software easily accessible as a service and, obviously, choosing a subscription price that would be a no-brainer.

And SpendBoss has done just that.

Here’s a real case study: Tommy Bahama is a well-known clothing brand. To quote Mike Barrow, the company’s VP of retail, “What’s it like to have no idea where to get supplies to run your store?” Apparently, as Tommy Bahama spans some 150 locations, Barrow had been asked that same question at least that many times.

In short, local store managers were no less frustrated than corporate, as clearly, everyone lacked visibility and the associated controls. However, while the problem-set was obvious to everyone, the solution wasn’t.

Enter SpendBoss.

Organizing purchasing/asset management and therefore, all but eliminating the previous back-office grind, turned out to be just one dimension of the overall benefit delivered. Essentially, staff was reenergized around a communications platform that connects all related supply chain operations across the Tommy Bahama network. And not surprisingly, because the solution is highly intuitive/easy to use and accessible from just about any device, it was quickly adopted.

In terms of overall functionality, are you thinking lightweight? Not a chance. Although SpendBoss implementations may be relatively easy (measured in weeks to a few months depending on numbers of items and locations), they are extremely thorough and fully integrated. The solution isn’t a convenient layer-on, but no less deeply embedded into the workflows of staff than is the case with properly integrated P2P functionality in a large organization. Keep in mind, in smaller businesses, SpendBoss is routinely used by perhaps the largest cross section of employees in the company.

The formula here isn’t a mystery. Targeted shopping solutions designed to make life easy for requisitioners do a lot more than meets the eye. Essentially, these marketplaces control the internal point of sale. They not only drive a default state of compliance by organizing location-specific preferences but wherever possible facilitate demand aggregation.

SpendBoss implementations are clearly meant to enhance leverage in supplier negotiations. It follows a successful trend that we’re seeing from the largest solution providers — those that maintain supplier networks (e.g. SAP Ariba, Coupa and Basware).

For Tommy Bahama, SpendBoss checked boxes that store managers hadn’t even considered. And not surprisingly, the provider is doing it for a fast-growing list of clients who do everything from operating franchised restaurants to specialized retailers who may have as many as a few hundred locations. The value it is creating is a function of knowing the environment it has targeted, organizing its supply chain management and procurement operations and staying on top of them by partnering with their smaller business clients in a fashion they appreciate and expect.

It is noteworthy that SpendBoss doesn’t sell tradeoffs. To the contrary, it’s supporting the best practices that define large organization supply chain operations in a package sized right and priced right for smaller businesses. It’s about time.

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