Sievo’s Data Management Services: ‘The Only Right Approach’ to a Standout Spend Analytics Capability  

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Editor’s Note: This article is part of our series The Featured Feature, where we explore unique technology capabilities that differentiate procurement solution providers. Read our introductory post to learn more.

As procurement organizations have become increasingly global and digital, the amount of data they create has exploded. This has made finding and managing spend data all the more complicated, to say nothing of analyzing and making decisions based on that data.

To keep up, procurement groups are increasingly investing in spend analytics tools, and the software market has responded in kind. New spend analytics vendors emerge each year, while suite providers continue to acquire leading providers, hoping to integrate standout capabilities into their offerings.

Between these upstarts and end-to-end offerings sits Sievo, one of the oldest independent providers in the market today. The Helsinki, Finland-based spend analytics provider has succeeded in its chosen solution area by continuously improving its product, using feedback from its customers to adapt its technology to changing procurement requirements.

Nowhere else is this more apparent than in Sievo’s approach to data management services, a capability for which the provider earned a “5” in the Spend and Procurement Analytics SolutionMap. In this installment of The Featured Feature, we take a look at what makes Sievo’s data management services unique, why the feature stands out from the other offerings and how the spend analytics provider plans to stay ahead of rapidly evolving competitors.

See how Sievo compares on a functional level across numerous capabilities: Access Provider Scoring Summaries for the Q2 2018 Spend and Procurement Analytics SolutionMap today.

The Feature: Sievo’s Data Management Services

To understand how Sievo’s data management services stand out, it helps to first define exactly what data management is.

According to DAMA International, an organization for the data management profession, data management is “the development, execution and supervision of plans, policies, programs and practices that control, protect, deliver and enhance the value of data and information assets."

To put it simply, data management handles the full lifecycle of data, from creation to retirement. Spend analytics providers offer services to facilitate data management, mainly in the areas of extraction, classification and quality management.

When it comes to positioning such services, spend analytics providers typically fall into two camps. The first is the “do-it-yourself” group, which provides the procurement organization with all of the tools to extract and classify data on its own. The second is the “we do it all for you” group, which allow procurement to essentially outsource spend analysis.

Sievo, however, walks a hybrid path. The provider takes full responsibility for spend data “from source to screen,” Johan-Peter Teppala, CEO of Sievo Inc., said in a recent interview, especially through the automation of data extraction. But it also gives its customers the tools to maintain control over their data, walking them through each step of the process so they aren’t left to fend for themselves with tools they don’t know how to use.

“What we want to do for our clients is to provide them with unique capabilities both from a technological point of view [and] from a procurement perspective,” Teppala said. “We are the people who are experts on speaking the IT language [and] the procurement language, working at the intersection of the two.”

From a capability perspective, Sievo handles all of the organization’s integration requirements and can extract data from more than 100 ERP systems, as well as a large number of market feeds. Sievo handles the cleansing, normalization and enrichment of all spend and supply data inputs.

Sievo typically performs data refreshes automatically on a monthly basis, although it is increasingly moving to weekly updates as the standard. This includes supplier normalization and product normalization components, if required.

Why Sievo’s Data Management Services Stand Out

Sievo is far from the only spend analytics provider that facilitates data extraction, classification and analysis. Where the vendor stands out, however, is in its services to support data management.

Part of this advantage comes from Sievo’s long history in the spend analysis market. Over the past 15 years, the provider has learned what works and what doesn’t with clients, leading to many small lessons it has used to continuously improve its solution.

While Sievo today offers a hybrid approach to data management, it actually started out as a do-it-yourself vendor. But over time, clients reported recurring issues with the data extraction, import and refresh processes.

The problem was not that the tools didn’t work; rather, it was that the procurement organizations lacked the technical capabilities to run data management entirely on their own.

“Thirteen years back, we asked our clients to develop the data extraction process by themselves,” Teppala said. “We learned that it doesn’t really work like that, because clients are not technical people. It takes a lot of time for the clients to develop anything good for the data extraction, let alone repeating that in a monthly or weekly fashion.”

In response, Sievo first decided to take responsibility for importing all of its clients’ data and eventually moved to completely automating extraction and validation. This ultimately led to the creation of the Sievo Data Extractor, a solution that fully connects and extracts procurement data from various sources and delivers it for further analytical processing.

In contrast, Sievo’s biggest competitors tend to fall short in at least one side of the spend analysis process. Larger P2P suites often offer strong technical capabilities but help less with building spend analysis processes. Providers based more on a procurement consulting strategy are great at helping build category models and delivering insights but leave clients with none of the technical capabilities needed to manage their data independently.

“Spend analysis in their case is basically a side product, something that they really need but don’t focus on,” Teppala said. “What we focus on is that our spend analysis product is really top notch and that it actually gets the job done.”

How Sievo Wins and Plans to Keep Business

By offering a hybrid model, Sievo provides a key to characteristic that procurement organizations are looking for in their solution providers: flexibility. When it approaches customers of varying size across different industries, Sievo can offer as much technical capability as needed while also letting the client retain enough control to feel involved in the spend analysis process.

A small company with scarce resources, for example, may be thrilled to learn Sievo can handle the bulk of data management, allowing procurement to spend less time fiddling with import tools and more on improving strategy based on analytical insights. A large company, however, may want to take a more active role in classifying its complex data, collaborating with Sievo along the way in a more partner-like relationship.

Looking toward the future, Sievo is working to maintain its position as a leading technology provider through heavy investment in R&D while also continuing to build on its strong reputation as a service provider that listens closely to client feedback and delivers capabilities that they truly need.

So far, according to Teppala, feedback continues to be positive. Back when Sievo decided to shift to its hybrid model, clients were skeptical that data extraction could be completed in five hours rather than multiple weeks. But once they went through the new process, those clients often became advocates for the Sievo vision.

“We are firm believers that this is the only right approach that actually works well for the spend analysis challenge,” Teppala said.  

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