New Year’s Countdown: Spend Matters’ Top 10 Articles of 2018

Another year is ending and 2019 is officially upon us. For procurement professionals and technology providers, that means we’re nearing the end of a decade’s worth of industry innovation — and that various “2020” forecasts will soon become outdated.

While many claims of what 2020 would be like now seem laughable, there have been, to be sure, numerous developments worthy of note. See what caught our readers’ attention in 2018 by counting down our top 10 posts of the year with us. Here’s wishing you all a happy and prosperous 2019!

  1. Extinction event: Amazon Textract has just killed the OCR industry. Who’s next and who’s safe?

No “best of” list in procurement — or, really, technology or businesses news generally — would be complete without mention of Amazon. While the online retail behemoth made waves with multiple moves this year, the one that attracted our readers’ attention most was the debut of Textract, a new OCR service from Amazon that extracts text and tables from documents and is priced at $1.50 per 1,000 pages.

According to Doug Hudgeon, a business automation expert and guest contributor to Spend Matters, Textract is notable for three reasons:

  • Textract has killed the OCR industry.
  • The service highlights where the big cloud providers are headed and who is next to go extinct.
  • It demonstrates that big cloud providers can dominate a new industry by using machine learning rather than by acquiring start-ups or established players.

To learn more about Hudgeon’s reasoning behind these points, check out the full article.

  1. Five reasons why Tradeshift would acquire Basware

Our most-read M&A story of the year happened to be a deal that has not yet materialized. When rumor surfaced in November that a potential acquirer had floated an offer for Basware, we analyzed the rationale from multiple angles. Soon after, however, Tradeshift confirmed that it was the one making the offer, which led us to examine five key reasons the two providers would consider a tie-up.

  1. How Shiftgig CEO Wade Burgess plans to scale gig worker adoption in procurement from niche services to enterprise platform

If you needed to choose an executive for your young technology company that is seeking to change the future of work, whom would you choose? A former LinkedIn executive who keenly understands the way the digital world is changing the labor market would seem like a smart bet.

This scenario describes the move Shiftgig made when it named Wade Burgess as its CEO. From the shift to job seeking online to the rise of the gig economy, Burgess has seen and shaped the changing talent landscape, even made it his mission in life to empower professionals and create greater economic opportunity for a broader base of the workforce. To learn more about how Burgess would apply that background at Shiftgig, Spend Matters’ Research Director for Labor and Services Procurement Andrew Karpie sat down with the newly appointed CEO about a year ago to discuss the future of the company, as well as its role in the changing world of work.

  1. I’m afraid I can’t source that, Dave: Artificial intelligence in strategic sourcing

While it’s easy to scoff at the hype built up around AI, it’s equally important to understand its components and figure out where businesses can realistically apply the technology.

For example, almost 20 years ago, there was a lot of hype surrounding web-based negotiation agents, which claimed they would not only scour the web to identify supplies but also select and negotiate with new partners on your behalf. Obviously, that didn't pan out, Spend Matters Chief Research Officer Pierre Mitchell explains in this entry on AI’s future in strategic sourcing solutions. But carrying that disillusionment into provider evaluation today would be misguided, Mitchell writes, as the use cases for the technology are slowly beginning to add up.

  1. What is market intelligence, and is it relevant to procurement?

As procurement takes on increased strategic importance within companies, purchasing professionals are being asked to do even more with their limited time. This is especially true when sourcing direct materials, which requires keen attention to many changing economic factors outside of the organization. These factors are motivating procurement organizations to consider whether they have adequate access to multiple sources of supply market intelligence, our Brand Studio team writes in a collaboration with Beroe.

To help practitioners understand why, this first article in a two-part series outlines the key pillars of market intelligence, explaining why companies seek out this capability. It then explores why market intelligence matters to procurement, and concludes with an analysis of why businesses should seek help from a third-party provider to build out a market intelligence program.

  1. Creating a legacy at SAP and beyond: Where Barry Padgett plans to lead Ariba

Right as the year kicked off, SAP made some major leadership changes, moving Alex Atzberger to president of SAP Hybris and naming Barry Padgett as the new CEO of SAP Ariba. To learn how Padgett plans to leave his mark at the procurement software giant, Spend Matters Founder Jason Busch conducted a wide-ranging Q&A on SAP Ariba’s future.

  1. Clarifying robotic process automation: What RPA is (and isn’t) for procurement

One of the hottest technologies of 2018 is actually a fairly simple solution. We’re talking, of course, about robotic process automation (RPA), a type of software that mimics the activity of a human carrying out a task within a process (e.g., opening an email and copying its contents into a spreadsheet). RPA is often confused with technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, so we set out in January to clarify once and for all what RPA is, what it isn’t and how procurement organizations can apply it in both practical and advanced contexts.

  1. Coupa vs. SAP Ariba: E-procurement head-to-head technology evaluation and comparison

When two e-procurement software titans clash, there’s bound to be blood. At least, that’s what we imagined happening when we put Coupa and SAP Ariba in a head-to-head bout in May. In this most popular installment of our ongoing head-to-head column, Spend Matters Founder Jason Busch threw both companies into the e-procurement evaluation ring, using exclusive SolutionMap benchmark data to compare their e-procurement capabilities. Who remained standing at the final bell? We won’t spoil it yet — but just know that only SolutionMap Insider members can get ringside seats.

  1. Getting real with artificial intelligence in procurement

Disruptive technologies often enter a hype cycle from which they emerge less impressive than as they entered. But artificial intelligence may be the exception to this trend. The long-discussed technology is starting to have real effects on the way procurement professionals run their operations. Spend Matters Chief Research Officer Pierre Mitchell explores the hype and reality of AI in his April post of the subject, in which he concludes with some examples of how the technology is being applied in sourcing today.

  1. 50 providers to know and 50 providers to watch for 2018

We swear we’re not tooting our own horn: This year's 50 Providers to Know and 50 Providers to Watch lists were by far our most popular article of 2018. Now in its fifth iteration, the 50/50 lists are the result of intense debate, discussion and refinement among all of the Spend Matters analysts and reflect our unbiased, independent view of the providers you should have on your radar. If you haven’t already, check out the 100 providers that made the cut this year, and be sure to head over to the Spend Matters Almanac for more information on these and other companies that can help take your procurement organization to the next level.

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