The Killer Procurement Technology Application: Stupid Simple

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Like a lot of my colleagues on the analyst team at Azul Partners, I’m prone to overcomplicate things rather than take the easy way out. Big, hairy, audacious concepts (and procurement technology) fascinate me far more than what I’ve come to call the “Stupid Simple” ones.

But it is this latter group that has far greater appeal in the mass markets and, from a technology purchasing and adoption standpoint, the Stupid Simples tend to be the rocket ships from an initial growth perspective.

What do Stupid Simple concepts and companies have in common? I’ve created a running list.

They tend to:

  • Sell based on the user experience rather than feature function
  • Often start with a “feature” rather than a module — but one that is capable of selling itself even if it is incredibly narrow
  • Have a “walk-up UI” that does not require any training
  • Invert the model that 20% of the functionality ever gets used (with the goal of getting 80% in the hands of typical users as quickly as possible)
  • Have a common enemy (and sometimes a specific vendor in mind) in terms of complexity — an icon, a figure of the past, that they are “selling against” philosophically
  • Attract customers who are happy to overlook capability gaps (and have often had access to better technologies before from a feature/function perspective). These customers are not “going in blind” — they know what they’ll be missing and are willing to sacrifice absolute feature/function.
  • Adopt a mobile-first orientation (even if mobile is not the dominant form of access)
  • Either have out-of-the-box integration frameworks — which are so Stupid Simple that any procurement administrator with limited or no development savvy can enable integrations if necessary via point-and-click models — or have minimal/no integration requirements to begin to get value
  • Guide users (often not via “smart” approach, at least not yet) — see below
  • Offer a “good, better, best” approach to implementation and adoption (and can even be packaged that way in terms of pricing)
  • Develop a following — almost a cult following of users
  • Bring community and content to their offering — which can include acceleration templates (e.g., system, category, industry, compliance, etc.) to “get going”
  • Foster ecosystems not necessarily of traditional partners (like VARs / systems integrators) but technology partners with complementary solutions. These should be loosely coupled or plug-and-play (see the integration framework point above).
  • Have high customer satisfaction ratings (based on the SolutionMap customer satisfaction benchmark) especially when it comes to questions like net promoter score (recommend this provider), ROI, business value, etc.
  • Have pricing that is competitive but not necessarily at the low end (i.e., cheapest solution) in the market

More recently, process automation and smart guidance (i.e., predictive and prescriptive), either through RPA and/or artificial intelligence models, has also begun to work its way into the value proposition of the secret sauce of Stupid Simple procurement technology companies and products. But many of these efforts thus far have been elementary at best.

SolutionMap Accelerator Meets Stupid Simple

One of the coolest aspects of using Spend Matters SolutionMap Accelerator for custom technology selection processes (even without any analyst involvement) is that we’ve created an approach that maps granular business requirement priorities for every module within source-to-pay to technical requirements. This abstracts nerdy feature/function and technical architecture from procurement business users who need to decide what to buy based on what they really need.

One would think that SolutionMap Accelerator would favor providers with more advanced functional capability. At least that was my hypothesis when we launched Accelerator late in 2018.

But you’d be wrong — at least as a general rule. Since SolutionMap Accelerator allows companies to “unpack” their actual needs and see/gauge fit as they peel the onion in the drillable charts and reports we provide, they can see what really matters to them — and how vendors stack up before inviting a final shortlist to demo their wares.

In a recent memorable selection process, a Stupid Simple sourcing vendor won (no, I won’t name names), at least in part because for core RFI/RFX, a key decision requirement. In this case, the pack of potential vendors had pretty similar capabilities based on the business requirements for this specific organization. Although the winning vendor fell behind from a capability perspective in such areas as auction, optimization and project management, these ended up not really being important to our client. Core RFI/RFX capability (based on their needs) and customer satisfaction SolutionMap benchmarks won the day.

This case was not unique. Stupid Simple is increasingly playing a greater role in the tech selection day in more and more cases.

What is your Stupid Simple procurement technology story? I suspect if you don’t have one yet, you’ll have one soon. Even if you still have a surface bias — or thought you did — toward breadth and depth. Which is why the next set of killer apps in procurement technology are likely to be stupid. And simple. Even if the advanced sourcing guru inside you itching to get out wants to cry about it!

Want to select the right procurement technology for your specific business requirements (e.g., spend analytics, sourcing, supplier management, contract management, e-procurement, invoice-to-pay, VMS, etc.)?

Don’t hesitate to get in touch: jbusch (at) azulpartners (dot) com. Give us a few hours of your time to answer some questions (on your own) and we’ll provide you with a drillable framework to see how the supply market matches your specific needs. Whether you go Stupid Simple or not!

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First Voice

  1. Bill Kohnen:

    Very interesting list of common themes for the Stupid Simple category of solutions.

    Made me think about some of the homegrown Stupid Simple solutions that I was part of creating over the years as a work around to get things done despite Oracle or SAP as it was 10 years ago.

    One of the best was a simple web based workflow for requisition approvals that was supposed to be in place just for 12 months until next version of major ERP but was so simple and easy it was in place for years.

    I would suggest similar homegrown stupid simple solutions are in place all over and their impact on making things work may be underestimated.

    Challenge of course is they often don’t scale well and since not really well documented subject to disruption if the people that created them leave.

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