Author Archives: Jason Busch



About Jason Busch

The closest thing to a household name in procurement and supply chain, Jason has led the charge as an advocate, futurist and evangelist since the 1990s. Initially at FreeMarkets and then an adviser to Ariba and other firms, Jason branched out on his own to establish the Spend Matters brand (parent company: Azul Partners), which emerged to become the largest news and information portal covering the sector. Over the years, Azul Partners has expanded this digital portfolio to 12 affiliated properties including leading titles such as Spend Matters UK/Europe, MetalMiner and Public Spend Forum, making it one of the largest independent B2B digital media firms. Jason divides his time between research, speaking, corporate finance advisory and mentoring dozens of firms and procurement organizations in the industry. Prior to Azul Partners and FreeMarkets, Jason worked in consulting and merchant banking. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. Personal investment disclosures: Azul Partners, Inc., Public Spend Forum, LLC, Remitia Ltd., RJSL Group LLC, Sigaria Ltd., Spare to Share, LLC, Spendata LLC, SpendLead, Inc., Spend Matters Europe Ltd., Spend Matters Group, LLC.


What You Should Expect from Best-in-Class E-Sourcing User Experience and Functionality (Part 2)

E-sourcing technology is becoming increasingly defined by the user experience as much as the underlying functional and technical capability. But in the future — and we see this trend starting already with best-in-class capabilities — the combination of the user experience (i.e., design) and underlying technology solution components and feature/function capabilities will become increasingly intertwined and inseparable. This Spend Matters PRO series examines the intersection of what a best-in-class user experience and functionality capability means for e-sourcing solutions today and tomorrow.

In Part 1 of this series, we explored what capabilities and experience procurement organizations should expect from best-in-class guided event creation, clutter-free views and simplified template creation and management within e-sourcing solutions. In this installment, we turn our attention to how the world of best-in-class user experiences and underlying functional capability are coming together to support bulk upload/attachment association, starting bid population, bid validation and verification and procurement/supplier delegation for strategic sourcing, category management and auction/negotiation enablement. These are capabilities that buyers of these solutions should evaluate vendors on based on demonstrated capabilities, approach and planned releases, and they are capabilities that technology providers should continually strive to enhance.

What You Should Expect from Best-in-Class E-Sourcing User Experience and Functionality

E-sourcing technologies have been around for two decades now. The authors have played various roles over the years in helping architect them, design them, configure them, select them and use them. Yet while today e-sourcing should be a mature and functionally rich technology out of the box, the reality is that there are still a number of offerings that don't have some of the most basic features you would have expected some years ago.

In contrast, other offerings continue to push the envelope in various areas of what the product can offer. In this two-part Spend Matters PRO brief, we outline what specific elements you should expect from best-in-class e-sourcing user experience and functional components. In the first installment, we cover how best-in-class solution designs feature guided event creation, clutter-free views and simplified template creation and management. As will soon become clear, it is impossible to separate a best-in-class user experience from underlying functional capability in many areas of strategic sourcing technology — the two are becoming increasingly yoked. Form following function. Or function following form. You decide!

The Future of the Procurement Technology User Experience (Part 2): Advanced Mobile and ‘Mission Control’ Dashboards

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Does anyone remember how bad early procurement technology interfaces were? While there are some folks we can blame directly — for example, whoever designed SAP SRM’s original interfaces in earlier releases should be doomed to spend his retirement managing the search, requisition and approval process for the coffins of all of the licenses that were never used — the limitations of early UIs were mostly due to where technology was at the time. We are not just talking about the latest in “Amazon-esque shopping” or “type ahead” search capability, or minimizing the number of clicks required to perform a task, clever menu nesting, tab structures, integrated activities within “suites” that transcend being within a specific module and the better use of icons and colors. That’s so 2015. Rather, nearly all elements of the modern 2017 technology stack are starting to come together in a manner that is driving the start of a radical shift in creating more usable procurement technology overall. This is big. It’s much bigger than Coupa rising to fame (initially) by creating a UI that was vastly superior to Ariba at the time (not SAP Ariba today, mind you).

As we noted in an earlier installment of this series exploring “smart systems” and messaging, chat and collaboration (MCC), “Smart systems drive integrated guidance leveraging new "AI" techniques ... They do this by mixing semantic technology, sentiment analysis, key-phrase driven expert systems and other machine learning techniques with history to determine what the user is doing and what the user wants to do … [and] new approaches to MCC represent a new ‘layer’ of the user experience. Just as third-party analytics dashboards have become a standard ‘front end’ in many procurement suites for drilling into spend, supplier or modular based data, so too are these components becoming a standard addition to procurement technology applications. As with front-end analytics, they can either be developed internally (by a procurement software vendor) or they can be OEM’ed/licensed by a provider — as is often the case with analytics — and incorporated as a component of the product.”

Today, we turn our attention to advanced mobile enablement and “mission control” dashboards — two other components driving the next-generation procurement user experience in technology. In this research brief, we define these areas and their components, and provide practical use cases of how they are leveraged within technology.

5 Quick and Crazy Ideas About What Amazon’s Acquisition of Whole Foods Means for the Intersection of B2B and B2C

amazon

We, like a lot of folks, said “whoa” this morning when reading about Amazon’s announcement that it was buying Whole Foods. It stopped us in our tracks, which is not a surprise. For if we were to dissect our personal household spending, Whole Foods would certainly top our lists, like many other families who can afford it, no doubt. But what’s curious from our vantage point is not what Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods — if approved by shareholders and if it passes regulatory hurdles — means for our own credit card bills. Rather, we’re keen to see what it means for Amazon Business and the intersection of business and consumer buying.

Making Sense of Dirty Data and Spend Classification Components: With Oracle and Others

Next week, I'm participating in a webinar, Oracle and Procurement Analytics: A Deep Dive Into Oracle’s Spend Analysis and Data-Driven Procurement Solutions, with the Data Intensity team. For those that do not know Data Intensity, the firm acquired Enrich in 2016. In various discussions with the Data Intensity team in preparation for the webinar I realized that Oracle has largely flown under the radar in spend analytics compared with many other procurement technology providers, especially independent specialist vendors. Still, Oracle has quietly built a solid set of capabilities in the spend classification area (and, more broadly, spend analytics).

The Future of the Procurement Technology User Experience: Smart Systems and Messaging, Chat and Collaboration (MCC)

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It was not so long ago that nearly all vendors with strong user interfaces, at least for e-procurement, described the experience of those using their applications as “Amazon-like.” But in a matter of quarters, the bar for a best-in-class user experience has evolved materially. And the pace of acceleration will only continue.

Even today, “ease-of-use” is the ante — a strong user experience delivers much more. In the first installment in this series, we noted that for procurement technologies, the user experience “is extremely important these days. For better or worse, it is becoming the basis for many technology selections, as organizations are quickly realizing that user experience is the key to adoption.”

Further, “procurement teams are now becoming aware that the high-priced technology they acquire will only deliver an ROI if it gets used. And having acquired too much shelfware over time, many have decided that it's better to settle for fewer features if the software is actually adopted.”

But what is a best-in-class user experience in 2017? And what will it be in 2020? In this two-part Spend Matters PRO brief, we delve into the evolution of the procurement technology UI, describing what users and technology buyers should now expect today and tomorrow from artificial intelligence (AI) smart systems, real-time messaging, chat and collaboration (MCC) frameworks, integrated dashboards and the latest in advanced mobile capability.

Don’t get left behind. And don’t let a technology provider fool you into thinking they necessarily are providing the latest and greatest capability today — or are taking full advantage of disruptive technologies as they plan their roadmaps for tomorrow.

BuyerQuest: Vendor Snapshot (Part 3) — Competitive and Summary Analysis

Procurement organizations have an increasing number of choices when it comes to selecting an e-procurement solution. With both full suite and smaller independent providers — not to mention ERP vendors — improving and expanding their capabilities in this area, it has never been a better time to purchase a new technology or make the switch from an older platform.

Within this market, BuyerQuest delivers a number of nuanced capabilities that differentiate it from peers. This third and final installment of our Spend Matters Vendor Snapshot covering BuyerQuest provides a SWOT analysis of the provider, as well as a segmentation and comparison of competitors. It also includes a recommended shortlist of candidates that could serve as alternative vendors to BuyerQuest for e-procurement and procure-to-pay (P2P). Finally, we conclude with a summary analysis and recommendations for organizations considering BuyerQuest.

The Freelancer Economy Reaches the Shop Floor

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the July 2017 edition of Surplus Record.

The way the freelancer and sharing economies have developed so far, many of these independent workers have gravitated to technology (IT), design and other services-based roles. The opportunity for freelancers in manufacturing, however, is beginning to increase for many of the same reasons it has in other sectors. Chicago-based FactoryFix, for example, matches skilled labor in the engineering/factory automation, maintenance repair (technicians), electrical contractor/panel builders and machine operators/fabrications (including precision machining, tool/die, welding and assembly) areas with manufacturers who need short-term or long-term help.

Beyond VMS: The Creation of a New Technology Category for Contingent Workforce and Services

For over 20 years, vendor management systems (VMS) have been the sole enterprise technology category for contingent workforce and services (CW/S) procurement. Within that category, especially over the last seven years or so, most VMS solutions have been (to a lesser or greater extent) evolving, upgrading their technology, deepening their core functionality and expanding the scope of the kinds of spend that can be managed. One prominent example of the latter has been the development of SOW/services management capabilities. A less prominent example has been the development of functionality for managing independent/contract workers. Finally, some VMS solutions have begun to develop digital sourcing solutions, which in some instances will link to online work platforms.

In many ways, this evolution parallels the shift from largely point solutions for transactional indirect e-procurement technologies to broader source-to-pay (S2P) and procure-to-pay (P2P) suites, networks and platforms. But it is also different, in that it takes advantage of more recent digital enabling technologies, as well as a fundamental shift in underlying workforce dynamics in the market. In other words, it is both “bottoms up” technically and driven by external forces, as well — a perfect recipe for digital disruption. This Spend Matters PRO research brief explores the creation of this new category, which we believe will reshape the current VMS-dominated services procurement ecosystem and drive existing providers to evolve and innovate in new ways.

Business Process Management for Procurement: A Spectrum of Choices

category management

BPM stands for business process management. If the business process is procurement (i.e., a collection of processes), then the concept is about managing procurement processes — including process design/definition, performance management (e.g., process outputs/KPIs, monitoring) and resource management. Of course, in the IT world, BPM has its own body of knowledge regarding the topic, focused mostly on “process workflow/integration on steroids.” This is the “system of process/interaction/engagement” that may sit on top of multiple systems of record (e.g., ERP, source-to-pay suites).

In this Spend Matters Plus article, we define BPM components and offer practical ways for applying BPM to procurement, keeping the topic on a business level and issuing both warnings and best practice tips for companies deploying or considering BPM technology adoption within the function. But how can you approach this topic without your eyes glazing over? Wikipedia does a good job explaining the concept, but we will try to define an evolution that procurement organizations can use to start doing IT-enabled BPM in a simple way, and then get more sophisticated.

BuyerQuest: Vendor Snapshot (Part 2) — Product Strengths and Weaknesses

The barriers to entry for any provider wanting to create an e-procurement or procure-to-pay (P2P) solution are perhaps the highest of any technology area in the procurement sector. Not only must solutions combine a world-class experience for all frontline users from a shopping and buying experience to be competitive, they also must feature entirely different sets of capabilities to enable both procurement organizations (and suppliers) to collectively manage dozens of elements to ensure that all purchases are in compliance with company policies, contracts and supplier agreements. Ideally, these two elements combine to guide users to an optimal buying experience both for their own requirements and the company, steering them in ways they may not even be aware of.

BuyerQuest is one of only a select number of new entrants to gain traction in the e-procurement — and more recently, the P2P — market in recent years by meeting these requirements, often in differentiated ways. This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot explores BuyerQuest’s strengths and weaknesses, providing facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations decide whether they should consider the provider. Part 1 of our analysis provided a company and detailed solution overview and a recommend fit list of criteria for firms considering BuyerQuest. The third part of this series will offer a SWOT analysis, user selection guide, competitive alternatives, and additional evaluation and selection considerations.

Merging Jaggaer and Pool4Tool: Strategy Analysis and Questions Customers Should Ask

Jaggaer announced Monday it would merge with Pool4Tool. The combination raises a number of questions, primarily from a strategy perspective, beyond just providing expanded distribution to a niche provider and the validation of a new technology segment (manufacturing-centric procurement solutions) in North America. Rather, it raises the broader notion of whether a mutual fund-type holding company structure — regardless of capitalization structure — can help the fortunes of each “member” (and customers) beyond a certain point.

There's no question the two firms are better together than apart. Both “members” can immediately cross-sell and gain certain scale advantages. They can do this because of customer goodwill and the ability to get in the door and deliver. No doubt the professionalism that a private equity-held software firm brings, along with professional services know-how and reach to drive sales and implementations, will be key contributors to initial momentum as well. Jaggaer brings these two areas to Pool4Tool — and then some. But this only goes so far.

Longer term, real technology integration models, including a supplier network and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) strategy, need to be spelled out. While our colleague Tom Finn appreciated Jaggaer and Pool4Tool’s honesty around the topic of integration, strategically, to maximize customer (and likely shareholder) value, our esteemed colleague may not be right. Which brings us to the strategic technology questions Jaggaer and Pool4Tool should be asking as well as those which customers and prospective should zero in on as well.