Author Archives: Michael Lamoureux



What To Expect from Best-in-Class Spend Analysis Technology and User Design (Part 4)

spend analytics

There are doubtless readers who have kept up with this Spend Matters PRO series on the intersection of best-in-class spend analytics technology and user design and thought to themselves, “I wish my solution did that.” But the most important thing to remember is that data is about telling a story. The particular narrative you decide (and are able to tell) from the insight to come out of your spend analytics initiatives will either make procurement more valuable or leave it to toil in obscurity. Spend analysis is an enabler — nothing more — but a critical one at making procurement better at everything it does. Yes, the “geek effect” of the best technology and user design considerations can make solutions buyers for it cringe (if they don’t have it). But ultimately, spend analysis is not about “the kit,” as the British would say.

It is within this context that we can observe that many procurement organizations today are making due with spend analysis technologies which, while helpful when it comes to teeing up basic sourcing opportunities and tracking savings, are a key limiting factor in enabling procurement to do more as a function, putting data front and center at driving the analytics to inform strategy and action.

As we continue this series exploring all the elements of best-in-class spend analysis approaches, painting a composite view about what an ideal solution should deliver at the intersection of capability and usability, we turn our attention to what optimal components approaches include for integrated reporting (and report design), as well as the core elements of descriptive and predictive reporting. See also Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Spend Analysis Technology and User Design (Part 3)

data analytics

Evaluating the merits of spend analysis solutions (by user role) is inherently complex given that a spend data analyst, a data management QA individual, teams, category managers, other procurement users and business stakeholders will interact with the application in different ways. An ideal solution for one user “type” may be unacceptable for another. For example, some groups will care deeply about granular data import/export capability while others will judge an entire solution by its reporting. Still others will marvel over the ability to classify or reclassify data in certain ways on the fly. But one commonality regardless of user role or interest for spend analysis is that the intersection of best-in-class technology with best-in-class user design is becoming inseparable. Form and function are both leading (and following) each other.

This Spend Matters PRO series explores how these areas can come together across a spend analysis application to transform how users interact with data and what they can do with it as a result. In the Part 1 of this series, we explored what separates out spend analysis dashboard approaches that are a distraction (at best) from those that are an invaluable component of an overall solution. In Part 2, we analyzed all of the nuances of optimal filter definition and dynamic cube views (and creation), including exploring what a truly flexible and dynamic filter capability consists of, as well as explaining the essential elements of formulaic and ranged dimension capability and real-time/scalable spend cubes (and why they matter, even for a typical user).

In this installment, we turn our attention to the intersection of the best technology and user design combinations covering optimal approaches to data import/export in different formats, “idiot-proof” data categorization system design and reclassification of data.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Spend Analysis Technology and User Design (Part 2)

Analytics

Like many other procurement technology enthusiasts, the co-authors of this report tend to put quite a bit of emphasis on just the spend classification components when considering spend analysis technology. But just as important as accurate spend classification is what one does with the data once it is available in a usable format. In the first installment in this series, we provided an insider look on what differentiates spend analysis dashboards that are a distraction (at best) from those that are an invaluable component of an overall solution.

As this Spend Matters PRO series on what separates out best-in-class spend analysis technology and user interface capabilities from the vendor pack continues, we turn our attention to the nuances of optimal filter definition and dynamic cube views (and creation). This includes exploring what a truly flexible and dynamic filter capability consists of, as well as explaining the essential elements of formulaic and ranged dimension capability and real-time/scalable spend cubes (and why they matter, even for a typical user).

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Spend Analysis Technology and User Design (Part 1)

There seems to be a near universal playbook for spend analysis solution providers when it comes to positioning the capability they deliver. You’re not alone if you think many vendors sound interchangeable (despite claims of “enrichment accuracy” or dashboard superiority). To be candid, based on our survey of many solutions in this market as part of PRO Vendor Snapshot reviews and, more recently, our SolutionMap comparative analyses, a good many are. But they’re fungible in a way that is not necessarily negative, especially those that tend to rely more on services and less on technology to drive data management efforts.

Still, best-in-class technology and usability matter. And while we do not disagree that spend analysis must center on — and span the gamut of — spend data acquisition from disparate sources, data cleansing, data classification, data enrichment and data analytics via a BI/data presentation layer, the devil is truly in the details when it comes to what to look for in a best-in-class solution both from technology and user interface capabilities. As with e-sourcing (Part 1, Part 2), reverse auction capability (Part 1, Part 2) and sourcing optimization (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4), the gap that separates out top performing solutions from everyone else is getting wider, not narrower.

This multipart Spend Matters PRO series examines the components of spend analysis solution capabilities in the technology and user experience areas that represent best-in-class today — and the intersection of how emerging features and capability are interacting (and driving) an optimal user experience. In this first installment, we consider the optimal interactive spend analysis dashboard.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Sourcing Optimization Technology and User Design (Part 4)

spend analytics

We’ve often wondered why sourcing optimization technology is not more broadly adopted today alongside or as a replacement for traditional RFX and reverse auction approaches. One of the major reasons why procurement-led optimization efforts have not yet crossed the chasm (outside of transportation spend) is that because until recently, many solutions were challenging to use without considerable training. In addition, most of the technologies available were not effective enough “out of the box” at tackling anything but logistics sourcing opportunities or somewhat simplistic bids and constraints. And, of course, not enough procurement organizations were even aware of all of the benefits optimization can bring above and beyond standard software-driven strategic sourcing efforts.

But these hurdles are disappearing — fast. This Spend Matters PRO series is meant as a primer for both sourcing optimization solution “buyers” and solution “builders.” It provides a look at what is required to use and field a best-in-class sourcing optimization solution today from both a technology and user design capability. The three previous installments can be found here and here and here. As we conclude our analysis in Part 4, we consider the areas of constraint impact analysis, scenario generation and reporting/analytics.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Sourcing Optimization Technology and User Design (Part 3)

So far in our series on sourcing optimization (see Part 1 and Part 2), we’ve covered how the intersections of specialized technology capability and user design must come together to support a best-in-class experience. Specifically, we’ve fleshed out the following areas by describing what is important to look for (or build) into a solution on both a functional and user experience perspective: constraint support, mathematical foundations, cost modeling, e-sourcing and reverse auction integration approaches, guided sourcing and automatic missing data and outlier identification. Today we turn our attention to how world-class sourcing optimization capability can address the automatic identification of unsatisfiable constraints and the tricks of the trade to fix them.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Sourcing Optimization Technology and User Design (Part 2)

Sourcing optimization has played a somewhat curious side role in the history of e-sourcing technologies. Approximately half a dozen procurement vendors have offered varying degrees of capability over the years, but customer adoption, especially in the user base of vendors offering other sourcing and procurement technology suite capabilities, has remained variable, as have the capabilities of the underlying optimization solutions themselves.

As we noted in the first installment in this series, sourcing optimization is “heady, complex and requires significant mathematical, technical and domain expertise to use” — at least in the past. It’s not a common skill combination. Developing and supporting such capability has also required skilled R&D (academic), product development and product management resources, so assuming you could find the right people, adding sourcing optimization to existing sourcing products required significant investments.

This Spend Matters PRO series provides a “how-to-guide” to selecting and developing best-in-class sourcing optimization technology, inclusive of a user design and interface that can maximize adoption. We suspect it will be useful for procurement organizations, consultants, business process outsourcing (BPO) firms and third-party logistics (3PL) providers evaluating or cobbling together solutions to use internally or own behalf of customers.

But this brief should also be equally valuable for technology vendors that are looking to build capability in the area, or improve upon existing sourcing solutions. In Part 1 of this series, we explored how powerful constraint support, solid mathematical foundations and advanced cost modeling capability must come together in a solution that dovetails best-in-class functional capability with optimal user design. In this second installment, we turn our attention to e-sourcing and reverse auction integration approaches, guided sourcing “what-if” support and automatic missing/outlier data identification.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Sourcing Optimization Technology and User Design (Part 1)

There’s a reason Coupa spent a healthy chunk of its IPO proceeds to purchase Trade Extensions: sourcing optimization technology is heady, complex and requires significant mathematical, technical and domain expertise to build. But more important than the barriers to entry in bringing it to market, the value sourcing optimization can bring to customers is materially greater than what standard e-sourcing and reverse auction technology can deliver. So if you’re pitching “savings” or “value” as a service for procurement, you’d be hard pressed to prioritize any other area over strategic sourcing optimization and related supply network design capabilities — even if it’s still somewhat a novelty in terms of adoption outside of logistics and transportation spend.

While we have explored and defined sourcing optimization technology in the past (including specifically what makes Trade Extensions great and why Coupa bought it from a customer perspective), we have not yet defined what the optimal (no pun intended) components and user design elements of a sourcing optimization solution look like more generically. This Spend Matters PRO series aims to do just this, breaking new ground in spelling out for procurement and supply chain professionals, consultants and technologists what they should look for (or strive to build) when considering sourcing optimization capability. It is meant as a companion to the other PRO articles in this series thus far covering what best-in-class technology and user design look like for e-sourcing (see: here and here) and reverse auction (see: here and here) technologies .

So what does best-in-class sourcing optimization look like and how does form follow function from a design perspective in supporting it? In this first installment in our series, we cover the concepts of powerful constraint support (and what’s required to support it), solid mathematical foundations and advanced cost modeling.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Reverse Auction Technology and User Design (Part 2)

auction

Spend Matters tracks more than 50 technology providers that claim to have some type of auction or reverse auction capability in place to support strategic sourcing efforts of procurement organizations. But only a select few vendors go the extra mile to support what we consider the core capabilities that just about any procurement organization can take advantage of to drive incremental savings and results.

As we conclude our look at what procurement organizations should expect from the intersection of best-in-class reverse auction capabilities with a streamlined user design/experience, we define and explore the following areas: asynchronous real-time interactive graphical views (of events), real-time substitution request capabilities, real-time connectivity monitoring, constraint support and optimization-backed capability. Missed Part 1? Read it here.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Reverse Auction Technology and User Design (Part 1)

Thus far in this Spend Matters PRO research series, we have explored how optimal user experience (UX) and advanced feature/function support have become inseparable when it comes to delivering best-of-breed e-sourcing capabilities (see What You Should Expect from Best-in-Class E-Sourcing User Experience and Functionality: Part 1 and Part 2). We pointed out, for example, that numerous specific elements must come together to drive strategic sourcing and RFX success for anything but the most basic strategic sourcing scenarios.

These capabilities that we covered include guided event creation, simplified template creation, clutter free role-based views, easy bulk file upload (and association), easy starting bid population, simplified bid validation and verification, and nuanced delegation approaches (for buyers and suppliers). When it comes to reverse auction capability and technology, however, this is just a necessary list of basic functionality for foundational support. It’s far from complete, as reverse auctions are really their own “sub-module” in their own right.

As our series continues, we explore how additional UX and technology/feature requirements come together to create best-in-class reverse auction technology. But let us first start this series with a warning: Few technology providers come close to touching all these core capabilities today. In this first installment, we define and explain the concepts of — and capability needed to support — powerful lot configuration (with formula-based pricing), extensive (reverse auction) format selection, deep parameterization capability and smart “multirepresentative” supplier views.

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!