Author Archives: Michael Lamoureux



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!

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

ux

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.

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

software

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.

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

Upwork Pro

In this Spend Matters Vendor Snapshot series, we have been analyzing EcoVadis, a provider of a cloud-based corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability rating and monitoring “Solution” (with a capital “S” to denote a solution that transcends software) for your critical supply chain suppliers. The supplier and buyer friendly platform allows suppliers to self-register, complete a profile customized to them based on their UN ISIC industry code (and country and size), upload all relevant documentation and get assessed/rated for a 12-month period. As we wrote in our last installment of this series: 

“The EcoVadis CSR rating is not a formal certification from a regulatory agency, but the criteria is interestingly built up as a "best of breed" superset of requirements from existing CSR standards such as Global Reporting Initiative, the United Nations Global Compact, and the ISO 26000. This relevance helps improve attractiveness and adoption by organizations who don't want to re-invent the wheel and can use a single rating to also help comply with the other certifications that are in force within their supply chain.”

This final installment of our multipart Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot series covering EcoVadis offers a SWOT analysis, competitive assessment and comparison with other similar and “crossover” providers in the supplier management market which also address ratings, CSR, risk and related initiatives. It also includes a user selection guide and summary evaluation and selection considerations. Part 1 and Part 2 of this PRO research series provide a company and deep-dive solution overview, product strengths and weaknesses and a recommended fit analysis for what types of organizations should consider EcoVadis.

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

spend analytics

Not only is the market for spend analysis solutions highly fragmented from a vendor “choice” perspective today, it is also characterized by solutions that are difficult to compare on an apples-to-apples basis between providers. Sievo is one such provider that makes cross-comparisons of vendors challenging because of some of the unique approaches it takes both to spend classification and, more important, to savings reporting and tracking. In fact, this latter element makes it one of the few spend analytics solutions that is as relevant for finance (and CFOs) as it is for procurement organizations.

This final installment of our multipart Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot series covering Sievo offers a SWOT analysis, competitive assessment and comparison with other providers in the spend analytics market. It also includes a user selection guide and summary evaluation and selection considerations. Part 1 and Part 2 of this PRO research series provide a company and deep dive solution overview, product strengths and weaknesses and a recommended fit analysis for what types of organizations should consider Sievo.

Sievo: Vendor Snapshot (Part 2) — Product Strengths & Weaknesses

data analytics

To get the full benefits of Sievo, a novel analytics and savings management/tracking provider that delivers value to both procurement and finance organizations, customers need to get their hands dirty in their data — which can be a good thing. In engaging Sievo, it is the involved customer that becomes intimate at a deeper level with their data to drive true spending intelligence, in contrast to working with many other spend analytics providers that take ownership, on an outsourced basis, of data stewardship to drive cleansing, enrichment and classification perspectives.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot explores Sievo’s strengths and weaknesses as a managed services provider, providing facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations decide whether they should consider the firm to support the procurement of contingent workforce spend and broader services procurement categories. Part 1 of our analysis provided a company and detailed solution overview and a recommend fit list of criteria for firms considering Sievo. The third part of this series will offer a SWOT analysis, user selection guide, competitive alternatives and additional evaluation and selection considerations.

Sievo: Vendor Snapshot (Part 1) — Background & Solution Overview

The market for spend analytics reminds us of the evolution of the coffee market. It was not so long ago that we largely had a maximum of four choices: drip, percolator and then regular or decaf (this was when no one cared about the provenance of “the beans”). Today, this choice has exploded, and coffee is, well, not just coffee anymore.

Spend analytics has evolved in just about as many directions as a barista can provide in terms of java choice at the local coffee shop. But not all approaches are created equal. In fact everything from underlying data acquisition, classification, enrichment and analytics can vary dramatically from solution to solution.

Sievo is one of the longest running, still independent spend analytics providers in the market today. Founded in 2003, Sievo long ago moved beyond basic spend analytics and centers much of its value proposition today on driving savings program measurement and management. How they do this is complex, requiring all of the basics of spend classification, analytics and more. In this research brief, we get into the weeds on the “what” and the “how” of Sievo. We promise: Sievo is unlikely any other provider you have seen in terms of both methodology and solution.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot provides facts and expert analysis to help buying organizations make informed decisions about whether they need a solution like Sievo to drive spend analytics programs or in addition to their current efforts. Part 1 of our analysis provides a company background and detailed solution overview, as well as a summary recommended fit suggestion for when organizations should consider Sievo. The rest of this multipart research brief covers product strengths and weaknesses, competitor and SWOT analysis, user selection guides, and insider evaluation and selection considerations.