Author Archives: Michael Lamoureux



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.

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

sustainability

The market demand for supplier intelligence and data within procurement continues to increase. Whether it’s supply chain and supplier risk data provided by originators and aggregators or category and supply market based general intelligence offered by analyst-driven models, an increasing number of firms are looking to third parties to augment their internal data gathering and analysis efforts. EcoVadis fits within this supplier intelligence/data (and software) landscape as a cloud-based corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability rating/monitoring solution for global suppliers. To date, it has faced no direct competition for its unique bundling of cloud based software, content and services.

The buyer friendly (and supplier friendly) platform allows suppliers to self-register, complete a profile customized to them based on their UN ISIC code and categories of products or services offered, upload all relevant documentation and get certified for a 12-month period with a CSR certification. EcoVadis builds certifications as a smart superset of CSR mega standards (e.g., Global Reporting Initiative, the United Nations Global Compact, and the ISO 26000), which enables it to be more readily accepted across a buying organization’s customer base.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot explores EcoVadis’ product strengths and weaknesses, providing facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations decide whether they should consider this provider of supplier intelligence solutions. It also offers a critique (pros/cons) of the user interface. Part 1 of our analysis provided a company and detailed solution overview and a recommend fit list of criteria for firms considering EcoVadis. The third part of this series will offer a SWOT analysis, user selection guide, competitive alternatives, and additional evaluation and selection considerations.

Getting the Most from Sourcing Optimization (Part 1): Lessons From Leaders

Global Risk Management Solutions (GRMS)

The combination of Trade Extensions and Coupa may seem a curious one for those unfamiliar with either organization, and may even raise questions for those who know both. As Trade Extensions’ recent customer event showed (see our live coverage here, here and here), the sourcing optimization specialist and its customers continue to push the limits of what is possible with e-sourcing. In contrast, procurement organizations that gravitate to Coupa — even highly sophisticated ones — tend to do so because they want to avoid complexity for their users and make the transactional buying process as simple as possible, all the while guiding users to make the best decisions for the business.

This two-part PRO research note provides additional perspective from Trade Extensions’ customer event on how this spectrum of complexity and simplicity may not be incongruous in the future; rather, sourcing optimization could serve as a better mousetrap to identify complexity, deconstruct it and ultimately redefine procurement’s role in the business by changing how the function is conceived. But before that can happen, there’s a more important topic address: the fact that most firms using Trade Extensions (and other sourcing optimization technologies) have only begun to scratch the surface of embracing complexity — let alone containing, controlling, distilling and simplifying it.

Part 1 of this series explores how an organization can get the most from sourcing optimization once it has signed up for it, which is easier said than done. We explore three areas: selecting the right users and training them effectively to use optimization, leveraging a center of excellence (CoE) to scale efforts and thinking big (i.e., beyond category-driven events alone). Spend Matters would like to thank all of the conference attendees and Trade Extensions for sharing these ideas.

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

For many industries and regions, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability are de rigueur. In several cases, there is also legislation to back them up, and there are no signs the resulting regulations are going away anytime soon.

Despite this, may companies pay CSR little more than lip service. There are numerous reasons for this. For one, CSR often has a hard time competing for budget and investments relative to other “hot” projects focused on short-term cost savings. This is a shame, because when CSR is extended to the supply base, it can actually be used to demonstrate not just regulatory/customer compliance but also to tap supplier innovation, lower costs, reduce supply risk and increase brand leverage.

The bigger tactical issue, however, is that extending CSR out to suppliers is simply hard to do cost effectively — especially if you want to do it properly. Getting hundreds (or thousands) of suppliers to adhere to basic contract terms and a vague supplier code of conduct document is one thing, but getting them to comply with more impactful and enforceable clauses for CSR/sustainability is even more challenging. If you’re a buying organization that’s truly concerned with de-risking your supply chain and looking beyond “check the box” compliance, you need to have a way to engage your suppliers in a more compelling way. Suppliers have many demands on their time and investments, too, so offering them something more than an edict is necessary.

But perhaps the most vexing question begins with measuring success. When you get down to it, how do you even define sustainability and responsibility? How do you measure it? And how do you know whether your performance against those measurements is good or bad for your industry or overall, especially when core requirements for CSR and sustainability differ across dozens of industries and hundreds of categories?

It takes expertise, and not just software. EcoVadis knows this, and that's why it has more than 150 CSR experts on staff to evaluate supplier profiles, documents and third-party audits to objectively gauge the corporate social responsibility of a company against a benchmarked numeric scale. It integrates this expertise into a unique combination of automated supplier surveys, certifications (gathering, analysis, validation, and publishing), benchmarking and training across 21 major CSR factors (with potentially hundreds of atomic level questions) derived from a combination of major global CSR standards — and augmented by best practice. It’s pretty cool when you see it in action.

In this Spend Matters PRO analysis, we’ll dive into EcoVadis’ company background, its solution offering and some recommendations on how the firm is best used to maximize value. Part 2 of this analysis will focus on strengths, weaknesses and production selection guidance. Part 3 will then wrap up with SWOT Analysis, competitive analysis, shortlist guidance and final commentary and recommendations.

AnyData Solutions: Vendor Snapshot (Part 3) — Summary & Competitive Analysis

spend analytics

AnyData Solutions competes in a fragmented market for spend analytics. Yet unlike many of its peers, it is not a common procurement vendor name. But with better awareness, it could be a strong analytics competitor globally, especially considering how the solution packs a powerful one-two functional and pricing punch.

From a functional standpoint, AnyData’s rapid visual development framework can enable customers to go beyond spend analysis use cases to create custom, domain-specific analytics solutions (e.g., analytics centric contract lifecycle management and supplier performance management reporting and capability). Combined with AnyData’s low-cost pricing models (a fraction of the cost of other solutions under most scenarios), it should make the solution a shortlist candidate for just about any size organization needing a spend analytics platform that wants the option to move beyond the basics.

This third and final installment of this Spend Matters Vendor Snapshot covering AnyData Solutions provides an objective SWOT analysis of AnyData and offers a competitive segmentation analysis and comparison. It also includes recommended shortlist candidates as alternative vendors to AnyData, and offers provider selection guidance. Finally, it provides summary analysis and recommendations for companies considering AnyData. Previous installments provide an in-depth look at AnyData as a firm and its specific solution capability (Part 1) and a detailed analysis of solution strengths and weaknesses and a review of the product’s user experience (Part 2).

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

Analytics

AnyData Solutions is not just a standalone spend analytics toolset that includes “the basics.” Rather, it is a standalone platform for capturing, managing, sharing and collaborating on structured datasets of any type.

As an end-to-end analytics platform, AnyData is quite different from other approaches to spend analytics on the market today. On many levels, AnyData is closer to the data-centric heritage of BIQ, as it is fundamentally a self-service analytics solution, compared with the vast majority of spend analytics providers, which prefer to handle cleansing and classification activities “as a service,” even if they offer to sell the classification engine separately (which rarely happens).

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot explores AnyData’s strengths and weaknesses, providing facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations and other customers decide whether AnyData is the right fit for their need. The first installment provided a company and solution overview and a recommended fit list of criteria for firms considering AnyData. Part 3 will offer a SWOT analysis, user selection guide, competitive alternatives and additional evaluation and selection considerations.