Author Archives: Nick Heinzmann



VectorVMS: Vendor Introduction, Analysis and SWOT

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Introduction offers a candid take on VectorVMS and its capabilities that help companies with their contingent workforce programs. The brief includes an overview of VectorVMS and its solution offerings, a summary solution evaluation, a SWOT analysis and, lastly, a selection checklist for companies that might consider the provider.

Symbeo: Vendor Introduction (Part 1 — Background and Solution Overview)

AP automation can be a nebulous term. The exact scope of what business processes that a solution provider intends to automate, as well as whether automation covers truly hands-off processing or mere acceleration through digitization, can vary by the vendor. Generally, no vendor does everything comprehensively from end to end. Some can check the boxes in every part of the AP cycle, but none can check every box across the board.

Take, for example, paper invoice processing. Today’s major procure-to-pay solutions will tell procurement and AP organizations they can process all of their invoices digitally, using OCR-based technology and, in some cases, AI-based correction of that capture. But those invoices need to be captured by the P2P solution in a digital format, and then corrected by a human, as OCR accuracy rates, while admittedly improving, are still far from perfect. So if those organizations still receive invoices as paper — which, depending on the source, still can account for as much as 75% of all invoices sent — a standard SaaS AP automation solution would be insufficient to truly automate the AP cycle.

For small and mid-size businesses that don’t receive a large volume of invoices, an internal mailroom and a set of scanners may be enough to account for this imbalance. But for a large multinational corporation, manually scanning and capturing data from thousands of invoices a day quickly becomes a cost center.

This is the point where many multinational corporations call in a company like Symbeo.

Founded in 1983, Symbeo is a provider of invoice conversion services and AP automation technology. The Portland, Oregon-based company exhibits particular strengths in the receipt, capture and processing of manual invoices, including fax, email and paper-based invoices, using a comprehensive “human in the loop” process to maximize efficiency and accuracy. It also provides a SaaS solution for AP automation with an emphasis on exception handling, approvals and invoice collaboration, which depending on organizational requirements can be more than enough or just a starting point.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Introduction offers a candid take on Symbeo and its capabilities. The first part of this brief includes a company history and an overview of Symbeo’s offering. The second part of this brief provides a breakdown of what is comparatively good (and not so good) about the solution, a high-level SWOT analysis, a short selection requirements checklist that outlines the typical company for which Symbeo might be a good fit, and some market implications and takeaways.

The CPO’s Conundrum (Part 4): Economic Instability

In the first three installments of this Spend Matters PRO series (see Part 1APart 1B), we noted that a number of pressing issues are shaping procurement from the outside in, yet chief procurement officers (CPOs) are still primarily concerned with issues set by an inside-out agenda — that is, cost-cutting and supply assurance targets mandated by upper management. Our PESTLE analysis of factors shaping the modern CPO agenda identified broad trends like economic instability, globalization, changing digital business strategies and the need to address corporate social responsibility (CSR) as areas that procurement organizations need to consider if they want to truly tap and manage the opportunities (and risks) offered by external supply markets, starting with sustainability and CSR in Part 2A and Part 2B and digital business strategy in Part 3.

Today we move on to the third item topping the CPO’s outside-in agenda: economic instability.

Ivalua: Vendor Snapshot (Part 7) — Competitive and Summary Analysis

contingent workforce

So how does Ivalua — previously the Rodney Dangerfield of e-procurement for getting no respect, but now is no laughing matter to its competitors — stack up to the market? In this seven-part PRO overview, Spend Matters has covered Ivalua’s history, internal capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. But to see how it fits into the marketplace, first we have to understand who it is up against. Namely:

* Full Source-to-Pay Suites, including SAP Ariba, Coupa, GEP, Jaggaer, Zycus, Corcentric/Determine, Synertrade, and even Oracle and a few others (e.g,. Wax Digital)
* Full P2P Suites, including Basware, BuyerQuest, Oracle, Vroozi and others
* End-to-End and Best-of-Breed “upstream” Sourcing and Strategic Procurement Technology (SPT) Offerings, including Allocation Network, Bonfire, EC Sourcing, Keelvar, MarketDojo, Scanmarket, * ScoutRFP and more
* e-Invoicing and e-Payment Specialists, including Proactis, Taulia, Tipalti, Transcepta, Tradeshift, Tungsten and others
* Supplier and Master Data Management (MDM) Providers, including Apex Analytix, Aravo, ConnXus, HICX, Procurence, Tealbook and others that don’t slot neatly into the supply management area within SPT.

We'll start by providing a more detailed overview of Ivalua's biggest competitors, namely SAP Ariba, Coupa, GEP and Jaggaer, before covering the rest of the S2P providers that it may encounter in potential deals.

Ivalua: Vendor Snapshot (Part 6) — Commentary & SWOT

As we noted in Part 1 of this seven-part Spend Matters PRO series, Ivalua is no longer the Rodney Dangerfield of procurement suites, and we no longer need to apologize to the late comic. Since we last assessed Ivalua in-depth in 2016, the provider has achieved a lot of respect from the analyst community, the investment community (with a “unicorn” valuation exceeding $1 billion in their last funding last round), and most importantly, the customer community as evidenced by Ivalua’s 98% customer retention rate — even though Ivalua’s customer satisfaction scores have slipped slightly in its last SolutionMap rankings.

However, the firm’s larger peers still often seem quick to dismiss this “newcomer” to the S2P arena, even though Ivalua was founded in 2000! As a perceived newcomer in the North American marketplace, with a smaller customer count, less revenue and less perceived history, it still is often not even known, or well known, to some practitioners that we’ve run across who’ve not research the market deeply. This is despite the fact they Ivalua has:
* almost as large of a global presence (with offices across the Americas, EMEA and APAC)
* a track record of supporting a global customer base
* a valuation that smaller S2P players might sell their workforce into indentured servitude for
* a platform that is simultaneously so broad and so deep that it's becoming difficult for many of their peers to compete on out-of-the-box functionality, especially in the direct materials/sourcing space, in larger clients with extensive requirement lists.

As we noted in late 2016, “if we add up the differentiated combination of its architecture/platform, industry enablement, functional/modular capability (across the source-to-pay continuum), analytics and ‘overlay’ process support capabilities, the sum of the Ivalua package stands out from all others in a true ‘deadpan’ way — albeit with no laughing involved.”

When you augment this with leading direct sourcing support (with the re-platforming of its DirectWorks acquisition), improved workflow management, UI improvements, one-search, improved (direct) catalog management and bot-assisted guided buying, you get a platform that's a force to be reckoned with.

In short, Ivalua deserves much more regard from its peers than it has received to date, as it's well positioned to make a big dent in the global marketplace that will be hard not to take notice of. That said, some parts of the application suite can be improved (as we discussed in Part 5), there is a lot of unexpected capability under the hood around bill of material management (in a centralized module that allows for deep what-if scenario analysis), asset and tooling management, program and project management, third-party data integration and scorecard creation, accruals, and global tax compliance management. Plus, the cost breakdown analytics, NPI (new product introduction), corrective action capability, extended supplier profile management, and the ability to pull data into and push data out of the environment on a daily (or even hourly) basis is deeper than one might expect, especially with the large number of pre-configured interfaces out-of-the-box and the ability to acquire more through the add-on store.

And while Ivalua is still not perfect (but to be honest, no provider is), as it's still missing a few capabilities that we feel are becoming core with S2P (and even its updated UI is not industry-leading), we still believe that anyone who invests the time to get to know the solution on a product level will come away very impressed if they have the same technology-and-capability-centric proclivities as the Spend Matters team (even if it's not the right "fit" for the organization at the end of the day).

So, without further adieu, in this penultimate installment of our updated Spend Matters snapshot on Ivalua, we provide you with an objective SWOT analysis of the company, and a selection shortlist to help companies decide whether Ivalua should be in their crosshairs, whether they have their sights set on a platform, suite or modular capability.

Tomorrow, in Part 7 we’ll finish up with a competitive market segmentation, a comparative analysis and some final thoughts. We also include recommended short-list candidates as alternative vendors and offer some provider selection guidance.

Ivalua: Vendor Snapshot (Part 5) — Product Weaknesses

global trade

If you've already read Part 1 of our updated vendor snapshot on Ivalua (which includes a detailed company and solution overview), then you know that you're either going to be attracted to the depth, breadth and configurability of the solution — or perhaps overwhelmed by it if you're new to the advanced sourcing and procurement game. But, even with its prowess in deep configurability, Ivalua's solution is not without its weaknesses. In this Part 5 of our seven-part vendor snapshot, we are going to dive deep into Ivalua's product weaknesses, providing facts and expert analysis to help a procurement organization decide whether they should shortlist the vendor. And an organization that is putting Ivalua head-to-head with a provider like Coupa should compare and contrast what we say here versus what we say in Part 2 of our Coupa vendor snapshot because near-equal scores in Spend Matters Solution Map does not imply near equal capability in all areas, and definitely not in the areas that might matter to your organization the most. Ivalua's weaknesses are similar to our last review a couple of years ago, but a few weaknesses have been addressed since last time (and while not as deep, but still exist against either suite-peers or best-of-breed), and the re-platforming of DirectWorks in particular has gone a long way to address specialized support around direct sourcing.

Ivalua: Vendor Snapshot (Part 4) — Product Strengths

Global Risk Management Solutions

Anything Ivalua still lacks in global brand and market awareness along with sales/marketing infrastructure and prowess, it makes up for by delivering a source-to-pay platform designed to emphasize functional depth, suite-based capabilities and industry-specific enablement scenarios in the private and public sector. Ivalua delivers a no-compromise set of capabilities and an underlying platform that is most likely to appeal to procurement and IT organizations that want greater flexibility in executing a procurement technology architecture and strategy than what is offered by the majority of suite-based solutions on the market today. Ivalua is generally at the front of the pack in Spend Matters’ “configurator” persona of just about every SolutionMap we look at for our 2019 Q2 results — and the lead dog if the pack includes only the suite vendors.

If you've already read Part 1 of our updated, seven-part vendor snapshot on Ivalua (which includes a detailed company and solution overview), then you know that you're either going to be attracted to the depth, breadth and configurability of the solution — or perhaps overwhelmed by it if you're new to the advanced sourcing and procurement game. With the massive flexibility that comes with massive configurability, there is also a non-trivial degree of configuration settings to pay attention to. (See Part 2 for an upstream solution overview and Part 3 for details on the downstream capabilities.)

In this Part 4 edition of the vendor snapshot, we are going to dive deep into Ivalua's product strengths, providing facts and expert analysis to help a procurement organization decide whether they should shortlist the vendor. Of course, it’s best to read the SolutionMap analysis for all the providers in question. For example, an organization that is putting Ivalua head-to-head with Coupa should compare and contrast what we say here versus what we say in Part 2 of our Coupa vendor snapshot because near-equal scores in SolutionMap do not imply near equal capability in all areas, and definitely not in the areas that might matter to your organization the most.

Ivalua: Vendor Snapshot (Part 3) — Downstream Solution Overview

supplier network

Ivalua has been growing steadily since Spend Matters’ comprehensive update in 2016, with the suite provider adding clients, offices, employees and capability around the globe. After we provided an updated background in Part 1, we delved into Ivalua’s primary upstream solution components around spend analysis, strategic sourcing, direct sourcing and contract management in Part 2.

Today, this seven-part Spend Matters PRO series will continue our solution overview with a look at the downstream components — namely catalog management, e-procurement and order management, e-invoicing, expense management, payment management and IVA for guided buying. After we review these downstream components, we’ll finish up our solution review with a couple of the cross-platform capabilities around risk and performance management, supplier information management and master data management (MDM). After we finish with our solution overview, in Parts 4 and 5, we will dive into Ivalua's particular strengths and weaknesses from a solution perspective.

Ivalua: Vendor Snapshot (Part 2) — Upstream Solution Overview

gig economy

In Part 1 of Spend Matters' seven-part PRO series, we provided an updated background on Ivalua, which has been growing steadily since our last Vendor Snapshot in 2016, adding clients, offices, employees, customers and capability around the globe. No longer the Rodney Dangerfield of procurement, Ivalua is finally getting some real respect, having just reached unicorn valuation status in its last funding round.

There are a number of reasons for this, some of which revolve around services and global support capability, and others that revolve around its extensive solution platform. The latter is the subject of our articles today and tomorrow, where we will overview all of the major components, starting with the upstream ones today. Then, after we review the downstream components in Part 3, we will dive into Ivalua's particular strengths and weaknesses from a solution perspective in Parts 4 and 5.

Procuring outcomes, without limits: 3 takeaways from Upwork’s 2019 Work Without Limits summit

Much like in other spend areas, the contingent workforce and services (CW/S) mega category is being shaped by disruptive forces from multiple angles. The oft-cited talent gap is a major motivator, as businesses look in vain for missing skills — everywhere from IT to operations and even more creative fields like marketing. But also influential are broader economic trends, including the rising importance of business partnering to tap collaborative innovation and the digital transformation of just about every major industry.

The result is a gradual but quickening shift in the CW/S world away from finding placeholders for siloed FTEs toward a workforce and talent strategy focused on outcomes — whether that be training a new set of algorithms for a key software platform, translation and localization for a business’ flagship product, or a set of social media-optimized advertising to bring a major brand in front of a different audience.

This shifting mindset was on prominent display last week at Upwork’s third annual Work Without Limits Executive Summit, held for the first time in Chicago. Here are three takeaways from the event.

Digital Business Strategy: The CPO’s Outside-In Agenda (Part 3)

In the first two installments of this Spend Matters PRO series (see Part 1A, Part 1B), we noted that a number of pressing issues are shaping procurement from the outside in, yet chief procurement officers (CPOs) are still primarily concerned with issues set by an inside-out agenda — that is, cost-cutting and supply assurance targets mandated by upper management. Our PESTLE analysis of factors shaping the modern CPO agenda identified broad trends like economic instability, globalization, changing digital business strategies and the need to address corporate social responsibility (CSR) as areas that procurement organizations need to consider if they want to truly tap and manage the opportunities (and risks) offered by external supply markets, starting with sustainability and CSR in Part 2A and Part 2B.

Today we move on to the second item topping the CPO’s outside-in agenda: digital transformation.

Digital transformation is increasingly creeping into a CPO's crosshairs because digitization is becoming a daily part of our personal and professional lives. Not only is software becoming critical for everyone in the organization to do their jobs, but the internet is becoming critical to sales and marketing to advertise and sell the product as well as to R&D to do research and engineering to control just-in-time manufacturing. Meanwhile, from a corporate strategy perspective, companies are aggressively looking at their digital business strategies — and consulting firms like Accenture, Deloitte, McKinsey and others are busy capitalizing on this. Distribution companies do not want to get “Amazoned.” (For example, Accenture is looking to next generation digital technologies to achieve it’s ZBx nirvana — and achieve sustainable zero-based spend in a zero-based supply chain.) Logistics firms do not want to get “Ubered.” Contract manufacturers want to become innovation incubators. And pretty much every finished goods manufacturer wants to embed telemetry to collect data and use it to improve customer satisfaction, increase top-line growth and pass the data back to the supply chain to improve operational efficiency.

Digitization is the new buzzword and just about every publication out there is talking about it, running articles on how to do it, and publishing “deep” exposes on the benefits of digitization. Best practice guides, case studies, futurist projections, and other in-depth studies are a daily occurence. Not all are equal, not all are relevant to your organization, and not all are even accurate. But that’s beside the point. Digitization is here, and its influence is only going to grow. So rather than sit back like a luddite and bemoan the coming wave of pink slips due to automation, CPOs need to rally their organizations around digital to help them see the benefits new technologies can bring (as tactical process cost reductions can always be invested in strategic value generation efforts if they use these same technologies to make the case, a case that does not necessitate a reduction in workforce, just a shift from the tactical to the strategic).

Ivalua: Vendor Snapshot (Part 1) — Background

FM Global Resilience Index

A lot has changed since Spend Matters’ last full snapshot on Ivalua in December 2016, when we said (with apologies to the late comic) that Ivalua was the Rodney Dangerfield of procurement suites in terms of not getting any respect. At the time, we clearly noted that “if we add up the differentiated combination of its architecture/platform, industry enablement, functional/modular capability (across the source-to-pay continuum), analytics and ‘overlay’ process support capabilities, the sum of the Ivalua package stands out from all others in a true ‘deadpan’ way — albeit with no laughing involved. In short: Ivalua deserves much more respect than it gets from a market that is typically less familiar with it compared to larger peers.”

Since then, Ivalua has raised two massive rounds of capital, the first in April 2017 when it raised $70 million from private equity firm KKR (to build a war chest to accelerate R&D, expand its global footprint, triple down on marketing and make strategic acquisitions), and the second funding round just a couple of months ago when it raised another $60 million and achieved “unicorn” status. Now it's the envy of its peers, and we know for a fact that the other big players — Coupa, Jaggaer, Oracle, GEP and SAP Ariba — have taken notice.

But before we put the cart before the horse (or, in this case, the analyst’s conclusions before the background and solution overview), we're going to back up and start at the beginning now that you have an idea of what's to come.

Ivalua is one of the few source-to-pay (S2P) providers that has built its end-to-end solution on a single technology stack from the ground up, and one of the fewer still that doesn't try to grow through an acquire-and-integrate approach (like SAP Ariba, Jaggaer and even Coupa), or replatforming (like Determine or Oracle), but rather, develops its own native stack (as has GEP, Zycus, and mostly Coupa). Furthermore, it's also one of the few that has enough depth and breadth across each core area to enable it to serve as a single technology S2P suite for the procurement organization. That should not be a surprise given that the firm has been building this platform in-house on a single stack for the past 19 years while working with a global customer base.

This is important because there comes a point when the overall procurement organization performance beyond sourcing-identified savings and P2P-catalog compliance relies on a single extensible platform approach that goes beyond just functional enablement within procurement. Plus, if you want real automation/RPA, guided procurement and real AI someday — you’ll really want a single-workflow-driven platform that works on a single data store, because no advanced technology works without a sufficient amount of good, clean, harmonized data.

This revised, seven-part Spend Matters PRO snapshot provides facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations make informed decisions based on Ivalua's source-to-pay capability, its suitability for specific industry segments, its global service and support footprint, and how each of these stacks up to its competition. (Hint: Ivalua is second in four out of five Source-to-Pay and Strategic Procurement Technology SolutionMap rankings, and second in two out of five P2P maps — namely the Nimble and Configurator personas — in terms of analyst score in the 2019 Q2 SolutionMap release.)

Part 1 of our updated vendor snapshot provides a company background and a summary recommended fit suggestion for when organizations might want to consider Ivalua in the procurement technology arena. Parts 2 and 3 provide a detailed solution overview. Part 4 will dive into the strengths, and Part 5 looks into the weaknesses across the product line. Part 6 will provide commentary and a SWOT analysis, and Part 7 will provide a comparative market overview and final summary analysis.