Author Archives: Pierre Mitchell



About Pierre Mitchell

Pierre leads Spend Matters procurement research activities and has broader solution development responsibilities for intellectual property creation and firm strategy as Managing Director of Azul Partners. This includes spearheading efforts to build new types of interactive and social communities of interest within the procurement profession including overseeing the evolution of spendmattersnet.com, Spend Matters PRO, MetalMiner, and other digital assets within Azul Partner’s umbrella. Pierre has 25 years of procurement and supply chain industry and consulting experience, and is a recognized procurement expert specializing in supply processes, practices, metrics, and enabling tools and services. He is a regular contributor to business publications, a frequent presenter at industry events around the world, and counts himself fortunate to have served and interacted with so many CPOs and future CPOs. Prior to his positions in research and advisory, he led numerous operations and systems transformations at Fortune 500 organizations. Industry positions include manufacturing project manager at The Timberland Company, materials manager at Krupp Companies and engineer at EG&G Torque Systems. He holds an engineering degree from Southern Methodist University and an MBA from the University of Chicago. In the early 2000's, Pierre was the first supply chain practitioner to become a procurement "industry analyst" as the VP of supply management research at AMR Research (now part of the Gartner Group) where he provided trusted counsel to procurement executives, business leadership, IT, and the solution providers who serve them. Most recently, he was the head of procurement research and adjunct business advisor at The Hackett Group, where he helped expand Hackett's procurement benchmarks and research studies while growing the Procurement Executive Advisory Program into a gold standard membership-based procurement advisory service in the market today.


‘Just Coupa It’: By Buying Aquiire, Coupa Targets Google-like Search and the End of Punch-Outs

Coupa announced its latest acquisition Monday with its purchase of Aquiire, a provider of e-procurement and procure-to-pay software. The deal brings to Coupa’s business spend management suite — which now includes support for e-procurement, P2P, source-to-pay, travel and expense management, and services procurement — many of the latest features for front-end shopping and catalog management, particularly several patents related to real-time search and third-party-hosted catalog integration capabilities. Viewed as part of Coupa’s larger strategy, however, Aquiire is just one piece of a larger puzzle that Coupa has been trying to assemble for the last decade.

The purchase of Cincinnati, Ohio-based Aquiire, along with Coupa’s own innovations in the guided buying area and the company’s 2017 acquisition of Simeno, forms the basis of a shift away from one-to-one, proprietary “punch-out”-based B2B e-commerce models and toward a streamlined, almost touchless approach to finding and buying goods and services. This entails far more than creating a friendly user experience that’s “Amazon-like.” Coupa wants to go one step further, making the search for a corporate purchase as easy as answering a question with Google: one question (sometimes auto-suggested) into the box, numerous answers delivered within the next screen, in real time, prioritized by relevance, price and desired procurement controls.

Coupa’s goal is to make B2B purchasing as easy and reflexive as everyday information retrieval on the broader web. Said another way, when you need to know something, you Google it; when you need to buy something at work, you would Coupa it. Obviously, Coupa is not going to become a verb anytime soon on the scale of Google. The key is to provide a B2B buyer-relevant search that is tuned to the “persona” of the individual buyer to quickly get him or her the needed goods and services from the preferred supply sources and buying channels.

This Spend Matters PRO research brief explores the feasibility of the “Google-like” search concept, as well as how Coupa’s acquisition of Aquiire enables it. It also touches on how Coupa’s approach to front-end shopping enablement compares with the broader e-procurement market, as well as what this means for competitors.

An Introduction to Sourcing Business Intelligence (Part 2): The Leap from Sourcing Analytics to Supply Intelligence

data analytics

In Part 1 of this Spend Matters PRO research series, we defined and explored the concept of sourcing business intelligence (BI), an emerging focus area for an increasing number of procurement organizations. Sourcing BI is not a “tool” like a spend analysis application module or a general purpose BI tool — like the visualization tools Qlik, Tableau or Sisense. Rather it is an enabling approach to sourcing, supplier management, total cost modeling/should cost analysis and related initiatives like clean sheeting that focus on the ability to incorporate increasingly rich external market, commodity, category and supplier intelligence with existing internal data sets, process flows and activities to enhance savings, compliance and organizational resilience.

Much of this activity is occurring within category management where managers are trying to move from historical descriptive analytics to “outside-in” predictive/prescriptive analytics that yield true intelligence rather than just subscribing to tribal best-practices sharing and generic data-as-a-service (DaaS) offerings in the marketplace.

In Part 2 of exploring sourcing business intelligence, we first will set some context about how to make the leap from sourcing analytics to broader supply intelligence. “Supply management” is bigger than “sourcing management” — and similarly — “intelligence” is bigger than “analytics.” By understanding this evolution, it helps us set up a deeper discussion into how artificial intelligence relates to analytics — with an immediate focus on sourcing, but a longer-term focus on broader spend/supply.

An Introduction to Sourcing Business Intelligence (Part 1): Definition and Driving Forces

The problem with the term “sourcing business intelligence” is that it can have vastly different interpretations. Yet sourcing BI is a concept that we’re increasingly hearing mention of with our procurement practitioner and consulting firm clients, albeit with different names attached to it.

Not to be confused with spend analytics, the concept of Sourcing BI could prove as important to the digital procurement organization of the future as category management did in the past decade — or perhaps even more invaluable. This Spend Matters PRO analysis provides an introduction to the concept of sourcing BI, starting first with a definition and an overview of the trends that are driving it.

Apttus Acquired by Thoma Bravo: Can a One-Time Sell-Side ‘Unicorn’ Become a Viable Pony for Buy-Side CLM?

Apttus announced recently that it would be acquired by private equity firm Thoma Bravo. Calling itself a leader  in the “middle office,” Apttus offers a platform primarily focused in the area of configure, price, quote (CPQ), but it also supports enterprise contract lifecycle management (CLM).

The terms of the acquisition were undisclosed, but given the majority stake being acquired, the deal is likely worth many hundreds of millions of dollars, given that Apttus had roughly $200 million in revenue for calendar year 2017 and had also accumulated more than $400 million in investments to date.

Back in 2015, Apttus was riding high and hoped to go public in 2016. Unfortunately, Salesforce, upon whose platform Apttus was built, bought Apttus’ smaller competitor, SteelBrick, in December 2015. Salesforce, in its never-ending quest for growth, wanted to directly enter the CPQ space and perhaps hoped to prevent a new mega competitor from spawning (even though Salesforce Ventures was an investor in Apttus — and in SteelBrick).  

Regardless, the move was clearly a body blow to Apttus. The firm put on a brave face and even managed to garner late stage investors rushing to hopefully get in on a big IPO, but soon things began to change. Growth slowed, layoffs ensued and longtime CEO Kirk Krappe quietly left this summer.

All of these types of changes are difficult in their own right, but when investors want returns out of their large investments, company working conditions often deteriorate, and many of the best employees leave, which leads management to cut back in certain areas that once seemed so promising — including an area such as source-to-pay.

Which brings us to why we’re writing about Apttus here on the buy side of the world.

Apttus does have CLM capabilities, and the CLM solution actually seems decent. It has all of the major elements in terms of clause libraries, templates, playbooks/wizards, redlining, MS-Word integration, “intelligent” clause search and so on. But its CLM product almost seems to play a supporting role in Apttus’ core focus on the sell-side CPQ suite. We have backed this up through numerous discussions with active and alumni Apttus CLM customers, partners and prospective customers.

Based on our discussions with the stakeholders mentioned above, the product is sound, but it’s not quite on par with high end players like Icertis and Exari. And it doesn’t feature broader process functionality found in source-to-pay suites, some of whom actually have CLM modules that can be used for sell-side contracts, too.

The remainder of this Spend Matters PRO research brief explores Apttus’ buy-side CLM solution in terms of its strengths and weaknesses and provides additional context about how buy-side CLM is positioned in the Apttus portfolio. If you are a corporate practitioner and interested in discussing buy-side (or enterprise-wide) CLM, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Are Your Procurement KPIs Balanced or Obsolete?

As our Spend Matters Plus analysis of procurement key performance indicators (KPIs) continues, we will turn our attention to additional metrics by which you can measure procurement performance including supply base development and spend under management. We will also examine how to discover if organizational procurement KPIs are off balance, favoring one area over another or the strategic over the tactical, or if they’re just right.

This analysis builds on a prior chapter of this research brief that provides an introduction to procurement KPIs. While intended for everyone in procurement from buyers to chief procurement officers, this series is particularly suited for individuals and organizations looking to put in place the right measurement foundation to change how procurement is viewed by the business from a function that only reduces input prices and “keeps the production line running,” to one that brings new areas of value, from supply chain risk reduction to creativity and innovation.

Foundational Procurement KPIs Every CPO, Supply Manager and Buyer Needs To Know

This research brief is intended as an aspirational piece for more transactional-focused procurement team members who are aiming to add value to procurement and the business beyond mere efficiency improvements and price reduction efforts. It is not a compendium of financial metrics to convince your CFO about the value of procurement – you have to develop your business case tied to your needs and strategy for that. (Though, do reach out to us because we’ve done quite a bit of research in this area as well if you’re interested.) Rather, it is our hope that this series will leave you with a laundry list of prioritized ideas and open your mind to the qualitative side of the business – and the ways in which you can begin to measure procurement contribution and key performance indicators (KPIs) to quantify the return of the various activities you’re up to.

In the first installment of our introduction to KPIs and related considerations, we will examine why KPIs matter and how to use them and discuss basic procurement metrics, the role of innovation in setting measurement variables and how certain KPI approaches can mislead.

Program Management: The Missing Link in Procurement Technology Modules and Suites (Part 10: E-Procurement Components, Continued)

In this series, we have been discussing the glue that binds together different areas of procurement workflow: the overall program management of both individual tasks and collective activities across the source-to-pay continuum, along with the technology components that support this end-to-end perspective. As a whole, this Spend Matters PRO series provides deep insight into what effective program management technology capabilities encapsulate from a design, platform and functional perspective.

We started this series by exploring design principles on which effective program management technology is based across the source-to-pay continuum. We then provided insights into the building blocks of effective program management technology components including best-of-breed project management, performance management, program compliance, program collaboration and other areas. We then highlighted specific examples of category management requirements and supplier management requirements before our series wrap-up with e-procurement and broader P2P.

In our last article (Part 9 — E-Procurement Components), we defined the P2P program counterparts to the sourcing-centric programs and began a deep dive into the platform components required to support the programs covered in our last entry. In this final installment on P2P, we conclude the platform components required to support modern procurement programs.

Program Management: The Missing Link in Procurement Technology Modules and Suites (Part 9: E-Procurement Components)

BuyerQuest

In these articles on program management, we have been discussing the glue that binds together different areas of procurement workflow: the overall program management of both individual tasks and collective activities across the source-to-pay (S2P) continuum. This Spend Matters PRO series, as a whole, provides deep insight into what effective program management technology capabilities encapsulate from a design, platform and functional perspective.

We started this broad series by exploring design principles on which effective program management technology is based within source-to-pay. We then provided insights into the building blocks of effective program management technology components today, including best-of-breed project management, performance management, program compliance and program collaboration. We also dove into category management requirements and supplier management requirements before beginning to wrap up the series with e-procurement (and broader P2P).

In our last article, an introduction to e-procurement programs, we defined the P2P program counterparts to the sourcing programs. In this, the first of our final two entries in the series, we begin a deep dive into the platform components required to support these procurement programs covered in our last entry.

Program Management: The Missing Link in Procurement Technology (Part 8: An Introduction to E-Procurement)

If there is a glue that binds together different areas of procurement, it is the act of transformation to make end-to-end processes more efficient and effective across the source-to-pay continuum.  This transformation isn’t about making minor enhancements here and there; rather, it is about broader programs that can take the form of digital transformation, process re-engineering, shared services, “one company” initiatives or or a technology-triggered program such as implementing a new cloud-based procurement software platform. This Spend Matters PRO series provides insight into what effective program management technology capabilities encapsulate from a design, platform and functional perspective. We’ll explore both what represents best-in-class program management components today and what users should expect tomorrow.

Part 1 of this series explored technology design principles on which effective program management technology is based, with a focus on strategic procurement processes such as sourcing and SRM. Part 2 provided insight into the functional (technology product) building blocks of effective program management technology components today including best-of-breed project management, goal management, program auditing/audit trails and prepackaged initiative enablement. Then in Part 3 we defined the standard category-management sourcing programs a buyer needed to execute and what they involved, as well as followed that with a deep dive into the supporting platform components required in Part 4.

But, as we all know, sourcing is only half the battle. P2P is the other half. The best sourcing plan, even backed up by a detailed contract, is worthless if the plan is not executed to spec.  This is where P2P comes in. Therefore, in the last parts of this extensive program management series, we’ll turn our attention to P2P.

Coupa: Vendor Snapshot (Part 2) — Product Strengths and Weaknesses (2018 Update)

Coupa has become the provider “to beat” for procurement software suite customers who want a streamlined deployment effort, a simplified user experience and the ability to capture, manage and influence spend and services. Compared with peers, Coupa excels as a buying front-end for companies, intercepting users when they need to purchase something and processing spend of all types, including highly strategic spend that needs to be optimized. This is different from offering just an e-procurement application — a key point we explore in this Vendor Snapshot.

The procure-to-pay (P2P) process is still very much a part of the Coupa experience, if not the core (even though the vendor does offer standalone sourcing and spend analytics technology that handily beat the SolutionMap benchmark). When it comes to corporate purchasing, Coupa focuses on delivering an “Amazon-plus” experience for users. (Spend Matters stands by its earlier analysis in which we suggested that Coupa delivers a better corporate buying experience than Amazon as a buying front-end, at least compared with Amazon Business.) But as with other e-procurement software companies, Coupa brings a hidden back office component that provides procurement and finance organizations with significant compliance controls, oversight and related capabilities to manage and even guide buyers down specific paths (e.g., procuring a given item from a preferred supplier within budget), integrated community intelligence and even real-time risk analysis while making the overall buying experience almost as painless as shopping on a consumer site — even if the buying experience demands a multi-round negotiation with optimization-backed analysis.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot explores Coupa’s product strengths and weaknesses, providing facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations decide if they should shortlist the vendor. It also offers a critique (pros/cons) of the user interface. Part 1 of our analysis offered a company background and detailed solution overview, as well as a summary recommended fit suggestion for when organizations should consider Coupa’s procurement software. The final installment of this series will offer a SWOT analysis, user selection guide, competitive alternatives, and additional evaluation and selection considerations.

Coupa: Vendor Snapshot (Part 1) — Background and Solution Overview (2018 Update)

There are many perspectives on Coupa. Some believe that the vendor has single-handedly transformed the world of spend management by building a truly unified suite that is 100% cloud-native, atoning for the over-customization, product and user interface sins of those that came before. Others think that Coupa has expanded too quickly and is doomed to repeat mistakes others have made in the past. But this Vendor Snapshot on Coupa is not about perspectives. It instead aims to review Coupa’s procurement software in depth, examining the vendor’s modules in the context of what they actually do today and how they are differentiated — or not — from others.

As we noted in our first end-to-end review of the Coupa platform, the majority of technology analysts no longer prioritize reviewing procurement software (e.g., product demonstrations, production sites) due to methodology or time constraints in evaluating vendors. This is where Spend Matters is the exception. Between attendances at Coupa Inspire, demos required for SolutionMap participation and customer interviews, the Spend Matters research team has collectively spent over a thousand hours analyzing Coupa’s products and talking to customers and prospective customers since we last did a Vendor Snapshot on Coupa. Since this time, we have also comparatively analyzed Coupa and its competitors for a range of constituents, including procurement and finance organizations, for suppliers participating in supplier network ecosystems, and for consultants and systems integrators. In short: we're confident that we've gone further and deeper than any other analyst firm in delving into Coupa's demonstrated product capabilities. Period.

This Q3 2018 Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot Update provides facts and expert analysis to help buying organizations, suppliers and partners make informed decisions on Coupa’s procure-to-pay (P2P) and broader source-to-contract capabilities, inclusive of inventory and travel and expense (T&E) management, offering an overview of the entire source-to-pay (S2P) process in one in-depth series. 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 Coupa for source-to-pay software. The rest of this multi-part research brief covers product strengths and weaknesses, competitor and SWOT analysis, user selection guides, and insider evaluation and selection considerations.

Program Management: The Missing Link in Procurement Technology Modules and Suites (Part 7 — SRM Technology Components)

LinkedIn ProFinder

This series has explored the various aspects of a modern strategic procurement system that enables both enterprise-level programs and procurement-led programs and processes. We’ve explored in gory detail the elements for strong analytics, user experiences and agile architectures. The series began with strategic sourcing to illustrate that properly supported category management can be a pretty tall order. Within category management, we went from basic program management requirements that were quite demanding to in-depth program management requirements that, on the surface, might seem impossible to the average procurement software company, as well as analytics requirements that, at the present time, excludes most of the current vendors from the market. 

These requirements from a business standpoint are not unreasonable, but although the ability for most providers to meet them is certainly a work-in-progress, the value in doing so is compelling. Strategic personnel can truly do strategic functions, not spend their days filling out virtual paper and transcribing data. The biggest cost in procurement is the opportunity cost of wasting a professional’s time on firefighting, pushing paper, wrangling bad spend data amd “googling” for new suppliers, rather than creating the 5X–10X ROI that goes along with strategic procurement. 

But turning the tables is not easy. Take the last example from the list above regarding supplier discovery. Today's supplier networks are generally “walled gardens” built to support suppliers within the network, not to help buyers find suppliers beyond the network. This would require new approaches to supplier networks — and new technology building blocks. That’s why, in this post, we are addressing what those critical building blocks are.