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.


Oracle Procurement Cloud Update — The Sleeping Giant is Waking Up

Spend Matters attended Oracle’s recent OpenWorld conference to see the latest developments in its cloud ecosystem, especially within Oracle Procurement. Oracle continues to make progress in its strategy of transforming from a technology and products company to one of cloud services. It was a decision that has taken time to develop, but without a doubt this vision is beginning to crystallize as a unified solution within the Oracle Cloud (aka Oracle Fusion) technology platform.

In this Spend Matters PRO article, we will discuss:

* Oracle’s overall cloud strategy and its relevance to procurement
* Latest Oracle procurement product updates and plans
* Analysis of Oracle’s methodical progress in a dynamic market, and what it can teach SAP Ariba (and vice versa)
* Opportunities and emerging progress in platforms and “business networks”

Application-wise, Oracle is a slow and steady provider of cloud-based procurement applications, with a strength in P2P (as evidenced in its performance in our most current P2P SolutionMap ranking). And it’s making progress in its strategic procurement application areas — especially in contract management, where its solution is surprisingly strong relative to non-best-of-breed CLM players. But the game in the market is shifting beyond applications toward open platforms and ecosystems.

Can Oracle seize the opportunity? We’ll discuss...

Zycus update: Basics, BOTs and Beyond (Part 2: AI, MERLIN Roadmap and Summary)

Artificial intelligence capabilities are central to Zycus’ product roadmap. This Spend Matters PRO brief provides an overview of MERLIN (Zycus’ AI underpinnings and platform) and how it ties to Zycus’ overall product strategy and release schedule. MERLIN's main concept is based on autonomous procurement (the tailored bots that it builds are called BOTs), with a focus on automating all the routine, repetitive tasks of purchasing processes, especially transactional and manual ones. For an overview of the company and a product update, read Part 1.

Zycus update: Basics, BOTs and Beyond (Part 1: Company and Product Update)

digital

A Spend Matters team attended the Zycus summit this summer in Utah that provided a deep dive into the firm’s latest developments and gave us a chance to talk to some customers. This two-part Spend Matters PRO briefing will highlight the results of that day, focusing on updates to Zycus’ business, product development and, most specifically, its innovation related to autonomous computing — particularly with its unique approach to bots that combines RPA, AI and a democratized platform approach. It could be a game-changer in the industry, but it’s also not very easy to execute. We’ll weigh in on both sides of this coin.

Part 2 will provide an overview of MERLIN (Zycus’ AI underpinnings and platform) and how it ties to Zycus’ overall product strategy and release schedule. MERLIN’s main concept is based on autonomous procurement (the tailored bots that it builds are called BOTs), with a focus on automating all the routine, repetitive tasks of purchasing processes, especially transactional and manual ones.

20 Questions On Supplier Network Selection (Part 1)

Editor's note: This Spend Matters Plus brief is a refresh of our 2013 series on supplier network selection, which originally ran on Spend Matters PRO. 

The supplier network and business connectivity landscape has evolved into a world where simply staying on top of all of the on-ramps to systems and commerce is challenging enough — let alone selecting and implementing actual networks and having them to talk to buy-side systems and each other. We’ve come up with roughly 20 questions that customers should consider as early as possible when developing a business case and selection approach to the different tools that are available.

Community-based Procurement — Get a Buy with Some Help from Your Friends (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this Spend Matters PRO series, the topic of community-based procurement focused on some examples of communities of interest within practitioner organizations (e.g., category communities and cross-supplier quality communities) and provider organizations such as group purchasing organizations (GPOs). In this second installment, the focus will shift to the following:

* Community of Interest around procurement transformation — and how to use the community (and tools and services) to accelerate that transformation
* The role of automated community-based benchmarking and capability assessments
* Using the community to drive new forms of collective intelligence baked explicitly into a solution’s delivery model and even the solution itself
* Some insight from our SolutionMap database on our requirement titled “community knowledge and collective intelligence”
* A final example on community-based sourcing with Coupa’s new “Source Together” offering — which tears some “market making” pages out of the old Ariba/Freemarkets playbook and then even rewrites that book itself

GEP: Vendor Snapshot (Part 7) — Competitive Landscape

This final installment of our seven-part Spend Matters PRO series on GEP will look at how it compares to its competitors, like SAP Ariba, Coupa, Ivalua, Jaggaer, Corcentric’s Determine, SynerTrade, Wax Digital and Zycus.

Previous installments provided an in-depth look at GEP as a company (Part 1), its specific solutions (Part 2 and Part 3), and a detailed analysis of solution strengths (Part 4) and weaknesses (Part 5). A SWOT analysis and commentary followed in Part 6.

GEP competes in several market segments and brings varying degrees of capability, differentiation and strength in many areas. In certain segments of the market, it is more successful in positioning an overall suite value proposition rather than individual modules (individually or together) for several reasons. Clearly, GEP “keeps coming back to suite” as its technology mantra for good reason.

For example, Spend Matters’ analysis suggests GEP is stronger within the strategic sourcing services and solution areas than in the P2P components of its suite from an “absolute” functional capability perspective. Yet the provider is effective at selling both areas together when they are equally valued. GEP has indeed won some large-scale P2P customers, replacing other solutions, based on the integrated suite value proposition.

Or consider how GEP’s e-invoicing and e-payment capabilities are part of its integrated source-to-pay (S2P) suite solution but are not yet on par with specialist solutions. As another example, GEP has a strong analytics offering but typically positions it within the context of its suite, so while it could compete against specialists in this area, given its classification capabilities, it typically does not.

In this PRO analysis, we’ll set up our coverage primarily relative to technology application segments such as:
* Fully Integrated (and some “loosely coupled”) Source-to-Pay Suites
* Full P2P Suites
* End-to-End and best-of-breed strategic procurement technology (SPT) offerings
* e-invoicing and e-payment specialists
* Supplier and master data management (MDM) providers

But, we’ll also touch on major consultancies, BPO players and niche MSPs.

GEP: Vendor Snapshot (Part 6) — SWOT and Commentary

Global Risk Management Solutions (GRMS)

For those procurement organizations that have not looked at GEP’s technology suite in recent years, they will likely be surprised when exploring its breadth of functionality, as well as the nuances associated with capabilities that differentiate it from other suites. These areas include clever takes on category management, integrated suite analytics, mobile support, and a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and cloud-native solution built and hosted on the Microsoft Azure platform.

This sixth installment of the seven-part Spend Matters Vendor Snapshot covering GEP provides an objective SWOT analysis of the company and offers our commentary on its platform. In our next installment, we will close out with a competitive market analysis, with recommended shortlist candidates as alternative vendors to GEP, and some recommendations and provider selection guidance for companies that may consider GEP’s suite or even individual modules and capabilities. Previous installments provided an in-depth look at GEP as a company (Part 1), its specific solutions (Part 2 and Part 3), and a detailed analysis of solution strengths (Part 4) and weaknesses (Part 5).

Community-based Procurement — Get a Buy with Some Help from Your Friends (Part 1)

The Oxford dictionary defines “community” as “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common” and secondarily as “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.” Procurement practitioners inherently have kinship with each other based on shared experiences, pain, rewards and knowledge/know-how. Being in the tribe means you can learn from this collective intelligence and apply it individually and locally.

But, what are the best ways for practitioners to gain the wisdom of the community? Certainly peer networking events (in person or virtual) are popular, but they can be time-intensive and difficult to justify on a hard ROI. Training, memberships, conferences, subscriptions and other discretionary expenses are the first to get slashed during budget cutting. The other related issue is that the knowledge being shared is scattershot rather than a focused knowledge transfer that delivers capabilities that will pay off toward some outcome.

Community-focused outcomes can take many forms (e.g., supplier diversity, sustainability, supply chain resiliency, innovation, quality, etc.), and these communities can have many “community owners” (e.g., associations, service providers, B2B networks, tech vendors and even practitioner organizations themselves creating communities with suppliers and other ecosystem partners), but nearly all procurement folks have a common goal: cost reduction.

If cost reduction is the goal, there are many levers to pull, but good old-fashioned buyer leverage through demand aggregation never seems to go out of fashion. The notion of collective buying power is certainly not a new concept. Agricultural buying cooperatives have existed for hundreds of years. And group purchasing organizations (GPOs) are certainly a tried-and-true strategy for procurement organizations, especially those outside the Fortune 500. We’ve written a lot about GPOs, and there are plenty to choose from that provide not just aggregated volume pricing, but also varying community-based services such as events, benchmarking and partner services.

While GPOs are great, the beast known as “digital” is eating, well, everything! So, we have to look at where tech providers are playing here. And even the idea of digitally enabled GPOs isn’t new. Ever heard of MobShop or Mercata? They tried to do automated demand aggregation almost 20 years ago and are now a footnote in the dot com dustbin. Even ICG Commerce (now Accenture) had a horizontal e-marketplace with a GPO component to it before it transitioned to its BPO model. Back then, Accenture and EDS formed ePValue and CoNext, respectively, as consortia buying groups within their client bases, but that didn’t pan out either.

Times have changed, though, and newer technology and business models are gaining traction. Back in that era, I was bullish on digitally enabled group buying and, more broadly, large buy-side app vendors harnessing the power of their collective installed base for economic benefit. I bemoaned that “enterprise application vendors with large installed bases are not bringing the leverage of group purchasing to their communities,” and posited that “many of these vendors have active vertical and horizontal user communities that could be leveraged into powerful group purchasing entities. Some vendors might choose to use as an attractive differentiator while others could offer it as a value-added service.”

Yet, while I’m happy to see so many evolving options in the market right now, there still are some areas for buyers to consider in building out their own ecosystem capabilities that may leverage various types of digitally enabled solution/service providers.

In this SpendMatters article, I’ll address the following:

* Evaluating practical group-buying options available in the market
* Looking beyond traditional GPO models for community-based value
* Examining how companies like Honda and Toyota use a community-based approach with their suppliers
* Broadening the focus from “community-based sourcing” to “collective intelligence” in procurement as a means to perform more scalable knowledge transfer than just traditional community approaches
* Examining our SolutionMap criteria element called “Community Knowledge and Collective Intelligence”
* Providing a snapshot into a serious multi-pronged effort that one vendor in industry is pursuing in this area — and should be considered the pacesetter

Without further ado, let’s jump into it ...

GEP: Vendor Snapshot (Part 5) — Solution Weaknesses

In Spend Matters’ previous installment of our seven-part GEP review, we called out some of the real strengths of the SMART by GEP platform, including some that are rare in the market today. In this Part 5, we are going to balance our analysis by also pointing out some of the "weaknesses" of the platform, at least against peers. (A weakness isn't a weakness unless you are looking for, or need, a certain capability, which, of course, you may already have in-house in another platform.)

While we may have hinted at these by way of omission of coverage in our solution overview in Part 3 and Part 4, we are going to get more specific so you understand precisely what isn't there (and can make a judgment call as to whether you even need the capability). We’ll look at deep optimization (especially logistics), asset management for direct, VMS, trade financing, T&E and more.

GEP: Vendor Snapshot (Part 4) — Solution Strengths

procurement software

In Part 2 and Part 3 of Spend Matters’ seven-part review of GEP, we provided a relatively complete overview of GEP's SMART S2P solution that it takes to market and uses to power the S2P efforts of some of the largest companies in the world. And while we may have hinted at some of the stronger parts of the offering, in today's installment we are going to call out the real strengths of the platform, some of which are (relatively) unique in the market. Those strengths include analytics/master data management, strategic sourcing with expert insight, mobility, network intelligence, opportunity management and more. Let’s take a look at each.

GEP: Vendor Snapshot (Part 3) — Solution Overview (Midstream and Downstream)

interest rates

As we highlighted in Part 1 of this seven-part Spend Matters PRO series, GEP is a diverse company that is a provider of source-to-pay solutions, BPO services and consulting. In Part 2, we discussed how SMART by GEP is a unified S2P solution platform built from the ground up as a cloud-based solution, with full integration capabilities into back-end systems, built and hosted on the Microsoft Azure infrastructure. From both platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and hosting perspectives, this brings the same advantages of Amazon Web Services virtualization (e.g., ability to rapidly “scale up” and “scale down” at any layer in the architecture). But further, the entire GEP platform is Microsoft native, which theoretically means tighter integration into the Microsoft ecosystem of products (e.g., SharePoint, Office, etc.) than competing products. The Azure platform and hosting model provides another layer of scalability insurance for GEP customers.

In Part 3, we’ll look at the midstream and downstream functional S2P capabilities — contract management, supplier management, procure to pay (P2P) — that GEP offers within SMART by GEP. We also take a critical look at GEP’s emphasis on user experience.

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

SciQuest

SMART by GEP is a unified source-to-pay solution platform and, as GEP is quick to point out, it doesn’t sell “single modules as widgets” on a price list. SMART by GEP can, of course, provide its customers with modular functionality. (See Part 1 of this seven-part Spend Matters PRO series for a company overview of the S2P provider, which also has BPO services and consulting.) However, GEP claims that the majority of its new platform customers will continue to embrace full suite adoption from the get-go, versus a minority that will desire a point-based solution at the start.

SMART by GEP is a cloud-based solution, with full integration capabilities into back-end systems, built and hosted on the Microsoft Azure infrastructure. From both platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and hosting perspectives, this brings the same advantages of Amazon Web Services virtualization (e.g., ability to rapidly “scale up” and “scale down” at any layer in the architecture).

But further, the entire GEP platform is Microsoft native, which theoretically means tighter integration into the Microsoft ecosystem of products (e.g., SharePoint, Office, etc.) than competing products. The Azure platform and hosting model provides another layer of scalability insurance for GEP customers.

In Part 2 of this series, we will cover key upstream functional S2P capabilities — spend analysis, category management, sourcing — that GEP offers within the unified SMART by GEP platform: