Author Archives: Xavier Olivera



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...

Defining AP Automation Functional Requirements (Part 5: Payment Options and Early Payment Financing)

BuyerQuest

In the last installment of this five-part Spend Matters PRO series on accounts payable automation, we’ll list the functional requirements for payment options, like P-cards and financing programs.

AP automation capabilities vary dramatically between different software providers, and the capabilities a finance or procurement organization will require to support the automation of AP processes also vary materially, based not only on company size but a broad range of other factors. These include organizational complexity, invoice capturing requirements (e.g., paper, PDF, electronic, etc.), systems complexity, systems integration, industry, EDI integration/support, payment/financing capabilities, treasury integration/working capital management, geography and compliance requirements — to name just a few.

To understand how different providers stack up against these (and other) categories of requirements, the quarterly Invoice-to-Pay SolutionMap Insider report can provide significant insight. And to create a one-to-one map between business requirements for AP automation and vendor functionality capability, SolutionMap Accelerator can dramatically speed up the vendor shortlisting and selection process, even allowing companies to “skip the RFI” entirely.

This series defines AP automation requirements from a functional perspective to put AP, finance and purchasing professionals in the driver’s seat when they evaluate the available supply market for AP automation to fit their needs (either on a standalone basis or as a specific component of broader invoice-to-pay, procure-to-pay or source-to-pay solutions). Click to see our SolutionMap rankings of vendors in each category.

Part 1 of this series investigated core invoicing requirements for AP automation and some of the criteria that Global 2000 and middle market organizations should consider when selecting solutions (i.e., invoicing set-up, paper scan/capture support and e-invoicing).

In Part 2, we turned our attention to an additional set of AP automation functional requirements, including AP process, invoicing validations, workflow, collaboration and integration requirements.

In Part 3, we looked at the final set of AP automation topics: invoicing mobility, invoicing compliance and invoicing analytics.

In Part 4, we examined AP automation functions related to payment systems and methods, payment partnerships, payment processing and payment analytics.

Now, let’s look at payment options and early payment financing.

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.

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).

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:

Defining AP Automation Functional Requirements (Part 4): Payment Systems, Partnerships, Processing, Analytics

In Part 4 of this Spend Matters PRO series, we’ll examine AP automation functions related to payment systems and methods, payment partnerships, payment processing and payment analytics.

Accounts payables automation capabilities vary dramatically between different software providers, and the capabilities a finance or procurement organization will require to support the automation of AP processes also vary materially, based not only on company size but a broad range of other factors. These include organizational complexity, invoice capturing requirements (e.g., paper, PDF, electronic, etc.), systems complexity, systems integration, industry, EDI integration/support, payment/financing capabilities, treasury integration/working capital management, geography and compliance requirements — to name just a few.

To understand how different providers stack up against these (and other) categories of requirements, the quarterly Invoice-to-Pay SolutionMap Insider report can provide significant insight. And to create a one-to-one map between business requirements for AP automation and vendor functionality capability, SolutionMap Accelerator can dramatically speed up the vendor shortlisting and selection process, even allowing companies to “skip the RFI” entirely.

This Spend Matters PRO series defines AP automation requirements from a functional perspective to put AP, finance and purchasing professionals in the driver’s seat when they evaluate the available supply market for AP automation to fit their needs (either on a standalone basis or as a specific component of broader invoice-to-pay, procure-to-pay or source-to-pay solutions). Click to see our SolutionMap rankings of vendors in each category.

Part 1 of this series investigated core invoicing requirements for AP automation and some of the criteria that Global 2000 and middle market organizations should consider when selecting solutions (i.e., invoicing set-up, paper scan/capture support and e-invoicing).

In Part 2, we turned our attention to an additional set of AP automation functional requirements, including AP process, invoicing validations, workflow, collaboration and integration requirements.

In Part 3, we looked at the final set of AP automation topics: invoicing mobility, invoicing compliance and invoicing analytics.

Now let’s get into payments.

GEP: Vendor Snapshot (Part 1) — Company Background

GEP, formerly Global eProcure, is an integrated source-to-pay (S2P) solution and services firm that offers managed services including full BPO capabilities, transformation services (i.e., consulting) and its own internally developed S2P technology suite. The combination of these individual capabilities from a single provider, especially as they become increasingly synergistic, makes GEP truly a standalone in the industry.

Founded in 1999, GEP has been known primarily for its deep knowledge in upstream strategic sourcing and its flexible approach to building and delivering capabilities to its paying clients. These capabilities grew organically, and perhaps somewhat opportunistically, into more repeatable technology-enabled solutions (e.g., spend analysis, e-sourcing, etc.). They also grew when they acquired (and subsequently replatformed) Enporion, a small supply chain management provider that had select upstream strategic sourcing and downstream e-procurement applications, primarily to energy, manufacturing and distribution clients. This acquisition provided GEP with an IP base to further its downstream development capability and better serve these industries.

In the early days, like many companies founded around its time, GEP was a traditional provider of hosted / ASP sourcing technology, but earlier this decade, GEP made the strategic decision to develop its own native source-to-pay cloud platform suite (“SMART by GEP,” first released in 2014), which replaced its older hosted or SaaS offerings. It was a strategic bet that procurement organizations of varying sizes want the agility and depth of a single provider that can flexibly assemble a solution of technology, managed services and transformation services to support their dynamic needs, and one that has continued to pay off. While GEP may not have as many customers as Coupa or SAP Ariba, GEP has more F500 / G2000 clients than any other provider in the S2P space, and, in fact, whereas many of its S2P competitors can count F500 customers as a minority of their customer base, for GEP it’s a majority.

The wager was prescient on many levels, and is starting to massively pay off in growth and business scale, which no one could have imagined at GEP five years ago when its SMART suite was released, and definitely not seven years ago when it would have first begun its new development effort (after the Enporion acquisition). This growth not only includes cloud-based standalone application growth outside of services, but also more transformational services around digitization and automation as well as category management and overall "procurement transformation" once new capabilities are installed. And this success is increasingly creating consternation with traditional software, solution and service providers alike, which is both a boon and a bust for GEP, as we will discuss later in this series.

This seven-part Spend Matters PRO vendor snapshot series provides facts and expert analysis to help buying organizations make informed decisions about GEP’s source-to-pay capability, as well as limited background on its associated services capability. Part 1 of our analysis provides a company background and overview to set the stage, as well as a few key differentiators to help in short-list decisions. Parts 2 and 3 will provide a detailed solution overview of each key area/module. Part 4 will dive deep into the GEP platform and solution strengths, while Part 5 will balance the analysis by diving into the GEP platform and solution weaknesses, at least with regard to other solutions on the market. (A weakness isn't a weakness if it's not a capability your organization needs, either due to its industry or the presence of that capability in another platform that is already being used.) Part 6 will provide a full SWOT analysis as well as commentary on the solution and recommended fit. Finally, Part 7 will finish up with an overview of the competitive landscape.