The E-Sourcing Category

What is Your Sourcing Persona? Understand Your Requirements to Find the Best Technology Provider [PRO]

No two procurement or supply chain organizations are alike. Each has its own persona that reflects not only its own value proposition and engagement approach but also the stakeholders it serves — and its supply base.

The same principle holds true of sourcing application providers. Each has a persona — or set of personas — that reflects its value proposition, solution strategy and targeted customer segments. Therefore, procurement organizations should seek providers whose personas best align to theirs. In other words, there is no “magic” solution provider, and finding the right fit is critical, because sourcing applications are critical to create value through savings, cost avoidance, risk management and value contribution to the business.

To that end, we are excited to preview our approach to Spend Matters SolutionMapSM, a comparative analytical framework for practitioners to evaluate relevant solutions to meet their procurement needs.

Our SolutionMap initiative depicts vendor rankings based on specific buyer personas to reflect the unique value proposition, solution strategy and customer segments served by a vendor. Participating vendors are scored both on their Solution capability as well as on Customer Value, based on in-depth tech reviews (including live demos) by the Spend Matters analyst team and aggregated direct customer input from surveys. Each SolutionMap is updated quarterly rather than in 12-month (or longer) cycles, to accurately reflect the pace of market developments.

As part of our second Spend Matters SolutionMap vendor comparison ranking for sourcing and other strategic procurement technologies, the Spend Matters analyst team has dedicated considerable time to developing the unique organizational “personas” that we’ve most often seen in our decades of experience working with practitioner organizations. We have used these personas to weight the requirements that we used in solution scoring, which includes customer satisfaction scoring by solution customers.

Having collected feedback from hundreds of sourcing users in recent months as part of our SolutionMap research, we see these personas as useful starting points for procurement organizations to classify themselves before looking at solution rankings of providers in the market. This Spend Matters PRO analysis shares six of the most common customer personas for sourcing buying requirements. Aimed at practitioners as well as vendors and the consultants advising them, this research brief will be helpful to drive the type of “mass customization” of strategic procurement technology solutions needed to meet specific organizational needs.

Below, we present our six personas for sourcing. For each, we include full definitions, typical organizational priorities (based on each persona), functional/solution and customer value emphasis and recommended selection processes. Comparative vendor rankings are published for each persona separately on Spend Matters (and updated quarterly).

Vendor Summary Report: Sourcing SolutionMap℠ Q4 2017 [PRO]

This SolutionMapSM analyzes a select group of sourcing providers. It is part of our Q4 2017 SolutionMap report series, also featuring spend analytics, contract management, supplier relationship management and risk (SRM), e-procurement and invoice-to-pay providers. SolutionMap also features procure-to-pay and strategic procurement technology suites.

Spend Matters tracks more than 40 sourcing solution providers today. This analysis features many of the largest sourcing providers, including BravoSolution, Coupa, Determine, EC Sourcing, GEP, Ivalua, Jaggaer, Jaggaer Direct (formerly Pool4Tool), Keelvar, SAP Ariba, Scout RFP and Zycus. Among these providers, the Sourcing SolutionMap features select industry/specialty capability of providers, although it does not highlight them in a specific persona, a change from our last SolutionMap release.

SolutionMap ratings provide comparative rankings and insight into how each provider scored from a Solution perspective and Customer Value perspective.

Dive deeper with our full analysis.

Analyzing 2017 E-Sourcing Savings and Trends with Scanmarket

Last week I touched down in London to attend and speak at Scanmarket’s eSourcing Exclusive Summit. Scanmarket is a provider of strategic sourcing software and over the years has developed a particular expertise and customer following based on its reverse auction capability and formats. During the event, Henrik Balslev, senior vice president of operations for Scanmarket, gave a presentation on e-sourcing and reverse auction trends. I thought it would be valuable for Spend Matters readers to hear some of the data Balslev shared.

LevaData: Vendor Snapshot (Part 3) — Competitive and Summary Analysis [PRO]

SciQuest

LevaData is a provider that challenges the traditional notion of “modules” in the procurement technology sector. In combining supply chain visibility, market data and benchmarks, community analytics, optimization, forecasting, AI techniques and strategic sourcing capability, LevaData is positioning itself as the first “cognitive sourcing” provider. While focused primarily today on select industries and categories, its goal is to become both a single source of truth and core enablement technology for broader direct materials sourcing. Today, LevaData’s solution blends integrated market intelligence, analytics and sourcing components in a single platform, primarily serving customers in the electronics/high tech manufacturing sector. While more mature in certain areas and less in others, the combined product set is not like anything else we have seen or analyzed in the market.

This final installment of our multipart Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot series covering LevaData offers a SWOT analysis, competitive assessment and comparison with other related vendors targeting direct materials procurement. 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 LevaData.

LevaData: Vendor Snapshot (Part 2) — Product Strengths and Weaknesses [PRO]

Quick, what would a mashup of an analytics, market intelligence and an optimization-backed advanced sourcing platform look like for direct materials procurement? It would need to feature at least the basics of line-level spend analytics and reporting, and, for manufacturers, ideally offer deeper bill of materials insight into sub-tier materials, parts and component data. It would have to provide market-based insights into relative total cost, as well as integrated access to external market data feeds to enable benchmarking. And it would need to feature sourcing capability that factors into account both internal and supply chain costs, constraints and business requirements in recommendations and decision-making.

In other words, it would look something like LevaData, a manufacturing-centric procurement technology vendor that offers an integrated set of capabilities that is different from anything else we have reviewed in the market. This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot explores LevaData’s strengths and weaknesses, providing facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations decide whether they should consider the provider. The first installment of our analysis provided a company and solution overview and a recommend fit list of criteria for firms considering the provider. Part 3 will offer a SWOT analysis, user selection guide, competitive alternatives, and additional evaluation and selection considerations.

LevaData: Vendor Snapshot (Part 1) — Background and Solution Overview [PRO]

Outside of core ERP and supply chain planning systems, the technology market for direct materials procurement and sourcing is almost too nascent to even be considered fragmented. While many software firms claim they power direct materials procurement solutions needs, the reality is that most end up “kludging” off-the-shelf solutions based on existing, distinct modules for manufacturing. Yet new direct materials solutions are emerging that blur the line of modules, product classification and underlying technology in a not so dissimilar way that the adoption of their solutions also blurs the line from a user perspective between design engineering, procurement, quality and operations and supply chain.  

LevaData is one such emerging technology provider that has capability spanning direct materials procurement and cost analytics, bill of materials-level spend visibility, market/commodity intelligence and sourcing (optimization). It is one of the first entrants into the “cognitive sourcing” space, offering a platform that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) capability to make both part- and component-level sourcing recommendations, especially in the electronics industry, where LevaData has a statistically relevant number of customers and products in its database. Having recently raised $5 million in Series A funding in August 2017, LevaData appears ready to move beyond its initial 20 customers.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot provides facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations make informed decisions about LevaData’s solution offering. 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 LevaData in the procurement technology area. The rest of this research brief covers product strengths and weaknesses, competitor and SWOT analyses, and evaluation and selection considerations.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Sourcing Optimization Technology and User Design (Part 4) [PRO]

spend analytics

We’ve often wondered why sourcing optimization technology is not more broadly adopted today alongside or as a replacement for traditional RFX and reverse auction approaches. One of the major reasons why procurement-led optimization efforts have not yet crossed the chasm (outside of transportation spend) is that because until recently, many solutions were challenging to use without considerable training. In addition, most of the technologies available were not effective enough “out of the box” at tackling anything but logistics sourcing opportunities or somewhat simplistic bids and constraints. And, of course, not enough procurement organizations were even aware of all of the benefits optimization can bring above and beyond standard software-driven strategic sourcing efforts.

But these hurdles are disappearing — fast. This Spend Matters PRO series is meant as a primer for both sourcing optimization solution “buyers” and solution “builders.” It provides a look at what is required to use and field a best-in-class sourcing optimization solution today from both a technology and user design capability. The three previous installments can be found here and here and here. As we conclude our analysis in Part 4, we consider the areas of constraint impact analysis, scenario generation and reporting/analytics.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Sourcing Optimization Technology and User Design (Part 3) [PRO]

So far in our series on sourcing optimization (see Part 1 and Part 2), we’ve covered how the intersections of specialized technology capability and user design must come together to support a best-in-class experience. Specifically, we’ve fleshed out the following areas by describing what is important to look for (or build) into a solution on both a functional and user experience perspective: constraint support, mathematical foundations, cost modeling, e-sourcing and reverse auction integration approaches, guided sourcing and automatic missing data and outlier identification. Today we turn our attention to how world-class sourcing optimization capability can address the automatic identification of unsatisfiable constraints and the tricks of the trade to fix them.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Sourcing Optimization Technology and User Design (Part 2) [PRO]

Sourcing optimization has played a somewhat curious side role in the history of e-sourcing technologies. Approximately half a dozen procurement vendors have offered varying degrees of capability over the years, but customer adoption, especially in the user base of vendors offering other sourcing and procurement technology suite capabilities, has remained variable, as have the capabilities of the underlying optimization solutions themselves.

As we noted in the first installment in this series, sourcing optimization is “heady, complex and requires significant mathematical, technical and domain expertise to use” — at least in the past. It’s not a common skill combination. Developing and supporting such capability has also required skilled R&D (academic), product development and product management resources, so assuming you could find the right people, adding sourcing optimization to existing sourcing products required significant investments.

This Spend Matters PRO series provides a “how-to-guide” to selecting and developing best-in-class sourcing optimization technology, inclusive of a user design and interface that can maximize adoption. We suspect it will be useful for procurement organizations, consultants, business process outsourcing (BPO) firms and third-party logistics (3PL) providers evaluating or cobbling together solutions to use internally or own behalf of customers.

But this brief should also be equally valuable for technology vendors that are looking to build capability in the area, or improve upon existing sourcing solutions. In Part 1 of this series, we explored how powerful constraint support, solid mathematical foundations and advanced cost modeling capability must come together in a solution that dovetails best-in-class functional capability with optimal user design. In this second installment, we turn our attention to e-sourcing and reverse auction integration approaches, guided sourcing “what-if” support and automatic missing/outlier data identification.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Sourcing Optimization Technology and User Design (Part 1) [PRO]

There’s a reason Coupa spent a healthy chunk of its IPO proceeds to purchase Trade Extensions: sourcing optimization technology is heady, complex and requires significant mathematical, technical and domain expertise to build. But more important than the barriers to entry in bringing it to market, the value sourcing optimization can bring to customers is materially greater than what standard e-sourcing and reverse auction technology can deliver. So if you’re pitching “savings” or “value” as a service for procurement, you’d be hard pressed to prioritize any other area over strategic sourcing optimization and related supply network design capabilities — even if it’s still somewhat a novelty in terms of adoption outside of logistics and transportation spend.

While we have explored and defined sourcing optimization technology in the past (including specifically what makes Trade Extensions great and why Coupa bought it from a customer perspective), we have not yet defined what the optimal (no pun intended) components and user design elements of a sourcing optimization solution look like more generically. This Spend Matters PRO series aims to do just this, breaking new ground in spelling out for procurement and supply chain professionals, consultants and technologists what they should look for (or strive to build) when considering sourcing optimization capability. It is meant as a companion to the other PRO articles in this series thus far covering what best-in-class technology and user design look like for e-sourcing (see: here and here) and reverse auction (see: here and here) technologies .

So what does best-in-class sourcing optimization look like and how does form follow function from a design perspective in supporting it? In this first installment in our series, we cover the concepts of powerful constraint support (and what’s required to support it), solid mathematical foundations and advanced cost modeling.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Reverse Auction Technology and User Design (Part 2) [PRO]

auction

Spend Matters tracks more than 50 technology providers that claim to have some type of auction or reverse auction capability in place to support strategic sourcing efforts of procurement organizations. But only a select few vendors go the extra mile to support what we consider the core capabilities that just about any procurement organization can take advantage of to drive incremental savings and results.

As we conclude our look at what procurement organizations should expect from the intersection of best-in-class reverse auction capabilities with a streamlined user design/experience, we define and explore the following areas: asynchronous real-time interactive graphical views (of events), real-time substitution request capabilities, real-time connectivity monitoring, constraint support and optimization-backed capability. Missed Part 1? Read it here.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Reverse Auction Technology and User Design (Part 1) [PRO]

Thus far in this Spend Matters PRO research series, we have explored how optimal user experience (UX) and advanced feature/function support have become inseparable when it comes to delivering best-of-breed e-sourcing capabilities (see What You Should Expect from Best-in-Class E-Sourcing User Experience and Functionality: Part 1 and Part 2). We pointed out, for example, that numerous specific elements must come together to drive strategic sourcing and RFX success for anything but the most basic strategic sourcing scenarios.

These capabilities that we covered include guided event creation, simplified template creation, clutter free role-based views, easy bulk file upload (and association), easy starting bid population, simplified bid validation and verification, and nuanced delegation approaches (for buyers and suppliers). When it comes to reverse auction capability and technology, however, this is just a necessary list of basic functionality for foundational support. It’s far from complete, as reverse auctions are really their own “sub-module” in their own right.

As our series continues, we explore how additional UX and technology/feature requirements come together to create best-in-class reverse auction technology. But let us first start this series with a warning: Few technology providers come close to touching all these core capabilities today. In this first installment, we define and explain the concepts of — and capability needed to support — powerful lot configuration (with formula-based pricing), extensive (reverse auction) format selection, deep parameterization capability and smart “multirepresentative” supplier views.