The Solution Providers Category

Supply Dynamics: Vendor Snapshot (Part 1) — Background & Solution Overview [PRO]

manufacturing

Direct materials procurement is similar in some respects to indirect procurement: you want to see your spend, aggregate demand and find opportunities to reshape your value chain to unlock value. But that’s where the similarities end. Analyzing direct spend (especially across multiple tiers of supply) is sometimes like seeing a cloud of smoke coming out of your tailpipe — you know there’s something wrong but don’t know the cause. For indirect spend, you basically change the oil, replace the air filter and hope for the best. But for direct spend, you need specific engine diagnostics to figure out what’s driving performance and how much you could potentially improve. And unfortunately, in many cases, the manufacturers of those engines parts don’t want you poking around under the hood.

Whether it’s for plastics, resins, hydrocarbon feedstocks, agricultural commodities, standard catalogue parts, electronic components or metals, you must translate your demand for parts into the raw materials that go into them. And you must understand the demand volumes, supply chain capacities and processing capabilities that drive that pricing — especially if you want to tap into aggregated buying channels beyond the stuff you buy to support your own internal factory requirements.

This intersection of supply chain modeling, demand forecasting, demand-supply reconciliation, demand aggregation and commodity price forecasting is where Supply Dynamics plays. The idea originated with one of North America’s largest privately owned metals distributors where the opportunity to roll up demand information across OEM customers and their outside contract manufacturers gave it a unique opportunity to build out specific analytics that would help it size up opportunities for its customers and itself. But last year that technology was liberated from its previous owners and is now a commercial offering for any manufacturer or distributor that wants to optimize its own extended supply chain.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot provides facts and expert analysis to help buying organizations make informed decisions about whether they need a solution like Supply Dynamics to expand their analytics initiatives into previously unchartered materials and supply chain components. 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 Supply Dynamics. The rest of this multipart research brief covers product strengths and weaknesses, competitor and SWOT analyses, user selection guides and insider evaluation and selection considerations.

Coupa’s Open Buy Solution with Amazon Business is a Game-Changer for Unified Catalog Management and Real Guided Buying [PRO]

Electronic catalogs are a pain in the ass. Twenty years ago, early e-procurement implementations were always dragged down by the work required to build electronic catalogs. And things haven't changed that much. The problem is that you force suppliers to publish (i.e., replicate) catalog content to their buyers’ various system or to electronic marketplaces — unless you use supplier-hosted catalogs that you “punch out” to. This is nearly always implemented as a Level 1 punch out, where the poor buying employee has to click on various supplier icons to get to the right websites where their buying experiences are controlled by the seller (i.e., “guided selling”) rather than the chief procurement officer (CPO) preferred metaphor of guided buying.

The next level of sophistication is a Level 2 punch out, where supplier catalog content sits next to internally curated corporate catalog items before a punch out occurs when the right item is found. The problem, however, is that a supplier still has to syndicate (replicate) all of the content that a CPO wants to expose to corporate employees. And it’s even worse because the type of catalog items in question are broad assortments of infrequently ordered items that make up tail spend. Are you really going to get someone like Amazon Business to syndicate content from hundreds of millions of items to your buy-side catalog? No. Also, the number of suppliers that support Level 2 punch out is extremely low (perhaps fewer than 100 suppliers globally), which is not surprising given that they have to syndicate massive catalogs to multiple channels. Syndication/replication is not a great long-term answer for anyone when an API can be built to serve up the content on demand.

Speaking of Amazon, Coupa has worked with Amazon Business to develop a Coupa solution called Open Buy. The offering changes the paradigm to allow “guided buying” through a more unified experience that actually implements Level 2 punch outs properly in a way that’s palatable to the CPO, employees and the supplier (i.e., Amazon Business doesn’t currently support the existing Level 2 punch out scheme — and we don’t blame them). In this Spend Matters PRO brief, we’ll examine how Coupa Open Buy works, how it’s different and some strategic implications for the market.

WorkMarket’s Acquisition of OnForce: Why It Takes a Village, Not Uberization [PRO]

We recently covered WorkMarket’s acquisition of field services execution platform OnForce from the staffing industry giant Adecco Group. While this M&A activity could easily be viewed as just a “tuck in acquisition” (into WorkMarket’s field services solution vertical), it is really more than that. Considering the comprehensive deal and its context provides a different perspective on the strategic development of this particular digital work platform, as well as on digital work platforms in general.

This Spend Matters PRO brief addresses HR and contingent workforce procurement practitioners who are trying to understand the emergence of digital work platforms and the ongoing transformation of the enterprise and the execution of work. It provides an overview and introduction to OnForce and WorkMarket, offers sector definitions to cut through the jargon and introduces the different components of the field services contractor management technology market as well as alternative providers.

Finally, it offers analysis on the future of the OnForce/WorkMarket combination and the future of online work intermediation platforms in general — and why collaboration and ecosystem relationships are key to driving change in established B2B industries.

Beeline: Vendor Snapshot (Part 1) — Background & Solution Overview [PRO]

Beeline is a global “external workforce management solutions” provider and, alongside SAP Fieldglass, one of the top two providers of VMS solutions globally, based on volume and revenue. After years occupying the traditional VMS software category, the company has begun to expand its solution in a number of different directions to address the changing needs of enterprise clients at a time when external workforce utilization is increasing and new technology solutions for sourcing and managing contingent workforce and services (CW/S) are required.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot provides facts and expert analysis to help buying organizations make informed decisions about whether they need a solution like Beeline as provider of VMS software or a provider of technology-based CW/S solutions beyond traditional VMS. 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 Beeline. Parts 2 and 3 of this multipart research brief cover product strengths and weaknesses, competitor and SWOT analyses, user selection guides and insider evaluation and selection considerations.

Note: Since Beeline merged with IQNavigator in 2016, there have been two VMS technology platforms operating under the Beeline brand. (A process to “converge” the two platforms on a new, state-of-the-art technology architecture is underway.) In this particular Vendor Snapshot, the section Beeline Solution Overview — Offerings and Functionality (below) focuses only on the Beeline VMS technology platform, pending separate treatment of the IQN platform. The order of treatment is in no way intended to suggest a ranking of one platform over the other.

Solution Provider Product and Technology Roadmaps: Are They Important? [PRO]

spend visiblity

The short answer to the question posed in the title is emphatically and definitively “yes” — now more than ever. When screening or evaluating technology solution providers for e-procurement, contract lifecycle management, vendor management systems (VMS) or any other solution, there is frequently an inherent present and backward-looking bias in evaluating and making decisions about these solutions. Considering only what solutions have done or are doing for their clients (and ex-clients) only tells so much about whether or not the solution is a good fit.

There are probably a number of reasons for this bias, including that it may have led to optimal decisions in the past because vendors often over-promised and only partially delivered. But in today’s world, this bias can handicap a procurement organization given the growing number of new solutions and rapid changes in technology. Whether intentional or not on the part of the solution provider, “adverse selection” may come into play here — to the detriment of all. By not knowing where a provider plans or intends to (or actually can) take its solution in the future, the buyer is missing crucial information that could result in a bad decision. Making sure that roadmaps are reviewed and analyzed is an important way to mitigate this risk.

In this Spend Matters PRO research brief, we explore this problem and make suggestions to support ways to move beyond it, including how to look at a provider’s product and technology maps from a 2017 cloud-era frame of reference. For those who are new to this topic, we start with the basics, providing an explanation of what vendor product and technology roadmaps are, what they should contain and what you should expect.

Taking Inventory of Proactis and Perfect Commerce: Products, Strengths and Integration [PRO]

Proactis and Perfect Commerce share a number of commonalities, perhaps the three most important being that they have built out similar product footprints, have been able to grow “under the radar” in recent years and have leveraged M&A as a core growth strategy. We covered the news of the announced merger between the two firms last Friday on Spend Matters, and Proactis shareholders initially responded positively to the news.

As background, Proactis’ core source-to-pay (S2P) business has centered primarily on serving U.K. customers, with a concentration in public sector. In the U.K. market, Proactis has made a number of acquisitions in recent years to round out its suite and to acquire market share. These transactions include EGS (2014), Due North (2016) and Millstream (2016). Within the U.S., it acquired Intesource (2014), to strengthen its e-sourcing and related managed services capability, and Intelligent Capture (also 2014), a provider of electronic invoicing and scan/capture services.

Perfect has served customers in the S2P area on a global basis since its founding, in 1994, but with a greater emphasis, until recently, on North America. It has made a number of smaller acquisitions over the years, in addition to its foundational acquisition of Commerce One (2006), including those that leveraged IP enforcement of Commerce One code as a bargaining chip in various transactions. But more recently, Perfect made its largest acquisition to date purchasing supplier network and P2P provider Hubwoo, to help expand its market presence and enhance its capabilities in the catalog management, marketplace and supplier network areas.

This Spend Matters PRO research brief provides an introduction and an overview to both providers, exploring the value proposition and strengths each vendor brings to the combination, including overlap and potential synergies from a customer perspective. It also touches on the subject of integration, as well as the approach we would encourage customers to look for when determining whether the acquisition will primarily benefit them or investors.

Proactis Acquires Perfect Commerce: Something is Fishy (in a Good Way)

U.K.-based spend management and e-procurement solution provider Proactis announced Friday it’s snapping up Perfect Commerce, a U.S.-based source-to-pay (S2P) provider. Assuming shareholder approval, the new company, which will be called Proactis, will be one of the largest global cloud-based spend management companies, according to the announcement. The $132.5 million deal (in aggregate consideration) roughly doubles Proactis’ revenue.

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

Procurement organizations have an increasing number of choices when it comes to selecting an e-procurement solution. With both full suite and smaller independent providers — not to mention ERP vendors — improving and expanding their capabilities in this area, it has never been a better time to purchase a new technology or make the switch from an older platform.

Within this market, BuyerQuest delivers a number of nuanced capabilities that differentiate it from peers. This third and final installment of our Spend Matters Vendor Snapshot covering BuyerQuest provides a SWOT analysis of the provider, as well as a segmentation and comparison of competitors. It also includes a recommended shortlist of candidates that could serve as alternative vendors to BuyerQuest for e-procurement and procure-to-pay (P2P). Finally, we conclude with a summary analysis and recommendations for organizations considering BuyerQuest.

“What’s the Best Procurement System?” That’s the Wrong Question

Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series on digital disruption from a procurement professional’s perspectives. Read Part 1 here.

This morning I heard someone utter the question that elicits an almost primal response for anyone who works at the intersection of business process and technology: “What’s the best procurement system on the market?” Every time I hear it, my brain immediately flashes — That’s the wrong question. Someone who tries to tell you what solution to buy without first trying to understand your goals and certain factors about your environment deserves a solid side-eye.

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

The barriers to entry for any provider wanting to create an e-procurement or procure-to-pay (P2P) solution are perhaps the highest of any technology area in the procurement sector. Not only must solutions combine a world-class experience for all frontline users from a shopping and buying experience to be competitive, they also must feature entirely different sets of capabilities to enable both procurement organizations (and suppliers) to collectively manage dozens of elements to ensure that all purchases are in compliance with company policies, contracts and supplier agreements. Ideally, these two elements combine to guide users to an optimal buying experience both for their own requirements and the company, steering them in ways they may not even be aware of.

BuyerQuest is one of only a select number of new entrants to gain traction in the e-procurement — and more recently, the P2P — market in recent years by meeting these requirements, often in differentiated ways. This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot explores BuyerQuest’s strengths and weaknesses, providing facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations decide whether they should consider the provider. Part 1 of our analysis provided a company and detailed solution overview and a recommend fit list of criteria for firms considering BuyerQuest. The third part of this series will offer a SWOT analysis, user selection guide, competitive alternatives, and additional evaluation and selection considerations.

WorkMarket: Vendor Snapshot (Part 3) — Competitive & Summary Analysis [PRO]

The previous two installments of this PRO series provided an in-depth look at WorkMarket as a firm and its specific solution capability (Part 1) and a detailed analysis of solution strengths and weaknesses and a review of the product’s user experience (Part 2). WorkMarket is one of a growing set of providers in the market — and one of the few enterprise cloud platforms — with a solution that can complement a vendor management system (VMS) deployment to help procurement organizations manage and enable the expanding, external freelancer and independent contractor workforce.

The third and final installment of this Spend Matters Vendor Snapshot covering WorkMarket provides a SWOT analysis of WorkMarket and offers a segmentation and comparison of the competition. It also includes recommended shortlist candidates as alternative vendors to WorkMarket, as well as provider selection guidance. Finally, it provides summary analysis and recommendations for companies considering WorkMarket.

Merging Jaggaer and Pool4Tool: Strategy Analysis and Questions Customers Should Ask [PRO]

Jaggaer announced Monday it would merge with Pool4Tool. The combination raises a number of questions, primarily from a strategy perspective, beyond just providing expanded distribution to a niche provider and the validation of a new technology segment (manufacturing-centric procurement solutions) in North America. Rather, it raises the broader notion of whether a mutual fund-type holding company structure — regardless of capitalization structure — can help the fortunes of each “member” (and customers) beyond a certain point.

There's no question the two firms are better together than apart. Both “members” can immediately cross-sell and gain certain scale advantages. They can do this because of customer goodwill and the ability to get in the door and deliver. No doubt the professionalism that a private equity-held software firm brings, along with professional services know-how and reach to drive sales and implementations, will be key contributors to initial momentum as well. Jaggaer brings these two areas to Pool4Tool — and then some. But this only goes so far.

Longer term, real technology integration models, including a supplier network and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) strategy, need to be spelled out. While our colleague Tom Finn appreciated Jaggaer and Pool4Tool’s honesty around the topic of integration, strategically, to maximize customer (and likely shareholder) value, our esteemed colleague may not be right. Which brings us to the strategic technology questions Jaggaer and Pool4Tool should be asking as well as those which customers and prospective should zero in on as well.