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What You Should Expect from Best-in-Class E-Sourcing User Experience and Functionality [PRO]

E-sourcing technologies have been around for two decades now. The authors have played various roles over the years in helping architect them, design them, configure them, select them and use them. Yet while today e-sourcing should be a mature and functionally rich technology out of the box, the reality is that there are still a number of offerings that don't have some of the most basic features you would have expected some years ago.

In contrast, other offerings continue to push the envelope in various areas of what the product can offer. In this two-part Spend Matters PRO brief, we outline what specific elements you should expect from best-in-class e-sourcing user experience and functional components. In the first installment, we cover how best-in-class solution designs feature guided event creation, clutter-free views and simplified template creation and management. As will soon become clear, it is impossible to separate a best-in-class user experience from underlying functional capability in many areas of strategic sourcing technology — the two are becoming increasingly yoked. Form following function. Or function following form. You decide!

Procurement’s Role in the Enterprise Working Capital Mandate

With a heightened awareness over how a supplier ecosystem affects a company’s balance sheet, implementing working capital programs is increasingly part of the procurement and supply chain organizations' responsibilities, in addition to the traditional worlds of treasury and finance. The ever constant pressure to find “cash” in an organization is now commonplace as the days of cash-rich businesses having excess cash or access to cheap bank sources of funding are all but over. Combine that with technology and macroeconomic trends that have affected many business processes, including supply chain flows, and more so than ever, companies must find ways to work out supply chain finance programs between departments and outside the organization.

Measuring the Procurement Technology User Experience: More Than Just a Pretty Screen (Part 1) [PRO]

UXI

A good technology user experience is not like pornography: One can actually define it without seeing it, or at least attempt to do so.

As you may have noticed, the “Vendor Snapshot” deep dive reports that Spend Matters has been doing for the past year on technology providers have included a section on user experience (UI). In this section, we have rated UI on a number of factors. While it may seem that the first five ratings are subjective, they were all based on a comparison of the platform to other platforms, with a generalized baseline against a set of criteria for “good” user experience that the Spend Matters Analyst team has been developing for over a year.

But now that Spend Matters has released its first SolutionMap℠ — with many more to come — we decided it was time to put down a standard set of more specific definitions, across specific procurement technology modules, about what makes for a good user experience based on the criteria we ourselves use to evaluate UIs across the source-to-pay workflow.

Today, we’ll start our discussion by defining what general characteristics make for a good UI, and an effective user experience (UIX), primarily by sharing examples (without naming vendor names) and different use case scenarios that separate out a base-level UX from an advanced one.

Procurement as a Service (PRaaS) — Part 3: Unpacking the Services Stack

digital

In Part 1 of the series, we delved into why procurement should run itself as a services business, and in Part 2, we shared how procurement can learn from other types of professional services businesses to bring more rigor and value to its internal customers and even external customers. On this last point, organizations such as GE, IBM and others have been masterful at industrializing various services internally, and then using themselves as success stories to externalize those services to new customers. In doing this, they are trying to establish themselves as digital platforms that will be the underlying architecture of emerging digital value chains.

So, what does this have to do with procurement? Many things:

  • As we discussed in Part 2, procurement and other stakeholders must understand how supply markets are fundamentally shifting as this digital transformation occurs. Such disruption is not just the “Amazoning” or “Ubering” of the supply chain, but services, too. For example, consider the mind-blowing transformation that Infosys is embarking on with its Mana platform and its Zero Distance approach to innovating service delivery.
  • Procurement can use this trend to its advantage to bring some leverage to relationships with large incumbent providers that may be threatened. This is also a great time to be a “customer of choice” and use strategic supplier management to capture innovation from your incumbent suppliers while also testing out emerging digital services providers.
  • It’s also critical to understand the implications of signing up on someone else's platform and what that means to switching costs down the road, as well as to what extend today’s suppliers don’t become tomorrow’s competitors.
  • Finally, if your company is going through a digital transformation to execute a new digital business strategy where your firm may also be positioning as a “platform,” then it’s important to understand platform-based business models and also cloud-based architectures (i.e., an XaaS model that lets you deliver these services scalably over the web) to more easily plug and play supplier XaaS services (see IBM cloud reference architecture as an example) into your procurement services.

The IBM architecture diagram can be a little overwhelming, so, let me show you a slightly simpler procurement version of this “aaS” architecture and give some examples of some innovative services. Actually, it’s not simple either, but it’s as simple as it can be while explaining the fundamental design of the PRaaS model in one diagram.

2017: The Year of Digital Procurement? NEW Webinar Announcement

digital business transformation

Be sure to reserve your spot for this one, because attendance will fill up fast. Digital Procurement in 2017: Jason Busch and Pierre Mitchell's Predictions will feature Spend Matters' top analysts, as well as D'jay Nagalkar, vice president at GEP, on Friday, Dec. 9, at 12 p.m. CST, as they discuss everything digital procurement for the year ahead. What does a CEO want? How will procurement departments be measured? (And how do you stack up?)

HICX: Solution Review & Analysis [Plus+]

supplier network

Companies looking for supplier management solutions have a broad range of choices, ranging from independent solution providers to ERP modules of varying degrees of sophistication and depth. There are numerous challenges that come with identifying the right solutions in the market for an individual procurement organization. These include the fact that consultants and analysts generally have limited experience with the in-the-trenches capabilities of these solutions compared with sourcing and purchase-to-pay suites.

One provider that warrants consideration in the market is HICX, a London-based firm founded in 2004. It is essentially a supply chain master data management (MDM) solution with a configurable workflow that allows an organization to use it as the supplier (and associated product) MDM system. This Spend Matters Plus analysis provides an introduction to the HICX solution for procurement organizations looking to understand whether they should consider adding the provider to their shortlists for consideration and competitive alternatives.

Quantifying ROP (Return on Procurement) – NEW Webinar Announcement!

funding

We all know about return on investment (ROI) and just how complex it can be to identify and measure, but what about "return on procurement," or ROP? It is indeed a tricky proposition and one that is essential to solve. Join Pierre Mitchell, chief research officer at Spend Matters, and Len Prokopets, managing director at KPMG, on Monday, Nov. 14, at 10 a.m. CST, for Quantifying the Return on Procurement: Practical Frameworks and Scorecards. Sign up today!

Middle Market Companies Using Early Pay Finance? Help a Sister (Site) Out!

finance

Our colleague David Gustin, editor of Trade Financing Matters, is undertaking an interesting research project to determine the intersection of middle market companies and certain lending options. Middle market companies truly are the heart and soul of America and 99% of us never heard of them. Many are family owned or private equity backed, and quite a few have foreign ownership as well.  They are not the core client base for large global banks, and in most cases are too big for smaller factors and ABL lenders. How does a company in the middle market navigate the traditional lending world with the new options springing forth due to structural market changes, and the fact that B2B commerce is increasingly becoming digitized, and is combined with data science, new risk and underwriting models? Read more about this – and how you can help – on our sister site, Trade Financing Matters.

Afternoon Coffee: US Services Sector Experiences Weak Growth in May, SEC Investigates Alibaba

The U.S. services sector expanded at a slow rate in May due to less than ideal economic conditions and weak client demand, according to Markit’s Flash Services PMI Business Activity Index. The index registered at 51.2 for the month, down from 52.8 in April. And, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is reportedly investigating Alibaba and has requested information on a logistics firm that works with the e-commerce company.

Afternoon Coffee: France Considers Import Ban on US Shale Gas, Nissan Buys 34% Stake in Mitsubishi

France is considering a ban on U.S. imports of of shale gas due to France’s anti-hydraulic fracturing stance. French Energy Minister Segolene Royal is investigating legal means to place such a ban on shale gas imports. And, Nissan will is buying a 34% controlling stake in Mitsubishi Motors Corp. for $2.18 billion, becoming Mitsubishi's largest shareholder. Afternoon Coffee brings you the latest in procurement and supply chain news.

MRO as a Service (Part 1): Embedding Procurement as the Value Engine

MRO

Maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) is a very important and overlooked business function that is an integral part of the supply chain. It not only keeps critical internal assets running efficiently but is also a gold mine of opportunities to reduce costs of MRO services and inventories of purchased supplies (spare parts and consumables). MRO is heavily reliant on an ecosystem of third parties (large equipment suppliers, local suppliers, distributors, facility services suppliers, etc.) to keep it optimized, and this is why procurement and supply chain groups should manage it as a critical spend category that is part of the core supply chain, not just a plant-specific tactical spending area. The problem, though, is that most procurement organizations simply do not treat MRO strategically. They tend to source “low hanging fruit” spend categories like basic industrial supplies (e.g., safety products, lubricants, solvents, etc.), electrical components, facilities supplies and so on, and then use a hodgepodge of e-procurement and e-catalog tools that they bolt onto their local ERP and maintenance systems. So, what is an organization to do?