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Procurement Technology

SAP Ariba Launches A New Sourcing Front — Decision Optimization (Part 1: Solution Components) [PRO]

SAP Ariba has opened a new front on the strategic sourcing optimization software battlefield. We recently received a detailed product demonstration of the next evolution of SAP Ariba’s decision optimization capability, as well as a glimpse of what’s on the roadmap. Our take is positive. SAP Ariba’s foundation and future plans represent a solid start in this area. And while other established providers of sourcing optimization tools have a decade-long head start, we expect SAP Ariba to progress faster in its optimization journey than many of its peers.

In this two-part Spend Matters PRO analysis, we begin with an introduction to the required solution components of sourcing decision optimization and an explanation of the benefits they can bring to procurement organizations. In Part 2, we offer an overview of SAP Ariba’s new decision optimization capability, exploring its strengths and weaknesses. 

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

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.

Catalog Management: Technical and Functional Component Requirements (Part 5) — Catalog Contracts and Marketplace/Internet Search [PRO]

Today we conclude our multi-part research brief exploring catalog management functional and technical requirements with an emphasis on the last two requirements we consider in our SolutionMap functional requirements for e-procurement.

The first requirement that we analyze is what we term “catalog contracts,” capability which focuses on pre-negotiated pricing through group purchasing organization (GPO) arrangements, leveraged buying or otherwise third-party negotiated typically contracts outside of what a procurement organization would negotiate itself. The second area, marketplace / internet search and catalog visibility, extends the scope of catalog management capability to integration with online marketplaces (e.g., Amazon Business) and electronic commerce storefronts on the Internet, a requirement which is increasingly becoming more important in the evaluation of e-procurement solutions overall.

If you’re new to the series, check out Part 1 (overall definition/background and supplier network intersections), Part 2 (catalog creation, supplier onboarding and data quality control) and Part 3 (maintenance, workflow and analytics) and Part 4 (catalog objects/methods and catalog mobility capabilities, expectations and requirements).

Whether you’re a procurement organization, supplier, software provider or consultancy, our goal with this series is to provide the bill of materials to allow the assembly of the best possible catalog management solution, either on a unified basis with the same e-procurement platform or integrated with a broader solution.

Catalog Management: Technical and Functional Component Requirements (Part 4) — Catalog Objects and Mobility [PRO]

on-demand workforce

It’s possible to build or use a “good” e-procurement solution that has rudimentary catalog management. But it’s impossible to deliver or leverage a great one, unless its catalog management capabilities are best in class compared with the rest of the e-procurement and procure-to-pay (P2P) pack.

Based on our SolutionMap functional requirements for e-procurement, this multipart Spend Matters PRO research brief defines all of the elements of catalog management. It also provides a feature checklist of the elements that comprise each component, defining what constitutes best in class performance in each case. Today, in Part 4, we flesh out catalog objects and mobility capabilities, expectations and requirements.

Those new to this series can catch up with Part 1 (background and supplier network intersections), Part 2 (catalog creation, supplier onboarding and data quality control) and Part 3 (maintenance, workflow and analytics). Whether you’re a procurement organization, supplier, software provider or consultancy, this series provides the bill of materials to inform the assembly of the best possible catalog management solution, either on a unified basis with the same e-procurement platform or integrated with a broader solution.

Coupa’s Customer Conference and Earnings Continue to ‘Inspire’ — But a New Competitive Battle is Looming [PRO]

A few weeks back we attended Coupa Inspire 2018. The event left us with a perspective that Coupa is not only doing some things extremely well but also that it would do well not to make the same mistakes of those that came before it with a similar rise to fame (i.e., a healthier dose of competitive paranoia is always more effective than getting punch-drunk on the fame of continued growth and capital market success).

In this Spend Matters PRO research brief, we provide a summary of a number of key announcements made during Coupa Inspire 2018 and over the past 18 months at Coupa. In addition, we’ll trace the history of Coupa’s product launches and introductions to provide context on how new offerings may evolve.

We’ll also offer perspective and opinions on the trajectory Coupa has been on — including whether it is sustainable — and conclude with comments on what has become arguably the most important procure-to-pay (P2P) battleground on which Coupa is positioning itself against competitors: how to enable as close to 100% of spend under management as possible with a P2P solution at the core. Incidentally, this is a topic that Oracle and SAP (inclusive of SAP Ariba, SAP Fieldglass and Concur) also have been doing quite a bit of thinking on of late — not to mention Coupa’s partner, customer and frenemy Amazon Business.

As a follow-on to this research brief, we will later share our thoughts on Coupa’s Q1 2019 earnings report from earlier in June, including how traction (and competition) in the market is translating both to wins and losses depending on customer requirements, channel/partner influence and competitive price pressure in select circumstances. Yet it would not be the Spend Matters way unless we wrapped this commentary around five reasons to bet for or against Coupa to maintain a “top three” position in the market.

For those wanting a primer on Coupa, we encourage you to check out our Vendor Snapshot on the provider (see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) as well Coupa’s latest Q1 2018 SolutionMap performance in the e-procurement, invoice-to-pay, procure-to-pay and sourcing areas.

So You Want to Buy Spend Analytics — Beyond Spend Cubes (Part 2) [PRO]

Analytics

In the first installment of this series, we outlined a handful of the key product differentiators that winnow the provider playing field down to those that can meet your needs. Today in the second part of this series, we’ll finish the discussion by moving into some extended spend analytics (i.e., beyond forensic spend history reporting) and broader supply analytics that are worthwhile to consider.

Why focus beyond basic spend analytics? The answer is simple: to find more value opportunities. And you don’t want to run out of runway with your current provider if you want to evolve your analytics journey beyond analyzing the “exhaust” of your value chain (i.e., spend).

But if you want to extract more value from your spend, you have to extract more insights around demand and from “supply” (i.e., categories, suppliers, costs and multitier value chains). With that, let’s dive into these areas.

So You Want to Buy Spend Analytics — Beyond Spend Cubes (Part 1) [PRO]

spend analytics

This is the second installment of our series focused on cutting through the noise and evaluating procurement solutions on the few key requirements that truly differentiate the providers in the marketplace today. Although it is easy to dive into the dense forest of detailed functional requirements and technical requirements of a solution area, it's critically important to pull back and strategically look at what you are really trying to accomplish with a solution.

This is particularly important in the area of spend analytics. In fact, just defining your overall analytics scope and strategy is half the battle in determining the class of solutions you should approach before even diving into the features and functions of individual providers. There are also other key considerations that focus on technical aspects of the solution relative to master data management, big data, market intelligence, AI and more that have a real business impact on procurement centers of excellence looking to drive more insight and value from not just internal spend but external supply data. Your strategy and approach in selecting providers is also crucial so that you can drive short-term results, while also giving yourself the option value to evolve to into new areas.

Catalog Management: Technical and Functional Component Requirements (Part 2) [PRO]

As our Spend Matters PRO series on catalog management continues, we turn our attention to the business, technical and functional requirements that comprise this component of procure-to-pay solutions, specifically what procurement organizations should look for as they evaluate technology vendors as part of an e-procurement selection process. The capabilities we describe in this research brief are based on the Spend Matters SolutionMap RFI requirements for catalog management as a component of procure-to-pay.

Today, we turn our attention to two components of catalog management: catalog creation (inclusive of supplier onboarding) and data quality control, outlining the functional requirements we look for when evaluating catalog management as part of SolutionMap scoring and when defining requirements with procurement organizations in e-procurement and procure-to-pay selection processes.

We welcome discussion with organizations interested in exploring catalog management further. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Catalog Management: What It Is and Why It Matters (Part 1) [PRO]

One can almost hear Rodney Dangerfield strutting on stage, blurting out, “Catalog management.It don’t get no respect.” At least if you’re as into old 1980s stand-up comedy reruns and e-procurement technology as us.

But seriously, we miss that guy. And with a statement like that, the late Dangerfield would have been spot on about catalog management, an area that is not as well understood or respected as a centerpiece of e-procurement as it should be. This Spend Matters PRO series provides an introduction to catalog management for both business and technical users. Our goal is nothing short of getting it the respect it deserves.

Today, we begin our series with a look at what catalog management is and the different capabilities of which it consists, as well as its intersections with supplier network enablement and connectivity. Those interested in how different providers compare to each other in the catalog management arena as part of broader e-procurement and procure-to-pay capabilities should also check out our latest SolutionMap Insider reports.

We welcome discussion with organizations interested in exploring catalog management further. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Supplier Management: When the User Experience Guides Functionality (Part 3) [PRO]

This Spend Matters PRO series provides an insider perspective on what separates best-of-breed supplier management technology providers from the pack. It emphasizes both the user interface and underlying solution capabilities of technology solutions, and, in certain cases, how the two come together. We also provide a hint at what’s to come throughout the rest of 2018 and 2019 — that is, what top performing providers will be introducing when “procurement 2020” becomes reality rather than punditry.

Need to catch up on what we’ve covered thus far? Part 1 in our series explored messaging, chat and collaboration; guided survey and template creation; and leading functional elements that enable the uploading of templates and documents. Part 2 unearthed differentiation among leading capabilities that support supplier categorization and tagging, scorecards (inclusive of alerting and predictive analytics), corrective action management, innovation management and master data management.

As our series concludes today, we will turn our attention to:

  • Guided supplier workflow management
  • Relevant risk identification for both parties
  • Integrated smart catalog and product management

Supplier Management: When the User Experience Guides Functionality (Part 1) [PRO]

tech

When it comes to supplier management technology, there seems to be a near universal playbook that most of the top technology providers follow for defining, capturing and managing supplier data. It’s not surprising, then, that when it comes to marketing such capabilities, there's essentially no differentiation at all. As a result, you'd be forgiven if you thought that many supplier management vendors sound interchangeable, despite claims of advanced master data management, metric tracking or portal superiority.

In practice, however, nothing could be further from the truth. As our latest Supplier Management SolutionMap indicates, there is significant differentiation among providers, and our PRO Vendor Snapshot reviews on providers such as Aravo, HICX and Lavante only further illustrate this point. But you need to dive deep to find the variation that counts — differentiation that only comes into play when you start unpacking the specific supplier information management, performance management, supplier portal, relationship management, initiative management, discovery, master data components and related capabilities of best-in-class providers.

The purpose of this series on supplier management functionality and user design is to, in effect, share the ingredients to the secret sauce we see in use today among both top performing providers and those making the recipe list for tomorrow’s supplier management menu. We kick off our series by first exploring messaging, chat and collaboration, guided survey and template creation, uploading of templates and documents, and simplified data creation and validation.

Intelligent Procurement Requires Intelligent Procurement Solutions: Defining Artificial Intelligence Capabilities to Expect from Software Providers (Part 1) [PRO]

procurement technology

In this Spend Matters PRO analysis, we’ll cover a few dozen of our AI-related functional requirements extracted from more than 400 requirements (and growing) in our current SolutionMap database, which we use to evaluate many dozens of providers. If you’re a practitioner, you can infuse these requirements into your ongoing provider selections and into your own in-house capability development (e.g., within an analytics CoE).

Of course, if you use the capabilities from our “palette” of requirements, you also can augment your own solution provider intelligence and create your own custom solution maps (based on data science rather than just analyst “magic”) to massively shrink your RFI cycle times and grow your provider intelligence to drive a much more effective and strategic provider selection process.

If you’re a procurement technology solutions provider who has gone through our SolutionMaps, you’re likely painfully aware of this level of detail that we get to, and we’d like to again thank you for your trip through our proverbial MRI. But if you haven’t “gotten on the map,” you’ll hopefully still find this very useful to benchmark against. (Contact us if you want to benchmark yourself against the “full monty” of requirements in your area — if you’re part of any modules within the source-to-pay market, or now services procurement, too.)