Plus or PRO Content

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.

Online Work Platforms and Enterprises: Survival of the Fittest or the Fastest? [PRO]

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In this PRO research brief, we provide an analysis of the complex dynamics that characterize the online work platform technology market, in particular with respect to large enterprise adoption (or, to date, the lack thereof). We also examine some promising platform strategies/approaches that may promote platform business viability and, over time, more success in achieving large scale enterprise penetration. Finally, we discuss the implications of our analysis for both platform providers and enterprise buyers.

(Note: To avoid possible perception that we are making endorsements or recommendations in this brief, we forego references to specific platforms (platform providers are evaluated separately, in our Vendor Snapshot and SolutionMap series, with these strategies and approaches in mind.)

What You Should Expect from Best-in-Class E-Sourcing User Experience and Functionality (Part 2) [PRO]

E-sourcing technology is becoming increasingly defined by the user experience as much as the underlying functional and technical capability. But in the future — and we see this trend starting already with best-in-class capabilities — the combination of the user experience (i.e., design) and underlying technology solution components and feature/function capabilities will become increasingly intertwined and inseparable. This Spend Matters PRO series examines the intersection of what a best-in-class user experience and functionality capability means for e-sourcing solutions today and tomorrow.

In Part 1 of this series, we explored what capabilities and experience procurement organizations should expect from best-in-class guided event creation, clutter-free views and simplified template creation and management within e-sourcing solutions. In this installment, we turn our attention to how the world of best-in-class user experiences and underlying functional capability are coming together to support bulk upload/attachment association, starting bid population, bid validation and verification and procurement/supplier delegation for strategic sourcing, category management and auction/negotiation enablement. These are capabilities that buyers of these solutions should evaluate vendors on based on demonstrated capabilities, approach and planned releases, and they are capabilities that technology providers should continually strive to enhance.

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!

The Future of the Procurement Technology User Experience (Part 2): Advanced Mobile and ‘Mission Control’ Dashboards [PRO]

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Does anyone remember how bad early procurement technology interfaces were? While there are some folks we can blame directly — for example, whoever designed SAP SRM’s original interfaces in earlier releases should be doomed to spend his retirement managing the search, requisition and approval process for the coffins of all of the licenses that were never used — the limitations of early UIs were mostly due to where technology was at the time. We are not just talking about the latest in “Amazon-esque shopping” or “type ahead” search capability, or minimizing the number of clicks required to perform a task, clever menu nesting, tab structures, integrated activities within “suites” that transcend being within a specific module and the better use of icons and colors. That’s so 2015. Rather, nearly all elements of the modern 2017 technology stack are starting to come together in a manner that is driving the start of a radical shift in creating more usable procurement technology overall. This is big. It’s much bigger than Coupa rising to fame (initially) by creating a UI that was vastly superior to Ariba at the time (not SAP Ariba today, mind you).

As we noted in an earlier installment of this series exploring “smart systems” and messaging, chat and collaboration (MCC), “Smart systems drive integrated guidance leveraging new "AI" techniques ... They do this by mixing semantic technology, sentiment analysis, key-phrase driven expert systems and other machine learning techniques with history to determine what the user is doing and what the user wants to do … [and] new approaches to MCC represent a new ‘layer’ of the user experience. Just as third-party analytics dashboards have become a standard ‘front end’ in many procurement suites for drilling into spend, supplier or modular based data, so too are these components becoming a standard addition to procurement technology applications. As with front-end analytics, they can either be developed internally (by a procurement software vendor) or they can be OEM’ed/licensed by a provider — as is often the case with analytics — and incorporated as a component of the product.”

Today, we turn our attention to advanced mobile enablement and “mission control” dashboards — two other components driving the next-generation procurement user experience in technology. In this research brief, we define these areas and their components, and provide practical use cases of how they are leveraged within technology.

Designing a Spend Category Taxonomy Properly is Harder Than You Think (Part 2: Go Deep) [Plus+]

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We recently had a client ask us if we could offer specific guidelines or methodologies for creating a spend category taxonomy within the automotive and industrial markets. The question resulted in a discussion among a number of us with industry experience. And since we didn’t have any research already published on the topic, we thought we’d invest the time to document our findings. In this second installment of a two-part Spend Matters Plus research series, Chief Research Officer Pierre Mitchell explores how granular procurement should go in creating a spend taxonomy and concludes with practical tips for implementing a program.

Designing a Spend Category Taxonomy Properly is Harder Than You Think (Part 1: Do This, Not That) [Plus+]

category management

We had a question from a client of ours about whether there were any guidelines or an overall methodology to coming up with a spend category taxonomy. It’s a simple question, but there isn’t a simple answer. So, we thought we’d offer some insights to help guide your efforts. But before we say what to do, there’s a quick recommendation on what not to do. In this first of a two-part Spend Matters Plus series, Chief Research Officer Pierre Mitchell explores how to think about creating a spend category taxonomy, pitfalls of incorrect approaches, and how to embrace an approach that cuts across categories and spend types.

Strategic Technology Planning: A New Imperative for Contingent Workforce and Services Procurement (Part 1) [PRO]

For many years now, planning for CW/S technology has been largely tactical, focusing almost exclusively on the capabilities and effectiveness of one VMS solution or another. Technology planning at a strategic level has been rare in CW/S procurement functions, in main part because it has not been necessary in a relatively static technology and supply chain environment. Need a core contingent workforce technology to manage processes, compliance, risk and cost? Adopt a VMS (or work through your MSP to get one). Seeking a specialized category solution? Work with the business owner (e.g., legal, telecom, facilities) to engage a vendor that meets everyone’s needs.

But in recent years, many aspects of the environment in which CW/S procurement executes its mission have begun to change significantly. Under these conditions, strategic planning becomes necessary. Because technology is now and will be presenting CW/S procurement functions with new opportunities to add value to their organizations in a variety of ways, allocating time and resources to conducting strategic technology planning is now an imperative. In most cases, this will mean starting from scratch. But foregoing strategic technology planning opens CW/S procurement to missed opportunities, core mission failure and possibly disruption.

In short: procurement, HR and IT organizations — not to mention line of business owners — need to work together to create their own CW/S technology information architecture through a strategic technology planning process. In Part 1 of this series, we build the case for strategic technology planning and provide an overview of what strategic technology planning means for a CW/S procurement function. In Part 2, we flesh out a targeted approach to CW/S procurement strategic technology planning and practical approaches for implementation within an organization.

The Future of the Procurement Technology User Experience: Smart Systems and Messaging, Chat and Collaboration (MCC) [PRO]

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It was not so long ago that nearly all vendors with strong user interfaces, at least for e-procurement, described the experience of those using their applications as “Amazon-like.” But in a matter of quarters, the bar for a best-in-class user experience has evolved materially. And the pace of acceleration will only continue.

Even today, “ease-of-use” is the ante — a strong user experience delivers much more. In the first installment in this series, we noted that for procurement technologies, the user experience “is extremely important these days. For better or worse, it is becoming the basis for many technology selections, as organizations are quickly realizing that user experience is the key to adoption.”

Further, “procurement teams are now becoming aware that the high-priced technology they acquire will only deliver an ROI if it gets used. And having acquired too much shelfware over time, many have decided that it's better to settle for fewer features if the software is actually adopted.”

But what is a best-in-class user experience in 2017? And what will it be in 2020? In this two-part Spend Matters PRO brief, we delve into the evolution of the procurement technology UI, describing what users and technology buyers should now expect today and tomorrow from artificial intelligence (AI) smart systems, real-time messaging, chat and collaboration (MCC) frameworks, integrated dashboards and the latest in advanced mobile capability.

Don’t get left behind. And don’t let a technology provider fool you into thinking they necessarily are providing the latest and greatest capability today — or are taking full advantage of disruptive technologies as they plan their roadmaps for tomorrow.

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.

Beyond VMS: The Creation of a New Technology Category for Contingent Workforce and Services [PRO]

For over 20 years, vendor management systems (VMS) have been the sole enterprise technology category for contingent workforce and services (CW/S) procurement. Within that category, especially over the last seven years or so, most VMS solutions have been (to a lesser or greater extent) evolving, upgrading their technology, deepening their core functionality and expanding the scope of the kinds of spend that can be managed. One prominent example of the latter has been the development of SOW/services management capabilities. A less prominent example has been the development of functionality for managing independent/contract workers. Finally, some VMS solutions have begun to develop digital sourcing solutions, which in some instances will link to online work platforms.

In many ways, this evolution parallels the shift from largely point solutions for transactional indirect e-procurement technologies to broader source-to-pay (S2P) and procure-to-pay (P2P) suites, networks and platforms. But it is also different, in that it takes advantage of more recent digital enabling technologies, as well as a fundamental shift in underlying workforce dynamics in the market. In other words, it is both “bottoms up” technically and driven by external forces, as well — a perfect recipe for digital disruption. This Spend Matters PRO research brief explores the creation of this new category, which we believe will reshape the current VMS-dominated services procurement ecosystem and drive existing providers to evolve and innovate in new ways.

Business Process Management for Procurement: A Spectrum of Choices [Plus+]

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BPM stands for business process management. If the business process is procurement (i.e., a collection of processes), then the concept is about managing procurement processes — including process design/definition, performance management (e.g., process outputs/KPIs, monitoring) and resource management. Of course, in the IT world, BPM has its own body of knowledge regarding the topic, focused mostly on “process workflow/integration on steroids.” This is the “system of process/interaction/engagement” that may sit on top of multiple systems of record (e.g., ERP, source-to-pay suites).

In this Spend Matters Plus article, we define BPM components and offer practical ways for applying BPM to procurement, keeping the topic on a business level and issuing both warnings and best practice tips for companies deploying or considering BPM technology adoption within the function. But how can you approach this topic without your eyes glazing over? Wikipedia does a good job explaining the concept, but we will try to define an evolution that procurement organizations can use to start doing IT-enabled BPM in a simple way, and then get more sophisticated.