Plus or PRO Content

20 Questions On Supplier Network Selection (Part 1) [Plus+]

Editor's note: This Spend Matters Plus brief is a refresh of our 2013 series on supplier network selection, which originally ran on Spend Matters PRO. 

The supplier network and business connectivity landscape has evolved into a world where simply staying on top of all of the on-ramps to systems and commerce is challenging enough — let alone selecting and implementing actual networks and having them to talk to buy-side systems and each other. We’ve come up with roughly 20 questions that customers should consider as early as possible when developing a business case and selection approach to the different tools that are available.

20 Tips to Maximize Private Equity, Investment and Strategic Buyer Outcomes (Part 4: You Can’t Hide the Customer Voice) [PRO]

The Spend Matters analyst team has collectively been involved in dozens of transactions in the procurement solutions market in recent years. From our vantage point, especially in the due diligence area, we have seen firsthand how most sellers only partially prepare to maximize their upside to come out of a transaction/investment.

This Spend Matters Nexus brief provides insight into how a company in the procurement solutions sector (and others) is likely to be evaluated so that it can best prepare for a process. In our view, transactions do not have to be a zero sum game, as optimal synergies are best when planned, measured and then executed against.

So far in this Nexus series, we covered the initial nine tips to prepare — ideally far in advance — for the process itself (see Part 1 , Part 2 and Part 3). Today’s installment focuses on the voice of the customer — and almost singularly how important this factor is overall. Tip number 10: Knowing what your customers think (and how smart buyers, especially private equity, will discern the true state of customer satisfaction and metrics even without the support of the selling firm).

Many management teams are not aware of the lengths that acquirers and their advisers will go to in conducting advanced customer due diligence. This includes reviewing all available third-party information in the public (or “partial” public domain), such as talking to analysts, consultants/channel partners and, of course, reference customers themselves — whether sanctioned or not by the selling party. Their techniques might surprise you, as the voice of the customer is an indispensable due diligence component in mitigating risk, as well as helping quantify synergies and upside for a given deal.

Jason Busch serves as Managing Director of Spend Matters Nexus, a membership, research and advisory organization serving technology acquirers (private equity, corporate development, etc.) and CEOs in the procurement and finance solutions marketplace (including contract management, B2B marketplaces/connectivity, indirect procurement, services procurement, direct procurement, commodity management, payment, trade financing, GRC/third-party management and related adjacent sectors).

Symbeo: Vendor Introduction (Part 2 — Solution Strengths and Weaknesses) [PRO]

In Part 1 of this two-part Spend Matters PRO series, we introduced you to Symbeo, a long-established company based out of Portland, Oregon, that offers invoice conversion services and AP automation technology globally. By deploying not only its SaaS solution for managing AP processes but also handling the full scope of invoice receipt, capture and validation, Symbeo covers a gaping hole in the AP cycle that most businesses need help addressing — especially when it comes to handling paper invoices. And while its approach and capabilities apply more to one side of the market than the other, the depth of its processes and technology leave a lot to be admired. Whether Symbeo is a fit for a procurement or AP organization’s unique challenges and needs, however, will come down to how exactly the AP cycle is perceived.

Part 1 of this brief provided some background on Symbeo and an overview of its offering. In Part 2, we provide a breakdown of what is comparatively good (and not so good) about the solution, a high-level SWOT analysis and a short selection requirements checklist that outlines the typical company for which Symbeo might be a good fit. We also give some final conclusions and takeaways.

Community-based Procurement — Get a Buy with Some Help from Your Friends (Part 2) [PRO]

In Part 1 of this Spend Matters PRO series, the topic of community-based procurement focused on some examples of communities of interest within practitioner organizations (e.g., category communities and cross-supplier quality communities) and provider organizations such as group purchasing organizations (GPOs). In this second installment, the focus will shift to the following:

* Community of Interest around procurement transformation — and how to use the community (and tools and services) to accelerate that transformation
* The role of automated community-based benchmarking and capability assessments
* Using the community to drive new forms of collective intelligence baked explicitly into a solution’s delivery model and even the solution itself
* Some insight from our SolutionMap database on our requirement titled “community knowledge and collective intelligence”
* A final example on community-based sourcing with Coupa’s new “Source Together” offering — which tears some “market making” pages out of the old Ariba/Freemarkets playbook and then even rewrites that book itself

CA Assembly Bill 5 is Law: Is the gig economy doomed? (Part 3) [PRO]

sharing economy

Last week, with a stroke of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pen, CA Assembly Bill 5 (AB-5) became law and cast the gig economy into question. Did it doom the gig economy and its contract workers? And what does it mean for businesses?

Technically the law takes effect Jan. 1, but its future, nonetheless, remains uncertain for many reasons. And even if the law does not get watered down or blocked in the courts or overturned by state referendum, the jury is still out on whether AB-5 will deal a death blow to the gig economy or just change it. The signing of AB-5 “into law,” to a significant degree, marks the start of a new phase of debate and uncertainty about the question of whether a worker is an employee (EE) or an independent contractor (IC) and what the future of the “gig economy” — an ambiguous term if ever there was one — will be.

Earlier in this series, we referred to the gig economy as “an ecosystem of businesses and many types of workers” and governed by laws — “that part of the labor market where businesses, including online ‘gig platforms,’ engage workers as non-employees.” We believe this is the broader context in which this law should be analyzed (because, believe it or not, it’s not just “all about” Uber, et al, which represent just one segment of workers classified as ICs. According to our estimates, based in part on Beacon Economics report, “Understanding California’s Dynamex Decision 2018,” ICs make up about 19% of the California employed workforce of about 20 million workers (upwards toward 4 million ICs in the state). And over 90% are in industry segments other than “transportation.”

In Part 3 of this three-part Spend Matters PRO series, we will try to assume the business perspective and provide our thoughts on the newly passed law and the fate of the gig economy as well as point to potential implications for contingent workforce managers, HR and other executives.

CA Assembly Bill 5 passes: Is the gig economy doomed? (Part 2) [PRO]

workers

Last week, in Part 1 of this Spend Matters PRO series, we covered the controversial California Assembly Bill 5 (AB-5) that changes the definition of who is an employee and who is a contractor — sending shockwaves through the ecosystem of businesses and workers that constitute the so-called gig economy (that part of the labor market where businesses, including online gig platforms like Uber, engage workers as non-employees). Though California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law this week and it is slated to take effect January 2020, the future is still uncertain, and the controversy still rages.

Gig-platform companies providing ride, delivery and other services have been in the cross hairs of the bill, and they have already spent over $15 million attempting to challenge, influence and obtain an exemption from the law. Uber has suggested it will defy AB-5. And Uber, Lyft and DoorDash may fund a statewide referendum to cost upwards of $90 million. Court challenges will also come from many businesses and other organizations that do not support the law.

The fundamental issue at stake is how workers get classified by the state as either an employee (EE) or independent contractor (IC). AB-5 defines just that in very specific terms; and some people (mainly workers) are happy about that, and others (mainly businesses) are not (see Part 1 for more details on the law and its exemptions). Indeed, the stakes can be very high for businesses that rely on ICs (or who they thought were IC). But that’s just one side of the story — new laws and regulations that may cut into profits or even destroy some gig economy business models. There are other perspectives as well, such as workers and government, to name two.

In Part 2 of the series, we examine the competing interests and perspectives around AB-5. In Part 3, we will provide our own thoughts on the bill as well as point to potential implications for contingent workforce managers, HR and other executives.

GEP: Vendor Snapshot (Part 7) — Competitive Landscape [PRO]

This final installment of our seven-part Spend Matters PRO series on GEP will look at how it compares to its competitors, like SAP Ariba, Coupa, Ivalua, Jaggaer, Corcentric’s Determine, SynerTrade, Wax Digital and Zycus.

Previous installments provided an in-depth look at GEP as a company (Part 1), its specific solutions (Part 2 and Part 3), and a detailed analysis of solution strengths (Part 4) and weaknesses (Part 5). A SWOT analysis and commentary followed in Part 6.

GEP competes in several market segments and brings varying degrees of capability, differentiation and strength in many areas. In certain segments of the market, it is more successful in positioning an overall suite value proposition rather than individual modules (individually or together) for several reasons. Clearly, GEP “keeps coming back to suite” as its technology mantra for good reason.

For example, Spend Matters’ analysis suggests GEP is stronger within the strategic sourcing services and solution areas than in the P2P components of its suite from an “absolute” functional capability perspective. Yet the provider is effective at selling both areas together when they are equally valued. GEP has indeed won some large-scale P2P customers, replacing other solutions, based on the integrated suite value proposition.

Or consider how GEP’s e-invoicing and e-payment capabilities are part of its integrated source-to-pay (S2P) suite solution but are not yet on par with specialist solutions. As another example, GEP has a strong analytics offering but typically positions it within the context of its suite, so while it could compete against specialists in this area, given its classification capabilities, it typically does not.

In this PRO analysis, we’ll set up our coverage primarily relative to technology application segments such as:
* Fully Integrated (and some “loosely coupled”) Source-to-Pay Suites
* Full P2P Suites
* End-to-End and best-of-breed strategic procurement technology (SPT) offerings
* e-invoicing and e-payment specialists
* Supplier and master data management (MDM) providers

But, we’ll also touch on major consultancies, BPO players and niche MSPs.

GEP: Vendor Snapshot (Part 6) — SWOT and Commentary [PRO]

Global Risk Management Solutions (GRMS)

For those procurement organizations that have not looked at GEP’s technology suite in recent years, they will likely be surprised when exploring its breadth of functionality, as well as the nuances associated with capabilities that differentiate it from other suites. These areas include clever takes on category management, integrated suite analytics, mobile support, and a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and cloud-native solution built and hosted on the Microsoft Azure platform.

This sixth installment of the seven-part Spend Matters Vendor Snapshot covering GEP provides an objective SWOT analysis of the company and offers our commentary on its platform. In our next installment, we will close out with a competitive market analysis, with recommended shortlist candidates as alternative vendors to GEP, and some recommendations and provider selection guidance for companies that may consider GEP’s suite or even individual modules and capabilities. Previous installments provided an in-depth look at GEP as a company (Part 1), its specific solutions (Part 2 and Part 3), and a detailed analysis of solution strengths (Part 4) and weaknesses (Part 5).

Community-based Procurement — Get a Buy with Some Help from Your Friends (Part 1) [PRO]

The Oxford dictionary defines “community” as “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common” and secondarily as “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.” Procurement practitioners inherently have kinship with each other based on shared experiences, pain, rewards and knowledge/know-how. Being in the tribe means you can learn from this collective intelligence and apply it individually and locally.

But, what are the best ways for practitioners to gain the wisdom of the community? Certainly peer networking events (in person or virtual) are popular, but they can be time-intensive and difficult to justify on a hard ROI. Training, memberships, conferences, subscriptions and other discretionary expenses are the first to get slashed during budget cutting. The other related issue is that the knowledge being shared is scattershot rather than a focused knowledge transfer that delivers capabilities that will pay off toward some outcome.

Community-focused outcomes can take many forms (e.g., supplier diversity, sustainability, supply chain resiliency, innovation, quality, etc.), and these communities can have many “community owners” (e.g., associations, service providers, B2B networks, tech vendors and even practitioner organizations themselves creating communities with suppliers and other ecosystem partners), but nearly all procurement folks have a common goal: cost reduction.

If cost reduction is the goal, there are many levers to pull, but good old-fashioned buyer leverage through demand aggregation never seems to go out of fashion. The notion of collective buying power is certainly not a new concept. Agricultural buying cooperatives have existed for hundreds of years. And group purchasing organizations (GPOs) are certainly a tried-and-true strategy for procurement organizations, especially those outside the Fortune 500. We’ve written a lot about GPOs, and there are plenty to choose from that provide not just aggregated volume pricing, but also varying community-based services such as events, benchmarking and partner services.

While GPOs are great, the beast known as “digital” is eating, well, everything! So, we have to look at where tech providers are playing here. And even the idea of digitally enabled GPOs isn’t new. Ever heard of MobShop or Mercata? They tried to do automated demand aggregation almost 20 years ago and are now a footnote in the dot com dustbin. Even ICG Commerce (now Accenture) had a horizontal e-marketplace with a GPO component to it before it transitioned to its BPO model. Back then, Accenture and EDS formed ePValue and CoNext, respectively, as consortia buying groups within their client bases, but that didn’t pan out either.

Times have changed, though, and newer technology and business models are gaining traction. Back in that era, I was bullish on digitally enabled group buying and, more broadly, large buy-side app vendors harnessing the power of their collective installed base for economic benefit. I bemoaned that “enterprise application vendors with large installed bases are not bringing the leverage of group purchasing to their communities,” and posited that “many of these vendors have active vertical and horizontal user communities that could be leveraged into powerful group purchasing entities. Some vendors might choose to use as an attractive differentiator while others could offer it as a value-added service.”

Yet, while I’m happy to see so many evolving options in the market right now, there still are some areas for buyers to consider in building out their own ecosystem capabilities that may leverage various types of digitally enabled solution/service providers.

In this SpendMatters article, I’ll address the following:

* Evaluating practical group-buying options available in the market
* Looking beyond traditional GPO models for community-based value
* Examining how companies like Honda and Toyota use a community-based approach with their suppliers
* Broadening the focus from “community-based sourcing” to “collective intelligence” in procurement as a means to perform more scalable knowledge transfer than just traditional community approaches
* Examining our SolutionMap criteria element called “Community Knowledge and Collective Intelligence”
* Providing a snapshot into a serious multi-pronged effort that one vendor in industry is pursuing in this area — and should be considered the pacesetter

Without further ado, let’s jump into it ...

CA Assembly Bill 5 passes: Is the gig economy doomed? (Part 1) [PRO]

California Assembly Bill 5 (AB-5), recently passed by the state Senate, changes the definition of who is an employee and who is a contractor. It is expected to be signed by the governor and is slated to go into effect January 2020. The new legislation, which codifies the 2018 state Supreme Court decision in the controversial Dynamex civil litigation case and clarifies its application, is sending shockwaves through the ecosystem of businesses and workers that constitute the so-called gig economy (that part of the labor market where businesses, including online gig platforms like Uber, engage workers as non-employees).

The main issue, one that has become increasingly fraught over the years, is whether a worker should be classified as either an independent contractor (IC) or an employee (EE) of a business, given the conditions and characteristics of the engagement. Anyone who follows this matter knows that determining the classification of a worker is not a simple matter. The presence (or absence) of laws and interpretations at the national, state and even municipal levels and the promulgated regulations of different governmental entities responsible for taxation, unemployment compensation, worker’s compensation insurance, etc. means a worker may be classified differently depending upon the reference point.

In Part 1 of this three-part Spend Matters PRO series, we will cover the background/context of AB-5 and the essential points of the bill. In Part 2, we will examine different perspectives about the law, and Part 3 will provide our own thoughts and examine some potential implications for contingent workforce managers.

20 Tips to Maximize Private Equity, Investment and Strategic Buyer Outcomes (Part 3: Before the Process — Third-Party Validated Analysis and the Importance of Understanding the Strategic Buyer Landscape) [PRO]

Aside from companies already owned by private equity firms, it is the rare solution provider — or any company — that is selling to private equity, going out for a later investment round or seeking a strategic buyer that has prepared adequately for the transaction process in such a way that the efforts will fully maximize the valuation, terms and other factors in its favor. That is, unless it gets lucky, and to be fair, some folks get lucky!

As expert advisers — primarily to “buyers” — we’ve seen this phenomenon play out time-and-time again in the procurement solutions universe. But it doesn’t have to continue to be that way. This series is focused on leveling the playing field for more advanced sellers of all types, gained by sharing our lessons learned from over 20 years of involvement in transactions in the sector, and especially our work as advisers to private equity investors, nearly all of which are extremely methodical and rigorous in their deal screening and due diligence processes.

So far in this Spend Matters Nexus series, we covered the initial seven tips to prepare — ideally far in advance — of the process itself (see Part 1 and Part 2). Today we continue with the next two tips to pay particular attention to in the lead-up to a process (but still ideally before it begins). And later in the series, we will explore tips to leverage in the actual process itself, ideally once you’ve fully prepared ahead of time to maximize your chances of an optimal exit, transaction or investment.

Jason Busch serves as Managing Director of Spend Matters Nexus, a membership, research and advisory organization serving technology acquirers (private equity, corporate development, etc.) and CEOs in the procurement and finance solutions marketplace (including contract management, B2B marketplaces/connectivity, indirect procurement, services procurement, direct procurement, commodity management, payment, trade financing, GRC/third-party management and related adjacent sectors).

VectorVMS: Vendor Introduction, Analysis and SWOT [PRO]

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Introduction offers a candid take on VectorVMS and its capabilities that help companies with their contingent workforce programs. The brief includes an overview of VectorVMS and its solution offerings, a summary solution evaluation, a SWOT analysis and, lastly, a selection checklist for companies that might consider the provider.