PRO or Plus Content

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Spend Analysis Technology and User Design (Part 5): Looking Ahead [PRO]

As we conclude our series on spend analysis, we turn our attention to how best-in-class solutions can support three requirements that go beyond the basics of what most organizations have implemented today. These enabling capabilities are already (and will become even more) important for procurement to be effective at addressing, through analytics, business objectives as it strives to become more effective as both a value-generating and compliance-oriented function. The three components are: providing specialized tail spend analytics, permissive analytics and real-time maverick (or off-contract) spend identification. The remainder of the series (see: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4) explores what the fundamental building blocks of best-in-class analytics technology and user design look like today and will look like in the future.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Spend Analysis Technology and User Design (Part 4) [PRO]

spend analytics

There are doubtless readers who have kept up with this Spend Matters PRO series on the intersection of best-in-class spend analytics technology and user design and thought to themselves, “I wish my solution did that.” But the most important thing to remember is that data is about telling a story. The particular narrative you decide (and are able to tell) from the insight to come out of your spend analytics initiatives will either make procurement more valuable or leave it to toil in obscurity. Spend analysis is an enabler — nothing more — but a critical one at making procurement better at everything it does. Yes, the “geek effect” of the best technology and user design considerations can make solutions buyers for it cringe (if they don’t have it). But ultimately, spend analysis is not about “the kit,” as the British would say.

It is within this context that we can observe that many procurement organizations today are making due with spend analysis technologies which, while helpful when it comes to teeing up basic sourcing opportunities and tracking savings, are a key limiting factor in enabling procurement to do more as a function, putting data front and center at driving the analytics to inform strategy and action.

As we continue this series exploring all the elements of best-in-class spend analysis approaches, painting a composite view about what an ideal solution should deliver at the intersection of capability and usability, we turn our attention to what optimal components approaches include for integrated reporting (and report design), as well as the core elements of descriptive and predictive reporting. See also Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.

Legal Sourcing and Billing: Category Sourcing, Maturity Models and Services Procurement Linkages (Part 2) [Plus+]

forced labor

Legal spend is a bit different than other categories in part because it cuts across all aspects of the business and the lines between “make” and “buy” can be drawn differently based on customer, need and timing. The fundamental challenge in this regard is that legal spending must be aligned with sales (customers), procurement (vendors), finance and operations (products) to deliver the right level of value. If it’s seen as a siloed compliance function, legal is doomed to languish as a subperforming cost center. In considering legal sourcing maturity, it’s essential to keep this in mind.

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.

The Growth of E-Invoicing Compliance: Exploring Vendor Capabilities and Approaches (Part 2) [PRO]

MBO Partners

In recent years, invoice-to-pay service providers have grown significantly, and there are now hundreds of them around the world. Some are truly local on an in-country basis. Others have a regional focus. And the largest tend to serve customers globally (albeit with partner support on a localized basis). We can even find service providers who handle just inbound invoices and others who can handle both inbound and outbound invoices.

This Spend Matters PRO research brief explores the solution scope and reach of e-invoicing providers today, including Coupa, Invocus (Zycus), GEP, SAP Ariba, Taulia and Tradeshift. Our approach is to cut through the noise to help companies to assess providers to determine the degree to which they fully support VAT, regulatory, statutory, data privacy and related compliance areas on a localized basis — beyond just partnering with TrustWeaver, alone. Provider insight is in part based on the information collected and analyzed as part of the Spend Matters Q2 2017 Invoice-to-Pay SolutionMap.

PRO Subscribers can also access the first installment of this series: E-Invoicing Compliance, Globally: Beyond TrustWeaver’s “Seal of Approval”

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Spend Analysis Technology and User Design (Part 3) [PRO]

data analytics

Evaluating the merits of spend analysis solutions (by user role) is inherently complex given that a spend data analyst, a data management QA individual, teams, category managers, other procurement users and business stakeholders will interact with the application in different ways. An ideal solution for one user “type” may be unacceptable for another. For example, some groups will care deeply about granular data import/export capability while others will judge an entire solution by its reporting. Still others will marvel over the ability to classify or reclassify data in certain ways on the fly. But one commonality regardless of user role or interest for spend analysis is that the intersection of best-in-class technology with best-in-class user design is becoming inseparable. Form and function are both leading (and following) each other.

This Spend Matters PRO series explores how these areas can come together across a spend analysis application to transform how users interact with data and what they can do with it as a result. In the Part 1 of this series, we explored what separates out spend analysis dashboard approaches that are a distraction (at best) from those that are an invaluable component of an overall solution. In Part 2, we analyzed all of the nuances of optimal filter definition and dynamic cube views (and creation), including exploring what a truly flexible and dynamic filter capability consists of, as well as explaining the essential elements of formulaic and ranged dimension capability and real-time/scalable spend cubes (and why they matter, even for a typical user).

In this installment, we turn our attention to the intersection of the best technology and user design combinations covering optimal approaches to data import/export in different formats, “idiot-proof” data categorization system design and reclassification of data.

E-Invoicing Compliance, Globally: Beyond TrustWeaver’s “Seal of Approval” [PRO]

invoice

Just about every solution provider with an e-invoicing or procure-to-pay (P2P) solution talks about compliance in the invoice-to-pay — and sometimes order-to-cash — area. Many often use language that would suggest their “unique” approach is a source of competitive advantage when it comes to complying with local government regulations. But all too often providers are referring to just having a digital signature or signing capability (often in part or in whole outsourced or certified by a third party) for the purposes of proving authenticity and certification of origin. Beyond this, there are other forms of e-invoicing compliance, such as complying with local VAT requirements and the archiving of invoices for audit purposes (e.g., the number of years varies depending on the country).

But compliance is even more nuanced than just simply checking the box on one or more of these areas for a particular country, and just having an agreement with TrustWeaver does not mean it is fully compliant for a specific transaction scenario. Depending on how tightly one wants to define compliance, it is also necessary to meet not only inter-country requirements but also intra-country (and intra-regional) requirements. This includes scenarios in countries where a submitted e-invoice requires a previous clearance by tax administrations and where part of the regulation requires that additional attachments be added to transactional documents in the invoice-to-pay process, as is the case in some Latin American and Asian countries.

This Spend Matters PRO brief explores components of what true e-invoicing compliance is — or should be. It starts by taking a look at the basics, including what TrustWeaver certification provides vendors (and their customers) with. Yet our approach is not just to address the basics, even though they are important. Rather, we take aim at the myth of vendor e-invoicing compliance that permeates the market today and what a broader definition and approach to compliance should encompass. The second installment in this brief will explore what specific steps vendors such as SAP Ariba, Coupa, Taulia, Tradeshift and others are doing beyond the norm to provide compliant solutions for trading partners.

Legal Sourcing and Billing: Category Sourcing, Maturity Models and Services Procurement Linkages (Part 1) [Plus+]

UpCounsel

Around 2005, while working for Procuri, one of the authors of this article was involved in a large legal services e-sourcing project (with reverse auction at the end) for a Fortune 10 firm that spanned law firms across the U.S. At that time, we included a substantial amount of spend segmentation into the event. From my experience and research, we were one of the first to engage in a procurement legal sourcing effort of this magnitude.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Spend Analysis Technology and User Design (Part 2) [PRO]

Analytics

Like many other procurement technology enthusiasts, the co-authors of this report tend to put quite a bit of emphasis on just the spend classification components when considering spend analysis technology. But just as important as accurate spend classification is what one does with the data once it is available in a usable format. In the first installment in this series, we provided an insider look on what differentiates spend analysis dashboards that are a distraction (at best) from those that are an invaluable component of an overall solution.

As this Spend Matters PRO series on what separates out best-in-class spend analysis technology and user interface capabilities from the vendor pack continues, we turn our attention to the nuances of optimal filter definition and dynamic cube views (and creation). This includes exploring what a truly flexible and dynamic filter capability consists of, as well as explaining the essential elements of formulaic and ranged dimension capability and real-time/scalable spend cubes (and why they matter, even for a typical user).

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Spend Analysis Technology and User Design (Part 1) [PRO]

There seems to be a near universal playbook for spend analysis solution providers when it comes to positioning the capability they deliver. You’re not alone if you think many vendors sound interchangeable (despite claims of “enrichment accuracy” or dashboard superiority). To be candid, based on our survey of many solutions in this market as part of PRO Vendor Snapshot reviews and, more recently, our SolutionMap comparative analyses, a good many are. But they’re fungible in a way that is not necessarily negative, especially those that tend to rely more on services and less on technology to drive data management efforts.

Still, best-in-class technology and usability matter. And while we do not disagree that spend analysis must center on — and span the gamut of — spend data acquisition from disparate sources, data cleansing, data classification, data enrichment and data analytics via a BI/data presentation layer, the devil is truly in the details when it comes to what to look for in a best-in-class solution both from technology and user interface capabilities. As with e-sourcing (Part 1, Part 2), reverse auction capability (Part 1, Part 2) and sourcing optimization (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4), the gap that separates out top performing solutions from everyone else is getting wider, not narrower.

This multipart Spend Matters PRO series examines the components of spend analysis solution capabilities in the technology and user experience areas that represent best-in-class today — and the intersection of how emerging features and capability are interacting (and driving) an optimal user experience. In this first installment, we consider the optimal interactive spend analysis dashboard.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Sourcing Optimization Technology and User Design (Part 4) [PRO]

spend analytics

We’ve often wondered why sourcing optimization technology is not more broadly adopted today alongside or as a replacement for traditional RFX and reverse auction approaches. One of the major reasons why procurement-led optimization efforts have not yet crossed the chasm (outside of transportation spend) is that because until recently, many solutions were challenging to use without considerable training. In addition, most of the technologies available were not effective enough “out of the box” at tackling anything but logistics sourcing opportunities or somewhat simplistic bids and constraints. And, of course, not enough procurement organizations were even aware of all of the benefits optimization can bring above and beyond standard software-driven strategic sourcing efforts.

But these hurdles are disappearing — fast. This Spend Matters PRO series is meant as a primer for both sourcing optimization solution “buyers” and solution “builders.” It provides a look at what is required to use and field a best-in-class sourcing optimization solution today from both a technology and user design capability. The three previous installments can be found here and here and here. As we conclude our analysis in Part 4, we consider the areas of constraint impact analysis, scenario generation and reporting/analytics.

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.