CapGemini SRM report – survey results should be treated with caution

We featured the CapGemini Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) report the other day, and for new readers it is worth pointing out that this is not SRM in the sense of the specific activity of managing  the organisation’s most critical suppliers i.e. the way that State of Flux with their SRM report defines it. Cap Gemini use SRM here to mean “procurement” in its widest sense.

After the various research papers featured in the report, which we reviewed last time, the bulk of the document relates to a survey of eProcurement providers and products. And that’s when I have some major doubts about the information presented. I do understand the difficulty of running surveys of this nature, but the results as presented could be misleading to readers, and I have question whether  it is useful to anyone trying to select software for  a particular purpose.

The first issue is the sheer scope that the survey attempts to cover. Here is the description of that from the report:

“To assess the level of support, we divided the overall SRM process into nine sub-categories:

Procurement Intelligence

Project Management

Sourcing  (Electronic Tendering and eAuctioning)

Supplier Management

Contract Management

Catalogue Management

Operational Procurement

External Resources

BPO Procurement"

That’s quite a range of capability!  But the immediate observation when we look at the results is the lack of many of the top software vendors in our market. Given that the scope covers both purchase to pay and sourcing, contract management etc., there are some notable omissions. We asked Cap Gemini about this and it was basically down to firms not responding to their questionnaire, they say. But the credibility of an eProcurement survey has to be greatly reduced when it doesn’t feature the following (in no particular order):

Emptoris / IBM  (clearly one of the global leaders in sourcing / supplier management), Iasta, iValua, Coupa (probably the fastest growing P2P  software firm in the world), Wax Digital, Intenda, Trade Extensions, CombineNet (these last two being world leaders in really advanced sourcing software),  Science Warehouse, Gatewit, Oventis,  Wallmedien, b–pack.

My second concern about the survey is that it basically scores the vendors on how many different features the software possesses. So the overall “winners” are those who can tick the most boxes to say, “yes our product does that”. But on that basis, we would all buy cars with every electronic gadget going, even if it looked like a wheelbarrow and broke down every three miles.  Features aren’t everything, and we would argue that “best of breed” vendors can often be a better choice than the more ubiquitous products available.

Finally, I do have my doubts about some of the detail when you get down to the supplier information. Firms I have never heard of claiming to have 100 developers working on their product. Firms who operate in a very limited geographic sphere claiming to be able to work globally. That sort of thing.

I do understand the good intent behind the survey and the difficulty in making it 100% complete and accurate. But the problem is that uninformed procurement or IT managers might be tempted to base actual technology sourcing decisions on this information. I’ve already seen software firms with large banners on their websites saying something like “we’re in the top 5 of the Cap Gemini SRM survey”!

So it’s important to recognise that the ranking in this is basically meaningless to all intents and purposes, when it comes to actual selection decisions. There are just too many firms not listed, and number of features is not in any case a good basis for selection. By all means use it to get some idea of firms you may want to talk to, but we’d suggest that is as far as it should go.

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