PROCAT and Track 8 – enabling better category management

We discussed last week the link between sourcing technology and the capability necessary to operate such technology effectively. As we said, there are a number of providers who are offering slightly different ways through which organisations can embed the necessary category management (CatMan) or sourcing capability within their procurement teams.

One option is what we might call “CatMan expert systems / platforms’”.  And an example is provided by Future Purchasing, who we featured before in terms of their work around supplier relationship management. They are now offering two variants of a CatMan tool, one of which, “PROCAT”, is being marketed in a joint venture with the Chartered Instituted of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS).

PROCAT is based around the CIPS purchasing and supply model, but incorporates a lot of Future Purchasing thinking: the FP team is highly experienced and come from both practitioner and consulting backgrounds, with strong historical connections to the late lamented QP consulting group and other thought leaders such as Professor Cox.  So it contains, as you would expect, impressive intellectual property. As CIPS say:

PROCAT is the new and sophisticated category management tool from CIPS. This online toolkit is highly flexible and also intuitive and simple to use. It enables all procurement projects, however large or small, to be managed efficiently with an audit trail that’s transparent for those who need to see it.

PROCAT covers therefore a ‘standard’ predefined category management process.  But Future Purchasing also offer their own Track 8 product, which has more functionality and can be customized to suit the customer’s own proprietary CatMan process (if they want it of course). Track 8 also includes supplier relationship management capability, while PROCAT includes basic performance management rather than the full SRM toolkit.

So PROCAT is probably most suitable for small to medium-sized organisations whereas Track 8 may be more appealing to large organisations that are already reasonably expert in category management. Having said that, there are no magic solutions in procurement, and PROCAT won’t make an inexperienced procurement person a genius overnight; I would suggest you still need a reasonable level of capability to get the most out of what it offers.

Looking at PROCAT, it is clearly laid out, navigable, and intuitive.  It combines the CatMan thinking, (guidance, educational material, intellectual property – whatever we want to call it) with project management and collaboration functionality.

So the homepage includes a dashboard which includes KPIs, and the various category level programmes or projects that the particular user can access. So the user can track their projects, make ‘to do’ lists and build a project and programme management structure.  The platform also supports collaborative working, so teams can access the material the category manager wants them to, discussion forums run within the project environments, and approval structures can be built into the workflow.  This also provides the audit trail for activities - and these aspects look very good.

Now other sourcing platforms include not dissimilar project management tools, and also offer the supplier interface to enable e-sourcing, RFXs and so on, which PROCAT doesn’t.  But PROCAT has the ‘intellectual property’ aspect which few eSourcing platforms offer in my experience. So the user can access useful material relating to each step of the process, from how to conduct a market analysis, to help in developing Kraljic or supplier preference analysis.

The commercial model is built around an upfront charge plus an annual fee -- clearly PROCAT is going to be less expensive than Track 8 but the exact amount depends on the number of users, degree of customisation etc.  In general, the application is provided on a hosted basis but if the client wants it behind the firewall “that can be done”.  My best guess is that pricing for PROCAT is likely to be a 5-figure sum annually – but a long way short of 6 figures!

As we’ve said, Future Purchasing has developed excellent intellectual property in the category management field and these platforms reflect that. I guess the interesting thing for many potential clients will be how this sort of tool might fit with established eSourcing platforms and technology? If I were a CPO would I want both? Could I easily integrate them?  And if I don’t have anything at the moment, would I get more benefit from something like PROCAT or an eSourcing tool?

I can’t answer those questions, but if you’re looking to embed strong category management into your organisation, then these tools are certainly worth a look.

The other question that strikes me is whether market leading eSourcing technology firms shouldn’t be looking to build some of this category management ‘expert system’ approach into their core platforms?  So it may be that five years on, we will see such platforms providing both deep CatMan capability AND the market-facing sourcing stuff, as well as risk, supplier information / performance management capability - all in one platform. Now that would be good…

First Voice

  1. mark darby:

    I lead the organisation that developed the software that powers PROCAT and Track8 for CIPS and Future Purchasing. You will be pleased to know that you can already do the “market facing sourcing stuff” in Track 8. Its by using the dynamic risk management, stakeholder management, negotiation, supplier information & performance capability as well as supplier account development and engagement built in to the underlying pam platform from alliantist. As Peter said ‘ now that is good’ – if you are interested in moving beyond traditional sourcing it is here now so don’t wait 5 years! This is an option for Track 8 customers so speak to Future Purchasing or alliantist to learn more.

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