“Spend Science” takes Trading Partners into the future

I’ve known Trading Partners for many years –they were one of the first innovators in the e-auction field, and were probably market leaders there for some time.

But my exposure to them when I was setting up Spend Matters UK / Europe wasn’t too happy – having met their marketing manager to promote the idea of sponsorship, she and a bunch of other colleagues were promptly made redundant, followed not long after by the CEO and other Board level people. A new CEO came in, Mark Barnekow, with an impressive pedigree, but for a while the gossip in the industry was around whether they were going to survive.

Well, a year on from that hiatus, things look much better for the firm. I met Richard Adams, who now runs the UK having worked his way up at Trading Partners since he joined in 2005. His early career was with Sainsbury’s, where he ran their e-auction programme, so he’s a veteran from a practitioner perspective which seems like a useful background.

The firm have spent the last year or so fundamentally re-positioning themselves. They realised that e-auctions were both too small a basket in which to place all their eggs, and that there were dangers of that market becoming overly commoditised.

“We’ve re-positioned as a spend management firm, to reflect that our customers wanted more from us”, says Adams. But he explains that they’ve kept the blend of software and services (consulting ) which they’ve always had – unlike some firms like Ariba who have refocused as a pure-play software firm, Trading Partners see benefits in keeping the advisory side as well.

“We think some clients want that sort of assistance and support and we’re happy to provide it”.

Their positioning is now “Spend Science”, so as well as auctions, they are now offering capabilities including project workflow and management tools, spend analysis, contract management and something that is more unusual  in our sphere – a margin analysis tool. That plays to the retail sector requirements – this has always been a strong client sector for them and is a growing part of the business even now.  Much of the new offerings have been launched in the last year or so, showing a sense of urgency and pace that was probably essential, and in total it now looks like a pretty broad range of products.

They’re 100% cloud based, and offer flexible options for clients in terms of bespoke projects or licence type arrangements. Although they’re not huge (revenues of maybe slightly over £5 million I’m guessing), they’re surprisingly global, with South America for instance a growing market, supported at the moment out of London.

But how are they going to make themselves stand out from the sourcing software crowd?

“We think our people and processes are a differentiator” says Adams, “but we are also really focused on developing leading-edge technology - that’s essential for us”.

So, the proof is in the product, and we haven’t looked at that in detail as yet – but we hope to do so at some stage soon. It will be interesting to see if Trading Partners can demonstrate the substance behind “Spend Science”, and show it is more than a neat slogan. But it is good to see a firm coming back from a difficult time with some energy, direction and purpose.

 

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