Learning About Spend Management on the Web

About a decade ago, before I dropped out of the academic world, a family member asked me about the best way of doing research. I was completing a Masters thesis in history at the time. Because of my focus on primary research, I could not rely on books, textbooks, or even journal articles. For me, research was about crawling on one’s knees in dusty archives, looking for that unique piece of paper or journal entry which would lead to an “ahhaaaa …” moment –- and maybe a great book deal. Fortunately today, learning about Spend Management is a bit easier –- and does not even require leaving the comfort of your keyboard. Google is possibly the best invention in the history of our time for learning about any area, including Spend Management. Unfortunately, though, Google is a bazaar of information, and requires some basic research skills to get the most out of (and it does not index every relevant website or page, as many people think). But it’s a great place to start if you have a specific search term like “supplier performance management.” For a more organized search, I like to begin with analyst research. For Spend Management, AMR Research and Aberdeen Group are my favorites. It’s also worth checking out Forrester and Gartner (for all of those analyst old-timers, Giga is now part of Forrester and Meta is now part of Gartner). There’s also a number of other smaller firms who also publish research that’s worth reading. David Dobrin at B2B Analysts is one of the more colorful of these types. David, incidentally, is probably the most unbiased source of information out there, as he refuses to take revenue from vendors for his work (he makes his living in the People’s Republic by selling research and consulting services to investors and end users, and refuses to toss vendors into the mix -– a recipe for unbiased opinions). Even if you don’t have a research budget to read analyst reports, there’s no reason to despair. Some analyst firms offer free trials for there research. And many vendors have purchased some of the most relevant analyst research and put it on their sites. My favorite is the Ariba Spend Management Learning Center. Many vendors have also invested in authoring whitepapers which have information that you can’t find elsewhere –- certainly worth the look. They often explore topics more deeply than the analysts, from an informed, practitioner perspective. Not a replacement for what Aberdeen and AMR have to say, but a very useful supplement. Following analyst and vendor sources, I like to check out industry sites, such as ISM and CAPs. Often you’ll find academic research studies and other content that can be relevant to searches. The only problem is that the content can be dated, but such is academia. I also read online trade publications when I have the time, though they’re not often a place to begin or end a specific search. Supply and Demand Chain Executive, Purchasing and Supply Management are all good sources. What are some other tricks of the trade to learn about Spend Management on the Web? • If you’re working with a vendor or consulting firm, ask the must junior person serving your account where they go to learn about specific topics. I find that the more senior people get, the less they know about where to find information. Junior-level analysts or account execs often have a good grasp of where to go –- and they’ll run the extra mile to help you find what you need. • Benchmark your performance, and ask the firm doing the benchmarking to provide other relevant background research and material. • Read this blog – while we can’t claim to be the definitive source of Spend Management Information, we will endeavor to provide relevant links and information to everything Spend Management. Last, if you’re stuck, send me a line (jbusch@spendmatters.com). I might be able to recommend some additional sources of information as well. Jason Busch

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