Building Visibility About Visibility

A few weeks ago, I was reading the FreeMarkets alumni bulletin board on Yahoo, which often serves as a clearinghouse of sorts for questions on Spend Management technologies and category / commodity questions. Usually, participants are FreeMarkets alumni, but in theory they can be anyone who can convince the moderators to let them join. When someone asked a question about what tools to look at for spend analysis, it reminded me that digging into the subject a bit would make for a useful blog. In my Spend Management travels over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside purchasing organizations, consultants, and analysts alike. And if there’s one thing everyone universally agrees on, it’s the need to gain better visibility and insight into what organizations buy and how they’re buying it. Spend Management vendors agree with this as well. In less than two years, the number of independent providers with spend visibility and analysis solutions has dropped precipitously, as broader suite vendors have snapped them up. Ariba acquired Softface and FreeMarkets (yes, FreeMarkets actually had a solution of their own). Emptoris snapped up Zeborg. And Verticalnet devoured Tigris. The only remaining stand-alone vendor of any scale is Zycus. Enough of my commentary … the good news is that there’s already been a lot written on the subject by people more knowledge than me, and rather than restate what’s already been said, I’d rather direct you to my sources. Everyone from vendors to analysts has chimed in over the years with their opinion on the subject. Over the years, AMR Research has published a number of introspective briefs on the subject. I strongly recommend reading their research if you're a client. Start with Field Tactics in Spending Analysis: Commodities, Contracts and Continuous Improvement. Forrester Research, an analyst firm that has shown potential in covering Spend Management but who usually lacks frequency in their coverage, published a survey worth reading last year. You can find it here. But the firm that has dedicated the most resources to examining spend analysis is Aberdeen Group. Aberdeen goes far beyond its peers in looking at how spend visibility and analysis can impact an organization. I particularly like their primary research on the subject, which surveys end-users in depth. You can find all of their research on Aberdeen’s web site. The two most recent briefs that I recommend in particular are: Best Practices in Spending Analysis (September 2004) and Spend Compliance Management (December 2004), but it’s worth going through the site to look at their past research as well. The last standalone vendor is the space is Zycus, and they’ve constructed an informative resource center on the subject. They’ve licensed a number of briefs from analyst firms and have also authored a few on the subject themselves. You can find to it here. The Ariba Spend Management learning center is also a good resource and features a great case example from PPG. The direct link to the Visibility section of the Learning Center is here. Last, when I was at FreeMarkets, I had an analyst firm write a useful primer on the subject as well which might still be floating about on the Web somewhere, though I could not find it when I did a cursory search. If you’re interested in reading it, drop me a line ( -Jason Busch

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