D&B's New Spend Apps: Beauty Over Brawn (Part 2)

Editors Note: This is the second part of a three-part series. Part 1 provided background and context for D&B's new Spend Management applications. Part 2, below, analyzes two of D&B's new products and how they stack-up in the market. And Part 3 will provide further context around how D&B's new solutions and how they can fit into a company's Spend Management technology portfolio.

In the first post in this series, I provided some background details on D&B's new Spend Management applications. If you read between the lines, what you observed, most likely, is that these front-end visualization and analysis tools are really a creative way of showcasing the power of spend and supplier information -- and D&B data. In other words, they are the runway model that shows off the duds which a designer is trying to sell. But the question remains whether or not the clothes would look as good on someone else. I'll leave that one for individual users to decide.

D&B Screenshot

Supply Portfolio Manger (screen shot above) is a top-level dashboard-type application that practically grabs a user and invites them to start investigating spend and supplier data. Any static picture does not do the interface justice given that the power of it is in the interaction, not just a snapshot information view. It allows users, for example, to quickly look at spend categories by line of business and drill down on such areas as supplier diversity information -- for those who license D&B's diversity data -- or supply risk information (but not at the same level as DNBi Supply Manager).

One of the unique aspects of the application from a content delivery perspective is that users can opt to buy data on the fly. For example, a customer might opt to "turn on" diversity or risk data for its suppliers -- a process that does not require anything more than an order on behalf of the customer and a few keyboard strokes on the part of D&B. Now, it's worth noting that the data that would be turned on is D&B data, the quality of which is highly variable depending on which procurement organization you talk to. I am not in a position to pass judgment myself on the quality of it because myself because we've not run an accuracy assessment (nor has any other third party, from what I've been able to research).

D&B's Supply Portfolio Manager does not use a cube structure to allow users to drill into and around spend data. Rather, the applications update spend and supplier information and paint it on the screen as users drill down and interact with various fields or queries. Personally, my view of this is that power-users will find the lack of a cube approach limiting in many types of analyses. But everyone else in a company will find this approach to drilling around information liberating rather than confining. Like everything in life that is new, I'm sure this will be one of the controversial aspects of D&B's new solution. Some will love it -- others will hate it.

D&B's Analysis module is a tool designed for a user who wants a deeper view of spend information (still, in a non-cube environment). From a spend and supplier visibility perspective, it offers everything available in the Portfolio Manager view while adding additional types of data visualization tools (which provides different insights), enhanced query capabilities, more flexible navigation, and the ability to interact with spend and supplier data in a node-based manner (which is hard to explain without actually playing around with it). Analysis also provides a handy PowerPoint expert capability as well (Supply Portfolio Manager only enables an Excel export).

For both products, I believe that seeing is believing (or not, as the case may be). Depending on the role of the person demoing them, they will either be blown away by the UI or underwhelmed by the functional capabilities relative to other solutions. Personally, I'm in the first camp, as I believe that usage and adoption matters more than the richest functional capability for most users (and those who need additionally capability can license it from other providers). But above all, when from a feature/function perspective an application gets you 60-80% of the way there while offering what amounts to a generational UI improvement, it's pretty clear to me what applications are going to sit on the shelf versus those which will quickly become invaluable to a majority of users.


Jason Busch

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