Rosslyn Analytics' New Twist on Spend Visibility (Part 1)

While I plan, over the holiday break, to find as many ways as possible to ignore numbers, charts, graphics, and useful and creative quantitative displays of visual information in general, there was a time earlier in the month when, although overloaded with ideas and information and most in need of a refresh, I still could say "wow" when I saw something exciting. That moment happened during a demonstration of Rosslyn Analytics’ enterprise spend analysis product. Now, I know what you're thinking: How could yet another spend analysis product cause such excitement, both in the heart and in the head? Haven't we already done analytics three ways to Sunday, and didn't Spend Radar and others already come up with a better mousetrap around classification? The answer, of course, is yes. But what makes Rossyln different is not just some of the capabilities of the application ( which are certainly more broad than deep, relative to some other offerings); it's the fundamental assumption behind what the role of spend visibility should be, and who, within an organization, should benefit from it. ( Hint: it's not just procurement anymore.)

In Part 2 of this column, I'll discuss which parties inside a company (other than procurement) stand to benefit greatly from spend visibility; for now, it's worth mentioning a few of the ways Rosslyn checks the feature/capability box in both conventional and unconventional ways. On a fundamental level, Rosslyn has most of what you'd expect in an end-to-end spend visibility offering capable of competing -- and standing alone -- in the market. This includes the ability to rapidly extract data from multiple corporate systems with relative ease, greatly reducing the time pressure on IT to nail the prized single-batch extract. From a classification standpoint, Rosslyn automatically classifies data to a UNSPSC standard as a first step (although it has found that this approach is often limiting, depending on a client's specific needs).

To overcome UNSPSC limitations, the system can also classify spend into other forms of custom/system/ERP material codes or internal site or sourcing schemas according to the way in which an organization tagged and classified information offline previously. In all of these activities, Rosslyn's philosophy is a bit unique: show an organization its data precisely as it wants to look at it. In other words, just because a spend analysis environment might be new to an analytics stranger who is using the system for the first time, it does not mean that he or she should not immediately know where to find something based on the existing tribal knowledge within the company. In the words of Rosslyn’s Analytics Charles Clark, "Our approach is to quickly and sensitively reflect the specific environment of a client. We know there is a substantial difference between different client environments and when data emerges as part of a process, the on-screen reflection should mirror the environment and language of what a company is accustomed to already."

Aside from classification, Rosslyn took a large step recently to reach data-enrichment parity with some of its competitors by signing an OEM deal with D&B (joining a provider in Sunnyvale, a large ERP company, and numerous others in the space). While this is not a differentiator in the least -- enrichment data is becoming the standard ante for software providers to bundle in -– the type of data is valuable. In addition to standard parentage types of enrichment capabilities, Rosslyn can also turn on D&B data around credit/risk and other areas in the tool (it receives updated feeds from D&B monthly). Rosslyn users can pay for this D&B data in two ways: by using an internal credit and piggybacking onto an existing D&B relationship inside their company, or by paying an aggressively discounted fee schedule to Rosslyn (which is materially cheaper than going to D&B directly).

Moving on to the core visualization and analytics component of Rosslyn, we see that the basics are all there, including dozens of standard reports and queries, not to mention the ability to drill into data. From a UI and navigation perspective (an area in which Rosslyn shines), it's worth noting that the application does not feel like it was designed by a spend or supply management software company; it feels like a business user told an analytics provider how he would want to see and manipulate data. This may reflect the heritage of some of Rosslyn's founders, who as finance guys are used to working with numbers versus bits and bytes. Whatever the reason, it works. Anyone -- from a procurement executive to a financial analyst -- will immediately feel at home with the tool, and I'd wager they would not even need training to begin to derive a material benefit from it. More advanced capabilities (such as the ability to drill into spending data to better understand which sites/locations or which specific supplier sites are at the crux of a risk or price-variance issue) simply present themselves in a highly intuitive way.

Rosslyn also includes a pre-configured set of capabilities around savings analysis and predictive modeling to help organizations identify, rate, and develop specific sourcing (and other) savings opportunities. This approach is interactive, allowing users to rate, on a sliding scale, both the internal competencies and the relative difficulties of various commodities (or more specific measures, such as spend; or categories by certain region, plant, or geography). In addition, Rosslyn enriches this information with third-party indices (from Accenture and others) of relative savings opportunities and difficulties based on specific supply market conditions. The net output of this exercise are some fairly slick charts that summarize the opportunities, savings, risks, and relative returns of pursuing various initiatives based on both a company's internal data/capabilities as well as the external supply market.

Again, while much of this is not revolutionary, what makes Rosslyn's product stand out is the extremely intuitive and powerful way in which it executes many of the basic features of spend visibility – in an eerily simple way that completely masks the complexity behind what a user is actually doing in the system.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post, when we examine some areas where Rosslyn is pushing the limits of how others have come to organizationally define spend visibility and analysis, pushing its tool's capabilities into the hands of more than just procurement.

Jason Busch

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