Ivalua: The Broadest Spend Management Suite Vendor You've Never Heard Of (Part 2)

In my first column on Ivalua, I provided a basic company overview and a high-level look at its various solution components; in today's post, I'll take a closer look at Ivalua and its various modules and products.

What stood out most about Ivalua when I first began pulling back the covers was that it doesn't behave like an upstart vendor. For example, despite a total 2009 revenue that was less than some of the largest suite deals in the market (involving historic Ariba, SAP, and Oracle licensing arrangements), Ivalua has struck up a range of partnerships with both SI/consultancies and supply-management content providers worthy of its largest peers. In fact, Ivalua's partnerships with Bureau Van Dijk, D&B/Altares, EcoVadis and others place it at the top of a rather elite list of spend-analysis and supply-risk management solution providers with truly global content-enrichment partnerships and capabilities, running the gamut from basic enrichment to value-added areas (e.g., sustainability).

Moreover, Ivalua users are deploying its solutions globally. Anyone with the misperception that Ivalua's customers are mostly French should consider: two-thirds of Ivalua's users are outside of France, and over 50% are outside of Europe. In addition, Ivalua has architected its solutions from the ground-up to accommodate multiple languages and currencies, with an eye towards nitty-gritty localization for large multinationals. In fact, one large multinational industrial company has standardized on Ivalua for sourcing, spend, and supplier management activities, replacing eight separate sourcing tools it previously used throughout various divisions and geographies. While Ivalua's global capabilities are no doubt part of the reason for this, I was pleasantly surprised during a demonstration at how much it could orient its solutions to particular industry challenges (e.g., industrial manufacturing).

Anyone familiar with a typical SAP environment will be at home with Ivalua. While its general interface is not as slick as some other solutions on the market, it's relatively easy to use, and with just a click or two provides a fairly easy and quick way to navigate detailed fields and information. For example, from the main portal page it's very simple to navigate to -- or launch -- specific action plans, scorecard analyses, and related information about a particular supplier (in this regard, I find its interface easier to use than SAP's historic capabilities). During the demonstration, it also became clear that Ivalua does anything but provide a generic, indirect procurement solution: it's relatively simple, for instance, to cut to highly granular supplier development programs specific to a manufacturing environment.

Ivalua's reporting capabilities allow companies to easily track supplier and compliance plans (whether based on savings, quality, or overall supplier performance). I was impressed with its supplier management reporting and corrective-action-plan capability around tracking defect (i.e., PPM) rates in an industrial environment. Visually and aesthetically, Ivalua was not fully exploiting the advantages of the latest in Flex and Ajax screen-painting capabilities, but the interface still managed to provide a fairly rich level of detail in which it seemed relatively intuitive to navigate and operate.

Ivalua clearly excels at data integration between systems, not only in the transactional procurement area but also in regular reporting. For example, it allows the ability to closely monitor specific action plans, and to associate and measure savings and other results based on source-system information. Quite honestly, I was not expecting this level of integration and depth from Ivalua, and I came away impressed. Like other solutions in the market that do a solid job in the area of supplier management plans and programs, Ivalua makes it relatively simple to roll up individual initiatives (e.g., scorecarding for a site or a single supplier program) to produce a macro-picture of supplier performance while maintaining the ability to drill down to a very granular level.

When it comes to launching a sourcing event or related initiative, Ivalua guides users through a series of intuitive steps, similar to peer solutions in the market. However, during the sourcing process, Ivalua's level of integration into back-end systems as well as other Ivalua modules can afford a level of insight into particular supplier capabilities and past performance that goes beyond the industry standard. While it's a relatively straightforward step to move from RFIs to RFIs to auctions, It's worth pointing out that, from a negotiation and analysis perspective, Ivalua still lacks certain capabilities in the market. For example, although its tool has basic weighting, it lacks optimization and scenario or what-if analysis capabilities. Even SAP and Oracle are slightly ahead of it in this regard (not to mention Ariba, BravoSolution, Emptoris, Iasta, and others). Ivalua acknowledges this, but in their views, "sees this functionally more as a gimmick" that is rarely used throughout an organization and is not a deal killer. I don't entirely agree, but I'll leave it at that for this post.

Stay tuned for further analysis of Ivalua later in January as we look at its range of other capabilities, including its overall P2P and content management capabilities. I hope to share some customer experiences as well.

Jason Busch

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