P2P Southern Comfort: Verian (Part 2)

See the previous post in this series here.

Verian is spot on when they self-describe their ideal user as someone less focused on "the visual" elements of an application and more on absolute "functionality and flexibility." After speaking with Verian users and demoing the application, we agree that Verian might be perfect for a company that is looking to trade off the combination of a killer UI layered on top of an application that requires significant workarounds for a legacy interface (which is very similar to Ariba, SAP, Oracle, etc.), with greater absolute capability and ease of highly configured and/or customized deployments with minimal cost and fuss. Perhaps this explains the solid uptake and adoption of Verian across some complex sites and deployments, even though most in the Spend Matters audiences probably aren't familiar with them.

By the numbers, Verian processes roughly $7 billion in spend annually through their system at one large customer, a respectable number, but one that is smaller than the larger installations of Ariba, Basware SAP and Oracle. However, at this user, the system is deployed across 43,000 locations spanning nearly 60,000 users, which collectively are pushing approximately 1.5 million POs annually and over 1,000 invoices per hour through the system. Even though the system is much closer in spirit to SAP than Coupa, it does have some decent visual cues, perhaps part of which explains the solid adoption and distributed usage inside companies. Users can easily "purchase" from one location to another and have an item show up in a catalog even if it is already in inventory elsewhere in the organization. In other words, this asset and inventory management component is highly transparent to the end user. But what's not are friendly graphical tags next time line items in catalogs that visually depict elements about the SKU and/or supplier to every requistioner (e.g., diversity vendor, energy/environmental certifications/compliance, etc.).

Yet where Verian really shines in comparison to the broader pack -- and which reminds me of where heavily customized legacy Ariba Buyer implementations often shined in the past, albeit at significant deployment cost -- is the flexibility of back-end and source system integration, both internally and externally (e.g., multi-ERP, warehousing/ordering systems, supplier managed catalogs/content, etc.). In cases where Verian deploys its capabilities on top of Oracle in the hybrid eProcurement/asset management area, for example, Verian can keep track of asset transfers and redeployment of assets across different Oracle instances, tying directly into financials to verify capital expense requests against actual needs. In addition, in a deployment like this, Verian may also provide a live repository of information that goes beyond serial number, make model, etc. (e.g., added features, such as those in a detailed catalog description, warranty information, recurring costs, etc.). In other words, Verian can become a new source of highly enriched, trusted master data for catalog items and supplier information, plus internally managed/tracked assets.

When users log into the Verian system, they're presented with a tabular navigation structure based on the modules they've licensed. The configurable user dashboard may include, depending on role and available modules, such areas as tasks (e.g., expense reports waiting for approval), receiving (e.g., requests waiting for receipt), etc. Users can also quickly jump to screens to perform such tasks as searching for an item, facilitating/inquiring about payment or filing/accessing expense reports. There is also a configurable "favorites" page, for commonly accessed tasks/items. All in all, the initial impression is one of accessible enterprise software of a highly configurable nature based on intended design, user responsibilities, etc.

The ability to customize not only the look/feel but also capabilities is important to Verian users. For example, healthcare organizations using the system often buy in bulk from suppliers using the toolset, but then internal requisitioners have to buy against items in inventory -- all in a transparent manner. This requires not only highly specific role-based processes and the usual workflow/approval routing -- which can be highly granular -- but also visibility into inventory and a demand-driven replenishment/re-order approach for the procurement organization to place bulk orders at the right time. It seems simple, but as with all customized P2P deployments, the complexity is in the details and the amount of monkeying necessary on the back end to make it all work. With Verian, the deployment fuss seems minimal.

Stay tuned for our next post in this series, where we'll explore the application in more detail and begin to talk about the Verian customer experience.

Jason Busch

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