Zycus — Building Up the Solutions Arsenal Behind the Scenes (Part 3)

Please click here for the Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

In the last post in this series, we referred to Zycus' advanced sourcing/optimization capabilities as the "Honda Accord" of the industry. Everything works. It's easy to drive (or test drive). It brings bulletproof reliability (at least for basic usage and solve time, as we saw it). It's ergonomically designed and comes with that "new car" smell lacking in many other sourcing suites in the market. Granted, it's not a toolset to take on the race track to test at its limits compared with some, but around town, when the number of items, constraints, formulas and potential award scenarios fall within a simple and predictable box, there's no more perfect vehicle for everyday stop-and-go sourcing. Even visually, Zycus has made using some of the more advanced capabilities in sourcing suites, well, as idiot proof as they can be.

After collecting supplier bids, for example, users can create a simple work environment to consider common award scenarios in the context of each other. The visual cues are clever indeed for pedestrian award scenarios! On one walk through the application we observed two red cherries on a vine with a leaf to represent, you guessed it, the "cherry-pick" award scenario that would give you the total cost and savings if you took the lowest cost across each line item. Another option, an icon of a single person, represents the scenario if you were to award the bid the lowest cost single supplier with cross-lot and cross line-item coverage. A third icon, a star, represents the incumbent award scenario, showing again, total cost and savings (if applicable). And a fourth icon with two "people" represents the award scenario selecting the combination of two suppliers with the lowest total cost across the event.

It may seem a bit like wasted space to have these visual cues to evaluate four different award scenarios head-to-head in terms of total baseline cost, total cost and savings. You could easily fit another four different award scenarios in the screen space if you ditched the visuals. Yet by prompting users with visual signals that stand-in for the type of award scenario, Zycus has taken the subtlety of more advanced sourcing decision support capability and dumbed it down to a point where even the casual buyer would be able to take advantage of features and award approaches that they might otherwise not consider.

In evaluating award decision and how much to weight different award decision factors, Zycus has built, perhaps, the most elegantly simple slider set that can consist of a number of different parameters which, collectively will lead to recommended suppliers to consider for the award. For example, Zycus shared with us one demonstration script we had requested for setting up a very basic award scenario using the following fields: overall savings potential, total baseline value covered (in bids submitted), number of items bid for (absolute terms). For each of these parameters, users can slide a ruler to guide minimum, maximum and ranges of field values (e.g., minimum of 25 items bid on and minimum 50% baseline covered value) to limit the number of suppliers for a potential award based on simple inputs.

Once these values are selected, users can run the award scenario with a click of a button at the bottom of the screen and then save the scenario for comparison purposes. There are other means of defining the scope of an optimization award decision within the product. For example, it's possible to select specific cost elements for consideration on a different screen choosing from unit costs, fixed costs (across different elements) and basic formulas.

Within iOptimize, users can opt to consider additional constraints that can easily be dragged and dropped from a menu into a user's workspace. In the context of the application itself -- no need to click on a help icon at the top of the screen -- Zycus will even provide a definition of what the constraints are and explain how and when to apply them simply by mousing over different constraint types which include allocation, exclusion, matching and restricted numbers of suppliers. An example of the ability to define allocation constraints includes defining how much of an award (e.g., more than or equal to) a certain percentage of the business value to a certain set of suppliers (e.g., all suppliers, diversity suppliers, specific named suppliers, suppliers based on regional or facility locations, etc.)

Stay tuned as our analysis of Zycus continues in the fourth post in this series.

- Jason Busch

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