Spend Matters Analysis: Accenture’s “Virtual Company Mall”

magnifying glass analysis

In Accenture’s recent study, Procurement’s Next Frontier – The Future Will Give Rise to an Organization of One, the authors suggest the “virtual company mall” will provide the wrapper for the core of a firm’s shopping and tactical buying experience – i.e., how frontline users – and perhaps even procurement – shop for and purchase goods and services.

It’s a clever thought to suggest that a single toolset – or more likely a single interface for users – will form the basis of a shopping system. It’s also clever to call it a mall, since within a mall, much like the future buying system the authors describe, there can be different branches or anchor stores as well as all of the individual merchants in smaller spaces that sell their wares.

Yet for this analogy to work, a lot of elements need to come together. For one, the technology world will need to acknowledge the following:

  • The user experience with shopping and buying will need to be abstracted from the actual applications themselves on the back-end. Or a true single, integrated purchasing and services procurement system will need to emerge.
  • Integration will need to happen between the various systems that companies leverage for procurement outside of transactional buying. For example, many organizations today have multiple sourcing solutions and in certain cases multiple contract management and supplier management tools as well. New levels of integration will need to arise to enable what Accenture is proposing between these procurement-centric systems and those for front-line users.
  • Decision guidance, of the sort found within a number of vendor management system (VMS) solutions today that can steer users toward certain decisions based on different data streams, will need to go mainstream. A number of vendors we speak to have hired or are hiring quants and decision scientist types to build this type of capability. But given that most typical spend classification tools today can only get to 80% of spend accurately classified in the initial passes with human involvement, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to suggesting the right path for front-line users in real time.

What do you think? Is Accenture’s vision for the virtual company mall 10 years away, 20 years away or perhaps even more? Will Ariba/SAP and the ERP providers make this a reality, or will it be a mix of independent tech firms? Or will Amazon end up becoming this mall?

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