Final Thoughts From Zycus Horizon: It’s All About the Customer

Zycus Horizon

The more time I spend in and around technology companies, the more I am struck by the dichotomy of vendors that tend to fall into two camps regarding R&D and technology investment. To wit, there are those that spend nearly all their time listening to customers to guide investment decisions and there are those that take the opposite approach by focusing on disruptive innovation that they believe customers will want to consume.

There’s not a right model, but it is the rare vendor that falls in the middle. Zycus has evolved to clearly sit on one side of this continuum: It has a relentless focus on listening to customers. In conversations with Zycus customers over the past couple of days, I was constantly struck by those that praised Zycus for listening to their needs and prioritizing investments based on their requirements.

In certain cases, even though Zycus is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company, the provider would even send developers — or at least those on the product team but “in the code level” — on site to learn about customer needs at a regular cadence. This commitment is clearly in the DNA of the firm.

I spoke with my colleague Pierre Mitchell, who was also at the Zycus Horizon event, and we agreed that the company is making impressive strides in both core technology development, such as search and predictive analytics, and also "Feature 500" development at the application module level. You can't help but feel customers are not only happy with incremental development put out in the monthly cloud releases but also are comforted by a “boring” vendor built for the long haul that is not funded by venture capitalists and looking to go big.

Much of the input in building out these capabilities is clearly coming from customers. Yet this maniacal focus on the user is opening up a number of potential flanks that Zycus needs to pay attention to if it wants to succeed in its articulated vision of becoming the successor to Ariba as the top suite provider in the space.

Specifically, Zycus:

  • Would benefit from an ecosystem. Customers may request features from vendors or articulate systems integration requirements, but they won’t request partners to make it better. It was great to see Nitor, a boutique procurement consultancy and integrator, as the headline sponsor of the event, but one consulting firm does not make an ecosystem. Zycus needs integration partners and adjacent solution partners — payment partners, trade financing partners, services procurement partners, content partners and others — if it wants to position its suite as a central hub for procurement activities. Such an approach would also help position Zycus in contrast to the closed network model of Ariba, which Zycus still views as its primary competitor.
  • Would benefit from a platform vision and strategy. We wrote a lot about this on Spend Matters PRO earlier this week.  
  • Should look at what the competition is doing right — not just wrong. Zycus has a significant advantage in its large and passionate R&D and product team — and a CEO/owner who not only is an amazing listener but also cares more about technology than any other leader I know in the space. Focusing on where competitors are succeeding versus their shortcomings, however, would likely yield some creative breakthroughs, given the exceptional technology brainpower at Zycus’ disposal.

I’ve recommended Zycus to dozens of procurement organizations in the past year, especially in the upstream areas of their suite. We’ll be adding the company to our P2P shortlists now in many cases as well based on what we learned at the event. I have full confidence in these recommendations and have no doubt Zycus will nearly always succeed in delivering on what its prospects and customers require at reasonable price points.

Simply put, failure is not in Zycus’ DNA. Yet being more open to what is happening outside of its own user and prospect base could put Zycus at the center of a movement that sustains it far past keeping Ariba in the center of its modular and suite crosshairs.

We’ll be providing detailed recommendations to Zycus customers and prospects on Spend Matters Plus in the coming days on how best to engage the provider, including where its functional strengths are today and where they are emerging. And for those that want even deeper technology analysis and detail, stay tuned for additional commentary on Spend Matters PRO, as well.

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