BravoConnect Dispatch: The Components of Future Procurement Technology Suites

I’ve known Jim Wetekamp, BravoSolution’s CEO, for well over a decade now. Before he got too busy and before I was able to surround myself with an analyst team far more savvy than me, Jim was one of my “go-to” folks to understand the latest around procurement products and ideas (and for virtual sniff tests) back when I was getting started with Spend Matters and Azul Partners.

I previously thought of Jim as an uber product manager and product strategist of sorts – someone who was not only close to products, but close to both current and emerging customer needs. Now that he’s running the show at BravoSolution, Jim is as close to his firm’s solution strategy as ever, a point that was abundantly clear during his talk earlier this morning, “Enabling Procurement’s Journey & Maturity to Unlock the Power of Procurement.”

During the discussion, Jim provided the usual background on company growth that one would expect from its ranking executive on the stage. But he dug into a level of product and product strategy detail – and was obviously comfortable doing so – that few of any of his peers at rival vendors would engage in.

While I’ll save the details around specific product roadmap items and timing for a separate post tomorrow, I will share below some of the highlights from Jim’s talk today:

Top 5 Highlights: BravoSolution's Product and Suite Direction

  • When it comes to Product/Modular Strategy to drive differentiation, BravoSolution is focusing its efforts on four key areas: SourcingPlus, Supplier Value Management, Procure-to-Pay (P2P) integrated Source-to-Pay (S2P).
  • SourcingPlus, which warrants its own series to review the solution, represents the re-platforming of much of the software capability of Bravo Collaborative Sourcing (BCS) onto the same stack as the rest of the BravoSolution suite, making advanced sourcing capability more accessible. In other words, it puts a solid sourcing optimization engine smack in the middle of a set of modules that integrate directly with sourcing. As Jim notes, the product “takes a sourcing and negotiation application and embeds decision support capability by adding optimization into the equation. This can enable companies to manage for risk and constraints that come from different environments – including environmental/CSR impact, trade and distribution rules that might apply. And it can take a decision process down to days or hours from weeks.” SourcingPlus is the first sourcing optimization toolset that is designed for all users that is part of a broader procurement suite. Not all BravoSolution customers are using SourcingPlus. I had lunch with one customer who did not know about it — and I shared why she should be using it!
  • Supplier Value Management is another large theme that Jim spoke about during his talk (and my colleague, Peter Smith, provided another presentation later in the morning). The notion of not just managing supplier information, but finding new ways to engage suppliers to unlock savings, cost reduction and value enhancement opportunities by maintaining accurate profile information, tracking qualifications and certifications, managing supplier performance, managing risk and driving regulatory compliance in an integrated manner that is directly tied into other procurement activities is a powerful value proposition.
  • Analytics/Cognitive – Jim introduced the theme of cognitive procurement, including leveraging machine learning, and the power to put these tools on top of a suite – and embedded within modules (not just spend analytics, mind you!). These items are on the BravoSolution near-term and longer-term product roadmap and Jim discussed how embedding artificial intelligence and analytics will continuously make procurement suites smarter – for individual users, and also companies overall as well as the network effect across customers.
  • Social Procurement and Category Strategy – these two areas include roadmap items which center on “social procurement for increased cross-functional [activities] and supplier collaboration” as well as “strategic category management … including demand management and ‘live customer’ [collaboration]”.

Key Takeaways

Here are my takeaways from Jim’s talk on roadmap items:

  • While “full suite” capabilities are coming with the integration of P2P, BravoSolution appears focused as much on creating differentiation in the strategic areas of the suite as the transactional ones. This runs counter to what most competitors are trying to achieve (as a general rule).
  • Analytics for BravoSolution (as was shared in a great case study presentation by the UK’s NHS today) is not just about spend analytics. It’s about broader mashups of different datasets including but not limited to BravoSolution, P2P, T&E and other data — and not just cubes for power users, but dashboards and more. Watching what BravoSolution does in this space is something we will all learn from in the coming years. Once the machine learning and AI stuff works its way into the suite, it will get even more fascinating to watch, especially around predictive and recommendation engines spanning everything from sourcing to contracts to supplier performance/risk to shopping.

Stay tuned for more live coverage from BravoConnect2016 tomorrow and later this week.

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