3 Reasons to Love ‘Nimble’ Procurement Technology Providers

Spend Matters’ analysts have been writing personal essays on their favorite SolutionMap personas: Nimble, Deep, Turn-Key, Configurator and CIO Friendly, as well as Optimizer for sourcing providers and Global for CWS vendors. The personas help companies select which solution provider is right for them. This week’s essay is by Nick Heinzmann, an associate analyst and a former editor of Spend Matters.

Let’s be blunt: If you’re going to pay five or six figures for a software license, you’d better hope your employees actually use it.

But can your technology provider guarantee that everyone who uses the system — from admins to power users to the everyday requisitioner or collaborator — will adopt it? What about enjoy it, willingly log in and encourage everyone to collaborate on the platform?

For many companies, this is easier said than done. Implementations that seem well planned on paper can quickly become nightmares. Systems with deep, powerful functionality but archaic user interfaces can scare less ambitious users back to the warm embrace of Excel.

Issues like the above and others are why I love the Nimble persona. Because at their core, Nimble technology providers are all about ease of use, fast time-to-value and transparency (e.g., in pricing, in their comparatively narrower functional scope). Nimble technology is about systems that just work — what Spend Matters Founder Jason Busch blithely calls “stupid simple.”

nimble Persona
My organization: Dynamic, results-focused, limited IT department involvement, risk-tolerant of new approaches and providers; Often decentralized, rapidly growing, and/or middle market
We Need: Speed to value, low pricing; modern, intuitive, cloud-based software with optional value-added services

From my perspective, though, I’d put it more kindly: Nimble is the persona that best understands the “millennial” mindset when it comes to technology. Why can’t procurement software be as fun and easy to use as apps like Instagram, Venmo and Slack? It can be, and select providers are already showing that they can translate the best features and experiences of B2C apps into valuable capabilities in B2B software.

So as the only non-gray hair on the Spend Matters analyst team, I figured I should step up and give Nimble providers a defense in the only appropriate format for the most millennial persona: a listicle.

1. Nimble Disrupts Markets

For those who want to “go deep” in their technology selections or configure their solutions to unique business processes, Nimble providers may seem like outliers. And it’s true that, compared with best-in-class providers in a given category, a Nimble solution often lacks the feature/function bells and whistles of pacesetters.

But that doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way forever.

One of the most interesting attributes of Nimble providers is that they disrupt markets. They can take a well-established technology category and inject new life into it — through a better user experience, a simplified design approach or a package tailored to what prospects actually want (rather than what providers think customers should want).

And not all Nimble providers stay Nimble forever. Some grow into other personas, expanding beyond their original niche and deepening their capabilities, like Coupa has done. Others change the conversation about what is needed in a modern solution of its type, forcing legacy providers to meet a new customer-defined standard, like Scout RFP in e-sourcing.

If you want to see how disruptive the Nimble approach is, go to any SolutionMap ranking category and toggle between the Deep and Nimble personas. More than any other option, Nimble will change the map the most. It opens your eyes to a new way of seeing a technology market. 

2. Nimble Democratizes Technology

While not a hard-and-fast rule, Nimble providers typically target small- and mid-sized organizations. This in turn influences the primary criteria that make these providers Nimble: their focus on a “walk up” UX/UI, fast time-to-value and comparatively lower prices. These attributes help make the benefits of procurement software available to a broader audience.

UX/UI is the first impression a business user gets of a solution. If the interface looks one step away from green screen, presents an unending maze of menus to navigate or feels more like a fancy version of Excel than an application with process-specific features, it’s likely going to fall flat — leaving those responsible for implementation to force users to adopt the system.

The latest wave of technology providers, however, is increasingly borrowing design and UX elements from the B2C world, and the overall impression they make is getting closer to “delightful” rather than “boring application I have to use at work.”

Consider the influence of an app beloved by not only millennials but even some older colleagues: Slack. Popular features like mentions (@[user]), shortcut commands (e.g., “/remind [user] [to do a task] [at a specific date/time]), a support chatbot (Slackbot) and numerous out-of-the-box integrations to other popular systems (e.g., Google calendar, Foursquare, Zoom) make Slack easy to use — some would even say fun to use — and quickly valuable as a hub for internal collaboration.

The Slack mentality is making it into procurement tech too. We’re seeing similar features creep in for collaboration interfaces in requisition or invoice approval, and some providers even have built dedicated Slack integrations so employees can operate their P2P systems in Slack channels. Still others are emulating Slack’s simply configured integrations to other applications (e.g., Per Angusta, which has built integrations that can be flipped on for common sourcing systems, Slack and even GitHub).

Case in point, Nimble providers are about making technology accessible. If that means more intuitive to the bulk of business users — <cough>millennials</cough> — and at lower price points that make them able to be purchased at small- and mid-sized businesses, then so be it.

Nimble democratizes technology for the greater good. 

3. Nimble Prioritizes Experience

Here’s an existential point to close on: What is the point of technology? There’s no right way to answer this question, but one could make a decent case for a simple explanation.

Technology is a tool for getting work done.

With Deep solutions, we can see the possibilities of what could be done. With Configurators, we get adaptability and agility for any situation. Turn-Key solutions tell it like they see it, giving a broad scope and predictable experience.

But Nimble is about getting work done.

The focus is on customer experience first and foremost. It’s about getting people to use the technology, getting value almost immediately from the purchase (we are talking about software for procurement, after all) and relieving a pain point with a tool that handily beats the current way of getting things done (usually Excel or throwing bodies at a problem).

So if you want a solution that meets your expectations, delights in delivery and experience, and above all just works, take a look at the Nimble persona. You might find yourself drawn to some new names — swiftly.

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