The Smart Cube-Cirtuo partnership — a game changer for category managers

category management

Last month, a procurement solutions partnership was announced between Smart Cube and Cirtuo that will transform the category strategy development process for many practitioners. Long acknowledged as a time-consuming and arduous exercise full of inconsistent methodologies, category management has often time fallen by the wayside as procurement functions prioritize other processes. But that’s about to change.

Supplier and category management solution provider Cirtuo, whose AI-assisted Guided Strategy Creation (GSC) capability is what differentiates the firm in the market (according to our analyst Nick Heinzmann in his Cirtuo Vendor Analysis), and procurement intelligence and analytics provider The Smart Cube have partnered to bring deep category intelligence to accelerate and enrich the category strategy creation process.

The move is anticipated to be a game changer for category managers who spend massive amounts of time on supply market research in order to populate the category criteria queries that form the building blocks of their category strategies. It will enable them to produce more efficient, validated and effective results.

The Smart Cube and Cirtuo execs talk about the partnership

Spend Matters had the opportunity to talk to Prerna Dhawan, global head of solutions, strategy & development, about the reason for the partnership.

“Around two to three years ago,” Prerna explained, “The Smart Cube reached a point of maturity where it became strategically important for us to create an ecosystem of partnerships to fuel client-driven scale.”

“Over 17 years of working closely with procurement teams, we witnessed first-hand their desire to progress towards a more strategic, category-driven approach to purchasing, one that would result in benefits that go beyond cost savings. At The Smart Cube we understand that what we provide is just part of the answer to customers’ requirements, and that other complementary solutions exist that can offer another side to our offering to form a complete picture for our customers. Clearly, we found that other forward-thinking tech firms feel the same, and one of those was Cirtuo.”

“We discussed at length with Cirtuo, and discovered that their ‘man on the ground’ Richard Beaumont — who had worked with us while CPO at Rolls Royce — could also perceive a gap in the market that could be filled by the unison of deep supply market intelligence with an effective strategy creation tool.”

“What category managers and their suppliers want,” Prerna told us “is better conversations with stakeholders and strengthened relationships. But mostly they are reliant on huge database files from which to gather their knowledge. We recognized that the category manager needs both the intelligence and the tool, customized to their needs, to drive a rigorous and elevated approach to categories that is consistent right across the organization.”

Richard Beaumont of Cirtuo explained: “Many businesses spend a lot of money on the supply of market intelligence but get little from it because access is sporadic (and often forgotten about when people change jobs) and content is not specific. In the end, Category Managers resort to Google for information while struggling with how to apply it within their analysis. The partnership between Cirtuo and The Smart Cube allows category managers to request answers to specific questions as they complete their analysis. There is no better way to drive the value of market intelligence within procurement strategies.”

So the firms are a good fit. And that explains the ‘why?’ of the relationship. Now to the ‘how?’

How will the two platforms complement each other?

The two firms have been in conversation over the past few months. The joint package – the advanced technology of Cirtuo combined with the deep category intelligence of The Smart Cube – is already starting to resonate with customers. The offering is available now, and several three-month pilots are under way. The resounding response so far has been very positive.

Robust category management development is largely dependent on the accuracy and breadth of the answers to the sets of questions posed about the market. “You need a depth of knowledge to answer questions about the supply market,” Prerna said, “and the success of the category management strategy depends on how well those questions are answered. Some category managers know the answers to the questions posed to them by the strategy creation software, but sometimes they don’t. And that’s where our intelligence comes in. We understand the context of their business, where they are buying from and who their suppliers are. So we can provide the market intelligence they need, integrated into the back end of the Cirtuo platform, so that during strategy creation the user can easily and seamlessly request that information to complete or enhance the strategy being recommended.”

What the two firms have achieved is an integration which to all intents and purposes, from the user perspective, is a single platform.

“One of the main reasons we were excited about this alliance, was based on this integration capability. We had been hearing from customers that there are too many systems and technologies that just do not talk to each other. So it made sense to offer them one experience without jumping between platforms,” she said.

Procurement solution vendors and developers are already investing heavily in their technologies, it makes sense not to recreate what others have done already, providing they are doing it well. Owing to this similar appetite for partnering in the market, The Smart Cube has announced its intention to partner with other firms, a recent one being business spend management giant Coupa. Sourcing teams on the Coupa platform can now enjoy the simple access to external market intelligence that Cirtuo customers are experiencing.

This mix of tech and intelligence is a very powerful combination that ultimately brings a lot more value to the end user; from upstream to downstream the whole S2C lifecycle has just been made a lot easier.

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