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Analyst Eye on whether ‘simplicity’ and ‘actionability’ can coexist

08/15/2023 By and

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Continuing our series of analyst observations on procurement tech market movements, this week we are considering how vendors strike a balance between providing a simple solution and providing one that enables deep insight and impactful actions.

Two of the major trends currently defining the procurement landscape are a drive towards simplicity and a drive towards actionability. The simplicity trend appears in the form of providers promoting their ‘simplicity’ or ‘usability’ — especially their UI/UX — as a primary benefit. “The broader market has been begging for simpler solutions for years in response to the repeated failures companies experienced in trying to implement complicated solutions,” Spend Matters research analyst and project associate Nikhil Gaur notes. “At the same time, I think companies are starting to realize that all the data out there is not just garbage, but a resource that can be used to create value or save money in the future.” In short, companies want simple solutions with the capability to act in potentially complex ways and derive deep insights from massive amounts of data.

At first glance, this may appear a dichotomy. You can have easy-to-use solutions, or you can have ones that provide deep insights. While technology selection inevitably includes trade-offs, the reality is that a solution can provide value through actionable insights while remaining relatively simple to use. The market has learned that many organizations do not wish to manually code deep customization rules. As a result, it is now possible and much more common to provide actionability without rigorous backend exertion, such as through no-code functionalities.

The question, then, is not whether a solution is simple. It’s actually two questions: what does a certain customer define as simple and does the customer actually want that simplicity? ‘Simplicity’ tends to be a marketing buzzword that means the solution has no-code or drag-and-drop functionalities or something similar. Whether through no-code, drag-and-drop or even solutions based on manual coding with very basic dashboard and visualization options, this simplicity aspect is easy for organizations to find. It’s everywhere in the market. And even without involving technical resources for more advanced configuration, these solutions generally provide enough actionable insights to justify the investment for the majority of customer types.

While many solutions, such as Agiloft, Malbek, Certa and Zip, do enable actions with a deep impact via a simple UI, a minority of customers may find solutions that prioritize simplicity lacking in very specific ways. “What you tend to miss out on is more specific customization,” Nikhil explains. “A simpler CLM solution might not have vertical-specific features that you could more easily add with a customization layer. It’s too simple and you can’t enter code yourself or make the solution flexible to your needs.” However, only the most complex customers with dozens of end users really need these most advanced features.

“From the customer’s standpoint,” he continues, “I think it kind of depends on where you are in your procurement tech journey in that a company that’s newer, that’s trying out new software, would benefit from a simpler solution. A large company that has been doing this for a long time and has employees with coding knowledge or experience with these solutions might be a better fit for something that is more complicated and might involve a tougher implementation but in the long run might lead to better value.”

It is the unique characteristics of each customer that determine which solution plays more effectively in any given situation. That is why the Spend Matters SolutionMap dataset relies on Market Personas to alter the weight given to the scores compiled during the RFI process. In some situations, like the one Nikhil illustrated, a company might be better served by a less simple solution — even if simplicity is the reigning buzzword of the day.

The better value that a more complex solution may bring to a more mature company unveils the second contradiction in the simplicity-actionability dichotomy. The trends actually converge because by collecting all the data a company produces by more complicated means can lead to a simplification in the processes of the company itself. Nikhil elaborates by saying “While it might not sound simple to take pretty much every data point and try to use it in some way, it can lead to that in the long run because it might lead to you making your processes more efficient. If, for example, it cuts down on contract negotiation time, that is an example of the influx of data leading to saving time for the company.” So even if solutions do not come with the absolute simplest of UIs, they can make the way the company runs simpler overall.

But what now?

  • If you want more Spend Matters Insights on the trends defining the procurement landscape, become an Insider and receive expertise informed by more than 10 years of independent, zero pay-to-play, brutally honest coverage of vendors, market developments, M&A activity and trends affecting procurement, finance and supply chain.
  • If you want more in-depth coverage of any solutions that may make the processes of your company simpler, you can research vendors and consultants serving the procurement and supply chain industry by using Spend Matters comprehensive, free directory.
  • If you have found solutions and can’t judge their simplicity and actionability, log into the TechMatch, where you can directly assess the capabilities of digital procurement solutions, conduct side-by-side comparisons and identify product and service differentiators.
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