Author Archives: Jason Busch



About Jason Busch

The closest thing to a household name in procurement and supply chain, Jason has led the charge as an advocate, futurist and evangelist since the 1990s. Initially at FreeMarkets and then an adviser to Ariba and other firms, Jason branched out on his own to establish the Spend Matters brand (parent company: Azul Partners), which emerged to become the largest news and information portal covering the sector. Over the years, Azul Partners has expanded this digital portfolio to 12 affiliated properties including leading titles such as Spend Matters UK/Europe, MetalMiner and Public Spend Forum, making it one of the largest independent B2B digital media firms. Jason divides his time between research, speaking, corporate finance advisory and mentoring dozens of firms and procurement organizations in the industry. Prior to Azul Partners and FreeMarkets, Jason worked in consulting and merchant banking. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. Personal investment disclosures: Azul Partners, Inc., Public Spend Forum, LLC, Remitia Ltd., RJSL Group LLC, Sigaria Ltd., Spare to Share, LLC, Spendata LLC, SpendLead, Inc., Spend Matters Europe Ltd., Spend Matters Group, LLC.


Everything Procurement Should Know About Payments: Best-in-Class P2P Technology Capabilities and the Reconciliation Process (Part 2)

BuyerQuest

There have been two (somewhat bad) jokes around product naming since procurement technology adoption became widespread. The first was when SAP labeled its e-procurement product “supplier relationship management” (SRM), which was a misnomer, to say the least. SRM, which competed against Ariba, Commerce One and others at the time, was about managing transactional buying, not about strategic supplier relationships. The other naming “fail” was unfortunately more generalized outside of a single provider, and that was labeling the broader transactional procurement tech sector as “P2P,” with the second “P” standing for “payment.”

If there is a silver lining in this naming misstep, however, it’s that we have the power to actually do something about it today. P2P solutions are finally beginning to embrace the payment ecosystem more holistically, and procurement is taking an orchestration role in the process. This Spend Matters PRO series provides a procurement-centric view into payments, exploring the payments process and all that it encompasses through a “get smart” primer.

Part 1 provided an introduction to the topic and explored what e-procurement systems do (and do not do) to enable payment processes. It also explored what SAP Ariba and Coupa have developed from an integrated e-procurement, e-invoicing and payments offering perspective though various partnerships. The second installment in this series provides a summary checklist of best-in-class e-procurement and e-invoicing native payment capability and integrations (internal system and third party) to enable payments and an overview of the invoice to reconciliation process, outside of P2P systems alone. It includes an introduction to various electronic funds transfer (ETF) models, tax considerations, currency considerations and related topics. It also includes a look at all of the internal and external functions and parties involved in different stages of the reconciliation process.

Supply Dynamics: Vendor Snapshot (Part 3) — Summary & Competitive Analysis

Spend analysis providers that tackled the “hard stuff” originally offered line-level visibility into buying activity based on invoice data. Such capability has now become standard. But what if you could go beyond line-level visibility when it comes to understanding spend data? And what if you could do this for supplier spending, as well?

For the majority of direct materials spend in manufacturing, nearly all approaches to analytics come up short when it comes to gaining insight into the underlying materials, spend and suppliers used for semifinished materials, parts, components, assemblies and finished products, either directly by the buying organization or passed-through based on supplier purchases. This lack of visibility not only increases both supply and commodity price risk but also stands in the way of driving innovative sourcing strategies that can drive hard dollar savings.

Yet one provider thinks they have the answer to this challenge: Supply Dynamics. Supply Dynamics combines its own form of spend classification, enrichment and front-end analytics based not just on information contained in ERP/MRP data but also on engineering drawing and bill of material information, using both data and metadata it extracts from design drawings. It also provides out-of-the-box capabilities to create material demand aggregation programs for metals, plastics, electronics and other sub-components (but that’s only one “savings” lever it brings, as we explore in this review).

This third and final installment of our Spend Matters Vendor Snapshot covering Supply Dynamics provides an objective SWOT analysis of the provider and offers a competitive segmentation analysis and comparison. It also includes recommended shortlist candidates as alternative vendors to Supply Dynamics, and offers provider selection guidance. Finally, it provides summary analysis and recommendations for companies considering Supply Dynamics. Previous installments provide an in-depth look at Supply Dynamics as a firm and its specific solution capability and a detailed analysis of solution strengths and weaknesses, as well as a review of the product’s user experience.

Supply Dynamics: Vendor Snapshot (Part 2) — Product Strengths & Weaknesses

manufacturing

One of the major gaps today between supply chain planning and collaboration solutions and direct materials procurement technologies is the lack of spend/supply visibility for raw and semifinished materials used at different stages in the supply chain. These materials include commodities such as metals, resins, electronic components, chemicals and standard parts purchased by suppliers such as fasteners.

Granted, manufacturers are getting better at SKU-level demand planning and forecasting on both and inbound and outbound levels, not to mention managing all of the logistics associated with moving goods and materials. This is the basic “feeds and speeds” of the supply chain. Manufacturers also more frequently gaining visibility and orchestrating controls and processes around overall “spend” at the line item and supplier level, but this is only historical “spent analysis” of material consumption within their own four walls. Few companies have a true bill of material- and design drawing-level understanding of what upstream materials they’re buying vis-a-vie their suppliers. In other words, the lack of visibility into their suppliers’ spend and underlying costs prevents them from uncovering cost savings opportunities that are hidden upstream in their supply chains.

This is precisely where Supply Dynamics, a provider that specializes in multitier direct materials procurement, proposes to fill an important analytics and solutions gap through its SDX platform. It’s an area that even direct materials procurement technology specialists such as Jaggaer/Pool4Tool and SAP Ariba, with their new solution releases, do not begin to address effectively.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot explores Supply Dynamics’ strengths and weaknesses, providing facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations decide whether they should consider the firm. Part 1 of our analysis provided a company and detailed solution overview, as well as a recommend fit list of criteria for firms considering Supply Dynamics. The third part of this series will offer a SWOT analysis, user selection guide, competitive alternatives and additional evaluation and selection considerations.

Supply Dynamics: Vendor Snapshot (Part 1) — Background & Solution Overview

manufacturing

Direct materials procurement is similar in some respects to indirect procurement: you want to see your spend, aggregate demand and find opportunities to reshape your value chain to unlock value. But that’s where the similarities end. Analyzing direct spend (especially across multiple tiers of supply) is sometimes like seeing a cloud of smoke coming out of your tailpipe — you know there’s something wrong but don’t know the cause. For indirect spend, you basically change the oil, replace the air filter and hope for the best. But for direct spend, you need specific engine diagnostics to figure out what’s driving performance and how much you could potentially improve. And unfortunately, in many cases, the manufacturers of those engines parts don’t want you poking around under the hood.

Whether it’s for plastics, resins, hydrocarbon feedstocks, agricultural commodities, standard catalogue parts, electronic components or metals, you must translate your demand for parts into the raw materials that go into them. And you must understand the demand volumes, supply chain capacities and processing capabilities that drive that pricing — especially if you want to tap into aggregated buying channels beyond the stuff you buy to support your own internal factory requirements.

This intersection of supply chain modeling, demand forecasting, demand-supply reconciliation, demand aggregation and commodity price forecasting is where Supply Dynamics plays. The idea originated with one of North America’s largest privately owned metals distributors where the opportunity to roll up demand information across OEM customers and their outside contract manufacturers gave it a unique opportunity to build out specific analytics that would help it size up opportunities for its customers and itself. But last year that technology was liberated from its previous owners and is now a commercial offering for any manufacturer or distributor that wants to optimize its own extended supply chain.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot provides facts and expert analysis to help buying organizations make informed decisions about whether they need a solution like Supply Dynamics to expand their analytics initiatives into previously unchartered materials and supply chain components. Part 1 of our analysis provides a company background and detailed solution overview, as well as a summary recommended fit suggestion for when organizations should consider Supply Dynamics. The rest of this multipart research brief covers product strengths and weaknesses, competitor and SWOT analyses, user selection guides and insider evaluation and selection considerations.

Everything Procurement Should Know About Payments: Procurement’s Role and P2P Case Examples (Part 1)

E-procurement is essentially what is sounds like. The same goes for e-invoicing, too. But when you add payments to the equation, things get messy.

Whether procurement and finance organizations are looking for an integrated procure-to-pay (P2P) solution or standalone invoice-to-pay (I2P) technology, the notion of either solution incorporating end-to-end payment and reconciliation capability is misleading at best. Granted, some providers, such as SAP Ariba and Coupa, have taken steps toward enabling the payment lifecycle through partnerships. But their payment solutions focus on the outcome rather than providing a broader toolbox around payment process management and reconciliation for buyers and suppliers alike.

How can these vendors, which deal predominantly in indirect goods, influence the total payment picture?

This Spend Matters PRO research series unearths the often misunderstood components of the “second P” in P2P. We start with a high-level overview of what procurement systems do (and do not) do today to enable payment processes, as well as what procurement’s responsibilities for payments are (and are not). We also profile what SAP Ariba and Coupa are enabling on the payments front, as well as the general approaches of other vendors.

Subsequent briefs in the series will provide a detailed summary of best-in-class e-procurement and e-invoicing native payment capability and integrations to enable payments, a detailed overview of the invoice to reconciliation process, an exploration of P2P and payments best practices, and guides for how to set up suppliers for payment in a system, the integration of cash management and payments, how to think about trade financing and payments, and the role of shared services in payments.

The Emerging World of Digitally Intermediated Work: Old vs. New — or Something Else? (Part 2)

The digital transformation in contingent labor and outcomes-based services within procurement today is happening now. In contrast to indirect procurement and direct procurement, where traditional intermediaries and sourcing models have remained largely untouched by limited new disruptive entrants, the services procurement sector is in the early stages of transformation due to fundamental changes in labor-driven connectivity to demand.

Although adoption of these solutions has varied to date, incumbent staffing, consultancy and other labor intermediaries are indeed coopting and engaging these new models — an important indicator of their trajectory. Moreover, to deny this trend is to turn your back on dozens of solutions that connect specialized labor markets with end users in the business, not to mention the hundreds of millions in funding that these new, innovative intermediaries have received in recent years.

This two-part Spend Matters PRO research brief explores the evolution of digitally intermediated work. In the first installment, we explored digitization in the context of new staffing and labor models today, explaining how these new models can complement and work alongside traditional incumbent approaches. We also explored how organizations can incorporate labor-based digitization into familiar contingent and services procurement models and practices. In Part 2, we turn our attention to summarizing the key trends that procurement, HR and IT practitioners need to be aware of, and we provide key recommendations to put digital services transformation to work for you — rather than against you.

Beeline: Vendor Snapshot (Part 1) — Background & Solution Overview

Beeline is a global “external workforce management solutions” provider and, alongside SAP Fieldglass, one of the top two providers of VMS solutions globally, based on volume and revenue. After years occupying the traditional VMS software category, the company has begun to expand its solution in a number of different directions to address the changing needs of enterprise clients at a time when external workforce utilization is increasing and new technology solutions for sourcing and managing contingent workforce and services (CW/S) are required.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot provides facts and expert analysis to help buying organizations make informed decisions about whether they need a solution like Beeline as provider of VMS software or a provider of technology-based CW/S solutions beyond traditional VMS. Part 1 of our analysis provides a company background and detailed solution overview, as well as a summary recommended fit suggestion for when organizations should consider Beeline. Parts 2 and 3 of this multipart research brief cover product strengths and weaknesses, competitor and SWOT analyses, user selection guides and insider evaluation and selection considerations.

Note: Since Beeline merged with IQNavigator in 2016, there have been two VMS technology platforms operating under the Beeline brand. (A process to “converge” the two platforms on a new, state-of-the-art technology architecture is underway.) In this particular Vendor Snapshot, the section Beeline Solution Overview — Offerings and Functionality (below) focuses only on the Beeline VMS technology platform, pending separate treatment of the IQN platform. The order of treatment is in no way intended to suggest a ranking of one platform over the other.

P2P and E-Invoicing Compliance: Spelling Out What TrustWeaver Does and Does Not Do

Technology and solution providers typically deliver electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) compliance offerings as a component rather than the central focus of an overall procure-to-pay (P2P) or accounts payable automation solution. Few vendors focus squarely on compliance as the central value proposition of their offering. But one provider does offer invoicing compliance “as a service”: TrustWeaver. Yet TrustWeaver is “consumed” by organizations as an integrated component of third-party P2P and e-invoicing solutions rather than directly. This research brief explores precisely what TrustWeaver enables from a compliance perspective in its current summer 2017 offering. Also included are insights into additional TrustWeaver compliance capabilities that the provider plans to add during 2H 2017.

This brief provides checklists to understand specific areas of e-invoicing compliance centered on three areas: local laws and regulations, invoice processing and value-added services. In this context, it describes what localized e-invoicing compliance requirements TrustWeaver supports and those it does not support. In this brief, our goal is to help procurement and finance organizations understand what precisely a vendor means when it says it is a “TrustWeaver” partner — and what other steps they (or their solution partner) may need to take to ensure broader compliance requirements are met.

The Growth of E-Invoicing Compliance (Part 3): Buyer and Supplier Functional Checklists

public procurement

Just what defines “compliant electronic invoicing” continues to be one of the least understood areas of procure-to-pay (P2P) solutions. One of the reasons for this is that many technology providers — not limited to just P2P providers but also accounts payable automation vendors — hawk compliance as if it were a bag of peanuts in the hand of a vendor at a baseball game. In reality, however, few single solutions even approach “full compliance” on a global, or even localized, basis.

The challenge for buyers of technology or managed services e-invoicing solutions is that when we address the topic of e-invoicing compliance, we’re talking about a complex barrel of goodies (the metaphorical equivalent of nuts, candy and fruit), not just a ballpark freshly roasted (or generically bagged) special. Further complicating the topic of e-invoicing compliance is that we must fully address both buyer- and supplier-led compliance depending on whether someone is on the issuing or receiving side of an invoice — the two are not the same.

This Spend Matters PRO research brief succinctly cuts to the chase (we hope!) of what a compliant solution must contain. It provides both a buyer and supplier diagnostic checklist to ascertain whether a provider is offering a compliant solution. Also see the first installment (E-Invoicing Compliance, Globally: Beyond TrustWeaver’s “Seal of Approval”) and second installment (The Growth of E-Invoicing Compliance: Exploring Vendor Capabilities and Approaches (Part 2) in this series.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Spend Analysis Technology and User Design (Part 5): Looking Ahead

As we conclude our series on spend analysis, we turn our attention to how best-in-class solutions can support three requirements that go beyond the basics of what most organizations have implemented today. These enabling capabilities are already (and will become even more) important for procurement to be effective at addressing, through analytics, business objectives as it strives to become more effective as both a value-generating and compliance-oriented function. The three components are: providing specialized tail spend analytics, permissive analytics and real-time maverick (or off-contract) spend identification. The remainder of the series (see: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4) explores what the fundamental building blocks of best-in-class analytics technology and user design look like today and will look like in the future.

What To Expect from Best-in-Class Spend Analysis Technology and User Design (Part 4)

spend analytics

There are doubtless readers who have kept up with this Spend Matters PRO series on the intersection of best-in-class spend analytics technology and user design and thought to themselves, “I wish my solution did that.” But the most important thing to remember is that data is about telling a story. The particular narrative you decide (and are able to tell) from the insight to come out of your spend analytics initiatives will either make procurement more valuable or leave it to toil in obscurity. Spend analysis is an enabler — nothing more — but a critical one at making procurement better at everything it does. Yes, the “geek effect” of the best technology and user design considerations can make solutions buyers for it cringe (if they don’t have it). But ultimately, spend analysis is not about “the kit,” as the British would say.

It is within this context that we can observe that many procurement organizations today are making due with spend analysis technologies which, while helpful when it comes to teeing up basic sourcing opportunities and tracking savings, are a key limiting factor in enabling procurement to do more as a function, putting data front and center at driving the analytics to inform strategy and action.

As we continue this series exploring all the elements of best-in-class spend analysis approaches, painting a composite view about what an ideal solution should deliver at the intersection of capability and usability, we turn our attention to what optimal components approaches include for integrated reporting (and report design), as well as the core elements of descriptive and predictive reporting. See also Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.

No, Robots Will Not Run Procurement by 2020

The motion stands thus: This house believes that robots will run (and rule) procurement by 2020.” I believe that the general direction of this argument is not in and of itself wrong. But there are a number of flaws in the nuance of how the motion has been proposed. And we are, after all, asking you to judge the merits of the proposal on its own, as it stands. Let me present you with three arguments against it.