Author Archives: Michael Lamoureux



Artificial Intelligence in Sourcing Tomorrow (Part 1)

In Spend Matters' last PRO article, Artificial Intelligence in Sourcing Today (The Situation Now), we overviewed some scenarios where you can find AI in e-sourcing platforms today, where we define AI as “assisted intelligence” because, as we've stated in this series about AI in modern sourcing and procurement technologies, there is no true artificial intelligence in any enterprise technology today. In fact, there is nothing close, at least not on the open market.

But we will be closer to artificial intelligence tomorrow, and in the near future, we may get to the point where the average market leading platform offers you augmented intelligence on a daily basis.

In our last article, we reviewed the common instances of the assisted intelligence technologies on the market today, namely: auto-fill, workflow automation, outlier identification and rule-based auto-award identification.

However, this is just the beginning of what you should have as a sourcing professional, especially considering what's coming in AI Tomorrow. For example, if you go back to our series in AI in Procurement Tomorrow, you know that soon you will have technologies to prevent overspend, buy on your behalf invisibly, buy automatically, identify opportunities while you sleep, identify new categories before you know of their existence and identify procurement methodologies for success.

But these improvements will spill over into the sourcing domain as well. In Tomorrowland, as a buyer, you will also have augmented intelligence technologies that will allow for:

* Event-Based Category Alignment — not just new category detection * Market-based Sourcing Strategy Identification — not just the right methodology for procurement * Automatic Strategic Sourcing Events — not just auto-buy from a catalog or contract * Suggested Award Scenarios — not just canned options

And it will make your buying life much more efficient. But how?

Artificial Intelligence in Sourcing Today (The Situation Now)

Not that long ago we ran a six-part series on AI in Procurement (Today Part I and Part II; Tomorrow Part I, Part II, Part III; and The Day After Tomorrow). By the time we defined the levels of AI today, what will be possible in the future and just how far AI in procurement will take you, you probably thought that was all there was too it and were impatiently awaiting the day when your "best of breed" applications would catch up.

The reality is that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

When your platform provider (or, if necessary, your future platform provider) catches up and starts offering you modern capabilities, those capabilities should extend well beyond procurement and spill over into multiple areas of S2P, including sourcing.

So to whet your appetite about what should be coming next, and to make sure your provider knows that you know what should be coming next (and will be holding them accountable), in this series we're going to dive into the applications of AI in sourcing and discuss what is available today, what is coming tomorrow — and what is in your strategic buying future.

TenderEasy: Vendor Introduction, Analysis and SWOT

trucking

Despite the current tide of populism, the growing globalization of businesses and, thus, corporate supply chains is a trend no procurement organization can ignore.

Alongside this push into new markets for both sales and production comes a need to more effectively procure transportation because moving commodities or finished goods between facilities, like factories or distribution centers, and their final destinations has become more complex. Add to this a litany of procurement-specific obstacles to effective freight sourcing and management — from a dearth of qualified internal resources to sparse, inaccurate data about freight spend — and the challenge becomes even more daunting.

This combination of logistics category complexity and insufficient procurement capability to manage it is what originally gave rise to the sourcing optimization solutions that most North American organizations are familiar with.

Trade Extensions (now Coupa Sourcing Optimization), CombineNet (now Jaggaer Advanced Sourcing Optimization) and Keelvar (one of the few independent sourcing vendors that currently supports bid optimization) all got their starts enabling logistics procurement across thousands of lanes. As they grew, however, each of these vendors evolved their solutions to support additional categories beyond freight, enabling larger and more complex scenarios while leaving other elements of the transportation equation (like execution) to other technology providers.

TenderEasy, a 14-year-old firm that launched its SaaS solution for freight procurement in 2012, has taken the opposite approach. Rather than expand its sourcing optimization capabilities beyond logistics, TenderEasy has doubled down on freight, positioning itself as the entry point to a broader transportation management ecosystem. It committed to this strategy in 2018 when it became part of the Alpega Group, a global logistics software company that offers end-to-end solutions for transport needs, including not only freight sourcing but also access to freight exchanges and transportation management systems.

Leveraging this network of transportation solutions, Stockholm-based TenderEasy is hoping to bring its Europe-centric expertise across the Atlantic — the company already counts Heinz, adidas Group and British American Tobacco (BAT) as clients — taking on incumbent sourcing optimization vendors in the process.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Introduction offers a candid take on TenderEasy and its capabilities. It includes an overview of TenderEasy’s offering, a breakdown of what is comparatively good (and not so good) about the solution, a SWOT analysis and a selection requirements checklist for companies that might consider the provider.

Wax Digital: Vendor Snapshot (Part 3) — Summary and Competitive Analysis

We can count on two hands the number of independent source-to-pay providers left in the global market with sufficient breadth and depth of capabilities to fully earn the moniker of “suite provider.” Wax Digital is one of them. But don’t fret if you’ve not encountered them yet.

In Part One of this Vendor Snapshot, we introduced you to the firm — a source-to-pay provider from the UK that you may not be familiar with, especially since it has not yet participated in SolutionMap (although that changes this quarter). Then in Part Two, we dove in deep and examined, in detail, all of the strengths and weaknesses of this widely deployed source-to-pay platform that is just becoming known in North America.

Wax Digital is a particular provider to note among others, as it one of the few providers that offers a relatively complete, integrated, source-to-pay offering on one code base that is already used globally in over 100 countries. Maybe vendors tout “one platform” when in fact their solutions do not work as seamlessly together as claimed.

Now, today, in our third and final installment in this Vendor Snapshot series, we provide a SWOT overview of Wax Digital as a whole, a comparative and competitive market overview, and provide some final summary analysis and recommendations for organizations that might consider Wax Digital as a potential solution partner.

AI in Procurement: The Day After Tomorrow

SciQuest

Spend Matters has been exploring the state of artificial intelligence in procurement. Before we look into the future, let’s see where we’re at now. We started with AI in Procurement Today (Part 1 and Part 2), which was followed by AI in Procurement Tomorrow (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). This leads one to ask, what comes next? A number of vendors are already working on the tomorrow features and a few even have some in beta.

We aren't going to look too far into future because we want to stick to capabilities you should see in the next decade. So here’s a representative list of some of the more common features coming down the pipe. You should expect to see:

  • Tail spend elimination
  • Guided procurement
  • Performance improvement

AI in Procurement Tomorrow (Part 3): Category Wizards Will Save Time, Add Strategic Muscle

In this series, Spend Matters delves into the status of artificial intelligence, with a focus on how AI can improve the sourcing and procuring process. Today the technology is really “assisted intelligence,” which was detailed in our precursor series: AI in Procurement Today, Part 1 and Part 2). The technology of tomorrow promises the “augmented intelligence” that we are discussing in this series, as some vendors already have limited beta capabilities. In the first two articles, we discussed how tomorrow's systems are going to help considerably with overspend protection and how "ninjabots" can crunch data on buying and automatic opportunity identification. In this article, we'll consider “category wizards” and how they can put a halt to manual tasks — like defining/assessing categories and choosing the best procurement process — thereby adding strategic prowess for even the lowest of buyers.

AI In Procurement Tomorrow (Part 2): Ninjabots and Augmented Intelligence

In this series we are discussing artificial intelligence, with AI touted by many a salesperson. Virtually every vendor is claiming AI, even though it’s a stretch to promote having a fully functioning model. However, if you are willing to settle for “assisted intelligence,” that AI exists today (as per our precursor series that you can read here: AI in Procurement Today, Part 1 and Part 2), and it won't be long before we have the “augmented intelligence” that we are discussing in this series, as some vendors already have limited beta capabilities (that are typically restricted to a subset of categories) in many of these areas. In our last article, we discussed how tomorrow's systems are going to help considerably with overspend protection. In today's article, we'll consider “ninjabots” and dive into invisible buying, automatic buying and automatic opportunity identification.

AI in Procurement Tomorrow (Part 1): Recap and Overspend Prevention Examples

As we highlighted in our earlier series on AI in Procurement Today (see Part 1 and Part 2), artificial intelligence is the buzzword — or, more precisely, the buzz acronym — du jour in procurement software. Virtually every vendor these days is either claiming to have AI or to be working on it, even if all the vendor has, or is working on, is robotic process automation (RPA).

Whether your vendor has AI or not, however, is not the most pressing question. Because AI is coming, possibly faster than you think. Moreover, if you don't adopt (at least the precursor) technology today, your procurement organization may be left in the dust tomorrow.

Wax Digital: Vendor Snapshot (Part 2) — Product Strengths and Weaknesses

In Part 1, we introduced you to Wax Digital, a source-to-pay provider from the UK that you may not be familiar with, especially since it has not yet participated in Solution Map (although that changes this quarter). Wax Digital is a provider of note as it is one of the few providers that has a relatively complete, integrated, source-to-pay offering on one code base that is already used globally in over 100 countries. In our last article, we overviewed some of the key parts of Wax Digital’s platform. In this post, we dive into its strengths and weaknesses.

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

Some vendors prefer to wax poetic. Others prefer to wax digital. One such source-to-pay provider likes waxing digital so much, that it even calls itself Wax Digital. And it is our latest source-to-pay vendor to get the in-depth PRO treatment here on Spend Matters (before its debut in Q4 SolutionMap).

By now you are all familiar with its primary source-to-pay competitors, including SAP Ariba, Coupa, Determine, GEP, iValua, Jaggaer, SynerTrade and Zycus, as they have been covered extensively on PRO and appear in the SPT & S2P solution maps, and while you are quite familiar with the American S2P providers (Ariba, Coupa, Determine, GEP, Jaggaer and Zycus) and now the European S2P providers (iValua and SynerTrade), you're likely not as familiar with their English counterparts, namely Proactis and Wax Digital, as they have not had as much exposure in recent years. And Wax Digital is definitely a provider that should make your familiarization list.

Wax Digital, which has been around for almost two decades, is one of the largest European providers of source-to-pay solutions, with users in over 100 countries around the globe. It is available in 15 languages out of the box and supports all currencies under ISO 4217 for its 250,000+ global users.

Part 1 of this analysis provides a detailed company background and detailed solution overview, as well as a summary recommended fit for when organizations should consider Wax Digital. The remaining parts of this research brief will dive into product strengths and weaknesses, competitor and SWOT analyses, and insider evaluation and selection considerations.

AI in Procurement Today (Part 2): 6 Applications in P2P

As we discussed in Part 1 of this series, AI is the reigning buzzword of the day in procurement software. Just about every enterprise vendor out there claims to have AI, even if all they have is RPA. To help procurement organizations get up to speed, we reviewed the definition of each of the technologies in the “cognitive” stack — RPA, ML, AR, AI and cognitive — and discussed how some (but definitely not all) platforms are making use of these emerging technologies to make procurement faster, better and more productive than ever before.

Specifically, in Part 1 we discussed how the right application of these assistive technologies today can give you a platform that provides true automation, smart auto-reorder of MRO/retail stock and enhanced mobile support. We also noted that there were just a few of the applications that were available. Today, we review three more capabilities that a best-of-breed procurement platform should provide to take your (tactical) procurement to the next level.

Why Community Intelligence is the Leading Coupa Value Proposition

Brexit

The Spend Matters team is on the ground at Coupa Inspire 2018 EMEA, in London, where Coupa CEO Rob Bernshteyn kicked off the event by reiterating the company’s vision through a letter-by-letter explanation of Coupa’s name. We’ve covered this approach to defining Coupa before, and while the attributes of openness, usability, prescriptive and acceleration are all of course applicable, we respectfully disagree with choice for “C.” While Coupa is indeed “comprehensive,” there is a better choice: community.