Author Archives: Michael Lamoureux



Creactives: Vendor Analysis (Part 1) — Solution overview, strengths/weaknesses, tech selection tips

Creactives solution

In this two-part Spend Matters PRO series, we will overview Creactives' unique technologies and capabilities that make it a vendor that every global multinational sourcing direct materials should be considering as part of their overall source-to-pay and/or supply chain technology arsenal.

While there are a large number of traditional solutions for material master data management (MMDM) and a similarly large number of analytics solutions with artificial intelligence (AI) auto-classification, most of the traditional MMDM solutions don't use advanced machine learning (ML) and AI. Most of the analytics solutions with AI have been trained on indirect data sets for the purpose of spend, and not material, classification. There are few MMDM or analytics solutions that were built specifically for automatic part and material classification — and fewer still for real-time classification and maintenance during the procurement cycle.

This is why Creactives is one of the most interesting players in the source-to-pay (S2P) space to hit the global procurement solutions scene. Its approach, combined with its almost two decades of experience in material classification using advanced knowledge engineering technology (ML, AI, semantic technology, deep learning, etc.), make it a unique provider — especially when you consider its real-time ability to classify and search parts and materials in over 25 languages.

Part 1 focuses on company background, solution strengths/weaknesses and tech selection tips. Part 2 gives a deep look at the solution, a list of Creactives' competitors and a detailed company SWOT analysis.

Creactives: Vendor Analysis (Part 2) — Deep solution overview, SWOT, Creactives competitors, summary

Creactives competitors

In this Spend Matters PRO article, we continue our introduction to Creactives, one of the most interesting players to hit the global procurement solutions scene in almost a decade.

Unlike traditional solutions for material master data management (MMDM), Creactives uses advanced AI-based knowledge engineering technology for classification. And, unlike the majority of spend analytics technology today, it uses specially designed disk-based processing for dealing with large data sets. Plus, its ability to be integrated into third-party S2P/supply-chain solutions for real-time product search and identification across multi-lingual global ERP/database instances makes it incredibly useful for multinationals that need to get a grip on their material master data.

Part 1 focuses on company background, solution strengths/weaknesses and tech selection tips.

Now, let’s examine Creactives’ solution, a company SWOT and Creactives’ competitors.

Robobai: Vendor Analysis (Part 2) — Product deep dive, SWOT, Robobai competitors, analyst summary

Robobai competitors

Spend Matters’ two-part PRO Vendor Analysis will shed light on Robobai’s capabilities and competitors. Part 2 will provide a deep dive on solution features, a company SWOT and an analyst summary.

It’s not easy to KYS, or know your supplier. It’s more than a conversation, a historical transaction analysis, a few questionnaires or D&B financial risk assessment. Large organizations produce lots (and lots) of goods and services, employ thousands of people, operate in dozens or hundreds of locations. When you get down and dirty into the corner of the warehouses and basement offices that power that organization, that business doesn’t always deliver the same level of performance, security or legality you might expect from your one interaction between a buyer and a seller buying local consulting services from the consultants down the street.

In order to truly know your supplier, you need a broad internal view — from transactions, contracts, quality and service KPIs. You also need employee feedback on the relationship and a broad external view — from third-party risk assessors across the spectrum, detailed (and vetted) questionnaires, advanced risk and performance models, and supply chain insights (since you can have a squeaky clean supplier using a tier 2 supplier that is doing some shady activities in Asia and Africa (and paying off government officials to look the other way while it forces labor in unsafe factories).

That’s why it’s good to see a provider try to take an integrated view of the problem and build an analytics-powered platform that consolidates the internal view — supplier information, performance, contracts and transactions — with the external view — surveys, third-party risk and intelligence feeds — and expertly built models to help an organization get a fuller view of what’s going on, and what should result in development efforts or investigations.

Part 1 covered Robobai’s solution overview, strengths/weaknesses, tech selection tips.

Let’s dive deeper into Robobai’s competitors and capabilities that the Australian firm has down-under to serve Australasia and North America.

Robobai: Vendor Analysis (Part 1) — Solution overview, strengths/weaknesses, tech selection tips

Robobai solution

Robobai, a relatively new entrant to the source-to-contract arena, realized the best way to do supplier risk, or know-your-supplier (KYS), is to build an analytics-backed supplier management platform that could track and analyze spend, performance, commitments (contracts) and risk. So the Australian firm built an analytics-backed KYS platform that could also support the creation and calculation of customized risk models using organizational data, survey responses and integrated third-party feeds (with easy API integration).

In addition, one of the co-founders is an old pro in applied analytics in big corporates, where he was a data analyst and category manager. He saw firsthand that most team members couldn’t efficiently classify data with the majority of first- and second-generation platforms and realized that AI was needed — but not the AI where you could only fix a mistake after the monthly data warehouse update.

So Robobai decided to build a multi-level staged AI auto-class model where a buyer administrator could “correct maps” and relaunch the classification process in real time. It lets you not only re-classify the identified transactions but improve the client-specific classifier(s) to prevent future mis-maps.

It’s a better approach than most of their AI-only peers that are fully AI-autoclass and can’t fix until the monthly refresh, that rely on limited post-classification mappings that result in rule proliferation, or that use temporary mappings that disappear and have to be recreated if the AI autoclass isn’t appropriately re-trained.

Robobai’s out-of-the-box KYS is quite powerful too. It has pre-built risk models that look for adverse media and sanctions, modern slavery, financial risk, and cyber and data problems. It works on pre-built surveys and, if licensed, pre-integrated data feeds from almost 20 risk providers. The out-of-the-box risk insights into your supply base are quite extensive, especially for Australian clients where the majority of the supply base is already measured in the Robobai platform.

Outside of a mega-suite vendor, it’s one of the best platforms for analytics/contract (metadata/execution) management/risk-backed supplier information and performance we’ve seen with respect to a completeness of vision and breadth of capability. Robobai is definitely worth taking a look at now that it is in Australia and the US, with the EU in its sights.

This two-part Spend Matters PRO Vendor Analysis will shed light on Robobai’s solution and capabilities. Part 1 will give a company overview, a broad look at its solution, detailed product strengths/weakness, and tips for tech selection. Part 2 will provide a deep dive on solution features, a company SWOT, a look at Robobai competitors and an analyst summary.

A post-merger technology integration handbook: To maintain or not to maintain?

After an M&A event, technology integration provides a significant opportunity to create the proverbial 1+1=3 product and solution synergies that the transactions are often founded on. Yet all too often, integration planning (and execution) comes up short. Part of the problem is that while vendors may sometimes say solutions are truly integrated to customers and prospects after a period of time, there are no standard definitions as to what integration actually means.

In a previous Spend Matters PRO series covering this topic, we attempted to remedy this by defining five specific stages of post-merger technology integration, especially from a technology-buyer perspective, given the relative ease with which a buyer could be confused or accidentally misled.

See:

Today, we continue our analysis with a research brief of particular note for technology vendors — especially technology and product leaders — who are going through or considering bringing different technology stacks together, especially where there is product overlap. We explore the different options available for bringing disparate technologies together, and the importance of making often-challenging decisions as quickly as possible.

Let’s begin.

Supplyframe DirectSource: Vendor Analysis (Part 2) — Deep dives on NPI, DirectSource; SWOT; Supplyframe competitors

Supplyframe competitors

Supplyframe is a very interesting provider that positions itself as a full-suite supply chain and source-to-pay solution in the high-tech electronics industry. It is one of the few providers to provide both buy-side and sell-side solutions — and do so in a way that allows it to mine, and provide, relative intelligence to each side. Plus, it is able to build a proprietary RiskRank on this data that provides more accurate risk insights to the electronic components in its database than any other risk provider on the planet (provided you know what the RiskRank means and how to use it).

This Spend Matter PRO Vendor Analysis provides facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations determine if Supplyframe’s NPI and DirectSource solutions is the right fit for their needs. It offers a detailed product walkthrough and analyst perspectives on Supplyframe competitors like LevaData and more than a dozen other alternative providers to consider in an evaluation alongside it. For more information on Supplyframe, be sure to read Part 1’s Supplyframe background, strengths/weaknesses and tech selection tips.

Supplyframe DirectSource: Vendor Analysis (Part 1) — Solution overview, strengths/weaknesses, tech selection tips

Supplyframe solution

Supplyframe is a provider that resists easy classification. It overlaps several areas in the traditional source-to-pay process, yet it is also a large "niche" player that positions itself as a full-suite supply chain and S2P solution for the high-tech electronics industry.

This is because Supplyframe serves not only manufacturers but also suppliers and their distributors. By doing so, it knows which companies have desired inventory, where it is and when to serve it up to buyers in need — creating a unique supply chain solution and an industry-focused direct materials sourcing solution. Plus, it's a design solution.

How does Supplyframe accomplish all of this?

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Analysis provides facts and expert insights to help procurement organizations determine if Supplyframe’s DirectSource solution is the right fit for their needs. It offers context on what Supplyframe is, the customers it serves and an overview of its solutions, along with a comparative assessment of strengths and weaknesses that organizations should consider.

The 5 Levels of M&A Technology Integration: Stage 5 Replatforming

replatforming

Stage 5 integration is the ultimate step in M&A software integration. Few technology companies end up achieving Stage 5 integration following an acquisition or set of acquisitions. It’s actually more common in the case of a tech firm taking an internal legacy platform and rebuilding capability onto a new one. This is something hundreds of technology firms had to do in the case of transitioning enterprise technology (i.e., software installed behind the firewall and often heavily customized) to cloud-based models. SAP Ariba, Jaggaer, Oracle, Medius, Basware and dozens of other providers did precisely this over the past two decades (some more recently than others).

In this Spend Matters PRO series, we are defining, introducing and exploring the five levels of M&A technology integration that vendors must go through when bringing together different modules and platforms. We should note, however, that bringing together different applications and technology stacks is not a requirement of any acquisition. But anytime a technology provider wants to market and achieve customer synergies through a transaction outside of “cross-sell/up-sell,” the degree of integration planned, its timing and ultimate realization should be a priority for investors and customers alike.

Today, we explore the fifth and final level of integration that occurs in a post-merger situation or when vendors replatform old technology onto a new stack while still having to maintain existing solution capability on the legacy platform. From a vendor perspective, we define how to do it and provide examples of this type of integration. And from a user perspective, we suggest tips and tricks for technology buyers to discern this level of integration compared with others.

If you’re new to this series and want to learn the five levels of integration, start with this introduction. In the previous installments, we cover Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3 and Stage 4 integration levels in detail.

What the Jason Alexander hoodie ad teaches us about the past and future of spend analytics capabilities

jason alexander

One of our favorite Super Bowl advertisements this year was the Jason Alexander “hoodie” — a totally hilarious plug for Tide. Any true “Seinfeld” fan knows that you’re usually laughing at George Costanza, not with him, but somehow you feel sorry for the guy, at least part of the time, which is precisely why this commercial is so effective. While you want to see George get what he deserves most of the time, it just feels wrong to dishonor the short man or beat him up after a certain point, which is why the Super Bowl ad is such a work of genius — it doesn’t stop.

George is a bit like spend analytics in the broader source-to-pay world, at least some of the time. It’s a bit of a sideshow, even if it shouldn’t be. And sometimes, at least in the worst of cases, we have to laugh at it, not with it — like when it tells us we’re buying mice, not furry lab mice! But just like the hoodie, if we can laugh at it or at least acknowledge its flaws in terms of where analytics’ value generation typically comes up short, we will end up respecting the potential for it even more in the end.

Now, we’re not saying that a typical procurement organization cannot get value out of a spend analytics solution. Many provide material value to their clients, at least power users, and have for some time. Most users, in fact, do extract value for their investment in these tools. But like a Jason Alexander hoodie, until you just come to accept the technology for what it is, you might find yourself disrespecting what you’ve actually bought.

Said more directly, you’re likely to not get (nearly) as much value out of your analytics solution as you should, and not getting this value will cost you more than you realize — maybe even multiples of what you are paying for a solution that is supposed to identify, and help you prevent, overspending.

Here’s why.

The 5 Levels of M&A Technology Integration: Stage 4 UX Integration/Replication

ux integration

When we introduced Stage 3 technology integration (data model integration) in a post M&A vendor environment, we dropped a Monty Python reference as a metaphor for the challenges of achieving this level of unification. But for Stage 4, we need to extend our cinematic and television metaphors to the next level and go, with apologies to Star Trek, Where No Man Has Gone Before. Well, that is not entirely true, but generally, only a minority of technology firms achieve Stage 4 integration: UX Integration/Replication (on top of a single data model).

In this Spend Matters PRO series, we are defining, introducing and exploring the five levels of M&A technology integration that vendors must go through when bringing together different modules and platforms. We should note, however, that integrating different applications and technology stacks is not a requirement of any acquisition. But any time a technology provider wants to market and achieve customer synergies through a transaction outside of “cross-sell/up-sell” the degree of integration planned, its timing and ultimate realization should be a priority for investors and customers alike.

Today, we explore the fourth level of integration that occurs in a post-merger situation or when vendors replatform old technology onto a new stack while still having to maintain existing solution capability on the legacy platform. From a vendor perspective, we define how to do it and provide examples of this type of integration. And from a user perspective, we suggest tips and tricks for technology buyers to discern this level of integration compared with others.

If you’re new to this series and want to learn the five levels of integration, start with this introduction. In the previous installments, we cover Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 integration levels in detail.

The 5 Levels of M&A Technology Integration: Stage 3

Data model integration

For many on the M&A integration front lines who are tasked with getting product synergies from combined assets of different firms, data model integration often appears high on the post-merger/acquisition grail quest. The same sentiment would likely echo from customers, at least those who have gone through a vendor consolidation in the past. But, in fact, data model integration is only Stage 3 (out of 5 stages) of post-acquisition technology integration — it’s the mid-point! And with apologies, to the Monty Python crew, that’s no ordinary rabbit!

In this Spend Matters PRO series, we are defining, introducing and exploring the five levels of M&A technology integration that vendors must go through when bringing together different modules and platforms. We should note, however, that bringing together different applications and technology stacks is not a requirement of any acquisition. But anytime a technology provider wants to market and achieve customer synergies through a transaction outside of “cross-sell/up-sell” the degree of integration planned, its timing and ultimate realization should be a priority for investors and customers alike.

Today, we explore the third level of integration that occurs in a post-merger situation or when vendors replatform old technology onto a new stack while still having to maintain existing solution capability on the legacy platform. From a vendor perspective, we define how to do it and provide examples of this type of integration. And from a user perspective, we suggest tips and tricks for technology buyers to discern this level of integration compared with others.

If you’re new to this series and want to learn the five levels of integration, start with this introduction., which fully explains the partially obscured chart below.



In the previous installments, we covered Stage 1 and Stage 2 integration levels in detail.

EC Sourcing: Vendor Analysis, 2021 update (Part 3) — SWOT, EC Sourcing Competitors, Tech Selection Tips, Analyst Summary

EC Sourcing

This final installment of our updated three-part Spend Matters PRO Vendor Analysis of EC Sourcing series provides a company SWOT assessment, a look at EC Sourcing’s competitors and how the provider compares to competing vendors that customers may wish to shortlist. This post also includes a user selection guide and summary evaluation.

There is a lot of competition in the e-sourcing and strategic sourcing suite marketplace today.

Granted, while new market entrants have largely if not entirely replaced some of the legacy providers from a decade or more ago, the amount of choice procurement organizations have in selecting a provider has never been greater.

EC Sourcing is one such provider that companies — especially those in the middle market — may wish to add to their shortlists, not just for core sourcing and negotiation but to enable basic category management support and upstream (non-transactional) suite capability.

Part 1 and Part 2 of this analysis provide a company and solution overview (with info on the BidMode integration), product strengths and weaknesses, and a recommended fit analysis for what types of organizations should consider EC Sourcing.

Now, let’s take a deeper look at EC Sourcing and how it sits in the procurement technology market.