Author Archives: Michael Lamoureux



Ignite Procurement: Vendor Analysis (Part 1) — Solution Overview, Strengths/Weaknesses, Tech Selection Tips

Ignite Procurement is an analytics start-up that we’ll examine in a two-part Spend Matters PRO Vendor Analysis, and it’s part of our deep dives on various analytics vendors this year.

Analytics is becoming more necessary for procurement organizations to get a handle on their spend. More and more organizations are realizing this, but few organizations have the experienced data analysts or scientists or the maturity to use a sophisticated analysis tool.

Hence the recent boom in analytics (and AI) start-ups to help the average organization — which may not even have a modern sourcing or procurement platform — get started on their analytical journey.

Ignite Procurement is one of the most recent start-ups to enter the analytics fray. While quite new, with the first version of its solution launching a mere two years ago, it's already making a significant mark in its home turf in Norway and providing value to its existing customer base that collectively manages billions in spend through the tool. Plus, it’s already doing quite well in the Spend Analytics’ Nimble category in Spend Matters’ SolutionMap for such a new market entrant.

In Part 1 of this Vendor Analysis, we will provide a company background, a brief overview the Ignite Procurement solution, key strengths and weaknesses, and tech selection tips. In Part 2, we’ll provide a detailed look at its modules, a company SWOT assessment, a look at Ignite Procurement’s competitors and the market landscape, and some final thoughts.

AnyData, making spend analytics accessible by anyone! (Or, ‘The mid-market analytics quandary’)

Analytics is front and center in the minds of every executive and practice leader these days, especially since the need for efficiency and insight is again approaching a peak as businesses of all sizes struggle with the additional pressures brought on directly and indirectly by the global coronavirus pandemic.

However, many organizations are still hesitant to pull the trigger on a new solution, and this is the case for a number of reasons:

  • Most analytics solutions still come with a significant price tag (which is impossible to justify without confidence in a quick ROI).
  • Implementation time and data-integration time are still often measured in months, adding uncertainty to the ROI calculation.
  • The upkeep is also concerning — How easy is it for the organization to refresh data and keep the system up to date?
  • And, most importantly, there is the ease of use — the vast majority of systems in the past with "analytics" capabilities have failed to deliver in this respect. (Either the built-in reports were not useful, or the report builder was too complex to allow inquiries to be answered in a reasonable amount of time.)

And the situation is exemplified in the true mid-market where:

  • Budgets are much more constrained.
  • Resources are fewer, and there are no dedicated analysts.
  • There's no budget or time for intense training.
  • Decisions need to be made fast — as survival depends on it.

In other words, a solution for the masses (small and mid-market) must be easy to use, easy to update and relatively easy to implement and initialize.

And this is just something that an average buyer/part-time analyst cannot do — and something AI can't solve either.

AnyData, a provider that has spent years building a powerful analytics platform on a rapid development stack, has taken all of the mid-market needs to heart and purpose-built one of the first solutions for the average, budding sourcing/procurement buyer and analyst that achieves all of the right goals. How so?

Vendors will never make money off optimization unless they originate the opportunity!

Editor’s note: This post from Michael Lamoureux, aka the sourcing doctor, answers Jason Busch’s counterpoint to Michael’s original post (Optimization is not optics — it’s obligatory!) that both published last Friday.

Vendors have every right to make money from buying organizations just as buying organizations have every right to make money off their customers. And vendors should make top dollar from top offerings with top ROI, but they won't unless there is a demand for those top offerings. And right now, despite the widespread need, and unequivocal value, the market is bottomed-out because there is just no demand.

And the reason there is no demand, is the vendors have not created it!

What almost all of the sourcing optimization vendors have continually failed to understand is that selling advanced tech first requires creating a need for it.

Optimization is not optics — it’s obligatory!

Optimization is making a resurgence for the third time, with a number of suite vendors recently implementing or expanding their capabilities, but will this time be the charm? It should be, especially considering the COVID-19 disruption.

In this point-counterpoint article, Spend Matters analyst Michael Lamoureux argues for optimization. And Jason Busch, Spend Matters' Founder, argues that vendors shouldn't be giving it away.

Spendata: Rewriting Spend Analysis from the Ground Up

Two years ago, we introduced you to Spendata (in our PRO Vendor Analysis Part 1 and Part 2 series) as one of the newest entrants to the spend analysis space, founded by some of the oldest veterans in the market. They've been designing and building analytics solutions for over two decades, and have already defined and redefined the market twice.

And while Spendata was again redefining the market since launch with an in-browser solution that matched the power of many best-of-breed solutions at 1/10th to 1/100th of the price tag — a solution that could be used by any procurement professional with little to no training in minutes (with easy file-based data uploads) — its recent innovation trifecta is set to truly change the game. No other vendor has any of these capabilities! (The author has evaluated dozens of leading solutions over the past two decades and has never seen anything close.)

If you’re only going to read one article on spend analysis this week, this month or this year – make it this one, as we essentially describe the new foundations for modern spend analysis.

Artificial intelligence levels show AI is not created equal. Do you know what the vendor is selling?

Just like there are eight levels to analytics as mentioned in a recent Spend Matters PRO brief, artificial intelligence (AI) has various stages of the technology today — even though there is no such thing as true AI by any standard worth its technical weight.

But just because we don’t yet have true AI doesn’t mean today’s “AI” can’t help procurement improve its performance. We just need enough computational intelligence to allow software to do the tactical and non-value-added tasks that software should be able to perform with all of the modern computational power available to us. As long as the software can do the tasks as well as an average human expert the vast majority of the time (and kick up a request for help when it doesn't have enough information or when the probability it will outperform a human expert is less than the expert performing a task) that's more than good enough.

The reality is, for some basic tactical tasks, there are plenty of software options today (e.g., "intelligent" invoice processing). And even for some highly specialized tasks that we thought could never be done by a computer, we have software that can do it better, like early cancerous growth detection in MRIs and X-rays.

That being said, we also have a lot of software on the market that claims to be artificial intelligence but that is not even remotely close to what AI is today, let alone what useful software AI should be. For software to be classified as AI today, it must be capable of "artificial learning" and "evolving its models or codes" and improve over time.

So, in this PRO article, we are going to define the levels of AI that do exist today, and that may exist tomorrow. This will allow you to identify what truth there is to the claims that a vendor is making and whether the software will actually be capable of doing what you expect it to.

Not counting true AI, there are five levels of AI that are available today or will likely be available tomorrow:

  • Level 0: Applied Indirection
  • Level 1: Assisted Intelligence
  • Level 2: Augmented Intelligence
  • Level 3: Cognitive Intelligence
  • Level 4: Autonomous Intelligence

Let’s take a look at each group.

Xeeva: Vendor Analysis (Part 3) — In-Depth Solution Overview

PaaS

In this third and final part of our Spend Matters PRO Vendor Analysis of Xeeva, we provide a complete overview of each main module of the Xeeva offering, which covers most areas of an S2P suite. Part 1 of the series focused on solution strengths and weaknesses, and Part 2 focused on Xeeva’s competitors and the technology market that they’re in.

Today, we’ll look at Xeeva’s suite, which has four main components: spend analytics, data enrichment, sourcing, and procure-to-pay (P2P). These are powered by the XVA platform and the Xeeva Marketplace.

In this final section of our coverage, we will provide an overview of each of these modules, as well as the supplier information capabilities of the Xeeva Marketplace. Data enrichment is, in practice, an add-on to the analytics offering, so we will cover these together.

Xeeva: Vendor Analysis (Part 2) — SWOT, Competitors & Market Overview, Tech Selection Tips

A competitive analysis on Xeeva is difficult because the source-to-pay provider doesn't just compete against the handful of players trying to bring machine learning and AI to the S2P space. It also takes on all of the traditional source-to-pay vendors who offer modern sourcing experiences, especially if they are augmented with market intelligence, best practices, community intelligence or other modern "guided" capabilities that can help a buyer make a better decision. That's basically what buyers are looking for and what AI-enabled or "cognitive" intelligence is supposed to deliver. So this essentially puts Xeeva head-to-head with the majority of the big S2P suite players that all have at least one of these capabilities.

However, we will do our best to analyze Xeeva’s competitors. In Part 2, we also will provide a SWOT assessment and an overview of the competitive landscape in which Xeeva plays.

In Part 1 of this Spend Matters PRO Vendor Analysis, we focused on Xeeva’s company details, a brief solution overview, and its solution’s strengths and weaknesses. In our third and final installment, we will provide a more in-depth overview of Xeeva’s platform capabilities.

Xeeva: Vendor Analysis (Part 1) — Company Background, Solution Strengths/Weaknesses

SpendLead

The source-to-pay space is starting to get crowded. While it was only a dream a scant decade ago, with a couple of providers offering minimal S2C or P2P suites, in the last five years we've gone from just a few players to more than 10 that now compete with more or less complete S2P suites. One of these vendors is Xeeva.

Xeeva, although founded in 2014, is just now hitting the procurement scene because it launched with a very ambitious plan — AI-powered procurement that can, in certain categories, identify the best procurement opportunities and automatically execute on them. Basically, like LevaData, Xeeva wants to be one of the first players in the “cognitive procurement” domain and help you do your job, by doing more of the practical procurement process for you. But it takes time and patience to master your game if you are a sly wolf.

However, the areas in which the solution can do your work for you is limited to a select set of indirect categories where they have enough data to recommend a good decision. To determine if a buy is good, you need to know what the organization has been spending, what the current market — and negotiated — prices are now, what the organizational demand is projected to be, and if current prices coincide with what is expected based upon community intelligence.

To support this vision, Xeeva has built a nearly full S2P suite with sourcing, supplier information management (SIM), procurement, and, of course, deep AI-powered analytics technology.

In this Spend Matters PRO Vendor Analysis, we will debut a new order of information for the entire three-part series to better help readers who are doing tech selection. The strengths and weaknesses will now be in Part 1 instead of Part 2. The second installment will provide a company SWOT and a market analysis of competitors, which was typically in the last part. Now, Part 3 will be the detailed solution overview, giving readers interested in the vendor very specific details and capabilities.

Today’s focus on Xeeva will still provide company details and a brief solution overview — but it will mainly examine strengths and weaknesses. In Part 2, we will provide a SWOT assessment and an overview of the competitive landscape in which Xeeva plays. In our third and final installment, we will provide a more in-depth overview of Xeeva’s platform capabilities.

The basics of analytics: 8 levels — and the AI leverage

Analytics is hot. In many organizations, analytics has gone from a "nice to have sometime in the future" to a "we need real-time, AI-backed predictive analytics yesterday to stem the flow of red."

But, as we've said before, not all analytics is created equal, and understanding what you are considering and what it can — and cannot — do is becoming more important than ever.

So in this Spend Matters PRO piece we're going to provide a short refresher on the levels of analytics — what they are, what to expect and what not to expect from each of them.

There are eight levels to analytics, and current solutions fall somewhere in the first seven. The majority offer functionality firmly contained in the first four levels, with only the minority truly offering full Level 5 functionality or higher.

We’ll also review some example functionality to help you understand what is, and isn't, out there and give you some guidance on how to compare the different platforms (and whether what a vendor is offering is sufficient for your organizational needs).

AnyData Solutions: Vendor Analysis 2020 Update (Part 3) — SWOT, Competitor Comparisons, Tech Selection Tips

AnyData Solutions competes in a fragmented market for spend analytics. Yet unlike many of its peers, it is not a common procurement vendor name. But with better awareness, it could be a strong analytics competitor globally, especially considering how the solution packs a powerful one-two functional and pricing punch.

From a functional standpoint, AnyData’s rapid visual development framework can enable customers to go beyond spend analysis use cases to create custom, domain-specific analytics solutions (e.g., analytics-centric contract lifecycle management and supplier performance management reporting and capability). Combined with AnyData’s low-cost pricing models (a fraction of the cost of other solutions under most scenarios), it should make the solution a shortlist candidate for just about any size organization needing a spend analytics platform that wants the option to move beyond the basics.

This third and final installment of this Spend Matters PRO Vendor Analysis provides an objective SWOT analysis of AnyData and looks at its competitors and the market they inhabit. It also includes recommended shortlist candidates as alternative vendors to AnyData, and offers provider selection guidance. Finally, it provides summary analysis and recommendations for companies considering AnyData. Part 1 provided an in-depth look at AnyData as a firm and its solution overview. Part 2 offered a detailed analysis of its solution strengths and weaknesses.

AnyData Solutions: Vendor Analysis 2020 Update (Part 2) — Product Strengths & Weaknesses

InnoCentive

Part 2 of this Spend Matters PRO Vendor Analysis update explores the strengths and weaknesses of AnyData’s spend analytics and contract management solution, providing facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations and other customers decide whether AnyData is the right fit for their needs.

Since our 2017 review, AnyData has added a strength: metric definition and management. And it improved on old strengths, like rapid configuration and ease of use. Also its visualization engine is sharper, faster and more configurable by the end user. Areas for improvement include more marketing and industry customization. We’ll discuss all of these and more later.

As we indicated in Part 1, AnyData Solutions is not just a stand-alone spend analytics toolset that includes “the basics.” Rather, it is a stand-alone platform for capturing, managing, sharing and collaborating on structured datasets of any type — which can come from flat files, spreadsheets, databases, live API feeds, documents scanned by OCR and just about any data source you can think of.

As an end-to-end analytics platform, AnyData is quite different from other approaches to spend analytics on the market today. On many levels, AnyData is closer to the data-centric heritage of BIQ, or the newer Spendata solution (founded by a BIQ co-Founder), as it is fundamentally a self-service analytics solution, compared with the vast majority of spend analytics providers, which prefer to handle cleansing and classification activities “as a service,” even if they offer to sell the classification engine separately (which rarely happens).

The first installment of this three-part series provided a company and solution overview and a recommended fit list of criteria for firms considering AnyData. Part 3 will offer a company SWOT analysis, a look at AnyData’s competitors and a user selection guide.