Author Archives: Nick Heinzmann



ConnXus Brings ‘Quick and Clean’ Supplier Data Cleansing to the Masses with SmartScrub: Vendor Snapshot Update

For the majority of procurement organizations today, obtaining and maintaining accurate supplier master data is a huge pain point. Most organizations still do not trust their vendor master as a single source of truth (or even have one!) — nor do they have the time or personnel to continuously validate and enrich supplier records to the degree that is necessary to create that level of trust.

One solution to this problem for the last decade or so has been to gather a list of suppliers the organization has worked with in the past year and submit the records to one of several firms that clean and enrich this data as a service for various purposes (e.g., deduplication, verification, enrichment, etc.). Among these firms is ConnXus, a best-of-breed solution provider within the Supplier Relationship Management & Risk SolutionMap category. ConnXus is best known for strong supplier diversity management and a growing set of adjacent capabilities (such as a next-generation supplier network where a supplier can register once and share its profile with any business).

As technology has improved in the market, new options for supplier master data cleansing and enrichment have turned this service into an increasingly automated process (e.g., doing so via API every time a new supplier is added). But offerings vary. Some require a license to the entire platform to use the data services, while others provide a cost-effective entry point that do not guarantee perfect results. So ConnXus, as of this week, is seeking to provide a middle ground between these two extremes: A competitively priced supplier data cleansing and enrichment subscription called SmartScrub that guarantees 98% accurate records for U.S.-based businesses returned in under 24 hours — often much faster, as the service is completely automated once users provide an uploaded template containing supplier name and valid address.

More important for procurement organizations, SmartScrub’s capabilities are available for purchase without engaging ConnXus’ supplier management solutions. And at the price points ConnXus is offering, most companies will have the ability to validate, centralize and report on diversity and industry data for thousands of records where before such solutions may have been inaccessible. Although ConnXus does aim to turn these subscribers into full customers, of course, especially as it quickly evolves its data validation capabilities into what it sees as the next logical evolution: mass supplier discovery of diverse and industry-specific vendors.

This Spend Matter Vendor Snapshot Update reviews ConnXus’ new SmartScrub subscription and explains how the supplier management vendor is taking a potentially disruptive approach to enabling MDM cleansing and virtualization. It is an addendum to our previous reviews and analyses of ConnXus:

Part 1: Background and Solution Overview
Part 2: Product Strengths and Weaknesses
Part 3: Commentary and Summary Analysis
ConnXus Envisions a Next-Generation Supplier Network With myConnXion: Vendor Snapshot Update

What Puts the ‘U’ in Coupa? Look to the FAANG Playbook on Usability

Rare is the presentation where a Coupa employee fails to reference the acronymic meaning of the company’s name. We heard this numerous times at Coupa Inspire 2019 this week in Las Vegas, and while few these days would confuse the Palo Alto cafe with the unicorn software provider, I have to admit the repeated messaging on the name has clearly sunk in with customers.

Case in point, over multiple conversations at Inspire, customers have frequently referred to the “U” — usability — as a key reason why they either signed with Coupa or have remained a client.

Mastercard Track: A Gateway to a New Kind of B2B Ecosystem (Part 2) — SWOT Analysis and Market Implications

Over a decade ago, American Express led the payments way in making innovative investments aimed at procurement organizations and their suppliers, primarily through its venture and partnership arms. (Remember MarketMile/Ketera, anyone?) But more recently, it appears that Mastercard has picked up the B2B innovation mantle, opting to organically build a solution aimed at buyers and suppliers with procurement front and center in the business case crosshairs. This new solution, Track, surprised us in multiple ways (click here for an introduction to Track), especially for its audacious supplier network vision (and we might add also for what it is not doing, at least not yet).

Is the tail of Mastercard’s new supplier network offering — comprised of a trade directory, supply risk monitoring capability and payment ledger — wagging the payments dog? The answer might surprise you. This purebred procurement solution can hunt without even hinting at the need to enable a virtual or corporate card swipe.

Indeed, with its new Track solution, Mastercard appears quite serious about the procurement and supplier management market beyond just finding creative ways of leveraging its rails to enable payments. With this new product release, Mastercard stands in contrast to American Express, among others, which still appears to be taking the same old B2B payments and financing pooch out for a walk, albeit with an updated veneer for the digital working capital era.

But before we drown in our doggy metaphors, let’s analyze what’s good — and what’s not so good — about Mastercard’s first generation Track release and what it means for procurement organizations, supporting services providers (e.g., consultancies) and the procurement technology sector as a whole.

Mastercard Track: A Gateway to a New Kind of B2B Ecosystem (Part 1) — Vendor Introduction and Solution Overview

B2B payments represent a significant opportunity for payments providers. Within the U.S. alone, Deloitte research suggests that B2B payments are expected to reach $23.1 trillion by 2020, following a 5.8% CAGR since 2014, with large enterprises accounting for more than 60% of all transaction volume. Financial institutions, however, have placed comparatively less emphasis on the B2B space in favor of B2C transactions, which in spite of their smaller relative total size present less complexity in terms of technological and process problems to solve. Yet this is beginning to change. Banks, payment providers and other institutions are doubling down on the opportunities in B2B, and some are even starting to get their foot in the door by offering software targeted toward procurement organizations. For example, Mastercard has been rolling out its new Track solution in partnership with major banks and P2P and S2P suite providers and via public demonstrations at vendor conferences like Basware Connect and Ivalua NOW. Following the integration of Track’s payment capabilities with Singapore’s Networked Trade Platform (NTP) last year, Mastercard is getting its procurement technology start in, of all things, supplier master data and risk management. This may seem like an odd fit, especially when there are other technology providers offering similar — or in some cases, far more sophisticated — tools for managing supplier data and tracking third-party risk. As many B2B “old timers” know, banks and payment networks (Mastercard included) have been trying to insert themselves into P2P processes for nearly 20 years, and the results have been a failure every time, because they were always about funneling the transactions to their payment networks in order to charge suppliers 2% to 3% processing fees. This relegated these initial efforts to tail spend and highlighted how they couldn’t add value to the broader S2P process.

But we think this solution from Mastercard actually has huge potential and will likely be a market disruptor. Why? Well, from a practitioner standpoint, what would you think of a vendor who took all your supplier master data and then ran it through its “magic engine” and then showed you all the duplicates and supplier risk warning flags — and they did this on a freemium basis? That should catch your attention. And it should catch the competitive attention of D&B, LexisNexis, supplier networks, supplier risk/intelligence providers, supplier discovery tools and others that play in this space, as well as the partnering attention of S2P application providers that want an instant supplier network partner that can do more than process low-dollar transactions on a payment network.

Mastercard is just starting the first act of a longer, platform-based play, and the question today is simple: Is this “priceless” MDM and supplier risk solution worth a look? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Because unlike other services in the space, Track takes the long view, supporting Mastercard’s aspiration to enable and connect into a global B2B ecosystem of multiple services, from business identity and risk management to payment facilitation and trade finance. And while we expect many of Track’s initial capabilities and partner offerings to evolve over time — what Mastercard has been publicly demonstrating over the past several months is more of a minimum viable product than a fully matured and battle-tested solution — the first cut is worthy of a deeper dive.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Introduction offers a candid take on Mastercard Track and its initial capabilities. Part 1 includes an introduction of Mastercard’s offering and a breakdown what the solution can (and can’t) currently do. Part 2 will provide a SWOT analysis and our key recommendations to interested parties (procurement organizations, technology providers, supporting services providers) evaluating Track as encountered through partner P2P or S2P providers.

Accrualify: Vendor Introduction (Part 3) — SWOT, Competitive Placement and Customer Recommendations

Accrualify is a new breed of finance-oriented solution that targets a range of procurement and payables processes. It is one of a handful of vendors that, especially within the middle market, can offer solutions that solve the needs of finance and procurement organizations directly. While Accrualify’s AP automation and procurement capabilities are not as robust as some, the overall package and approach could present a more attractive use case for nimble solution buyers with specific requirements in mind.

In Part 3 of Spend Matters’ PRO series examining Accrualify, we turn our attention to placing the provider in a competitive context of a new breed of solutions targeting finance and procurement, offer a strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats (SWOT) framework and conclude with recommendations for potential customers. (See Part 1 for an introduction to the provider as well as Part 2 for its solution strengths and weaknesses.)

NPI: Provider Introduction, Summary and SWOT

In a world where everything is rapidly digitizing and moving to a services-based delivery model, there is perhaps no category more difficult for businesses to manage than IT services. The more operations move to the cloud and businesses rely on major IT services providers like Microsoft, SAP and Oracle to get work done, those in charge of IT sourcing, whether that be procurement, IT or a dedicated team in a center of excellence, are encountering a higher volume of IT services purchases, more complex offerings and pricing structures to negotiate, and more risk inherent in making the wrong choice. And with worldwide IT spend projected to reach $3.8 trillion by the end of 2019, all of these issues are only expected to build on themselves.

Helping manage this situation is exactly what NPI, a consulting firm based in Atlanta, does for IT sourcing organizations. Founded in 2003, NPI helps businesses identify and eliminate overspending on IT purchases, as well as provides vendor-specific intelligence on a range of topics, including risk reduction efforts, licensing program optimization and negotiation playbooks. Its services span subscription pricing intelligence to renewal process advisory and IT sourcing transformation consulting, and the firm counts businesses as varied as Morgan Stanley, the Social Security Administration, Denver Health and Norfolk Southern as clients.

This Spend Matters PRO Provider Introduction offers an overview of NPI, including quick facts on the provider. The brief also has an introduction to each of NPI’s six business lines, an overall SWOT analysis comparing it to other procurement consultancies and a selection checklist for companies that may consider the provider.

Accrualify: Vendor Introduction (Part 2) — Product Strengths and Weaknesses

In our initial research brief on Accrualify, we introduced the four-year-old provider based out of San Mateo, California. The upstart procurement and finance technology vendor offers a unique set of technology capabilities to manage specific components of the invoice-to-pay cycle, as well as adjacent areas like basic requisitioning and broader accruals management.

The first part of this brief provided an overview of Accrualify’s offering and a short selection requirements checklist that outlined the typical company for which Accrualify might be a good fit. In today’s installment (Part 2), we provide a breakdown of what is comparatively good (and not so good) about the solution, exploring Accrualify’s “positives” and “negatives.”

3 Reasons to Love ‘Nimble’ Procurement Technology Providers

Spend Matters’ analysts have been writing personal essays on their favorite SolutionMap personas: Nimble, Deep, Turn-Key, Configurator and CIO Friendly, as well as Optimizer for sourcing providers and Global for CWS vendors. The personas help companies select which solution provider is right for them. This week’s essay is by Nick Heinzmann, an associate analyst and a former editor of Spend Matters.

Let’s be blunt: If you’re going to pay five or six figures for a software license, you’d better hope your employees actually use it. But can your technology provider guarantee that everyone who uses the system — from admins to power users to the everyday requisitioner or collaborator — will adopt it? What about enjoy it, willingly log in and encourage everyone to collaborate on the platform?

For many companies, this is easier said than done. Implementations that seem well planned on paper can quickly become nightmares. Systems with deep, powerful functionality but archaic user interfaces can scare less ambitious users back to the warm embrace of Excel.

Issues like the above and others are why I love the Nimble persona — that best at understanding the “millennial” mindset when it comes to technology. Why can’t procurement software be as fun and easy to use as apps like Instagram, Venmo and Slack?

Accrualify: Vendor Introduction (Part 1) — Background and Solution Overview

procurement

Most of the well-known solution providers in the P2P space got their start in one of two ways. They either began with improving on the e-procurement experience offered by ERP, pursuing an “Amazon-like” user experience for frontline buyers and then moving to invoicing and payments; or, they focused on the problems of invoice capture, validation and processing, expanding from AP automation to full invoice-to-pay support and later building or acquiring e-procurement functionality. Both approaches eventually allowed such providers to link the two “Ps” in P2P, bringing procurement and finance activities together under one technology roof.

Accrualify, the subject of this three-part Spend Matters PRO Vendor Introduction, has taken neither approach. Rather, the San Mateo, California-based provider started, in 2015, with tracking accruals and enabling simple B2B payments. It later built out functionality for AP automation and eventually PO management and requisitioning, giving it what we would call an almost complete P2P solution under the Spend Matters P2P SolutionMap methodology. Yet even without the catalog management and ordering functionality that would give it true e-procurement support, Accrualify has managed in four short years to build a commendable set of I2P capabilities, ones well-suited to the mid-market, as customers such as BitTorrent, Helix, FloQast, Lookout and Getaround can attest.

This Vendor Introduction series offers a candid take on Accrualify and its capabilities. The series will include an overview of Accrualify’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.

Bid Ops: Vendor Introduction, Analysis and SWOT (Part 2)

In this Spend Matters PRO Vendor Introduction, we’re introducing you to Bid Ops, a two-year-old vendor out of San Francisco that positions its cloud-based e-sourcing tool as the first AI solution for automating indirect procurement negotiations. Rather than focusing solely on serving the buyer, Bid Ops’ founders actually built the vendor side of their platform first, shaping the whole user experience around making negotiation faster, simpler and smarter. While it’s early, the solution is more RPA (robotic process automation) than AI (which is early stage assisted intelligence at best), but the vendor has notched some notable wins with big customers, claiming double-digit savings rates with the likes of Berkshire Hathaway, Los Angeles World Airports and the city of Detroit.

In the first part of this two-part series, we provided an overview of Bid Ops’ offering and a selection requirements checklist for companies that might consider the provider. In this second part, we will provide a breakdown of what is comparatively good (and not so good) about the solution and give a SWOT analysis.

Bid Ops: Vendor Introduction, Solution Overview, Selection Checklist (Part 1)

When it comes to bringing artificial intelligence into procurement software, there’s been a lot of hype and very few real advances. This is especially true of sourcing tools, which despite their potential for integrating AI and machine learning, have rarely moved beyond simple use cases like auto-fill of an RFX or automatic identification of the default award winner. And even when they have added early AI-based features into their platforms, sourcing solutions mostly focus on the application of AI to the benefit of the buyer. The suppliers on the other side of the solution — not an insignificant number of users — often have been left out of the AI conversation.

This is not the case with Bid Ops, a two-year-old vendor out of San Francisco that positions its cloud-based e-sourcing tool as the first AI solution for automating procurement negotiations using adaptive target pricing. Rather than focus solely on serving the buyer, Bid Ops’ founders actually built the vendor side of their platform first, shaping the whole user experience around making negotiation faster, simpler and more pleasant for vendors. While it’s still early days, and more RPA (robotic process automation) than AI (which is early stage assisted intelligence at best) the vendor has already notched some notable wins with big customers, claiming double-digit savings rates with the likes of Berkshire Hathaway and a Fortune 100 chemical producer.

This two-part Spend Matters PRO Vendor Introduction offers a candid take on Bid Ops and its capabilities. In this first part, we provide an overview of Bid Ops’ offering and a selection requirements checklist for companies that might consider the provider. In the next part, we will provide a breakdown of what is comparatively good (and not so good) about the solution and a SWOT analysis.

Beeline vs. Coupa Contingent Workforce: Temp Staffing/VMS Head-to-Head Comparison

The market for vendor management system (VMS) solutions has undergone two major structural shifts over the last few years.

At the end of 2016, Beeline shrank the total pool of available vendors when it merged with IQNavigator, creating the largest independent, pure play contingent workforce and services procurement technology provider by a significant margin. The two VMS solutions — now a single entity under the Beeline brand — are being converged and replatformed into a unified offering (BeelineOne) while developing innovative approaches to external workforce sourcing and management requirements. Facilitating this effort is the private equity firm New Mountain Capital, which acquired Beeline in July 2018 and has been working to strengthen Beeline’s competitive positioning, especially against the VMS market’s largest offering, SAP Fieldglass.

But in late 2018, a new competitive threat emerged, one that could turn the current “Big 2” VMS provider dynamic back into a “Big 3.” This of course was Coupa’s acquisition of DCR Workforce, which catapulted the source-to-pay suite provider (and arch competitor with SAP Ariba) into the top tiers of contingent workforce and services procurement technology capability. Coupa has branded the current and eventually integrated and replatformed capabilities as Coupa Contingent Workforce (CCW). While Coupa previously did provide baseline support for contracted-SOW services through its Services Maestro module, the acquisition allows Coupa to expand its offering and provide the same range and types of capabilities that would generally be found in leading VMS solutions. Even as the full integration of the acquired DCR capabilities will take time, CCW already poses a competitive threat to the likes of SAP Fieldglass (recently consolidated with SAP Ariba and SAP Concur in the newly formed SAP Intelligent Spend Group) — and, of course, Beeline.

The rapid evolution of the “new” Beeline and Coupa’s surprise leap into the upper tiers of the VMS market raises the question: How do the two vendors stack up in a head-to-head bout? After all, competitive matchups between the two are already becoming a more frequent event, and both help set the average functional benchmark score in Spend Matters’ Q4 2018 Temp Staffing SolutionMap. (The Q4 results are labeled Coupa but look specifically at the DCR solution pre-acquisition because the integrated Coupa-DCR solution is still pending and has not been reviewed for SolutionMap.)

Join us in this unfiltered SolutionMap results analysis from our Q4 2018 dataset as we look at the two top ranked contingent workforce/VMS providers, along with the commentary of the Spend Matters analyst team. Bear in mind, the scores/ratings in this analysis are now approximately 9 months old, and some of the score differentials may have changed — however, we have no reason to believe significantly.

These “Head-to-Head” reports share the insights of each quarterly SolutionMap report for SolutionMap Insider subscribers, providing unique comparative cuts of SolutionMap benchmark data along with the trademark quips that Spend Matters was better known for in its early years. So buckle your seat belt, prepare for some real data and expect a few sparks to fly as we pit Beeline and Coupa against each other in the vendor management system evaluation ring.

Not yet an Insider member? Here’s a preview: In certain temp staffing categories — which include Supplier Management, Candidate Evaluation/Selection/Submissions, Change Order Management, Engagement Management, On/Off-boarding, Rate Management, Requisition Creation and Approvals, Time and Expense and Worker Compliance — Beeline convincingly comes out on top. In others, it’s darn close, with Coupa coming out on top, or the two achieving a statistical tie. And in at least one area, Beeline delivers an unquestionably superior score.

Overall, the results suggest that the right solution will vary based on different organizational requirements. There’s no debate that VMS/temp staffing selection processes will reward procurement organizations that tailor provider selection to their specific needs.