Author Archives: Pierre Mitchell

About Pierre Mitchell

Pierre leads Spend Matters procurement research activities and has broader solution development responsibilities for intellectual property creation and firm strategy as Managing Director of Azul Partners. This includes spearheading efforts to build new types of interactive and social communities of interest within the procurement profession including overseeing the evolution of, Spend Matters PRO, MetalMiner, and other digital assets within Azul Partner’s umbrella. Pierre has 25 years of procurement and supply chain industry and consulting experience, and is a recognized procurement expert specializing in supply processes, practices, metrics, and enabling tools and services. He is a regular contributor to business publications, a frequent presenter at industry events around the world, and counts himself fortunate to have served and interacted with so many CPOs and future CPOs. Prior to his positions in research and advisory, he led numerous operations and systems transformations at Fortune 500 organizations. Industry positions include manufacturing project manager at The Timberland Company, materials manager at Krupp Companies and engineer at EG&G Torque Systems. He holds an engineering degree from Southern Methodist University and an MBA from the University of Chicago. In the early 2000's, Pierre was the first supply chain practitioner to become a procurement "industry analyst" as the VP of supply management research at AMR Research (now part of the Gartner Group) where he provided trusted counsel to procurement executives, business leadership, IT, and the solution providers who serve them. Most recently, he was the head of procurement research and adjunct business advisor at The Hackett Group, where he helped expand Hackett's procurement benchmarks and research studies while growing the Procurement Executive Advisory Program into a gold standard membership-based procurement advisory service in the market today.

Rethinking and Reclaiming “Tail Spend”: 6 Key Variables to Consider

AnyData Solutions

The idea of “tail spend” doesn’t seem very complicated at first.

Run a Pareto analysis on your spend categories and suppliers to make a cutoff at, say, the 80% that represent only 20% of your spend. Your numbers will, of course, vary, but the idea is to find a way to better manage such “nuisance” low-dollar spend that doesn’t detract from your efficiency, or worse yet, from spending time managing the truly strategic spend categories more deeply.

You might think of this as the spend in the lower-left quadrant of the famous Kraljic 2x2 matrix, which describes a strategy of “purchasing management” to manage non-critical, abundant supply that can be sourced locally in a de-centralized manner for maximum efficiency. And, maybe, if you manage this nuisance spend properly, you can even extract some value from it (e.g., a “quick source” process to gain some speedy spend savings).

Sounds straightforward, right?

Well, it’s not, and I have purposefully led you astray to prove a point.

The problem is that I never really defined tail spend in the first place – and if you can’t define it or see/measure it, you can’t manage it. And herein lies the rub (and the opportunity):

Tail spend could better be described as “nuisance spend” or “tactical spend,” and is comprised of many sub-segments — not just one or two.

Let’s return to our examples above. Segmenting on a spend-per-supplier basis, like in our Pareto diagram, is by no means perfect. What about low-spend, sole-source suppliers tied to large revenue or profit? OK, well, you might then refer to the Krajlic matrix as the solution. It’s better, because it helps profile the categories into complexity vs. impact (or risk vs. reward if you view it as such), but again, these are only two variables, and do not factor in any others.

Which ones? Let’s list six of them and ask whether you’d consider the resulting spend segments as ‘tail spend,’ or at least ‘nuisance spend.'

Rethinking Sourcing Suites and Their Sub Components — Gartner’s 2017 Magic Quadrant

Gartner recently came out with their 2017 Magic Quadrant for Strategic Sourcing Application Suite review. There was material movement from this year’s quadrant compared to the previous one that was published two years ago, and in this post we offer our commentary on it.

Without question, Gartner has some of the best minds in the technology research sector. But given the pace of technology providers’ innovation, our perspective is that the notion of publishing a report every two years is not terribly useful outside of the point-in-time snapshot — which may in fact be six months old by the time a report is published — that a comparative analysis provides. In the end, for better or worse, the Magic Quadrant becomes ubiquitous with IT professionals to shortlist vendors (and sometimes more) and often a CYA for procurement.

ERP or Best-of-Breed? (Part 6): Making the Decision in Contract Lifecycle Management

There’s no perfectly prescriptive guidance we can offer, but, generally, if you want more flexibility to chart your own destiny in managing more complex supply chains and services networks, you want to focus heavily on your own native supply analytics (which can use third-party analytics solution providers, of course).

This way, you’ll be able to switch out the workflow execution apps as needed where you use BoB suites (e.g., source-to-pay suites) or “mini suites” (e.g., CLM) to manage the hard stuff — and also use ERP to manage the easier stuff until that day when ERP may eventually catch up.

The “hard stuff” isn’t just advanced industry-specific processes, but also just the richer data models that are required to support the advanced analytics that are part-and-parcel of areas like artificial intelligence.

CLM is actually a great example for us to highlight in closing out this series.

ERP or Best-of-Breed? (Part 5): Agile IT Architectures to Enable Agile Procurement

The discussion of ERP vs. best-of-breed (BoB) and apps vs. suites is important, but it’s still narrow.

What I mean is that the choice of sourcing model for software used by procurement is heavily driven by the broader “service delivery model” of how procurement delivers its supply management services.

Procurement organizations are increasingly needing to be more agile in their service delivery to stay in step with internal service partners (IT, Finance, HR, etc.) and business units — and therefore need to draw creatively from external service providers of all forms.

ERP or Best-of-Breed? (Part 4): 10 Ways to Get the Best of Both — Together

Based on the factors we outlined in our previous installment exploring the ERP vs. best-of-breed issue and the scope of your project, your strategies for deftly grafting BoB onto your existing enterprise application “backbone” will, of course, vary. In this next part of the series, the following 10-point checklist from recent Spend Matters research on preparing for and undertaking this type of operation may be helpful. It focuses on how to best use BoB cloud app suites and ERP together.

Rapid Ratings: Vendor Snapshot (Part 2) — Product Strengths and Weaknesses

In the beginning of this Rapid Ratings Vendor Snapshot, the initial framework we incorporated showed how a supplier’s financial health was the keystone of broader risks in the supply chain. In other words, assurance of a supplier’s ability to deliver with consistency and quality requires assurance of a healthy supplier. To ascertain the financial health of the supplier, you can monitor its public financial data from Bloomberg or other external sources. This can be valuable if you know how to operationalize the information and can do it in a scalable and replicable way for many suppliers, over time.

But this doesn’t account for financial data from privately held companies that, for most corporations, account for 70%–80% of their strategic/critical suppliers. Such data on this group of suppliers is generally sparse, sometimes difficult to interpret, often unreliable for prediction and challenging to benchmark against peer firms. This is why Rapid Ratings’ approach to assessing supplier financial health (especially for this group) is attractive and unique. RapidRating’s FHR® (Financial Health Rating) is a focused and cost-effective supply risk monitoring solution that creates a forward-looking assessment of financial viability for the dozens or hundreds of key suppliers an organization may have — privately held or otherwise.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot explores Rapid Ratings’ strengths and weaknesses, providing facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations decide whether they should consider the provider. The first installment of our analysis provided a company and solution overview and a recommend fit list of criteria for firms considering it. Part 3 will offer a SWOT analysis, user selection guide, competitive alternatives, and additional evaluation and selection considerations.

ERP or Best-of-Breed? (Part 3): The Realistic Downsides of BoB

We began this series by reinvestigating the age-old question, “ERP or Best-of-Breed?” The semantics and the assumptions alone are problematic, so we had to throw a few clarifying questions out there first. Then we delved into how to put yourself into a strategic sourcing mindset to begin considering the issue — but we only began scratching the surface of the pros and cons of the various options!

Top 10 Ways to Radically Expand Category Management Value Creation

category management

In the never-ending quest to deliver more value, procurement organizations are trying to squeeze more savings and innovation out of spend categories. But, eventually the well starts to run dry, and when that happens, you need to either get more out of that well (fracking for spend savings, perhaps?), dig a deeper well, find another place to dig, or find another way to get the water.

My point? To improve category management, which we sometimes affectionately refer to as CatMan, you sometimes have to expand it or blow it up completely. Here are some ideas that I’ve seen work elsewhere that can hopefully give you some inspiration and raise your category management game.

ERP or Best-of-Breed? (Part 2): Look to Sourcing Best Practices for Best Software

In our opening salvo on the latest and greatest edition of the “ERP vs. Best-of-Breed?” issue, I mentioned that baseline definitions are critical to understanding the deeper problems inherent in the debate. Defining “best-of-breed” (What does best mean? What breed are we talking about? Must the breed be apps-only?) and “app suites” (Single app? Or a ‘sweet suite’?) is the first step of the process. That’s because there are multiple options between these two ends of the spectrum. And, it’s really important to understand that a single ERP provider (or even BoB suite provider) doesn’t equate to an integrated solution set, a single architecture or a common support model, among other things. So let’s start with how to optimally source this technology (and/or broader XaaS services) — by looking to strategic sourcing.

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

Ask any procurement organization what area of risk is most pertinent to them and supplier financial risk will usually rise to the top. In particular, suppliers that are classified as strategic or critical based on business impact (not just annual spend) need to be monitored more closely and regularly to maintain operational resilience, ensure business continuity and minimize business risk — and this monitoring obviously must include evaluating financial viability. This is a core aspect of broader supply risk..

Predictive analytics are key to getting early insight (especially relative to your competitors) on suppliers whose financial health is starting to waver. Getting such intelligence via predictive analytics requires basically two things: strong analytic models and good data.

For publicly traded suppliers, you can get financial statements, but you still have to extrapolate from the historical financials to gain actionable insight or develop some sort of predictive statistic. Some companies have used the Altman Z empirical scoring model, but not only is Altman Z an outdated algorithm that has been shown to be inferior to more updated ones (to be discussed later), but you also have to spend the time compiling and interpreting the data, which tends to fall outside the usual purview of the procurement professional.

The bigger problem, though, is the lack of financial data readily available for private firms — especially in the U.S. For most corporations, up to 80% of their strategic/critical suppliers are private and don’t typically share their financial statements with customers for various reasons. One of those reasons may be that they’re highly profitable and don’t want procurement to see this information, although this is certainly not always the case. In other circumstances, a supplier might feel that being private exempts them from disclosure. Or in the worst of cases (from a supply risk perspective), a vendor might not be doing well financially and is worried about losing additional business. Yet, a customer still wants to be sure that a supplier is not in financial distress — or moving in that direction. So, what the buyer would really like is a scalable managed service with a service provider that can help predict supplier financial health, including bankruptcies.

But this won’t happen unless such a provider can address the supplier concerns of protecting the confidentiality of their raw financials.

This is where Rapid Ratings comes in. Rapid Ratings is a provider of empirically driven financial health scoring of businesses — including private suppliers. The firm’s Financial Health System uses financial data as inputs and then utilizes them within 25 industry-specific, integrated analytic models that calculate a normalized financial rating (0-100 scale) designed to help predict future corporate defaults and identify companies’ inherent strengths. Think of it as a “FICO score for corporations.”

Rapid Ratings claims to have predicted 94% of bankruptcies at least six months in advance, and that the FHR provides predictive capabilities out to 12–18 months. The firm also specializes in working with private suppliers to obtain the necessary financial data to produce their FHR. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the more than 40,000 rating events performed by Rapid Ratings are of private companies. Most impressively, the firm claims a greater than 85% success in getting private suppliers to submit their data.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot provides facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations make informed decisions about Rapid Ratings' solution offering. 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 Rapid Ratings in the procurement technology area. The rest of this Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot research brief covers product strengths and weaknesses, competitor and SWOT analysis, and insider evaluation and selection considerations.

Procurement Centers of Excellence (CoE) – What’s in Them and How to Set Them Up

Nearly all progressive organizations have some sort of Procurement Center of Excellence (CoE). A Procurement CoE is an internal entity that performs internally facing knowledge-based services on a one-to-many basis to procurement (and to broader stakeholders) in order to drive scale, repeatability, and best practice. What we’re talking about is the industrialization of the Procurement portfolio of services. In this Spend Matters Plus article, we will investigate 14 procurement competencies that are being enabled and improved in a Procurement CoE. We will evaluate the relative priorities across these based on some key research and provide insight on how a Procurement CoE can not only make procurement processes more effective, but also align with broader enterprise services delivered in a “Global Business Services (GBS)” environment.

SciQuest: Solution Review & Analysis

SciQuest is arguably the most challenging procurement technology suite vendor to compare directly to the competition. This perhaps explains why it has tended to surface less in competitive procure-to-pay (P2P) or source-to-pay (S2P) suite opportunities outside of its traditional key vertical sectors for transactional procurement (e.g., higher education, laboratory/research, life sciences, public sector) in the past. While it is possible to label SciQuest as a procurement technology suite vendor (source-to-pay, source-to-contract and procure-to-pay), the reality is that to date, the provider has competed in multiple, infrequently overlapping segments of the procurement technology market.

Historically, SciQuest has generally had different sets of customers, prospects and competitors for its core P2P product and its sourcing optimization, spend/supply analytics and contract lifecycle management solutions. This stands in contrast to many of its peers, which have generally chosen to focus on fewer market segments (e.g, eProcurement, invoice-to-pay, etc.) rather than more as primary entry points to customers.

Yet after being acquired by Accel-KKR last year, SciQuest has started an accelerated strategic and marketing transformation process that is uniting its disparate suite elements. Today’s Spend Matters Plus analysis provides an introduction to SciQuest for procurement organizations looking to understand whether they should consider adding the provider to their shortlists for consideration, as well as competitive alternatives.