Procurement Systems & Architecture Content

Tradeshift: Vendor Snapshot Update (Part 1) — Background and Solution Overview [PRO]

Tradeshift is a cloud platform that connects buyers and suppliers with the goal of digitizing supply chain relationships, processes and information, while also enabling everyday procure-to-pay activities. Its capabilities span the buying of goods and services through to financing and payment — and significant capability in between, especially in the invoice-to-pay area.

In addition to providing its own procure-to-pay modules, Tradeshift offers an open integration framework that allows other technology firms (and customers) to integrate and/or development third-party apps, primarily centered on supplier connectivity, transaction enablement and collaboration. Tradeshift can even integrate alternative procure-to-pay providers in cases where specific enabling capability is desired.

This three-part Spend Matters PRO analysis provides an update on Tradeshift capabilities, both as a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) provider and as an e-procurement and invoice-to-pay technology vendor.

The updates since last year's review include information about real-time collaboration; a single sign-on; centralized access to POs, invoices, etc.; an AI-assisted chatbot named Ada; buying topics about GPOs and direct materials; global support; and new sections on payments/trade financing, analytics, services, integration and technology like blockchain.

The PRO analysis is designed to provide facts and expert analysis to help procurement and finance organizations make informed decisions about whether they should consider Tradeshift for both traditional “in-the-box” procure-to-pay requirements as well as unique marketplace/platform-type digital initiatives.

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 Tradeshift as a complement to other procurement and finance solutions. The remaining parts of this research brief will cover product strengths and weaknesses, competitor and SWOT analyses, and insider evaluation and selection considerations.

Orpheus: Vendor Snapshot (Part 3) — SWOT, Competitive Analysis and Summary [PRO]

Spend Analysis. Every company needs it, but not every company knows what they need or how to use it. As per our first post, it could be defined as:

* An extensive set of canned reports across a defined data set
* User Defined Reports and Views on a static ROLAP Cube
* Dynamic Cube Construction and View Creation on a predefined data set
* Dynamic Cube Construction and Federation on an extensible, user-defined data set

Depending on the provider, it may or may not include:

* Data Consolidation and Cleansing
* Data Enrichment
* Data Classification and Categorization
* Data Synchronization with Source Systems

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg on what one has to consider before even inviting a pool of candidates to an RFI, yet alone whittling down to three that all have the core capabilities the organization needs and that can all, more-or-less, be compared apples-to-apples when the RFIs come in.

That’s why in the first part of this three-part series we took our time to define Orpheus and its solutions, including components and capabilities not offered by every spend analysis vendor on the market. Then, in Part 2, we dove deep into the solution, highlighting particular strengths and bringing to light some of the weaknesses compared to peers (which may or may not matter depending on what your organization is looking for). Now, in our third and final part, we will provide a SWOT analysis, a competitive market analysis and a summary with commentary.

Orpheus: Vendor Snapshot (Part 2) — Product Strengths and Weaknesses [PRO]

In Part 1 of Spend Matters’ three-part PRO Vendor Snapshot on Orpheus, we started out by explaining how the definition of spend analysis differs from client to client and how it is a buyer-beware market — as not all vendors have the same technological capabilities, and you can’t compare their quotes as apples-to-apples. That’s why it’s important to understand what a vendor can do, and what it can’t, before whittling down to the final three and definitely before making a selection — because not all vendors will have what Oprheus has to offer.

While many vendors can slice and dice, cube and derive, and find opportunities on the fly — not all have initiative tracking, not all have AI, and not all have the experience of classifying over half a billion transactions across 4 million suppliers for 15 years of operation. This is pretty distinctive, and we’ve only completed the introduction so far.

In today’s post, we will dive into the strengths and weaknesses, giving you deep insight into the platform.

In Part 3, we will provide a SWOT analysis of Orpheus and discuss the competitive market that surrounds it. We will conclude with some commentary and hopefully will leave you with deep insights into who Orpheus is and what it can do.

Orpheus: Vendor Snapshot (Part 1) — Background and Solution Overview [PRO]

procurement

“Spend analysis” is one of the most misused terms in the solution space, especially since the exact scope of what a vendor offers with respect to spend analysis varies by vendor and the scope of what a buyer expects when they buy a spend-analysis solution varies by the buyer. You see, what a vendor offers depends upon their philosophy to analysis and where they are on the development curve with respect to that. What a buyer expects depends upon their level of procurement maturity, what they are aware of as being possible with a modern spend analysis tool, and their level of master data maturity.

You see, "spend analysis" has been, is and will be defined in various ways by various vendors. Depending on the vendor, it could be defined as:

* An extensive set of canned reports across a defined data set
* User Defined Reports and Views on a static ROLAP Cube
* Dynamic Cube Construction and View Creation on a pre-defined data set
* Dynamic Cube Construction and Federation on an extensible, user defined data set

Depending on the provider, it may or may not include:

* Data Consolidation and Cleansing
* Data Enrichment
* Data Classification and Categorization
* Data Synchronization with Source Systems

And depending on the provider philosophy, the classification may be:

* Rules-based
* Automated using statistical / clustering / neural networks
* Machine learning that adjusts the rules to improve the classification over time
* Hybrid approach that does auto-classification and allows for pre-classification using fixed rules and post-classification for mapping corrections
* Machine learning that identifies fixed, deterministic classification rules that are applied with user defined rules for all classification

And the data may or may not be limited to:

* Integrated data sources in the platform that the analysis tool is integrated into
* Integrated data sources, pre-integrated ERP and select API feeds
* A data lake maintained by the provider
* Any data you can push into the data lake it is configured to work on

And so on. In other words, what a vendor offers when they offer spend analysis varies by the vendor, and what a buyer might get can vary widely.

So in this three-part Spend Matters Pro Vendor Snapshot on Orpheus, we will try to leave you with a clear understanding of exactly what Orpheus offers with respect to spend analysis and whether they might be the right provider for you.

In Part 1, we will provide a brief company overview and a look at Oprheus' main offerings.

For Part 2, we will provide a breakdown of what is comparatively good (and maybe not so good) about the solution.

In Part 3, we’ll offer a high-level SWOT analysis, some market implications and a summary.

E-Procurement Tech Selection and the Nimble Persona: Analysis & Commentary [PRO]

The e-procurement solutions market has been growing for the last seven years. Because of this rapid growth, the market is also fragmented, with numerous vendors competing for procurement organizations’ attention. Yet no one vendor is an ideal fit for all companies, due to the unique requirements of different organizations’ sizes, industry/vertical and prior technology investments (or lack thereof).

So how can companies with different needs evaluate procurement solutions amid an array of vendors with different capabilities?

Spend Matters’ vendor rankings in SolutionMap account for these differences using a persona-based approach. Each SolutionMap persona is calibrated to weight evaluation requirements so that it reflects the profile of certain kinds of buyers. For example, the “Nimble” persona reflects small and medium-size businesses that prioritize fast time-to-value and ease of use in the selections; the “CIO Friendly” persona emphasizes technical foundation and interoperability with other enterprise systems to make for a straightforward implementation.

So what do SolutionMap personas look at for e-procurement, and how can they help your organization make better technology decisions?

In a series of PRO articles, we’ll analyze the market according to the different e-procurement personas: Nimble, Deep, Turn-key, Configurator and CIO Friendly. (See persona definitions* below.)

This review is organized just like the RFI for SolutionMap, according to these topics: platform capabilities, features & functionalities, and customer value.

To start, let’s look at the e-procurement features and vendors as viewed by the Nimble persona.

So You Want to Build a P2P Marketplace? An Introduction to Unique B2B Technology, Platform and Application Requirements [PRO]

Procure-to-pay (P2P) solutions do not just have to take the form of “vanilla” cloud/SaaS applications. Increasingly, organizations are becoming aware of the power of B2B marketplace models and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) models, which can enable greater flexibility to configure P2P capabilities for a combination of internal and third-party users — and in certain cases, to leverage the buying, distribution, payment / financing (in the case of banks), and supply chain assets of the marketplace sponsor to create entirely new business models through the use of technology.

In many ways, this is the realization of the vision of the original B2B marketplaces from two decades ago (e.g., Commerce One MarketSite, i2 TradeMatrix, Ariba/Tradex, Atlas Commerce, etc.), but with technology that can support the complex requirements involved in many-to-many and multi-tier collaboration models, as well as integration approaches that go beyond standard API calls.

This is B2B nirvana for procurement and supply chain geeks like us who have lived through multiple cycles of marketplace enthusiasm (madness?). The fact that a number of vendors exist today that can service these models effectively is testament to just how far technology has come in recent years. This includes not only the usual P2P best-of-breed subjects supporting these models (e.g., Basware, Coupa, Ivalua, SAP, Tradeshift, etc.) but also names you might not be familiar with as well.

This Spend Matters PRO brief provides an introduction to the types of platform and functional capabilities necessary for organizations considering building a marketplace model or leveraging an existing PaaS application ecosystem to go outside the box of standard P2P process models and operating models for internal use only.

Leveraging Spend Matters’ experience in managing the technology selection processes for marketplace initiatives and our SolutionMap vendor RFI requirements, our analysis introduces a range of platform and application requirements that companies should consider when evaluating solutions that can power the requirements of marketplace models for B2B relationships beyond the standard requirements expected of P2P solutions.

These include core platform components, data schema, data management, workflow, personalization, supplier portal, supplier information management, analytics, globalization and related requirements.

Coupa’s ‘Below the Enterprise Level’ Secret Sauce (Part 1: Dissecting What Makes It Attractive for SMB and Middle Market Procurement) [PRO]

digital

The use of procurement technology in the middle market is heating up. For the purposes of this analysis, we define the middle market as companies between $250 million to $2 billion in revenue. Under that threshold are true SMBs. And above that range are enterprise customers, at least by Spend Matters’ definition.

Granted, this is not a perfect segmentation as the level of needs (and sophistication) in the middle market can vary dramatically by geography, industry and company, all of which can lead to very different technology buying requirements. Some middle firms may end up looking exactly like enterprise-level (Global 2000) customers, whereas others may more closely approximate SMB buyers.

Regardless, within the somewhat flexible bounds of the middle market definition, Coupa, among others, is clearly gaining traction based on a rare combination of ingredients that create a particularly attractive suite within this market segment. These features are also attractive to SMBs too. Coupa has provided information to Spend Matters that its mid-market segment is companies from $250 million to $1 billion in annual revenue and their corporate segment is under $250 million in annual revenue.

This Spend Matters PRO research brief dissects some of the elements that we think contribute to Coupa’s particular attractiveness in this sector (Hint: Very few of these elements are focused on the classic “feature/function” arms race between vendors). In a subsequent brief, we’ll attempt to quantify the importance of the middle market to Coupa in recent wins. And we will explore how some of these elements also apply to other vendors that are succeeding in the middle market as well (with mini case studies featuring Amazon Business, Negotiatus, Procurify, Scout, Tealbook and Tipalti).

Procurence Vendor Introduction (Part 2: Strengths/Weaknesses, SWOT, Selection Checklist and Market Overview) [PRO]

In Part 1 of this two-part Spend Matters PRO series, we introduced you to Procurence — a relatively new entrant to the global direct material supplier management space, based out of Warsaw, Poland. It’s a recent entrant to our SolutionMap ranking of vendors, where its scores make it a customer leader in the SRM category. While still a small player, its solution already has a lot of the breadth of more established players like Jaggaer Direct (Pool4Tool), Ivalua (Directworks) and Allocation Network. Procurence’s utilization has been growing tenfold year-over-year by its buy-side user base of over 10,000 users and supply-side user base of over 30,000 users. Whether it has everything your organization needs, however, will come down to your mix of direct vs indirect, and how similar your needs are to its existing client base, which it has been developing its Meercat solution with for the past seven years.

While Part 1 of this brief provided some background on Procurence and a high-level overview of its offering, Part 2 will provide a breakdown of what is good (and not so good) about the solution, a high-level SWOT analysis and a short selection requirements checklist that outlines the typical company for which Procurence might be a good fit.

Procurence Vendor Introduction (Part 1: Background and SRM Solution Overview) [PRO]

direct materials sourcing

Supplier management is one of the most misunderstood terms in the procurement solution space, especially since the exact scope of processes supported by such systems varies by analyst, vendor and customer interpretation. In order to clarify, or at least differentiate, many vendors have begun slicing and dicing the SXM solution space to offer the likes of:

* Supplier Discovery Management: that help an organization identify potential new suppliers that can help it meet its products, services, diversity and/or sustainability requirements
* Supplier Information Management: that can help a supplier track all of the information it collects on a supplier, including locations, employees, products, services, certifications and certificates
* Supplier Performance Management: that can track not only supplier information but also relevant performance data on quality, reliability, delivery, invoice accuracy and sustainability
* Supplier Relationship Management: that includes not only performance data but also functionalities to manage the relationship, such as capabilities for supplier development, collaboration and innovation management
* Supplier Network Management: that can support supplier discovery but are primarily designed to support transactions (through e-document and e-payment exchange) with suppliers on the network
* Supplier Quality Management: that includes specialized capabilities to support direct materials procurement, including the management of non-conformance cost of poor supplier quality, and general quality management
* Supplier Risk Management: that includes the capability to gather multiple sources of risk data (financial, environmental, regulatory, geographic, etc.) and provide an overall risk profile

Very few vendors do more than half of this, at best, so when evaluating a supplier management software vendor, it's important to understand what fraction of this they do and whether that fraction is relevant to your business.

We'll take, for example, supplier quality management — this goes well beyond supplier performance management because it's not just tracking defect rates, uptime / reliability statistics, etc. but managing the quality process from the beginning of production to delivery of the product to the consumer. Ensuring the materials that are being sourced are of the appropriate standards and tested on receipt, that the appropriate production process is followed, that the machines are regularly tested, that the outputs are spot tested, securely packaged, and delivered to spec. Such a system should support ISO (International Standard Organization), ASQ (American Society for Quality) processes, Six Sigma, 8D Reports (based on Eight Disciplines methodology), and/or QDX (Quality Data eXchange). Very few solutions come close to this, even if they are designed for supporting direct procurement.

And while Procurence may not do all of this, it is one of the few supplier management solutions on the market that tackles quality management in addition to information, performance and risk, as well as aspects of relationship management.

Procurence was founded in 2009 in Warsaw, Poland, to provide tools to help buyers achieve transparency in their supply base, decrease supply risk, and streamline internal supplier management and communication processes.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Introduction offers a candid take on Procurence and its supplier management capabilities. (Non-supplier management specific capabilities are excluded.) Part 1 includes a short company overview and a detailed look at Procurence’s offering. Part 2 will provide a breakdown of what is comparatively good (and not so good) about the solution, a high-level SWOT analysis, a short selection requirements checklist that outlines the typical company for which Procurence might be a good fit, and some market implications and takeaways.

Oracle Procurement Cloud Update — The Sleeping Giant is Waking Up [PRO]

Spend Matters attended Oracle’s recent OpenWorld conference to see the latest developments in its cloud ecosystem, especially within Oracle Procurement. Oracle continues to make progress in its strategy of transforming from a technology and products company to one of cloud services. It was a decision that has taken time to develop, but without a doubt this vision is beginning to crystallize as a unified solution within the Oracle Cloud (aka Oracle Fusion) technology platform.

In this Spend Matters PRO article, we will discuss:

* Oracle’s overall cloud strategy and its relevance to procurement
* Latest Oracle procurement product updates and plans
* Analysis of Oracle’s methodical progress in a dynamic market, and what it can teach SAP Ariba (and vice versa)
* Opportunities and emerging progress in platforms and “business networks”

Application-wise, Oracle is a slow and steady provider of cloud-based procurement applications, with a strength in P2P (as evidenced in its performance in our most current P2P SolutionMap ranking). And it’s making progress in its strategic procurement application areas — especially in contract management, where its solution is surprisingly strong relative to non-best-of-breed CLM players. But the game in the market is shifting beyond applications toward open platforms and ecosystems.

Can Oracle seize the opportunity? We’ll discuss...

Negotiatus: Vendor Introduction (Part 2 — Product Strengths and Weaknesses, SWOT, Selection Checklist) [PRO]

e-invoicing

In our last Spend Matters PRO brief, we introduced you to Negotiatus, an upstart P2P provider out of New York City that’s offering a fresh take on how to solve the root causes of common purchasing headaches. Taking the view that procurement should route users and payments through one (consolidated) invoice approach, Negotiatus aims to help its customers drastically reduce the number of transactions they need to process. In this view, purchasing automation represents a symptom of dysfunction rather than a panacea to inefficient business processes, and many of Negotiatus’ strengths thus reflect its guiding philosophy of simplicity and elimination of unnecessary work.

This approach, complemented by its supporting technology and rapidly growing client base, was a central reason we named Negotiatus to this year’s inaugural Future 5 list, which highlights standout start-up companies in procurement technology. 

But such a philosophy may not be a fit for every procurement organization, and by its own admission, Negotiatus is often a better fit with younger, more “forward-thinking” procurement organizations than corporate stalwarts. Its functionality lags accordingly when compared with peers that strive to “check the box” on requirements expected by a more classically minded procurement group.

Part 1 of this brief provided some background on Negotiatus and an overview of its offering — from ordering/shopping and catalogs to invoicing and payment.

In Part 2, we will provide a breakdown of what is comparatively good (and not so good) about the solution, a high-level SWOT analysis and a short selection requirements checklist that outlines the typical company for which Negotiatus might be a good fit. We also give some final conclusions and takeaways.

Zycus update: Basics, BOTs and Beyond (Part 2: AI, MERLIN Roadmap and Summary) [PRO]

Artificial intelligence capabilities are central to Zycus’ product roadmap. This Spend Matters PRO brief provides an overview of MERLIN (Zycus’ AI underpinnings and platform) and how it ties to Zycus’ overall product strategy and release schedule. MERLIN's main concept is based on autonomous procurement (the tailored bots that it builds are called BOTs), with a focus on automating all the routine, repetitive tasks of purchasing processes, especially transactional and manual ones. For an overview of the company and a product update, read Part 1.