Procurement Systems & Architecture Content

GEP: Vendor Snapshot (Part 2) — Solution Overview (Upstream) [PRO]

SciQuest

SMART by GEP is a unified source-to-pay solution platform and, as GEP is quick to point out, it doesn’t sell “single modules as widgets” on a price list. SMART by GEP can, of course, provide its customers with modular functionality. (See Part 1 of this seven-part Spend Matters PRO series for a company overview of the S2P provider, which also has BPO services and consulting.) However, GEP claims that the majority of its new platform customers will continue to embrace full suite adoption from the get-go, versus a minority that will desire a point-based solution at the start.

SMART by GEP is a cloud-based solution, with full integration capabilities into back-end systems, built and hosted on the Microsoft Azure infrastructure. From both platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and hosting perspectives, this brings the same advantages of Amazon Web Services virtualization (e.g., ability to rapidly “scale up” and “scale down” at any layer in the architecture).

But further, the entire GEP platform is Microsoft native, which theoretically means tighter integration into the Microsoft ecosystem of products (e.g., SharePoint, Office, etc.) than competing products. The Azure platform and hosting model provides another layer of scalability insurance for GEP customers.

In Part 2 of this series, we will cover key upstream functional S2P capabilities — spend analysis, category management, sourcing — that GEP offers within the unified SMART by GEP platform:

GEP: Vendor Snapshot (Part 1) — Company Background [PRO]

GEP, formerly Global eProcure, is an integrated source-to-pay (S2P) solution and services firm that offers managed services including full BPO capabilities, transformation services (i.e., consulting) and its own internally developed S2P technology suite. The combination of these individual capabilities from a single provider, especially as they become increasingly synergistic, makes GEP truly a standalone in the industry.

Founded in 1999, GEP has been known primarily for its deep knowledge in upstream strategic sourcing and its flexible approach to building and delivering capabilities to its paying clients. These capabilities grew organically, and perhaps somewhat opportunistically, into more repeatable technology-enabled solutions (e.g., spend analysis, e-sourcing, etc.). They also grew when they acquired (and subsequently replatformed) Enporion, a small supply chain management provider that had select upstream strategic sourcing and downstream e-procurement applications, primarily to energy, manufacturing and distribution clients. This acquisition provided GEP with an IP base to further its downstream development capability and better serve these industries.

In the early days, like many companies founded around its time, GEP was a traditional provider of hosted / ASP sourcing technology, but earlier this decade, GEP made the strategic decision to develop its own native source-to-pay cloud platform suite (“SMART by GEP,” first released in 2014), which replaced its older hosted or SaaS offerings. It was a strategic bet that procurement organizations of varying sizes want the agility and depth of a single provider that can flexibly assemble a solution of technology, managed services and transformation services to support their dynamic needs, and one that has continued to pay off. While GEP may not have as many customers as Coupa or SAP Ariba, GEP has more F500 / G2000 clients than any other provider in the S2P space, and, in fact, whereas many of its S2P competitors can count F500 customers as a minority of their customer base, for GEP it’s a majority.

The wager was prescient on many levels, and is starting to massively pay off in growth and business scale, which no one could have imagined at GEP five years ago when its SMART suite was released, and definitely not seven years ago when it would have first begun its new development effort (after the Enporion acquisition). This growth not only includes cloud-based standalone application growth outside of services, but also more transformational services around digitization and automation as well as category management and overall "procurement transformation" once new capabilities are installed. And this success is increasingly creating consternation with traditional software, solution and service providers alike, which is both a boon and a bust for GEP, as we will discuss later in this series.

This seven-part Spend Matters PRO vendor snapshot series provides facts and expert analysis to help buying organizations make informed decisions about GEP’s source-to-pay capability, as well as limited background on its associated services capability. Part 1 of our analysis provides a company background and overview to set the stage, as well as a few key differentiators to help in short-list decisions. Parts 2 and 3 will provide a detailed solution overview of each key area/module. Part 4 will dive deep into the GEP platform and solution strengths, while Part 5 will balance the analysis by diving into the GEP platform and solution weaknesses, at least with regard to other solutions on the market. (A weakness isn't a weakness if it's not a capability your organization needs, either due to its industry or the presence of that capability in another platform that is already being used.) Part 6 will provide a full SWOT analysis as well as commentary on the solution and recommended fit. Finally, Part 7 will finish up with an overview of the competitive landscape.

Ivalua: Vendor Snapshot (Part 7) — Competitive and Summary Analysis [PRO]

contingent workforce

So how does Ivalua — previously the Rodney Dangerfield of e-procurement for getting no respect, but now is no laughing matter to its competitors — stack up to the market? In this seven-part PRO overview, Spend Matters has covered Ivalua’s history, internal capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. But to see how it fits into the marketplace, first we have to understand who it is up against. Namely:

* Full Source-to-Pay Suites, including SAP Ariba, Coupa, GEP, Jaggaer, Zycus, Corcentric/Determine, Synertrade, and even Oracle and a few others (e.g,. Wax Digital)
* Full P2P Suites, including Basware, BuyerQuest, Oracle, Vroozi and others
* End-to-End and Best-of-Breed “upstream” Sourcing and Strategic Procurement Technology (SPT) Offerings, including Allocation Network, Bonfire, EC Sourcing, Keelvar, MarketDojo, Scanmarket, * ScoutRFP and more
* e-Invoicing and e-Payment Specialists, including Proactis, Taulia, Tipalti, Transcepta, Tradeshift, Tungsten and others
* Supplier and Master Data Management (MDM) Providers, including Apex Analytix, Aravo, ConnXus, HICX, Procurence, Tealbook and others that don’t slot neatly into the supply management area within SPT.

We'll start by providing a more detailed overview of Ivalua's biggest competitors, namely SAP Ariba, Coupa, GEP and Jaggaer, before covering the rest of the S2P providers that it may encounter in potential deals.

Ivalua: Vendor Snapshot (Part 6) — Commentary & SWOT [PRO]

As we noted in Part 1 of this seven-part Spend Matters PRO series, Ivalua is no longer the Rodney Dangerfield of procurement suites, and we no longer need to apologize to the late comic. Since we last assessed Ivalua in-depth in 2016, the provider has achieved a lot of respect from the analyst community, the investment community (with a “unicorn” valuation exceeding $1 billion in their last funding last round), and most importantly, the customer community as evidenced by Ivalua’s 98% customer retention rate — even though Ivalua’s customer satisfaction scores have slipped slightly in its last SolutionMap rankings.

However, the firm’s larger peers still often seem quick to dismiss this “newcomer” to the S2P arena, even though Ivalua was founded in 2000! As a perceived newcomer in the North American marketplace, with a smaller customer count, less revenue and less perceived history, it still is often not even known, or well known, to some practitioners that we’ve run across who’ve not research the market deeply. This is despite the fact they Ivalua has:
* almost as large of a global presence (with offices across the Americas, EMEA and APAC)
* a track record of supporting a global customer base
* a valuation that smaller S2P players might sell their workforce into indentured servitude for
* a platform that is simultaneously so broad and so deep that it's becoming difficult for many of their peers to compete on out-of-the-box functionality, especially in the direct materials/sourcing space, in larger clients with extensive requirement lists.

As we noted in late 2016, “if we add up the differentiated combination of its architecture/platform, industry enablement, functional/modular capability (across the source-to-pay continuum), analytics and ‘overlay’ process support capabilities, the sum of the Ivalua package stands out from all others in a true ‘deadpan’ way — albeit with no laughing involved.”

When you augment this with leading direct sourcing support (with the re-platforming of its DirectWorks acquisition), improved workflow management, UI improvements, one-search, improved (direct) catalog management and bot-assisted guided buying, you get a platform that's a force to be reckoned with.

In short, Ivalua deserves much more regard from its peers than it has received to date, as it's well positioned to make a big dent in the global marketplace that will be hard not to take notice of. That said, some parts of the application suite can be improved (as we discussed in Part 5), there is a lot of unexpected capability under the hood around bill of material management (in a centralized module that allows for deep what-if scenario analysis), asset and tooling management, program and project management, third-party data integration and scorecard creation, accruals, and global tax compliance management. Plus, the cost breakdown analytics, NPI (new product introduction), corrective action capability, extended supplier profile management, and the ability to pull data into and push data out of the environment on a daily (or even hourly) basis is deeper than one might expect, especially with the large number of pre-configured interfaces out-of-the-box and the ability to acquire more through the add-on store.

And while Ivalua is still not perfect (but to be honest, no provider is), as it's still missing a few capabilities that we feel are becoming core with S2P (and even its updated UI is not industry-leading), we still believe that anyone who invests the time to get to know the solution on a product level will come away very impressed if they have the same technology-and-capability-centric proclivities as the Spend Matters team (even if it's not the right "fit" for the organization at the end of the day).

So, without further adieu, in this penultimate installment of our updated Spend Matters snapshot on Ivalua, we provide you with an objective SWOT analysis of the company, and a selection shortlist to help companies decide whether Ivalua should be in their crosshairs, whether they have their sights set on a platform, suite or modular capability.

Tomorrow, in Part 7 we’ll finish up with a competitive market segmentation, a comparative analysis and some final thoughts. We also include recommended short-list candidates as alternative vendors and offer some provider selection guidance.

Defining AP Automation Functional Requirements (Part 2): AP Process, Workflow, Collaboration and Systems (Validations, Approval Processes, Integrations) [PRO]

AP automation capabilities vary dramatically between different software providers, and the capabilities that a finance or procurement organization will require to support the automation of AP processes also vary materially, based not only on company size but a broad range of other factors. These include organizational complexity, invoice capturing requirements (e.g., paper, PDF, electronic, etc.), systems complexity, systems integration, industry, EDI integration/support, payment/financing capabilities, treasury integration/working capital management, geography and compliance requirements — to just name a few.

To understand how different providers stack up against these (and other) categories of requirements, the quarterly Invoice-to-Pay SolutionMap Insider report can provide significant insight. And to create a one-to-one map between business requirements for AP automation and vendor functionality capability, SolutionMap Accelerator can dramatically speed up the vendor shortlisting and selection process, even allowing companies to “skip the RFI” entirely.

This Spend Matters PRO series defines AP automation requirements from a functional perspective to put AP, finance and purchasing professionals in the driver’s seat when they evaluate the market for AP automation to fit their needs — either on a stand-alone basis or as a specific component of broader invoice-to-pay, procure-to-pay or source-to-pay solutions. (Check the links to our SolutionMap ranking of providers in each category.)

Part 1 of this series investigated core invoicing requirements for AP automation and some of the criteria that Global 2000 and middle market organizations should consider when selecting solutions (i.e., invoicing set-up, paper scan/capture support and e-invoicing). Today we turn our attention to an additional set of AP automation functional requirements, including AP process, invoicing validations, workflow, collaboration and integration requirements.

Ivalua: Vendor Snapshot (Part 5) — Product Weaknesses [PRO]

global trade

If you've already read Part 1 of our updated vendor snapshot on Ivalua (which includes a detailed company and solution overview), then you know that you're either going to be attracted to the depth, breadth and configurability of the solution — or perhaps overwhelmed by it if you're new to the advanced sourcing and procurement game. But, even with its prowess in deep configurability, Ivalua's solution is not without its weaknesses. In this Part 5 of our seven-part vendor snapshot, we are going to dive deep into Ivalua's product weaknesses, providing facts and expert analysis to help a procurement organization decide whether they should shortlist the vendor. And an organization that is putting Ivalua head-to-head with a provider like Coupa should compare and contrast what we say here versus what we say in Part 2 of our Coupa vendor snapshot because near-equal scores in Spend Matters Solution Map does not imply near equal capability in all areas, and definitely not in the areas that might matter to your organization the most. Ivalua's weaknesses are similar to our last review a couple of years ago, but a few weaknesses have been addressed since last time (and while not as deep, but still exist against either suite-peers or best-of-breed), and the re-platforming of DirectWorks in particular has gone a long way to address specialized support around direct sourcing.

Ivalua: Vendor Snapshot (Part 4) — Product Strengths [PRO]

Global Risk Management Solutions

Anything Ivalua still lacks in global brand and market awareness along with sales/marketing infrastructure and prowess, it makes up for by delivering a source-to-pay platform designed to emphasize functional depth, suite-based capabilities and industry-specific enablement scenarios in the private and public sector. Ivalua delivers a no-compromise set of capabilities and an underlying platform that is most likely to appeal to procurement and IT organizations that want greater flexibility in executing a procurement technology architecture and strategy than what is offered by the majority of suite-based solutions on the market today. Ivalua is generally at the front of the pack in Spend Matters’ “configurator” persona of just about every SolutionMap we look at for our 2019 Q2 results — and the lead dog if the pack includes only the suite vendors.

If you've already read Part 1 of our updated, seven-part vendor snapshot on Ivalua (which includes a detailed company and solution overview), then you know that you're either going to be attracted to the depth, breadth and configurability of the solution — or perhaps overwhelmed by it if you're new to the advanced sourcing and procurement game. With the massive flexibility that comes with massive configurability, there is also a non-trivial degree of configuration settings to pay attention to. (See Part 2 for an upstream solution overview and Part 3 for details on the downstream capabilities.)

In this Part 4 edition of the vendor snapshot, we are going to dive deep into Ivalua's product strengths, providing facts and expert analysis to help a procurement organization decide whether they should shortlist the vendor. Of course, it’s best to read the SolutionMap analysis for all the providers in question. For example, an organization that is putting Ivalua head-to-head with Coupa should compare and contrast what we say here versus what we say in Part 2 of our Coupa vendor snapshot because near-equal scores in SolutionMap do not imply near equal capability in all areas, and definitely not in the areas that might matter to your organization the most.

Commercial Value Management (Part 2): Using Next-Generation Contract Systems to Integrate Operations, Financials, Risk and Technology [PRO]

Let’s start this piece with a question: How are high-flying SaaS providers measured?

Answer: Growth (hopefully profitable) through repeatable subscription-based revenue.

And what are those subscriptions? Contracts.

The enterprise value of these companies, like others, is based on the promise of future cash flows that are increasingly built upon a portfolio of contracts. Want to maximize enterprise value (like the CEO)? Better get good at managing contracts! This is not in the way that your legal department might think of contracts, but rather in a business sense that maximizes commercial value within those contracts that will add up to enterprise value.

Put another way: If chief procurement officers want to move from “chief spend officers” to “chief value officers,” they’re going to need better strategies and tools to do value management.

“Value management” is the highest level of procurement’s evolution in a framework that I developed in my previous life leading procurement research at The Hackett Group.

The problem is that while there are great tools for spend management, when you start going broader into demand (and multi-tier supply) and deeper into financial value flow beyond single-tier cash disbursements to suppliers, the technology requirements aren’t yet well supported by existing tools and vendors.

In Part 1 of this Spend Matters PRO series on commercial value management (CVM), we highlighted the fact that contract management systems are morphing from legal documents focused on transferring risk onto your trading partners, and toward systems that model all B2B commercial (and even non-commercial) promises with trading partners, regulators and even just internal stakeholders. The financially related “promises” or “commitments” are really obligations/rights that can be viewed as liabilities/assets. And these aren’t just ledger entries to close the books for regulators, but rather living, breathing promises made up and down the supply chain to deliver value to customers — at a lowest total cost of course!

Unfortunately, this chain of value doesn’t exactly flow across the fragmented landscape of systems out there. It’s hard enough to see contracted revenue & cost/spend flows in the direct materials supply chain where only a few advanced firms can stitch together some semblance of integrated business planning that brings in multi-tier supply-aware cost modeling and contracting (e.g., buy-sell arrangements for volatile commodities). Now, consider the services supply chain and an XaaS world where omni-channel value chains need to merge products and services.

For example, think about the mind-numbing complexity of field services operations where customer warranties (contracts) and service levels (contracts) need to be translated to supply fulfillment that can include leased equipment (w/ contracts), outsourced transportation services (and contracts), third-party contractors (directly contracted or via a service provider with its own contract), and even outsourcing providers (with BIG complex contracts) who might run the whole shebang for you. These contracts, sub-contracts, MSAs, SOWs, POs (a contract), etc. all have information in them related to direct committed revenue and costs/spend, but also hints at potential spend and business risk depending on what’s in (or not in) those contracts.

But, if you’re a CFO trying to manage your spending (“Spend” with a big “S” and not just supplier spend with a small “s”) and see both types of spending in terms of:
* Tying spend to revenue to understand profitability
* Seeing and shaping spend and resource commitments before they occur
* Cash flow implications of that spend
* Category and supplier views to maximize value from supplier spending
* Spend volatility based on price risk, volume risk, competitive risk and other supply risk factors like geo-political risk (e.g., trade wars) and regulatory risk (e.g. data privacy)
* Projects that drive this spending (e.g., in project-intensive industries)
* Drivers of this spend that are hidden (e.g., IT/telecom contracts of all forms)
* Legal spend (internal and external) to manage all of these contracts!

The problem is that you don’t have a single system to see all this. You have a G/L to close the books and maybe a planning-and-budgeting application rather than the “financial control tower” (go ahead and trademark that — it’s available) that you’d love to have something like an EVA/ROIC-type model that drives all the way down to the atomic contracts and execution systems. And if you’re good, you have a CPO with a single spend database and contract repository.

But, let’s face it, even for those firms with this, the contract is still usually a document artifact to refer to and not a dynamic system with complex pricing modeling and linkages to dozens of execution systems in the field that are REALLY governing the commercial aspects of operations. All you likely have in your contract repository is a field called “contract value.” And even in the simplest case, and even with the most modern S2P application suite, you’re likely matching supplier invoices to POs with payment terms that aren’t likely staying synched with the original contract.

So, contract data and associated CLM systems must transcend their legal artifact role and even move beyond the level of contract clause libraries and associate basic clause metadata. They need to go much deeper into the business realm (and not just the legal department realm) and be able to model and manage commercial data much more deeply. Doing this requires improved systems that manage what we call commercial value management — which is about commercial lifecycle management rather than contract lifecycle management. “Spend Management” is great, but spend is what you pay, and value is what you get. So you need to be really clear on who gets how much of what, under what conditions, and what happens if they don’t!

We spent a fair amount of time in our last PRO series installment that dove into the specific elements of CVM. In this second SpendMatters PRO series installment, we’ll dive primarily into the buy-side aspects of this topic and discuss how procurement organizations — and procurement’s functional peers in finance, IT, legal, GRC, SCM, sales and HR (and any related CoE combinations) — can use contracts as commercial data hubs to better support not just basic buy-side CLM within a source-to-pay context, but also how to use it to better connect procurement with these internal partners to help them manage spend/suppliers in their functions individually and also collectively with each other — and out to external stakeholders.

We’ll also highlight a few areas where CVM support emanating from a next-gen CLM platform can likely disrupt a few existing niche markets within and outside of the procurement realm.

Ivalua: Vendor Snapshot (Part 3) — Downstream Solution Overview [PRO]

supplier network

Ivalua has been growing steadily since Spend Matters’ comprehensive update in 2016, with the suite provider adding clients, offices, employees and capability around the globe. After we provided an updated background in Part 1, we delved into Ivalua’s primary upstream solution components around spend analysis, strategic sourcing, direct sourcing and contract management in Part 2.

Today, this seven-part Spend Matters PRO series will continue our solution overview with a look at the downstream components — namely catalog management, e-procurement and order management, e-invoicing, expense management, payment management and IVA for guided buying. After we review these downstream components, we’ll finish up our solution review with a couple of the cross-platform capabilities around risk and performance management, supplier information management and master data management (MDM). After we finish with our solution overview, in Parts 4 and 5, we will dive into Ivalua's particular strengths and weaknesses from a solution perspective.

Ivalua: Vendor Snapshot (Part 2) — Upstream Solution Overview [PRO]

gig economy

In Part 1 of Spend Matters' seven-part PRO series, we provided an updated background on Ivalua, which has been growing steadily since our last Vendor Snapshot in 2016, adding clients, offices, employees, customers and capability around the globe. No longer the Rodney Dangerfield of procurement, Ivalua is finally getting some real respect, having just reached unicorn valuation status in its last funding round.

There are a number of reasons for this, some of which revolve around services and global support capability, and others that revolve around its extensive solution platform. The latter is the subject of our articles today and tomorrow, where we will overview all of the major components, starting with the upstream ones today. Then, after we review the downstream components in Part 3, we will dive into Ivalua's particular strengths and weaknesses from a solution perspective in Parts 4 and 5.

The Artful Design of Procurement (Part 2) [PRO]

Spend Matters 50/50 2016

As noted in our last post, as I was writing up some notes from the Ivalua NOW 2019 conference, which it gave the theme “The Art of Procurement,” and which probably seemed more artistic when it was held at Le Carrousel Du Louvre, and not the Renaissance Chicago (but you’ll have to ask my colleagues Michael Lamoureux and Peter Smith, who attended the Paris event and posted their notes here, there and everywhere). But at the end of the day, since the better theme is not so much just about art (even though there is a definite craft/“art” to doing procurement transformation — and using digital as part of that transformation), but about the proper design of procurement and the procurement process, I decided to pen these pieces.

In Part 1 of this provocative PRO analysis, after setting the stage, I tried to really define what art vs. design was in a procurement context. Today, I’m going to try and build on that to describe:

* Design-centered procurement and platform design rather than just product design
* Platform enablement of the “participative art” of procurement
* A counter-intuitive palette: low code software platforms
* The procurement practitioner as artist

And I hope to inspire you to be a better artist, who paints a more impressive picture in your daily professional life.

The Artful Design of Procurement (Part 1) [PRO]

In a previous post, I was writing up some notes from the Ivalua NOW 2019 conference, which it themed “The Art of Procurement.” That theme is fun, and although it tempts me to bring in Zen analogies in archery, martial arts or even motorcycle maintenance, I think the better theme is not so much just about art (even though there is a definite craft/“art” to doing procurement transformation — and using digital as part of that transformation), but also about design.

In this multi-part Spend Matters PRO series, I’ll cover the following topics:

* Art vs. design within a procurement context
* Design-centered procurement and platform design rather than just product design
* Platform enablement of the “participative art” of procurement
* A counter-intuitive palette: low code software platforms
* The procurement practitioner as artist

I won’t be laying out a paint-by-numbers prescription for procurement excellence, but art does hold some lessons: not so much as art as expressing an aesthetic, but more as a practice and expression of mastery.

Some have applied Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” to business, and of course to trading partner negotiations, but Picasso is perhaps a better example. He was hugely prolific and cut his teeth mastering all the traditional artforms before creating his unique cubist style. Procurement practitioners similarly must have a baseline mastery of basic commercial knowledge (legal, finance, negotiations, etc.), change management, etc., but also be adept at picking up new techniques and tools and applying them to the task at hand. For example, many progressive procurement practitioners haven’t just learned Lean/6Sigma, but also Design Thinking and Agile software development principles that can be applied to collaboration beyond just software development — including procurement.