Technology Content

Blockchain, AI offer big savings in transportation and logistics, PwC survey finds

Blockchain and artificial intelligence are bringing rapid change to the normally slow moving transportation and logistics industry, according to PwC in its recently released Transportation and Logistics Trends 2019 report, which is part of its annual CEO survey. The pressure to offer new and better service is on for transportation and logistics (T&L) executives, who reported confidence in revenue growth for their organization over the next 12 months at a five-year low — with just 29% saying they were confident that revenue would grow during that time, said the report, which included 143 CEO respondents in the T&L industry. PwC sees blockchain technology as a potential source of relief from logistics bottlenecks. Read to find out more.

Shortlist: Vendor Introduction — Analysis, SWOT, Selection Checklist [PRO]

This Spend Matters PRO research brief provides an introduction to Shortlist, which describes itself as an FMS (freelancer management system) or, alternatively, a software-as-a-service platform for businesses to engage, on-board, manage and pay independent/freelancers. Shortlist was covered in the Spend Matters SolutionMap for software solutions that enable businesses to manage their direct-sourced, independent contract workforce (where it was designated as a Solution Leader, the upper right quadrant for having high scores for capabilities and high customer scores, for all four buyer personas).

FMS solutions began to emerge about eight years ago, when the rise of the gig economy called attention to the lack of solutions designed to enable organizations to engage and manage their independent/freelance workers. Vendor management systems (VMS) solutions did not provide fit-for-purpose solutions; and many companies managed with spreadsheets, other kludged systems or nothing at all. In any case, it became increasingly clear that organizations of all sizes had neither adequate visibility into their independent/freelance workers nor the tools to manage and fully leverage that population of talent.

Over the past eight years, various solutions emerged to attempt to address these requirements. Today they now number on the order of 20 providers, depending on how the category is delimited, based in North America and elsewhere. These solutions have taken a variety of forms, often going beyond the classical definition of FMS[1]. Some arose in tandem with their proprietary, pre-populated online freelancer marketplaces (e.g., Upwork). Some were geared to enable mobile field contractors/gig workers (e.g., FieldNation, WorkMarket). Some, including Shortlist, began supporting small-scale service providers (like boutique creative agencies, small specialized consulting firms) in addition to individual independent/freelance workers.

In this Vendor Introduction, we will zero in on Shortlist and provide an overall understanding of the company and the solution. The brief includes a summary assessment of features and functions, a SWOT analysis as well as a selection checklist for companies that might be considering Shortlist. In this brief, we will abbreviate individual independent/contract/ freelance workers as ICWs and small-scale service providers as SSPs (collectively, we refer to them as “providers”).

Simfoni’s customer reviews are in the new SolutionMap Customer Insights report

This week’s SolutionMap Customer Insights report focuses on customer reviews for Simfoni, a top provider that analyzes business spend data. The applicable SolutionMap category for this report is in Spend and Procurement Analytics. SolutionMap Insider members can click the link above to read about Simfoni in our latest report. In each Customer Insights report, we provide a one-page summary from the SolutionMap peer review process. It includes ratings on how well the vendor meets user expectations, three key differentiators for the vendor and a list of quotes about the vendor’s greatest strengths.

20 Tips to Maximize Private Equity, Investment and Strategic Buyer Outcomes (Part 1: Preparing Wisely) [PRO]

In recent years, we’ve spent thousands of hours working with private equity groups, CEOs and boards to evaluate acquisition targets — and with sellers to optimize exit scenarios and outcomes in the procurement solution market. In each M&A advisory or SolutionMap due diligence benchmark engagement, there has not been a single study in which we have not learned something new as a team. While from a seller perspective specific tactics can change over time based on conditions in the capital markets, the overall economy and other externalities (e.g., the current “dry powder” excess), there are well over 20 universal tips that we’ve identified that can apply in nearly all scenarios.*

So we decided to write this Spend Matters Nexus brief to share our top 20 lessons learned from the perspective of sellers’ to maximize their private equity, investment and strategic buyer outcomes (based on working “the other side” of the transaction). Today, we start with an initial five tips to prepare wisely (ideally) before a process begins. In the second installment, we’ll continue to share the next five tips for preparing wisely as the actual process approaches (i.e., “pre-process” tips). Then in Parts 3 and 4, we will jump to the actual deal process itself, offering tips for stewarding the effort and driving to an optimal outcome.

Jason Busch serves as Managing Director of Spend Matters Nexus, a membership, research and advisory organization serving technology acquirers (private equity, corporate development, etc.) and CEOs in the procurement and finance solutions marketplace (including contract management, B2B marketplaces/connectivity, indirect procurement, services procurement, direct procurement, commodity management, payment, trade financing, GRC/third-party management and related adjacent sectors).

Contracts Aren’t Just for the Legal Department Anymore

Cost-savings and strategic advantages hide in every business, and the latest procurement technology can reveal how to find it — in your contracts. In our recent article about spend management, we focused on the flood of spend data that businesses face and the technology that can help make sense of that.

But that technology, like artificial intelligence, is also being used to connect contract data and accounts payable information. That connection offers insights into novel ways to think about contracts that can add profits to the bottom line.

Contracts represent a direct link to suppliers, and that can offer profitable information about supplier activity that can help with contract renewals, a common way to control spend and find savings. But with AI, it gives your business the advantage and reduces risk.

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.

How to reach your goals on supplier diversity and supplier management

When a company considers how to improve its supplier diversity, it can do so along with improving its supplier management overall. But how does a business go from getting started to reaching its goals with suppliers?

In the first article in this series, we showed that businesses starting this process don’t have to choose between supplier diversity and supplier management. You should do both at the same time.

But now, let’s consider how to execute a plan to build relationships with suppliers and reach your business goals. You’ll need to understand three areas of SRM, or supplier relationship management: how your suppliers align with your business goals, how you manage supplier risk and how you address supplier development.

Shelby Group creates ‘Digital Invoice’ solution to tackle paper invoices

In procurement software projects, consultants usually play a role in tech selection, implementation or training, but The Shelby Group has taken its procurement consulting knowledge even further and created a product — one that can fill a gap that it saw when businesses struggled to deal with paper invoices in the digital age.

In accounts payable departments worldwide, it’s a common problem that paper invoices are still received from countless suppliers of varying sizes, and it’s known that digitally reading those invoices can save time and money if the clear rate can be improved.

The Shelby Group’s Digital Invoice is a powerful solution that clears a majority of invoices (both verified/complete and “close enough”) without human intervention.

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.

VMSA West — A Breath of Fresh Air for Contingent Workforce Conferences

This week, on Aug. 14 and 15, I had the opportunity to attend the VMSA West conference held right on the coast in beautiful Half Moon Bay, California. This was the first conference on the West Coast for VMSA, which wanted to create a contingent workforce event more accessible to businesses on this side of the country (the annual flagship conference VMSA Live is held annually in Florida). About 130 ecosystem professionals (a balanced mix of buy-side, MSP, supplier and other providers) met in an intimate setting to breathe, explore topics and learn from one another.

Proactis in Play: Arbitrage and Analysis [PRO]

Two weeks ago, Morningstar reported that Proactis had “received a takeover approach from an unnamed U.S. investor, together with a number (of) expressions of interest,” and that its bankers would review the offers. For those not familiar with the UK-based Proactis, the procurement solutions provider has deep spend management roots on both sides of the Atlantic spanning the private and public sectors, owing to numerous acquisitions made over the years, including, most recently, Esize in 2018.

This Spend Matters PRO and Nexus analysis provides a cursory overview of Proactis’ assets based on past coverage and analyzes the current situation and opportunities for the firm and potential acquirers — as well as different segments of acquirers that may be interested beyond financial buyers alone.

Taking the Path of Least Friction for a Successful Payables Strategy

e-invoicing

Inefficient invoice processing is standing in the way of companies achieving their bottom-line targets. The cause is manual, paper-based invoicing systems, which lead to late payments, errors, internal process issues, disputes and damaged relationships with suppliers, among other headaches. In a word, “friction.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. New data is showing that digital AP solutions can eliminate these frictions and streamline invoice processing.

The Payables Friction Index: Barriers to Invoice Automation,” a PYMNTS and Corcentric collaboration, quantifies the issues that businesses experience in processing supplier payments and explains how automated solutions can help ease the pain.