The Technology Category

Why Partial Automation Will Be a Smart Tool — Not a Replacement — For the AP Clerk

e-invoicing

Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Laurent Charpentier, chief innovation officer at Yooz North America.

Accounts payable (AP) clerks at leading companies are already seeing machine-learning programs automate and streamline their daily work, flagging suspicious invoices, reducing cycle time and saving their organizations money. Artificial intelligence is boosting efficiency and making life easier for thousands of AP professionals today. But many of these professionals are undoubtedly wondering if sophisticated software might one day put them out of a job.

Supply Dynamics: Vendor Snapshot (Part 2) — Product Strengths & Weaknesses [PRO]

manufacturing

One of the major gaps today between supply chain planning and collaboration solutions and direct materials procurement technologies is the lack of spend/supply visibility for raw and semifinished materials used at different stages in the supply chain. These materials include commodities such as metals, resins, electronic components, chemicals and standard parts purchased by suppliers such as fasteners.

Granted, manufacturers are getting better at SKU-level demand planning and forecasting on both and inbound and outbound levels, not to mention managing all of the logistics associated with moving goods and materials. This is the basic “feeds and speeds” of the supply chain. Manufacturers also more frequently gaining visibility and orchestrating controls and processes around overall “spend” at the line item and supplier level, but this is only historical “spent analysis” of material consumption within their own four walls. Few companies have a true bill of material- and design drawing-level understanding of what upstream materials they’re buying vis-a-vie their suppliers. In other words, the lack of visibility into their suppliers’ spend and underlying costs prevents them from uncovering cost savings opportunities that are hidden upstream in their supply chains.

This is precisely where Supply Dynamics, a provider that specializes in multitier direct materials procurement, proposes to fill an important analytics and solutions gap through its SDX platform. It’s an area that even direct materials procurement technology specialists such as Jaggaer/Pool4Tool and SAP Ariba, with their new solution releases, do not begin to address effectively.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot explores Supply Dynamics’ strengths and weaknesses, providing facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations decide whether they should consider the firm. Part 1 of our analysis provided a company and detailed solution overview, as well as a recommend fit list of criteria for firms considering Supply Dynamics. The third part of this series will offer a SWOT analysis, user selection guide, competitive alternatives and additional evaluation and selection considerations.

On the Amazon Robotics Challenge, Warehouse Automation and Expired Oatmega Bars

Recently I was on the phone with a Target customer service supervisor, explaining that for the third time in a row, the Oatmega nutrition bars I ordered online had arrived past their expiration dates. If you haven’t heard of Oatmega bars, their nutritional content is thoroughly impressive, and the taste is pretty good, too (after all, it took three shipments of expired bars for me to stop buying them). But there’s one catch: The bars become progressively harder to bite into as the expiration date approaches. And so I was explaining all of this to the supervisor, who blamed it on the warehouses’ robots.

Supply Dynamics: Vendor Snapshot (Part 1) — Background & Solution Overview [PRO]

manufacturing

Direct materials procurement is similar in some respects to indirect procurement: you want to see your spend, aggregate demand and find opportunities to reshape your value chain to unlock value. But that’s where the similarities end. Analyzing direct spend (especially across multiple tiers of supply) is sometimes like seeing a cloud of smoke coming out of your tailpipe — you know there’s something wrong but don’t know the cause. For indirect spend, you basically change the oil, replace the air filter and hope for the best. But for direct spend, you need specific engine diagnostics to figure out what’s driving performance and how much you could potentially improve. And unfortunately, in many cases, the manufacturers of those engines parts don’t want you poking around under the hood.

Whether it’s for plastics, resins, hydrocarbon feedstocks, agricultural commodities, standard catalogue parts, electronic components or metals, you must translate your demand for parts into the raw materials that go into them. And you must understand the demand volumes, supply chain capacities and processing capabilities that drive that pricing — especially if you want to tap into aggregated buying channels beyond the stuff you buy to support your own internal factory requirements.

This intersection of supply chain modeling, demand forecasting, demand-supply reconciliation, demand aggregation and commodity price forecasting is where Supply Dynamics plays. The idea originated with one of North America’s largest privately owned metals distributors where the opportunity to roll up demand information across OEM customers and their outside contract manufacturers gave it a unique opportunity to build out specific analytics that would help it size up opportunities for its customers and itself. But last year that technology was liberated from its previous owners and is now a commercial offering for any manufacturer or distributor that wants to optimize its own extended supply chain.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot provides facts and expert analysis to help buying organizations make informed decisions about whether they need a solution like Supply Dynamics to expand their analytics initiatives into previously unchartered materials and supply chain components. 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 Supply Dynamics. The rest of this multipart research brief covers product strengths and weaknesses, competitor and SWOT analyses, user selection guides and insider evaluation and selection considerations.

Amazon’s Move into Healthcare: Managing Tail Spend or Redefining its Last Mile?

healthcare

Everyone is consumed with Amazon’s widely reported “move” into healthcare. But what does that mean? While the prevailing wisdom suggests that Amazon has an opportunity to displace the group purchasing organizations (GPOs) and major distributors that dominate care provider supply chains, even if that’s true, is that Amazon’s endgame — managing healthcare’s tail spend?

Coupa’s Open Buy Solution with Amazon Business is a Game-Changer for Unified Catalog Management and Real Guided Buying [PRO]

Electronic catalogs are a pain in the ass. Twenty years ago, early e-procurement implementations were always dragged down by the work required to build electronic catalogs. And things haven't changed that much. The problem is that you force suppliers to publish (i.e., replicate) catalog content to their buyers’ various system or to electronic marketplaces — unless you use supplier-hosted catalogs that you “punch out” to. This is nearly always implemented as a Level 1 punch out, where the poor buying employee has to click on various supplier icons to get to the right websites where their buying experiences are controlled by the seller (i.e., “guided selling”) rather than the chief procurement officer (CPO) preferred metaphor of guided buying.

The next level of sophistication is a Level 2 punch out, where supplier catalog content sits next to internally curated corporate catalog items before a punch out occurs when the right item is found. The problem, however, is that a supplier still has to syndicate (replicate) all of the content that a CPO wants to expose to corporate employees. And it’s even worse because the type of catalog items in question are broad assortments of infrequently ordered items that make up tail spend. Are you really going to get someone like Amazon Business to syndicate content from hundreds of millions of items to your buy-side catalog? No. Also, the number of suppliers that support Level 2 punch out is extremely low (perhaps fewer than 100 suppliers globally), which is not surprising given that they have to syndicate massive catalogs to multiple channels. Syndication/replication is not a great long-term answer for anyone when an API can be built to serve up the content on demand.

Speaking of Amazon, Coupa has worked with Amazon Business to develop a Coupa solution called Open Buy. The offering changes the paradigm to allow “guided buying” through a more unified experience that actually implements Level 2 punch outs properly in a way that’s palatable to the CPO, employees and the supplier (i.e., Amazon Business doesn’t currently support the existing Level 2 punch out scheme — and we don’t blame them). In this Spend Matters PRO brief, we’ll examine how Coupa Open Buy works, how it’s different and some strategic implications for the market.

WorkMarket’s Acquisition of OnForce: Why It Takes a Village, Not Uberization [PRO]

We recently covered WorkMarket’s acquisition of field services execution platform OnForce from the staffing industry giant Adecco Group. While this M&A activity could easily be viewed as just a “tuck in acquisition” (into WorkMarket’s field services solution vertical), it is really more than that. Considering the comprehensive deal and its context provides a different perspective on the strategic development of this particular digital work platform, as well as on digital work platforms in general.

This Spend Matters PRO brief addresses HR and contingent workforce procurement practitioners who are trying to understand the emergence of digital work platforms and the ongoing transformation of the enterprise and the execution of work. It provides an overview and introduction to OnForce and WorkMarket, offers sector definitions to cut through the jargon and introduces the different components of the field services contractor management technology market as well as alternative providers.

Finally, it offers analysis on the future of the OnForce/WorkMarket combination and the future of online work intermediation platforms in general — and why collaboration and ecosystem relationships are key to driving change in established B2B industries.

WorkMarket Acquires OnForce: Not Such a Big Deal, or More Significant Than It Appears?

WorkMarket announced Wednesday that it has acquired OnForce from The Adecco Group for an undisclosed amount, forming a strategic partnership with Addeco as part of the deal, according to a press release. The acquisition of OnForce will increase WorkMarket’s existing footprint in the field tech contractor work execution vertical. OnForce, founded in 2003, was a pioneer in that segment, which WorkMarket entered in 2010.

The Emerging World of Digitally Intermediated Work: Old vs. New — or Something Else? (Part 2) [PRO]

The digital transformation in contingent labor and outcomes-based services within procurement today is happening now. In contrast to indirect procurement and direct procurement, where traditional intermediaries and sourcing models have remained largely untouched by limited new disruptive entrants, the services procurement sector is in the early stages of transformation due to fundamental changes in labor-driven connectivity to demand.

Although adoption of these solutions has varied to date, incumbent staffing, consultancy and other labor intermediaries are indeed coopting and engaging these new models — an important indicator of their trajectory. Moreover, to deny this trend is to turn your back on dozens of solutions that connect specialized labor markets with end users in the business, not to mention the hundreds of millions in funding that these new, innovative intermediaries have received in recent years.

This two-part Spend Matters PRO research brief explores the evolution of digitally intermediated work. In the first installment, we explored digitization in the context of new staffing and labor models today, explaining how these new models can complement and work alongside traditional incumbent approaches. We also explored how organizations can incorporate labor-based digitization into familiar contingent and services procurement models and practices. In Part 2, we turn our attention to summarizing the key trends that procurement, HR and IT practitioners need to be aware of, and we provide key recommendations to put digital services transformation to work for you — rather than against you.

What Sets World-Class Procurement Organizations Apart? Use of Digital Technology for One

There are many things that set world-class procurement organizations apart from their average-performing peers. It may be working closely with suppliers to drive innovation and manage risks, or perhaps it’s collaborating with senior management on strategic initiatives. According to a new report from The Hackett Group, world-class procurement organizations also have 29% fewer full-time workers on average, and they rack up 22% lower labor costs. But how is it that these organizations can achieve more with fewer full-time employees? One indispensable factor is digital technology, the report says.

3 Reasons the Cognitive Era is Not Yet Upon Us — But it Will Be Soon

Forget digital. The 2020s will be powered by super intelligent, human-like applications that all but replace their creators. This is the dawn of the cognitive era. At least, that’s what the software market has been saying for the past year or so. But given that most organizations, particularly those in a B2B or supply chain context, have barely come around to adopting even plain old “digital” strategies, cognitive’s penetration in the enterprise is, perhaps, a bit oversold. To understand why, here are three examples of how we're still laying the groundwork for the transition from digital to cognitive — and what to expect when it really starts.

The Emerging World of Digitally Intermediated Work: Old vs. New — or Something Else? (Part 1) [PRO]

digital business transformation

Fact: New, digitally enabled models and marketplaces for sourcing labor, talent, skills, expertise and services have started to emerge in recent years. Yet “talent brokers” have always existed in the labor market — work arrangements have long been intermediated by staffing firms and service providers. Viewed from this lens, what is happening now is not so much disintermediation of those intermediaries but rather the emergence and evolution of new intermediation models that, at their core, take advantage of digital technologies. While these models are appearing in the market as new solutions offered by new companies (e.g., Upwork, Catalant, Hired, WorkMarket), gradually they are also being incorporated and adopted by incumbent staffing and service provider intermediaries (e.g., Randstad, GRI, MBO Partners, PwC, Deloitte).

This two-part Spend Matters PRO research brief explores the evolution of digitally intermediated work. In the first installment, we take inventory of the current staffing and labor models today and how digitization alters the structure and properties of work compared with staffing models. We also explore the comparative sourcing and provisioning of digital talent, as well as how organizations can structure and consume these new services — compared with traditional approaches. Finally, we consider the current state of digitally enabled work arrangements and intermediaries. In Part 2 of this series, we summarize and structure key takeaways from all of the current trends and provide recommendations for practitioners.