Technology Content

AI in Optimization Tomorrow [PRO]

Our last article recounted the story of artificial intelligence in optimization today, or, more accurately the lack of AI in optimization today.

While AI in its most basic form of "assisted intelligence" is readily available in many modern procurement and sourcing platforms, as evidenced in our previous briefings (AI in Procurement and AI in Sourcing), it has not yet creeped into optimization. The most advanced platforms have limited themselves to easy constraint creation, data verification and detection of hard constraints that prevent solutions — as in the case of Coupa — or easy data population, wizard-based scenario creation (using standard model templates), and automation — as in the case of Keelvar. In the former case, the underlying statistical algorithms can be found at the heart of some modern machine learning technologies (but aren't quite there), and in the latter case, the robotic process automation (RPA) is nothing more than an automated, manually defined, workflow.

But that doesn't mean that AI won't creep into optimization tomorrow. While it may not with the current vendors on the market (for different reasons with each vendor), that doesn't mean that the next vendor to bring an optimization solution to the market won't learn from the oversights of its predecessors and bring some obvious advancements to the table — especially when certain vendors are releasing their platforms with an open API to support an Intel-inside-like model where sourcing or AI vendors can build on leading optimization foundations to offer something truly differentiated.

And what could those differentiators be? We'll get to that, but first let's review the premise.

Simply put, in the traditional sense of the abbreviation, there is no AI, or artificial intelligence, in any source-to-pay application today, as there is no AI in any enterprise software today. Algorithms are getting more advanced by the day, the data sets they can train on are getting bigger by the day, and the predictions and computations are getting more accurate by the day — but it's just computations. Like your old HP calculators, computers are still dumb as door knobs even though they can compute a million times faster.

However, with weaker definitions of the term, we have elements of AI in our platforms today. Assisted intelligence capabilities are beginning to become common in best-of-breed applications and platforms, and “augmented intelligence” capabilities are starting to hit the market for point-based problems. For example, tomorrow's procurement technologies will buy on your behalf automatically and invisibly, automatically detect opportunities, and even identify emerging categories.

But if AI is going to take root, it has to take root everywhere, and that includes sourcing optimization. So what could we see tomorrow?

Let's step back and review what optimization does. It takes a set of costs, constraints and goals, and then it determines an award scenario that maximizes the goals subject to the constraints and the costs provided. So where could AI help?

3 Areas Where CSR Risks Hide in Your Indirect Spend (Part 2)

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Because procurement is so often measured on cost savings as its primary KPI, another essential factor can be left by the wayside: risk. Especially when it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability, risk remains hidden within indirect spend. To see how these dangers go unaddressed, here are three areas with examples of where organizations miss — but, with proper tools, can address — CSR and sustainability risks for indirect procurement.

Digital Transformation Disrupts the CPO Role — Adding Pressure and Opportunity

The role of the chief procurement officer as a strategic business partner has taken on a new shape in recent years as organizations aim to better focus on changing business landscapes and keeping up on tech developments. A recent ProcureCon study, “Examining the Role of the CPO as a Catalyst for Digital Transformation in a Time of Disruption,” suggests that the role of the CPO must now assist its organization by navigating the global business environment’s opportunities and changes.

Corcentric to Acquire Determine: Exploring Determine’s Procure-to-Pay Strengths and Weaknesses (Part 3) [PRO]

Corcentric recently announced its pending acquisition of Determine (see previous Spend Matters PRO analysis: Transaction Overview and Customer Recommendations and Competitive Landscape Analysis — and news coverage here). But in buying Determine, what exactly is Corcentric gaining from a procure-to-pay perspective (i.e., product, solution and platform strengths and weaknesses)? And how do Determine’s capabilities stack up in the market overall relative to peers on a granular basis?

To answer the latter question, you can turn to the latest Q4 2018 SolutionMaps for e-procurement, invoice-to-pay and procure-to-pay SolutionMap Insider provider scoring summaries. For those interested in viewing Determine from a broader source-to-pay perspective, there is a SolutionMap for you as well. Each report provides comparative overall and “deep-dive” capability insight (e.g., catalog management, requisitioning, invoicing compliance, etc.) as well as detailed customer reference benchmarks. Determine is one of dozens of providers featured in these granular, comparative vendor ratings analyses — others include Basware, BuyerQuest, Coupa, Ivalua, Jaggaer, Oracle, SAP Ariba, Tradeshift, Taulia, Vroozi and Zycus — designed to aid shortlisting and selection decisions.

But to provide insight into overall product strengths and weaknesses for P2P, let’s dive right in today as we offer a summary view of where Determine stands out from the pack — and where it trails its peers. We’ll offer a similar analysis for sourcing, supplier management, contract lifecycle management (CLM) and spend/procurement analytics (collectively Strategic Procurement Technologies in SolutionMap) in a subsequent research brief in this series.

Jaggaer ONE: A Comparative Analysis of the S2P Suite (Source-to-Pay SolutionMap Analysis)

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When source-to-pay suite provider Jaggaer announced in early February the release of Jaggaer ONE, a platform that unifies the provider’s acquired solutions into a single offering, it took a big step forward in clarifying the firm’s strategy. Using a services-oriented architecture (SOA) that allows users to select discrete business processes (i.e., modules) from Jaggaer’s portfolio of technology solutions, Jaggaer ONE has articulated a vision for the company beyond bringing the code and customers from SciQuest, Pool4Tool and BravoSolution under one roof.

Jaggaer noted with the release of Jaggaer ONE that it is unifying three of its product lines — Jaggaer Indirect, Jaggaer Direct and Jaggaer Advantage — without moving them onto a single code base, allowing customers and prospects to select the best modules from each offering to fit an organization’s unique needs. It’s a cafeteria approach that allows clients to assemble a “synthetic” source-to-pay suite rather than wrestle with a patched-together “Frankensuite” (or “Frankensuite’s monster,” if you have to be that guy).

But with three distinct product choices that each cover some or all areas of the source-to-pay cycle, Jaggaer ONE presents opportunities for too much choice. How can current Jaggaer clients, prospective customers, systems integrators and consultancies determine which modules to select from the Jaggaer ONE portfolio, and how do the best-performing modules from Jaggaer ONE fare when compared against other market leaders for specific point or suite products?

This Spend Matters SolutionMap analysis examines Jaggaer’s solutions by modular and suite view to help interested parties understand the best components that make up Jaggaer ONE. It offers insight into which areas Jaggaer is strong in (and where it lags), and how competitive this SOA-unified suite is compared with other procure-to-pay (P2P), strategic procurement technologies (SPT) and source-to-pay (S2P) in comparison to its broader peer group including Coupa, Ivalua, Oracle, SAP Ariba, Synertrade and Zycus.

Overall, the results paint a comparatively promising picture for Jaggaer ONE on a functional basis, and our hats go off to the Jaggaer team for assembling such a robust set of suite building blocks — with additional enabling solutions for specific industries that extend beyond what SolutionMap even prioritizes as key ranking criteria.

For this analysis, our report uses the aggregate results of nine SolutionMaps from Q4 2018 (the most recent in our quarterly update cycle), comparing a total of 58 solution providers across more than 600 granular functional benchmarks, which are aggregated into more manageable, tiered buckets for the purpose of this analysis. (Those procurement organizations leveraging SolutionMap for a software selection process gain insight into comparative performance at a significantly more granular level of detail that maps business requirements to functional performance.) The SolutionMap analyst ratings used in this analysis are based on more than 3,000 hours of live product demonstrations and validated vendor RFI responses.

In subsequent briefs exploring Coupa, Ivalua, SAP Ariba and others, we will take a similar approach to analyzing source-to-pay providers, breaking down where end-to-end platforms excel (or fall below the functional benchmark) on module and suite bases.

Turbocharging E-invoicing Through the Supplier Network Value Proposition [Plus+]

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As we discussed in the first part of this e-invoicing research brief, there are many more goals of automating the invoicing (and invoice receiving) process than simply driving process efficiency. Indeed, advanced e-invoicing deployments now go far beyond the plumbing required to automate the issuance, workflow and approval of an invoice in a streamlined manner with as few accounts payable touch points as necessary (not to mention providing suppliers with greater visibility throughout the process). Today, supplier networks have emerged to extend the value proposition of basic e-invoicing to a number of new areas, including the better management of working capital (and much more). In the second part of this series, we discuss how supplier networks are extending the e-invoicing value proposition, advanced scenarios that e-invoicing and network providers are starting to enable today and who some of the key vendors in the space are, including specialists, suite providers and regional solutions.

Avetta, Browz to Combine Their Supply Chain Risk Management Companies

Two providers of supply chain risk management, Avetta and Browz, announced Thursday that they’re joining forces under the Avetta name to serve a combined 85,000 clients. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Avetta CEO John Herr, who will lead the combined companies, said in an interview that the company will now have the “critical mass” in staff, clients and geography to expand and compete in existing areas and new markets. Herr said the global marketplace for supply chain risk management solutions is valued at $14 billion and that it has a lot of room for growth.

Contract AI: How Legal Departments Evaluated, Use Artificial Intelligence Tools

Staples

A new report for Seal Software sheds light on how companies’ legal departments are preparing for or using the latest tools associated with artificial intelligence to analyze contracts for hidden opportunities and risks, according to the white paper by Ari Kaplan Advisors. Seal uses machine learning and other technology to review contracts, extract data and do analytics, the California-based company said in a news release. It all adds up to a “Contract AI” solution. Some respondents pulled back the curtain on how they’re deploying the technology.

Corcentric to Acquire Determine: Valuation, Transaction Overview, Customer Recommendations and Competitive Landscape Analysis (Part 2) [PRO]

low commodity prices

Corcentric’s pending acquisition of Determine will create one of the more unique procurement and finance solutions providers in the market. In addition, the transaction, upon closing, will firmly establish Corcentric as a software (SaaS/cloud platform) provider in the source-to-pay sector. But what are the implications for Corcentric’s and Determine’s customers and the broader competitive market?

Part 1 of this Spend Matters PRO brief provided an overview of the combination (by the numbers), an analysis of the transaction/valuation and our “elephant in the room” observations.

Today, we turn our attention to customer recommendations for Corcentric and Determine users and offer a perspective on the competitive landscape implications of the transaction.

In later PRO briefs, we will offer our view of Determine’s functional strengths and weaknesses in both the procure-to-pay (i.e., e-procurement and invoice-to-pay) and strategic procurement technologies (e.g., sourcing, CLM, etc.) areas.

Corcentric to Acquire Determine: Valuation, Transaction Overview, Customer Recommendations and Competitive Landscape Analysis (Part 1) [PRO]

Earlier this week, Corcentric — a provider focused at the intersection of accounts payable automation, order-to-cash, trade financing, procurement consulting and group purchasing organization (GPO) software and services — announced its most strategic software acquisition to date: Determine.

But what are the highlights of the transaction? How do the proposed terms of the combination address Determine’s balance sheet liabilities — and more important, what is our summary analysis of Corcentric + Determine?

In this two-part Spend Matters PRO brief, we will provide an overview of the combination (by the numbers), an analysis of the transaction/valuation, our “elephant in the room” observations, summary recommendations for Corcentric and Determine customers and an analysis of the competitive landscape implications of the transaction.

In later PRO research briefs, we will offer our perspective on Determine’s functional strengths and weaknesses in both the procure-to-pay (i.e., e-procurement and invoice-to-pay) and strategic procurement technologies (e.g., sourcing, CLM, etc.) areas and what these bring to Corcentric, and, with sufficient distribution (that they lack today, at least in North America), what they could bring to the broader source-to-pay market.

Using Technology to Develop Strategic Supplier Relationships

In Efficio's recent survey — “Procurement 2025: Is digital transformation driving more effective procurement?” — around two-thirds (64%) of respondents agreed that strategic supplier relationships will become increasingly important as companies look to achieve their future objectives — yet only half (52%) have formally selected their strategic suppliers. This gap indicates that while there is consensus on the value of the strategic supplier relationship, many companies have yet to define what a strategic supplier truly looks like for their organization, much less how technology can help to develop these relationships.

How Fintechs Can Use Non-Banks for Supply Chain Finance

David Gustin is the chief strategy officer for The Interface Financial Group responsible for digital supply chain finance and is a contributing author to Trade Financing Matters.

In my last post, Many Fintechs Still Rely on Bring-Your-Own-Bank Strategy for Supply Chain Finance, I discussed how source-to-pay platforms and other cloud software providers still rely on their clients’ house banks for supply chain finance and why that might not be the wisest strategy given the times. So if you are a Fintech and want to offer supply chain finance, what are your options beyond a house bank strategy?