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Procurement Technology

What You Should Expect from Best-in-Class E-Sourcing User Experience and Functionality (Part 2) [PRO]

E-sourcing technology is becoming increasingly defined by the user experience as much as the underlying functional and technical capability. But in the future — and we see this trend starting already with best-in-class capabilities — the combination of the user experience (i.e., design) and underlying technology solution components and feature/function capabilities will become increasingly intertwined and inseparable. This Spend Matters PRO series examines the intersection of what a best-in-class user experience and functionality capability means for e-sourcing solutions today and tomorrow.

In Part 1 of this series, we explored what capabilities and experience procurement organizations should expect from best-in-class guided event creation, clutter-free views and simplified template creation and management within e-sourcing solutions. In this installment, we turn our attention to how the world of best-in-class user experiences and underlying functional capability are coming together to support bulk upload/attachment association, starting bid population, bid validation and verification and procurement/supplier delegation for strategic sourcing, category management and auction/negotiation enablement. These are capabilities that buyers of these solutions should evaluate vendors on based on demonstrated capabilities, approach and planned releases, and they are capabilities that technology providers should continually strive to enhance.

What You Should Expect from Best-in-Class E-Sourcing User Experience and Functionality [PRO]

E-sourcing technologies have been around for two decades now. The authors have played various roles over the years in helping architect them, design them, configure them, select them and use them. Yet while today e-sourcing should be a mature and functionally rich technology out of the box, the reality is that there are still a number of offerings that don't have some of the most basic features you would have expected some years ago.

In contrast, other offerings continue to push the envelope in various areas of what the product can offer. In this two-part Spend Matters PRO brief, we outline what specific elements you should expect from best-in-class e-sourcing user experience and functional components. In the first installment, we cover how best-in-class solution designs feature guided event creation, clutter-free views and simplified template creation and management. As will soon become clear, it is impossible to separate a best-in-class user experience from underlying functional capability in many areas of strategic sourcing technology — the two are becoming increasingly yoked. Form following function. Or function following form. You decide!

The Future of the Procurement Technology User Experience (Part 2): Advanced Mobile and ‘Mission Control’ Dashboards [PRO]

ux

Does anyone remember how bad early procurement technology interfaces were? While there are some folks we can blame directly — for example, whoever designed SAP SRM’s original interfaces in earlier releases should be doomed to spend his retirement managing the search, requisition and approval process for the coffins of all of the licenses that were never used — the limitations of early UIs were mostly due to where technology was at the time. We are not just talking about the latest in “Amazon-esque shopping” or “type ahead” search capability, or minimizing the number of clicks required to perform a task, clever menu nesting, tab structures, integrated activities within “suites” that transcend being within a specific module and the better use of icons and colors. That’s so 2015. Rather, nearly all elements of the modern 2017 technology stack are starting to come together in a manner that is driving the start of a radical shift in creating more usable procurement technology overall. This is big. It’s much bigger than Coupa rising to fame (initially) by creating a UI that was vastly superior to Ariba at the time (not SAP Ariba today, mind you).

As we noted in an earlier installment of this series exploring “smart systems” and messaging, chat and collaboration (MCC), “Smart systems drive integrated guidance leveraging new "AI" techniques ... They do this by mixing semantic technology, sentiment analysis, key-phrase driven expert systems and other machine learning techniques with history to determine what the user is doing and what the user wants to do … [and] new approaches to MCC represent a new ‘layer’ of the user experience. Just as third-party analytics dashboards have become a standard ‘front end’ in many procurement suites for drilling into spend, supplier or modular based data, so too are these components becoming a standard addition to procurement technology applications. As with front-end analytics, they can either be developed internally (by a procurement software vendor) or they can be OEM’ed/licensed by a provider — as is often the case with analytics — and incorporated as a component of the product.”

Today, we turn our attention to advanced mobile enablement and “mission control” dashboards — two other components driving the next-generation procurement user experience in technology. In this research brief, we define these areas and their components, and provide practical use cases of how they are leveraged within technology.

The Future of the Procurement Technology User Experience: Smart Systems and Messaging, Chat and Collaboration (MCC) [PRO]

software

It was not so long ago that nearly all vendors with strong user interfaces, at least for e-procurement, described the experience of those using their applications as “Amazon-like.” But in a matter of quarters, the bar for a best-in-class user experience has evolved materially. And the pace of acceleration will only continue.

Even today, “ease-of-use” is the ante — a strong user experience delivers much more. In the first installment in this series, we noted that for procurement technologies, the user experience “is extremely important these days. For better or worse, it is becoming the basis for many technology selections, as organizations are quickly realizing that user experience is the key to adoption.”

Further, “procurement teams are now becoming aware that the high-priced technology they acquire will only deliver an ROI if it gets used. And having acquired too much shelfware over time, many have decided that it's better to settle for fewer features if the software is actually adopted.”

But what is a best-in-class user experience in 2017? And what will it be in 2020? In this two-part Spend Matters PRO brief, we delve into the evolution of the procurement technology UI, describing what users and technology buyers should now expect today and tomorrow from artificial intelligence (AI) smart systems, real-time messaging, chat and collaboration (MCC) frameworks, integrated dashboards and the latest in advanced mobile capability.

Don’t get left behind. And don’t let a technology provider fool you into thinking they necessarily are providing the latest and greatest capability today — or are taking full advantage of disruptive technologies as they plan their roadmaps for tomorrow.

A Guidebook to the Rise of Industry-Specific Procurement Technologies: Related Markets, the Why and the Where [PRO]

By Spend Matters estimates, over 80% of dollars spent on procurement technology in recent years has been for standard source-to-pay products (e.g., spend analytics, sourcing, contract management, supplier management, e-procurement and invoice-to-pay) that were not specifically designed or configured — prior to deployments — to support industry-specific requirements. Granted, there have been some notable deviations to the rule (which make up the 20%), such as healthcare-centric solutions, certain areas of public sector, supplier compliance in regulated industries, supporting specific collaboration requirements, manufacturing requirements and so forth. But these have been exceptions rather than the norm.

Something new is afoot, however. There are a number of signposts which point to the pending rise of industry-specific solutions more generally for procurement technology — i.e., those solutions which are either designed from the start or come pre-configured to meet the specific needs of a given market.

This Spend Matters PRO research series provides a guidebook for organizations that are interested in this change, the drivers behind it, and some trends and examples that we’re seeing in the field. It explores when industry specific procurement technologies are likely most appropriate (or not), what technologies are likely to be affected, lessons from related markets (e.g., finance/treasury, supply chain, supplier and third-party management) and provides a summary and analysis of recent news from Jaggaer, Ivalua and SAP Ariba detailing their emerging approaches to verticalization. It also provides recommendations to procurement organizations, solution providers and consultancies that are looking to take advantage of this shift (or not get left behind by it).

What is Your Procure-to-Pay Persona? Understand Your Requirements and Mass Customize Your Vendor Shortlist [PRO]

No two procurement or finance organizations are alike. Each has its own persona that reflects not only its own value proposition and engagement approach but also the stakeholders it serves — and its supply base. The same principle holds true of procure-to-pay (P2P) application providers. Each has a persona (or more than persona) that reflects its value proposition, solution strategy and targeted customer segments. Therefore, companies should seek providers whose personas best align to theirs. In other words, there is no “magic” solution provider, and finding the right fit is critical, because a P2P application represents the main interface for most of procurement’s internal customers — and a common face to suppliers, as well.

To that end, we are excited to break down our approach to Spend Matters SolutionMapTM, a comparative analytical framework for practitioners to evaluate relevant solutions to meet their procurement needs. Our SolutionMap initiative depicts vendor rankings based on specific buyer personas to reflect the unique value proposition, solution strategy and customer segments served by a vendor. Participating vendors are scored both on their solution as well as on customer value, based on in-depth tech reviews (including live demos) by the Spend Matters analyst team and aggregated direct customer input from surveys. Each SolutionMap is updated quarterly rather than in 12-month (or longer) cycles, to accurately reflect the pace of market developments.

As part of our Spend Matters SolutionMap vendor comparison ranking, for procure-to-pay solutions (publishing in the coming days, with subsequent quarterly updates), the Spend Matters analyst team has dedicated considerable time to developing the unique organizational “personas” that we’ve most often seen in our decades of experience working with procurement organizations. We have used these personas to weight the requirements that we used in solution scoring, which includes customer satisfaction scoring by solution customers.

Trade Extensions and Coupa Acquisition Analysis: Customer and Partner Recommendations [PRO]

Tradeshift Baiwang

This Spend Matters PRO brief, part of a series analyzing Coupa’s acquisition of Trade Extensions (see also here and here), provides recommendations for Trade Extensions and Coupa customers and partners surrounding the acquisition. 

Spend Matters has spoken or met with many of Trade Extensions’ largest customers in recent years (most of which prefer to remain unnamed) and the most advanced organizations view it as the tool that affords the highest degrees of competitive advantage across the procurement technology spectrum relative to peers in as much as how it is used than what it has the potential to do. This is key. In fact, there are material levels of diversity among Trade Extensions users even in the same industry. Many customers expose some parts of Trade Extensions’ potential yet could get away with another optimization solution for at least some of their events, if not all. Yet best-in-class procurement organizations unleash its full potential to drive competitive sourcing and supply chain advantage.

Whether you view Trade Extensions and sourcing optimization at this level or more tactically, this Spend Matters PRO brief provides insight and recommendations into the combination of the two providers. It is divided into three sections: Trade Extensions customer recommendations, Coupa customer recommendations and partner recommendations.

Defining Blockchain For Procurement (Part 1): Background and Use Cases [PRO]

blockchain

For procurement, finance and supply chain organizations, blockchain has the potential to revolutionize different areas of supplier engagement, collaboration, traceability and management. But how (and when) it ultimately changes the way we use technology in such areas as supplier networks/supplier enablement, supplier management, contract lifecycle management, payables (and trade financing) and commodity management, among other areas, remains to be seen.

This multipart Spend Matters PRO series aims to both demystify (and explain) blockchain architectures while putting it in the context of procurement, providing a roadmap for practitioners to consider as they think about adopting the technology in the years to come.

Part 1 of this series starts by defining and explaining blockchain for a “non-technologist” and providing use cases for procurement organizations as they consider how they might adopt blockchain alongside their existing applications and supplier connectivity solutions. Part 2 and 3 will provide additional insight into early blockchain deployments and how providers, including both vendor upstarts as well as established providers such as SAP Ariba, may include blockchain as an integral component (or alongside) existing application and network architectures.

12 Ways E-Catalogs Can Enhance Your E-Procurement Mojo [Plus +]

E-catalogs (catalog management) are a key part of any e-procurement solution. For e-procurement, catalogs provide more than just a list of items. They enable the loading of prices, and they enable features of products and services to be approved and integrated into an e-marketplace in order to purchase against.

Catalogs are a living, often-changing and integrated source of information (within a single database) that enable all purchasing scenarios. Combined with the support of a robust e-marketplace — advanced search engine; advanced purchasing mechanisms such as e-forms, lists, kits, etc.; a powerful workflow engine and flexible system integration capability — they provide key support for buying requirements.

As I’ve been known to say, I consider e-catalogs the “fifth element” of procurement. “The fifth element” comes from the eponymous 1997 fiction action film starring Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich. In the movie, earth is considered "north," fire is "south," air is "east," water is "west" and the fifth element is the "spirit" or "soul” — the "spiritual force" that earth, air, fire and water descend from.

Although they may not be truly spiritual in nature, I think that e-catalogs are a sort of hidden force that breathes new power into broader e-procurement. In this Spend Matters Plus brief, we give procurement practitioners 12 ways e-catalogs can do just that.

Need an e-procurement and invoice-to-pay primer before reading or subscribing to Plus for the first time? Download this free report.

Our Portfolio of Procurement Stocks Responds Well to Seismic Events in November [Plus +]

procurement solutions stocks

November 2016 will not go down in history for anything to do with business, procurement or share prices. The election of Donald Trump certainly seemed to be a seismic event, although we will have to wait and see. Perhaps the biggest shock of all will be if he turns out to be an OK sort of president – not too bad, not brilliant either. Given that one camp has absurdly high expectations of him (“draining the D.C. swamp”) whilst another believes he will lead the world to Armageddon, wouldn’t that be the real surprise?

Stock Portfolio for September – And It’s Goodnight from Me, and It’s Goodnight from Him* [Plus +]

stocks

* As for that headline, Google it if you aren’t British and over 40. It's time for news about our portfolio of stocks from publicly quoted companies who are all or partly focused on procurement solutions and services. We have 20 firms represented in our portfolio, from huge to small, and we report on overall portfolio performance every month, picking out a few firms to focus on more closely. September was — well, how can we put this gently — a somewhat boring month, at least if you look at the headline stock prices at both individual company level and overall for the portfolio. BUT if we look more carefully, we can find some points of interest, including two high-profile CEO departures. So what did the behind-the-scenes goings-on look like?

August Was a Quiet but Generally Hot Month for our Portfolio [Plus +]

stock prices

Did you have a good summer? Weather good, we trust? Too hot in some parts of the world, while in the U.K. – actually, it wasn’t too bad after a cool start. And now we’re writing this on a beautiful early September day, as the kids get their books and uniforms out ready for back to school this coming week. Yes, you might have guessed from the chat. August’s stock market movements of our portfolio of procurement-related companies did not give us the most exciting range of topics to cover. The weather is probably more interesting. It was a month where generally markets seemed to take a breather after a year so far in which there have certainly been plenty of events for them to think about, from the rise of Trump to the U.K.’s Brexit vote. However, the overall performance of our procurement stock portfolio was very good overall, up some 6% on the month, and it now stands some 10% above the beginning of the year level. That means for the first time this year it has moved clear of the overall market performance. U.K. markets are up 7% on the year, U.S. 6% and the global index about 5%, so procurement-related stocks are now ahead of that.