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EC Sourcing: Vendor Analysis, 2021 update (Part 3) — SWOT, EC Sourcing Competitors, Tech Selection Tips, Analyst Summary [PRO]

EC Sourcing

This final installment of our updated three-part Spend Matters PRO Vendor Analysis of EC Sourcing series provides a company SWOT assessment, a look at EC Sourcing’s competitors and how the provider compares to competing vendors that customers may wish to shortlist. This post also includes a user selection guide and summary evaluation.

There is a lot of competition in the e-sourcing and strategic sourcing suite marketplace today.

Granted, while new market entrants have largely if not entirely replaced some of the legacy providers from a decade or more ago, the amount of choice procurement organizations have in selecting a provider has never been greater.

EC Sourcing is one such provider that companies — especially those in the middle market — may wish to add to their shortlists, not just for core sourcing and negotiation but to enable basic category management support and upstream (non-transactional) suite capability.

Part 1 and Part 2 of this analysis provide a company and solution overview (with info on the BidMode integration), product strengths and weaknesses, and a recommended fit analysis for what types of organizations should consider EC Sourcing.

Now, let’s take a deeper look at EC Sourcing and how it sits in the procurement technology market.

EC Sourcing: Vendor Analysis, 2021 update (Part 2) — Product Strengths and Weaknesses [PRO]

EC Sourcing

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Analysis update explores EC Sourcing’s strengths and weaknesses, providing facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations determine if they should shortlist the vendor as a potential provider.

Many procurement organizations at larger firms will soon be on their second (or even third) set of e-sourcing technologies, with many using multiple solutions. The middle market is different, with scattered adoption and a much more recent track record of “sourcing” tools for the first time, if at all. Both trends favor lesser-known providers like EC Sourcing, a closely held technology and solutions firm that has compiled a commendable e-sourcing package that now has all of the core capabilities of a broader “upstream” suite — albeit with strengths and weaknesses in different areas.

EC Sourcing built out its suite from an e-negotiation core, and now it has a range of surprisingly deep capabilities that go beyond modular capability alone, including workflow management. On a functional basis, the provider offers e-sourcing, basic contract management, supplier management (which includes supplier corrective action reporting, or SCAR), and now advanced strategic sourcing decision optimization (by acquiring BidMode) and spend analysis.

Part 1 of our update provided a company and detailed solution overview, as well as a summary recommended fit suggestion for what types of organizations should consider EC Sourcing. Part 3 of this series will offer a SWOT analysis of the company, a discussion of EC Sourcing’s competitors, tech selection recommendations and a summary analysis.

Now, let’s examine the solution’s strengths and weaknesses.

EC Sourcing: Vendor Analysis, 2021 update (Part 1) — Background, Solution Overview, BidMode acquisition, added spend analysis [PRO]

EC Sourcing bidmode

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Analysis 2021 update offers a refresh of our 2020 review of EC Sourcing’s solution based on EC Sourcing’s recent announcements of its BidMode acquisition and its new, native spend analysis capability.

While we normally wouldn’t do two complete PRO updates in a year, these announcements are quite substantial as they provide EC Sourcing with not only entry into the source-to-contract platform market (while they don’t have authoring, they support contract document and data management) but one with advanced optimization capabilities generally only found in the large enterprise source-to-pay platforms.

EC Sourcing is one of a select group of procurement technology providers that have been aggressively targeting the middle market with an e-sourcing platform, one of a smaller group that offer relatively full source-to-contract capabilities (which are more than sufficient for the majority of mid-market companies because legal teams are usually quite happy to author contracts in Word and then just upload the signed contracts), and one of a smaller group still that can even serve Global the 3000 if they are just looking for S2C and are primarily indirect/services.

Moreover, EC Sourcing also happens to be one of the most mature in capability, with a set of clever features that only comes from the battle scars of decades of managing sourcing events. Spend Matters' analysis of the EC Sourcing platform positions it as a solid contender to fill the sourcing needs of middle to large middle-market procurement organizations as well as a subset of Global 3000 organizations looking for technology to transform their end-to-end sourcing efforts.

Since our initial three-part snapshot update, EC Sourcing has continued to address a number of the weaknesses we pointed out in addition to natively integrating the sourcing optimization specialist BidMode, adding native spend analytics capability, and continuing to enhance its UI and process-based workflow capability. That means its solution now consists of modules for spend analysis and insight, e-sourcing, optimization, workflow-based process management, contract management, and supplier management.

This update will provide facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations determine if the EC Sourcing solution is the right fit for their needs, and it will offer perspectives on alternative providers to consider in an evaluation alongside it.

Part 1 will include a company and detailed solution overview. Part 2 will focus on product strengths and weaknesses. Part 3 will offer a company-level SWOT analysis, a look at EC Sourcing’s competitors, tech selection considerations and a summary analysis.

ChAI: Vendor Analysis — Solution Overview for Commodity Price Forecasting and Risk Management, Customer Reference, ChAI Competitors [PRO]

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Analysis provides an overview of ChAI and its solution for commodity price forecasting.

Hedge funds and commodities traders are no strangers to volatility. Investors are in the business of predicting price movements and designing hedging strategies to manage risk. And as technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have gained stronger footholds in corporate use cases, traders have expanded their toolboxes to create ever more complex and accurate methods for price prediction.

Yet these same tools haven’t made it upstream into the hands of those who perhaps need them most — the procurement and supply chain groups actually using raw materials.

ChAI (pronounced like the tea) is trying to change that.

Founded by a group of former investment world employees with experience in global commodity trading and ML/AI for commodity price modeling, ChAI brings hedging strategies to procurement via explainable price predictions. The London-based firm is rapidly building out proprietary models for multiple categories, starting with industrial metals and common packaging plastics, by blending traditional price data, macroeconomic indicators and correlated data from other sources, like satellite images.

Most important, though, ChAI is no black box. Rather, each prediction it provides comes with a set of parameters delivered as natural language (prose) that a procurement professional can use when building a hedging strategy or collaborating with colleagues in treasury to take a position. It is in this context that ChAI becomes a compelling start-up to watch for category intelligence and how it really states its case — as an enabler of complex sourcing strategies that were previously burdensome for procurement to design and execute.

This Vendor Analysis also explores the concept behind ChAI; the platform, application and supporting services it delivers; a verified customer reference analysis; a market analysis of ChAI’s competitors; and key analyst takeaways.

The Contingent Workforce and Services (CW/S) Insiders’ Hot List: December 2020 ‘Special Edition’ [PRO]

Spend Matters has been publishing the monthly CW/S Insiders Hot List — our monthly look at new technology and innovation in the contingent workforce and services (CW/S) space — since the start of 2018. Today we are publishing this “Special Edition” to mark a change in our publishing schedule and look back at the key trends and themes that emerged over the course of this year.

For nearly three years, we have published the Hot List at the beginning of every month and covering developments of the previous month. As such, the November Hot List would cover the developments that transpired in October. To align titles and converge periods, starting next month, the January Hot List will be published at the end of January and will cover the developments that took place in January. We will maintain that convention going forward.

In this December 2020 Special Edition, we will also be looking at and discussing some of the key trends that the Hot List covered over the months of 2020. But before turning to that discussion, we will provide a summary round-up of notable events/developments in December.

The 5 Levels of M&A Technology Integration: Stage 2 [PRO]

In this Spend Matters PRO series, we define, introduce and explore the five levels of M&A technology integration that vendors must go through when bringing together different modules and platforms. We should note, however, that bringing together different applications and technology stacks is not a requirement of any acquisition. But anytime a technology provider wants to market and achieve customer synergies through a transaction outside of “cross-sell/up-sell” the degree of integration planned, its timing and ultimate realization should be a priority for investors and customers alike.

Today, we explore the second level of integration that occurs in a post-merger situation or when vendors replatform old technology onto a new stack while still having to maintain existing solution capability on the legacy platform. From a vendor perspective, we define how to do it and provide examples of this type of integration. And from a user perspective, we suggest tips and tricks for technology buyers to discern this level of integration compared with others.

If you’re new to this series and want to learn the five levels of integration, start with this introduction. In the previous installment, we cover Stage 1 integration in detail.

LevaData: Vendor Analysis, 2020 update (Part 2) — Detailed Module Overview, SWOT, LevaData Competitors, Summary [PRO]

LevaData

In Part 1 we re-introduced you to LevaData, a unique provider in the direct sourcing and procurement space that brings a distinctive mashup of analytics, should-cost modeling, constraint-based optimization, and risk insight to direct (bill-of-material based) sourcing —  particularly in the electronics supply chain.

It was, and still is, one of a small set of vendors pushing "cognitive" procurement technology, and while there is a lot of significantly advanced technology under the hood of LevaData’s solution, no vendor truly is there yet. However, the goal of technology is to augment our intelligence, not replace it, so there is no need for technology to actually be cognitive if it gets close enough and solves the problems the user needs it to solve.

Founded by veterans of the Cisco procurement and supply chain organization to close a number of gaps they saw in analytics, sourcing and supply management platforms around supply availability, accurate cost information and potential risk, they've made great strides since that day seven years ago, building a solution that solves the majority of the critical problems in the electronics supply chain, especially in the high-tech sector.

As indicated in our last part, not only does LevaData’s solution now revolve around three distinct offerings — Cost Optimizer, New Product Accelerator and Risk Navigator — but the distinct strengths it brings to the table has no peer across all its offerings and only a few in each. And those offerings that it does have each come with unique strengths that can be quite valuable.

In Part 2 of this Spend Matters PRO, we’ll examine the solution modules in detail, offer a SWOT analysis, check out LevaData’s competitors (like SAP Ariba or Ivalua in procurement technology, Sievo in the analytics market, and vendors in other market sectors) and close with a summary analysis.

LevaData: Vendor Analysis, 2020 update (Part 1) — Direct Materials Solution Overview, Strengths/Weaknesses, Tech Selection Tips [PRO]

direct materials LevaData

When Spend Matters covered LevaData three years ago, we noted that outside of core ERP and supply chain planning systems, the technology market for direct materials procurement and sourcing was almost too nascent to even be considered fragmented. And, we're sorry to say that not much has changed. The existing players are more mature, but start-ups are few and far between, and pretty much any player of note in 2020 existed in 2017.

Direct solutions tend to fall into the following categories:

  • Suites that have acquired direct sourcing and/or procurement capabilities (like Ivalua, that acquired DirectWorks, and Jaggaer, that acquired Pool4Tool)
  • Specialized niche players like Allocation (that have been doing custom sourcing and SIM for 20 years) and Procurence (that have extremely specialized supplier management capabilities)
  • New players like Xeeva and LevaData that are trying to bring "cognitive" capabilities to direct procurement, making use of big data to provide deeper insights than their peers

When we first covered LevaData in 2017, we noted it was an emerging technology provider that had capability spanning direct material procurement and cost analytics, bill of materials level spend visibility, market/commodity intelligence, and sourcing. We also noted it was one of the first entrants into the "cognitive" sourcing space that offered a platform that leveraged artificial intelligence (AI) capability to make both part- and component-level sourcing recommendations, especially in the electronics industry where LevaData has the majority of its customers (and products in its database).

Since then, it has become more established and added deeper capability in sourcing, analytics, and prescriptive cost management and reduction. LevaData also has significantly increased the (community) intelligence it offers in the electronics supply chain, and it refactored its solution into three primary offerings: Cost Optimizer, New Product Accelerator and Supply Risk Navigator.

In this new two-part series, we will cover each of these modules as well as provide an overview of the common core capabilities these modules are based on.

But first, let's give a brief introduction to LevaData for new readers.

The 5 Levels of M&A Technology Integration: Stage 1 [PRO]

integration

In this Spend Matters PRO series, we will define, introduce and explore the five levels of M&A technology integration that vendors must go through when bringing together different modules and platforms.

Today, we explore the first level of integration that occurs in a post-merger situation or when vendors replatform old technology onto a new stack while still having to maintain existing solution capability on the legacy platform.

From a vendor perspective, we define how to do it and provide examples of this type of integration. And from a user perspective, we suggest tips and tricks for technology buyers to discern this level of integration compared with others.

If you’re new to this series and want to learn the five levels of integration, start here with our Introduction post.

The 5 Levels of M&A Technology Integration: An Introduction [PRO]

integration

In this Spend Matters PRO series, we will define, introduce and explore the five levels of M&A technology integration that vendors must go through when bringing together different companies and platforms.

We hope this will allow everyone in the market — customers especially — to plan for and assess different levels of vendor integration, and ultimately, will contribute to aligning the value created over an extended time horizon for technology buyers and shareholders alike.

This is important because while mergers and acquisitions (M&A) often generate value for shareholders, they do not always do so for customers — or at least not at the level they are “sold.” Such a strategy can create obfuscation for users and result in solution components that do not necessarily “talk to each other” or “work together” as well as a PowerPoint or demonstration might suggest.

And since every suite vendor in the source-to-pay market (except Zycus) got to where they are at least in part — and sometimes as a primary strategy — by acquiring other providers, this is a particularly important topic. We should note Zycus does not get a free pass here either: It has had its own issues making different, internally developed platforms and codebases talk to each other, however, which mirror M&A integration challenges.*

Today, we introduce and define the five levels of M&A technology integration, where Stage 0 is no integration at all. And we’ll explain why the five stages matter, starting first with establishing a reference framework for customers, vendors, consultants and investors.



* This topic applies beyond M&A as well, in cases of internal vendor re-platforming of solutions, integrating different internally developed platforms and customer migration (e.g., a transition from enterprise software or early SaaS or to a modern cloud architecture).

Now let's delve into the details about solution integrations.

Coupa and complexity: Acquisitions, tech integration and customer issues [PRO]

As veteran industry analysts in this space, we closely watch procurement technology developments — engaging with solution providers, their customers, implementation consultants and the broader market. Coupa’s aggressive M&A activity over the last couple of years (four this year alone) has shifted the market landscape, but also the Coupa solution landscape for its current customers.

We’ve covered Coupa since it was a scrappy start-up with a really simple, easy-to-use solution at a very low price point. Now it is integrating all of its acquisitions to fulfill Coupa’s vision for business spend management (BSM).

Simplicity was really important to Coupa. Yet, with growth comes complexity, and after a series of major acquisitions, some customers that we’ve spoken with aren’t seeing a fully integrated, simpler solution.

In this Spend Matters PRO piece, we’ll explore:

  • How Coupa is facing integration issues stemming from its strategy of increasingly larger acquisitions
  • The issue of master data fragmentation (with supplier master data in particular) on workflow and analytics — and on a common supplier portal interface
  • Coupa’s expansion beyond spend management into supply chain management
  • Our point of view on Coupa’s continued growth strategy through acquisitions

Spend Matters is making this piece available outside of a PRO subscription for procurement practitioners. Please email pierre@spendmatters.com for your copy.

Let the bots battle to their elimination. They won’t help you either! [PRO]

robot

Editor’s note: This Spend Matters PRO post has been unlocked to continue our exploration of how to get the most value out of your procurement technology and to provide a sample of the depth we go into in our PRO material.

In our piece titled “Have You Mastered the Procurement Basics yet? we explained how AI won't save you if you haven't covered the basics, because even the best AI needs Big Data (which is likely bigger than you have) to learn from and considerable training to be effective.

Furthermore, while we briefly mentioned Automation, we didn't discuss it in depth, nor did we discuss it outside of AI. Nor did we discuss Robotic Process Automation, or Bots, which various vendors are vigorously vending to the virtuous, who will not gain from their implementation and, in fact, may lose dearly.

This is because, despite all the marketing claims to the contrary, at least today, Bots are nothing more than packaged automation scripts with simple rules and context that can be used to automate basic tasks, tasks that sometimes are less complex than those that can be figured to be handled automatically in more mature platforms.