Plus or PRO Content

GEP’s Budget-to-Pay solution is the first to really address the ‘first mile’ of the spend management process [PRO]

budget to pay

In a previous post, I introduced the concept of “plan to pay,” an extension of the traditional source-to-pay process (S2P). But plan-to-pay workflows are generally implemented via supply planning for direct materials in the supply chain, but aren’t well-implemented for indirect spend management. In fact, it starts even more upstream from the typical “upstream” sourcing intake process. To extend the bad metaphor, it’s sort of like the originating spend pools high up on “stakeholder mountain” that feed the S2P value stream. It starts with the business planning process and the financial planning process (e.g., budgeting within finance-led FP&A processes) and then linking that into supplier spend planning via category planning, project planning, etc.

But this isn’t easy to implement! In the previous article, I gave the simple example of trying to take a spend cube (i.e., line items of PO/invoice spend history by cost center, category and supplier) and project it forward. If you have decent PO management and contract modeling, you might have some forward-looking visibility into future spend (like contract renewals and blanket PO’s), but for the rest, the best you will likely do is a budget reflected in your cost centers that are checked in the P2P process.

The trick here is to predict and plan the diverse mix of spend that will unfold within those budgets, and the extent that procurement can help the business drive more value from that spend upfront in the process. This is where real spend influence lies to help stakeholders support their business outcomes with limited budgets.

If procurement doesn’t manage this process formally with finance in the business, all sorts of dysfunctional behaviors and misalignments will result:

  • Budgeting is disconnected from supplier spend planning in category management, commercial/contract management, and supplier management.
  • The budgeting process is disconnected from P2P and creates unhappiness with the business when procurement inserts itself into the process (when the stakeholders thought that having available budget is good enough). These spend thresholds for procurement involvement are also usually very high because procurement doesn’t want to hold up the process when the requirement comes in so late in the game (which is why earlier involvement in spend planning is critical to touch more spend and to better effect).
  • Procurement gets relegated to a discussion of price rather than discussing spend and business outcomes.
  • Savings tracking becomes an after-the-fact exercise rather than being planned for upfront (including procurement’s own target-setting process for savings and other value improvements).
  • A dysfunctional use-it-or-lose-it budgeting process. Solving this with a zero-based budgeting (ZBB) process is one way to solve it, but it’s highly inefficient.

Doing spend management properly means starting it off right and basically treating it like the mirror image of the sales funnel. This “spend funnel” starts proactively during business planning and then flows through category planning, budget setting (with savings pre-baked into the budgets), sourcing/contracting, and then P2P for execution.

Unfortunately, the data in this funnel is fragmented across numerous systems, and we’ve been hoping that an S2P suite provider (or possibly an analytics-centric solution from a services provider or an FP&A-centric tech provider) might be able to help procurement proverbially swim upstream and perform this “spend planning.” In fact, back in 2014, we hoped for this:

A system that could “translate between the G/L views of pro forma financial planning over to both planned supplier spending (e.g., an upcoming contract renewal) and to the operational planning processes that the budget owners will have to execute against (e.g., project planning-vs-execution, supply planning-vs-execution, etc.). It requires strong analytics to not only map between the GL taxonomy, the category taxonomy and the contract portfolio, but now also tying into planning data (e.g., versioned scenario plans and rolling budget revisions). This modeling is nontrivial, and you will need to integrate your previous historic spent data snapshots into a forward-looking, time-phased, planning data model that exists within FP&A applications.”

And then we waited … and waited. And finally, a few months ago, we heard from GEP on a solution that they’ve been working on that addresses this exact area. GEP calls it a “Budget to Pay” solution, and it is, in essence, an extension of its core S2P suite that addresses most of what I’ve discussed in this broader plan-to-pay area.

We participated in multiple demonstrations and discussed some of the findings from GEP’s initial customer implementations. We’re waiting to get more feedback directly from its early customers, but the results so far seem impressive. GEP plans to formally release this solution in the near future, but in this Spend Matters PRO analysis, we’ll share some of our insights on the detailed problem statements and how the solution adds value (which is more than just technology).

Contingent Workforce/Services Technology: Considerations for 2021 and Beyond COVID-19 (Part 2) [PRO]

services technology 2021

In Part 2 of this Spend Matters PRO series, we continue our examination of key trends in five main contingent workforce/services technology solution categories for 2021. And we discuss how organizations and executives — shaken awake by months of pandemic pressures and economic disruptions in 2020 — may be taking a fresh look at CW/S technology and recalibrating their perspectives on how it may work for them.

Part 1 of this two-part series covered the first three solution categories, and Part 2 examines categories 4 and 5. It also provides an analyst wrap-up, with views of what may be the most important areas and trends to pay attention to in 2021.

Contingent Workforce/Services Technology: Considerations for 2021 and Beyond COVID-19 (Part 1) [PRO]

services

We are entering a new year full of uncertainty driven by the coronavirus pandemic. Over the course of 2021, the coronavirus vaccine may gradually lift most COVID-19 restrictions across the economy. But organizations will continue to be redesigning and reconfiguring themselves through and beyond 2021.

With respect to Contingent/Workforce and Services (CW/S) in 2021, major questions loom:

  • What have organizations learned from forced adaptation to COVID-driven uncertainty, disruptions and constraints?
  • What longer-term changes will organizations take forward as they eventually emerge in a post-COVID world?
  • How will this impact their technology decisions and deployments?

To provide some CW/S technology context for decision-makers, this PRO analysis will — using a broad brush — examine trends in five main contingent workforce/services technology solution categories and suggest what to expect in 2021. Additional readings are also suggested for each of the categories.

Ravacan: Vendor Analysis — Solution Overview for Mass Production Planning, Supplier Collaboration and Asset Management [PRO]

Ravacan

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Analysis provides an overview of Ravacan and its solution covering direct materials and asset collaboration management.

The notion that spreadsheets are archaic tools dying to be replaced by SaaS solutions is somewhat of a cliché in the enterprise software world. Yet the adoption of cloud-based alternatives for various business processes still lags in multiple areas, sometimes to a shocking degree.

Direct materials sourcing and purchasing, unfortunately, is still one of those areas.

The founder of Ravacan, a SaaS solution built for supplier collaboration on mass production planning and asset management, knows this situation all too well. As a global sourcing manager (GSM) and commodities manager at several international manufacturing firms, Anne-Sophie Le Bloas built massive spreadsheets for managing quarterly price updates and tracking externally located assets (e.g., injection molding machines) with contract manufacturers — and rebuilt spreadsheets whenever she started a new position.

Ravacan is her effort to break this cycle. Her solution takes the intimate knowledge of direct materials supply chain planning that global sourcing managers have and standardizes it into a collaborative, easy-to-use system. This “built by GSMs for GSMs” mindset is shaping a unique player in the emerging space for direct procurement technology specialists, as well as proving a key satisfaction driver with Ravacan’s initial customer and pilots.

This Vendor Analysis explores the concept behind Ravacan; the platform, application and supporting services the vendor delivers; a verified customer reference analysis; and a competitive market analysis, complete with key analyst takeaways.

Accounts Payables Automation update (Part 2) —  Re-evaluating e-pro, supplier enablement, invoicing, payments, financing, analytics [PRO]

Analytics

As Spend Matters re-evaluates the AP automation sector’s technology developments, Part 2 of this PRO analyst series will focus on the six key elements of AP automation that we evaluate for our SolutionMap’s scoring and ranking of vendor offerings. (Don't read this without reading Part 1, about re-evaluating the tech developments in AP automation.)

We saw these six areas change in 2020, so we’ll look at how the function is evolving. This post explores the technological, functional and document-level components required to automate the AP function, and it mentions the stakeholders involved.

There are likely use cases that require much more technology, or much less, than what we mention here. So give us your feedback.

In Part 3, we’ll discuss the market landscape for AP automation providers.

Accounts Payables Automation update (Part 1) — Re-evaluating the sector’s technology developments [PRO]

Accounts payables is a business process with great operational workload that needs to be handled with great efficiency and effectiveness. If not done well, it might generate significant additional costs to the business and add risks like business fraud or damage commercial relationships with suppliers — all of which harm a company’s bottom line.

Although the pain points of the accounts payable process are the same today as in the past, the importance of its automation has become greater recently as businesses look for more value creation than just operational efficiencies. And that counts even more so with the arrival of COVID-19, which has shaken up the status quo of all companies’ processes.

Today, procurement technology providers have been funded with millions of dollars to create better solutions to automate this process and improve AP’s integration with other business processes, like procurement (2- and 3-way match), accounting (reconciliation), and treasury (cash flow optimization).

New technologies and the development of advanced solutions have made it possible for many more companies to have access to AP automation solutions that were previously unthinkable for an SME, and for large and global companies. Examples include the cloud, API integrations, artificial intelligence, RPA, digital payments, data extraction solutions, etc.

Therefore a year ago, we at Spend Matters started with a new SolutionMap category that compares AP Automation offerings.

However, the evolution of the AP automation solutions in 2020, and the sector’s push to include other business processes, has led us to rethink the approach we take toward the AP automation function and how we'll analyze it in 2021.

In this three-part Spend Matters PRO series, we will explain what we are seeing in the AP automation market, the components of our analytical approach and the state of the AP automation solution market.

Prewave: Vendor Analysis — Solution & Platform Overview, Vision & Roadmap, Market Analysis and Analyst Assessment [PRO]

Prewave

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Analysis provides an overview of the supply intelligence provider Prewave, its solution, technology, value proposition and position in the marketplace.

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly highlighted the danger of losing visibility of upstream supply conditions. Many critical suppliers have been threatened by severe demand reductions and internal operational challenges (including their own supply assurance and business continuity challenges). And while 2020 was a year that nearly everyone wants to forget, some organizations did see a silver lining, including those who provide solutions related to supplier/supply chain risk and compliance (including software, services, data and intelligence).

Supply risk solutions have two main risk management areas: supplier risk and physical supply chain risk (that affects supplier sites and the supply lines between nodes in the supply network). But although these are separate/overlapping, they both have a singular need for supply intelligence that integrates with the risk management workflows and analytics (e.g., supply network modeling, risk modeling, scenario planning, risk monitoring/alerting, risk mitigation and recovery planning/execution via “playbooks”).

This “outside-in” intelligence capability is about curated supply market intelligence that is explicitly mapped to a company's specific risk profile and multi-tier inbound supply chain to help identify threats to critical supply lines and improve supply chain agility and resilience. Supplier-specific intelligence is also important for monitoring critical suppliers from a broader lens of sustainability, social responsibility and industry-specific GRC issues.

Such supply intelligence can be hand-built by the buying organization, but there’s no economies of scale via network/community effects. This is why buyers are considering using third-party supply risk intelligence providers that can integrate such intelligence into those buyers’ existing supply risk and supplier management processes and applications.

One of these providers is an Austrian start-up named Prewave (and one that we’ve recently named in our 2020 “Future 5” list of procurement tech start-ups). Prewave isn’t a full supply risk management application suite, but rather, a supply chain risk intelligence provider that uses trained machine learning models to identify potential risks that are likely to be relevant to a firm’s suppliers and associated supply network.

Marketboomer: Vendor Analysis — P2P Solution Overview, Roadmap, Customer Feedback, Marketboomer Competitors, Analyst Insights  [PRO]

This Spend Matters PRO will look at Marketboomer, a provider whose procure-to-pay offering is called Purchase Plus.

When we talk about P2P solutions, we normally refer to horizontal solutions — those that cover the requirements of a wide range of industries and markets. P2P vertical solutions, however, cover the requirements of specific industries, given their specializations in either processes or functionalities.

This is the case for Marketboomer, a P2P solution that is specific to the hospitality industry (mainly from Australia).

This industry requires very specific purchasing practices depending on the country or countries of operation, as well as product inventory management and just-in-time logistics. It also handles products like food and drinks, whose prices vary daily, and this industry also has the complexity of enabling local suppliers (sometimes for just one product) that have little digital or IT capabilities. Horizontal solutions hardly meet the needs of vertical industries, so it is necessary to have solutions like Marketboomer, at least for hotel purchasing.

This Vendor Analysis will give an overview of Marketboomer's Purchase Plus solution (just P2P), a look at its platform and services, and a brief description of its solution functionalities. Then we’ll examine the company roadmap, assess a verified customer reference, do a market analysis of Marketboomer’s competitors, and give some key analyst takeaways.

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.