Forget Shoreditch – could Wetherby be the UK’s Silicon Valley? PROACTIS thinks so…

UK Prime Minister David Cameron spent time recently in East London where he hopes a new centre for technology will emerge, along the lines of Silicon Valley; 'Silicon Fen' around Cambridge in England, or ‘Silicon Saxony’ around Dresden  in Germany.

But what about Yorkshire as a hotbed for clever software and technology firms?  Harrogate as the new Palo Alto?  Not as daft as you might think.  We’ve featured Science Warehouse in Leeds previously; there’s also In-Tend, who came out of Sheffield University and have a strong position in further education e-procurement.  And now, another successful UK software firm in our industry with considerable further potential – Proactis, based in the fine town of Wetherby.

With early links to the CODA software group, and founded as far back as 1998, they joined the AIM stock market in 2006, and set up their US office in 2008. Their share price has taken a familiar track for floated software firms; initial strong increase, a major decline, but the last two years have seen recovery then stability.  Last year they declared revenues of around £7 million and £1.1 million ‘underlying profit’.

I had an introductory chat with Simon Dadswell, Director of Marketing, who took me through a general presentation about the company – not a product demo I should emphasise.  But what strikes you is the breadth of what Proactis offer.  They appear to have full ‘purchase to pay’ eProcurement functionality, combined with sourcing; capability includes eSourcing (RfX, eAuctions etc), contract management, supplier engagement, purchasing, stores, invoicing, expenses; a pretty complete end to end suite covering all the standard procurement processes really.  As such, their closest ‘competitor’ may be Ariba, despite their turnover being a fraction of the US software giant’s.

Indeed, Proactis are happy to go up against Ariba – “particularly for a medium sized organisation, we can often win by the services we offer, as well as strong functionality” says Simon.  And they certainly seem to have been successful in terms of the number of customers; with 350 in 70 countries, and 44 new client wins in 2009, they’ve got a wider customer base than many larger firms.  That does suggest a relatively low spend per customer given their revenues, which can of course be a negative or a positive (it does indicate perhaps growth potential from existing customers as well as new).  But there is already a good mix of private and public sector clients, UK and international; including CB Richard Ellis, Leeds City Council, Europcar, the Department of International Development, and Bauer UK amongst them.

The 2009 Gartner report ‘Critical Capabilities for Best-of-Breed e-Procurement Vendors' evaluated 14 best-of-breed eProcurement vendors.  In the report, PROACTIS ranked higher (overall) than any other vendor and more specifically Gartner rated the solution highest in terms of overall functionality and “in the unified purchasing/e-procurement application usage scenario”.  Pretty good for a bunch of Yorkshire lads (he said condescendingly...)!

They offer a range of flexible commercial options (including licences, hosting, subscription) and often integrate with Oracle and other ERP systems.  All in all, definitely a firm to look out for, and to consider if you’re looking for an end to end solution.  I hope we’ll feature a full analysis here before too long; this may be one to set Jason loose on as I’m sure he’ll be able to provide some deeper insight, and perhaps make the comparison with some of the major  rivals to Proactis.

Any comments from Proactis customers very welcome...

Update from Jason (Spend Matters US):

We’re not one to believe analyst rankings on the surface without further homework, but it’s clear Proactis have got a solution that could be appropriate in many eProcurement situations. However, there are dozens of other options ranging from the big guys (SAP and Oracle) to other boutique general providers like Coupa in the US who can offer similar capabilities and an even friendlier interface. When it comes to e-sourcing, there are many nuances for companies that want to go beyond just automating the gathering of a few bids or running an auction, and we’ll need to see how Proactis measure up. Contract management introduces its own set of different requirements as well. So while Proactis may be compelling in one or two areas, all organizations evaluating their capabilities should be more careful in suite deals (as they should be with any vendor).

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Voices (3)

  1. Ivy:

    I use PROACTIS every day being a buyer, it certainly makes my job easier. Not much else to say really!

  2. Peter Smith:

    We received a comment on this post which we have on reflection removed as, until Jason and I have reviewed the Proactis product properly, it is hard to know whether comments of a ‘technical’ nature (positive or negative) are accurate or not. Please don’t let that discourage anyone from commenting though, and we will come back to Proactis in the not too distant future.

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