Ivalua New Product Announcements: Add-On Store a Highlight

Let's come back to this week's Ivalua conference in Paris. CEO David Khuat-Duy took the audience through quite a range of product enhancements and developments, and here's a quick run through some of the key announcements.

The user interface has been updated – that is a constant priority as the expectations of users continue to increase based on consumer experience. There are also new advanced analysis tools, including some very attractive looking mapping capabilities, bubble charts and other tools to display spend analytics or other data sets more attractively.

Mobility is another theme, not surprisingly, with the desire to make the tools esy to use on devices so that tasks such as authorisation can be carried out anywhere, anytime. We had an interesting debate about whether people might not consider properly what they are approving if they do it quickly on the move, on a tiny screen, but this trend seems to be unstoppable.

In terms of developments to keep the technologists excited, Ivalua has a "zero custom" target - a push to reach a point at which the product requires "zero coding to meet any requirement". So configuration can be done by users quickly and easily; organising work-flows through drag and drop mechanisms for instance (one of the clients spoke to me positively about this characteristic of the tool).

Dynamic discounting is another new capability, enabling suppliers to receive payment ahead of terms in return for offering a discount. Ivalua has not (at the moment at least) linked up with any finance providers, so this capability is only relevant if the buyer wants to use their own finance to offer enhanced payment terms to suppliers. A profile can be defined by supplier, and the supplier can then choose on an invoice by invoice basis when to take payment against different discount options. It's not the most sophisticated product on the market in this field, but looks very easy to use and should meet the needs of the vast majority of firms who want to go down this route.

Probably the announcement that excites us most is the "Add-on Store", which enables users to access a library of tools (connectors, apps, templates and so on); perhaps an RFI template or a supplier catalogue connector for example. We're getting into “best practice procurement” territory here in some cases, so we asked where the “content” was coming from in these cases. Some from existing Ivalua users, some from Ivalua directly, and some may be provided by Ivalua partners such as consulting firms, was the answer.

Initially at least, these add-ons are all free to users, although you can see how this could develop into a mechanism where certain apps might come with a fee. It’s a very interesting idea that we will want to come back and explore further, as it has some wider implications we suspect, even raising questions about the role of the procurement function.

The Ivalua Academy is another interesting initiative. This is a range of on-line training, developed with an eye on good practice from successful e-learning innovators such as the Khan Academy. The Academy in the main supports users in the actual use of the software, although it does touch on general procurement education in places. However, “it’s not a replacement for CIPS or ISM”!

As well as the announcements, another highlight was a discussion with two major product users. Blaine Hurley (who we mentioned yesterday) is implementing Ivalua at Whirlpool, a huge global programme, which includes much of the suite plus some innovative new uses for the platform.

Both he and Matteo Perondi from Generali, the other user involved in the session, were impressive. Perondi explained that he ran an RFP with 10 different suppliers before choosing Ivalua. Both of them are in the midst of implementation, and gave some useful thoughts around supplier onboarding, the importance of effective change management and the balance between stakeholder engagement and the need at times to set clear top down direction.

It will be interesting to see how things have progressed in a year or two's time, but one other good tip – Hurley gave different regions the lead on different elements of the platform (sourcing, spend analysis etc.) during implementation, depending on their local priorities. That increased the feeling of ownership, as well as supporting the local needs.

Good advice - and we'll be back with some further thoughts arising from our discussions at the event next week.

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