Ivalua Now Paris: A Huge Success and a Testament to their Growth

Spend Matters analyst, Michael Lamoureux, attended Ivalua's annual conference in Paris last week. Here, he shares his experience and learnings with us. 

I knew that Ivalua's home-turf event was bigger and better than their US one (which I attended in New York, New York) last year, but it was even bigger than I expected. Over two days, there were about 500 unique attendees (which I'm sure included around 30 Ivalua employees, but still) and it was standing room only for the late-comers at the keynotes both days.

It's hard to say how much of that was due to their growing reputation (which is bolstered by almost 300 customers with locations across 70 countries that account for over 750,000 authorised platform users); their scale (which now includes 15 offices across 4 continents and a local presence in 12 EMEA countries); their size (as they have grown from 274 employees at the end of 2017 to 374 at the end of 2018 to over 450 today with a projection to reach almost 600 by the end of the year); their content focus (with big name European speakers from Capgemini, the University of Grenoble Alpes, Forrester, etc.) or the location (at the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris, that included a private tour of select areas of the Louvre on Thursday night), but obviously a good deal of it is based on their success to date (as they can still claim a 98%+ customer retention rate).

The Theme of the Event was "The Art of Procurement" and a key message was that as Procurement evolves from tactical purchase order, invoice, and payment processing to strategic sourcing and category management to a focus on organisational value and alignment, it becomes just as much art and science. (This is key for us as AI will soon eliminate tactical data processing jobs like PO and invoice processing but will struggle for years, if not decades, to touch upon our ability to be strategic, creative, innovative, and more importantly, passionate about our jobs.)

The message came across well, but this attendee was quite amused at the focus on "Procurement 4.0" by Natacha Tréhan, from the University of Grenoble Alpes, and Emmanuel Erba from CapGemini, as we are barely entering the age of Procurement 3.0. And while we all need something to look ahead and aspire to, the reality is that most "leading" organisations have barely mastered the core of Procurement 2.0 (which started in the late noughties), there is no fully enabled Procurement 3.0 platform (and leaders like Ivalua are just starting to implement the core requirements), and we shouldn't expect to see one for at least another six years.

Procurement 1.0 started in the late ‘90s with the rise of Free Markets and e-Auctions. Procurement 2.0 started in the late ‘00s with the rise of integrated S2C offerings that allowed for strategic sourcing, TCO, optimisation, analytics, and SRM. Procurement 3.0 is just starting with the introduction of commonplace RPA and fledgling AI (assisted, not augmented or artificial, intelligence) in select areas by industry leading players. If history holds, it will likely be another eight years before we have full Procurement 3.0 platforms given that each previous epoch lasted about a decade).

But what you're probably looking for is whether or not there is anything new. There's nothing brand new, but they have made some substantial advancements in:

  • Direct Material Management
    Full support for multi-level bill of materials with detailed cost breakdowns at each level, extensive should-cost models, and the ability to analyse multiple what-if scenarios at each level using different supplier quotes. Easy ETL import from your ERP, easy push back, and the ability to easily initiate sourcing events across any combination of components, sub-components and raw materials at any level. However, you still can't create a BoM in Ivalua, so you will have to continue to do that in your ERP / MRP. (This is on their future roadmap.)
  • UX
    They updated the UX (user experience) across their one-codebase platform and it is now a bit more streamlined and much easier on the eyes. Also, their visual layout designer (for dashboards, report screens, etc.) is cleaner and easier to use. It's at the point where a junior buyer can drag and drop from pre-defined dimensions to create drill-down dashboards of their choosing. (However, the creation of derived dimensions and KPIs, etc. is still a bit complicated and will require at least a senior data analyst.)
  • Integrate Cross-Catalogue Search Capability in One Search
    Ivalua likes to tout their "one search" toolbar which can search across every piece of data in the Ivalua platform, and it is pretty nifty. In this release, they have added the ability to search integrated catalogues (not punch-out, direct integration). It is slick and allows for quick catalogue search and one-click buying. Unfortunately, they only have one catalogue partner with direct integration today, but if this takes off, and more partners sign up, they could be challenging pure-play P2P leaders like BuyerQuest for the easiest catalogue buying experience.

They've also made noticeable improvements in:

  • Category Management
    You can now get a complete 360-degree view into a category -- buyers, events, suppliers, etc. -- from a single location in the platform.
  • Virtual Assistant
    IVA understands psuedo-natural language commands (especially in English) and can be used to query most data in the system, load up reports, initiate purchases, etc. It takes a bit of getting used to asking for things in very specific ways, but it can save a lot of platform navigation once you are used to it.
  • Better Purchasing Policy and Tax Compliance Report
    The system can now support fine-grained tax pre-coding at the state/province/county level in the PO, which allows for fast PO-flips and higher invoice match rates than before. (And, being Canadian, I never knew that supporting Canadian tax codes, which are different in every province and territory, was so much more complicated than VAT!)

Plus minor improvements in guided buying, invoicing, and direct supply chain support. And if you are interested, you can contact them for a demo.

It was a good event, and I was really impressed by the number of solution consultants / subject matter experts they had on site ready and willing to walk a (potential) customer through anything they wanted to see. As a buyer, it’s really important to get what you need out of an event (considering how little time you have to go to one), and it's nice that they made an effort to ensure everyone walked away with something.


Look out for more observations in the coming days from Peter Smith.

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