Spikes Cavell, success in the USA and renewed activity in the UK

When Jason Busch, my US colleague and procurement software guru, was over in the UK recently, we took a trip out to Newbury to meet Spikes Cavell. And it was a fascinating meeting. They were one of the first firms offering spend analysis products to the UK public sector, more than ten years ago, and were also an early sponsor of this site in 2010/11. But after the 2010 general election in the UK and the consequent austerity drive in the public sector, they seemed to fade slightly from view this side of the Atlantic.

So it was good to catch up and find out more about what they’ve been up to – and it is an encouraging story for UK firms really. Seeing that UK business was going to be difficult, as local authorities in particular felt the squeeze, Spikes focused hard on the US public sector market. Through partnerships with organisations such as the NIGP (National Institute for Governmental Purchasing) they have steadily gained a significant market share in the US public sector, mainly with non-federal organisations – so state, city and town level bodies.

And Mr Busch was impressed with his first real exposure to the firm. (He’s written a lot more for our subscription site, PRO, available here). As he says;

“... they have a full-featured spend analytics platform that can hold its own in the private sector (including a recent large replacement win over an incumbent provider …) and lead the charge for public sector organizations wanting to build visibility into spending activity”.

They’ve worked out a way to service small clients well, providing impressive support material and on-line help so the physical support team (and its cost)is kept to a minimum. That means their price points start at a level which is a feasible option to small councils for instance, who don’t have much money to spend.

That’s not to say they can’t handle the bigger accounts, and we should point out that they haven’t exactly dropped out of the UK. One of their very largest clients is the Scottish Government, for whom they analyse some £10 billion of annual spend across most parts of the public sector in that country. And they say that business is picking up again in the UK public sector, as organisations realise that spend data really can drive benefits that far outweigh the annual subscription cost!

Indeed, a core strength is their understanding of what their public sector clients really want out of spend analysis, and how clients are likely to use the information within the platform. Considerable effort has gone into this over the years, so whilst the front-end is not perhaps as “sexy” as those competitors who use Qlikview and Tableau, Spikes gains on the deep understanding of client needs.

One further undoubted plus is the stability and quality of the management team, who have been together for over ten years. It was a little like meeting a close family – and I mean a close family who get on well, not the Ewings or the Borgias! Their knowledge of the product and the business is understandably impressive, and being in Newbury has also helped to attract and retain a strong wider team as well, without being sucked into the London wage spiral for high quality technical folk.

So it looks like Spikes Cavell is building again in the UK, and whilst there is no shortage of strong competitors in their field, they should be getting into the frame for spend analytics contracts in both public and private sectors.

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