What Elements Should You Be Looking For in a Platform (Part I)

That’s a very hard question and, to some extent the key elements will, at least in many views, revolve around what you are looking for the platform to support, but there are some elements that should be part of your S2P platform regardless of where your solution focus is.

What are they?  Where can you find some hints?  For starters, you can loo to the new version of Solution Maps, designed by the doctor, with initial results releasing in less than two months, which have refactored all of the maps to have a new Common platform section (as well as a new common section for Sourcing – SXM due to the large overlap between the requirements and today’s platforms) which focuses on areas that are critical to S2P success regardless of your focus. 

This new Common section is broken down into five categories

Supplier Portal
Foundational SXM

And they key requirements for any platform can be found in these four categories

Supplier Portal

Let’s start with analytics.  This has four sub-categories, all of which are vital:

Data Schema

  As today’s information economy runs on data.  Big data.

Data Management

  As this data is constantly expanding and changing.

Metric Management

  As you can’t manage what you can’t measure


  As we need to extract the data we need to do our jobs.

Now let’s look at technology.  Each of the seven sub-categories it contains are vital:

Data Management Support

  Which looks at foundational technology requirements to handle the data needs of today and tomorrow

Document Management Support

  Which looks at the additional technology required for document management (as the business world runs on documents and contracts)

Core Platform 

  Which looks at the architecture and software stack designed to support an evolving system


  As efficiency is about automation, usually accomplished by RPA and, in some cases, assisted intelligence (the first level of AI, which is where most companies are)

Standards and Integration

  As one platform can’t do it all.  Just like the internet does not support the One Ping. 

Emerging Technology Support

  As platforms must keep up

UX Layer

  As the platform must be usable. By the average user, not just the PhD with years of esoteric knowledge. 

Tomorrow we’ll outline the other categories and then in future posts we’ll dive into some of these key areas and define what they might mean in plain English. 

Stay tuned. 

For Global Procurement You Need a Global Platform

As per our post from a couple years ago, Procurement is Global. Platforms should be Global. Truly Global. in order to be of use to a truly global organization.

And, furthermore, as we also pointed out, the platform is only of use if it is adopted. This latter point is key. And we’ll focus on this in our post today as our last point addressed the key steps of a global rollout.

So, what are the key steps for a global adoption?

6. True Multi-Lingual Support
While your key business managers will speak English as it is the global language of business, your average worker won’t, or at least won’t speak it well, and since the most successful platforms are used by more than just senior buyers, you want everyone — including the warehouse worker who accepts the stock or the maintenance worker who keeps the inventory or the AP clerk that makes the local payments — to be able to use it easily. So it needs to support every language used by your organization. We know that no S2P platform supports every language out-of-the-box, but the best ones make it easy to add new languages through auto-translations and easy overrides where the translations fail.

7. Localized Workflow Support
Just like languages differ, so do workflows. Sometimes it’s due to local operating practices (with regards to how a local buyer buys, or inventory manager choose to interact with the systems), and sometimes its due to local regulations (in terms of invoice acceptance, processing, and payment processing). Either way, it should be simple to tweak the workflow by locale for as many locales as you need.

8. Varying Levels of Automation
In some offices, senior buyers and other approved users can spend up to a threshold with no approvals required, so the requisition should auto flip to a PO which should be auto-flippable to an invoice when the supplier sends a shipping notice which should be auto flipped to a payment approval when the warehouse worker records all parts received. In other offices, approvals, or at least hold periods (where managers can choose to intervene or not) will be required. Some buyers will be comfortable with auto-buys to replenish MRO and tail-spend categories (from catalogs or automated auctions against approved suppliers), others will want to manually do everything. The system should support this.

9. Fully customizeable dashboards by user by screen/module
Everyone should be able to see what they want, how they want, when the want. And they should have lots of easily adjustable templates to start from.

This isn’t everything, but it’s a key start. We’ll be talking about platforms more in the months to come, as platforms are going to get us to full Procurement 3.0 and next generation platforms will bring about Procurement 4.0 in the latter part of the next decade.

Dear Procurement: You Aren’t Nearly As Advanced As You Think You Are

One of the best presentations at Ivalua Now Paris last week (which the doctor summarized in a post over on Spend Matters UK on how the conference was A Huge Success and a Testament to their growth) was Duncan Jones’ presentation on Successful Procurement Transformation that summarized a recent survey on enabling smarter procurement that clearly proved what the doctor and other leading analysts already know: most Procurement organizations believe they are considerably more advanced than they are.

The survey asked Procurement departments to rate themselves as beginner, intermediate, or advanced. The results, which, unfortunately were not unexpected, indicated that:

  • 65% of respondents said they were advanced,
  • 31% said they were intermediate, and
  • 4% said they were beginner

When the reality is that, according to Forrester

  • 16% of respondents are advanced
  • 24% of respondents are intermediate
  • 60% of respondents are beginne

On the Forrester scale which, by the way, is not as arduous as the scale used by the doctor (but we’ll get to that in another post). In other words, four times as many organizations said they were advanced as were actually at that level. So if you think you are advanced, there is at most a 1/4 chance you are advanced and at most a 2/3 chance you are intermediate or better.

This means that you as a Procurement organization need to take a step back, get a third party evaluation, and understand the reality of where you are. It’s totally okay if you’re not as advanced as you think you are because neither are your competitors. And, in fact, if you are willing to get an honest third party assessment and use it as the foundation for improvement, you are way ahead of your competition which still has their heads in the sand like an ostrich. Because, thanks to modern platforms and well understood best practices that can be efficiently experienced by efficient consultants who have been doing it for a decade, you can master intermediate levels of performance quite quickly, and that puts you in the top 40% in a very short time-frame. And it often doesn’t take a lot of improvement to see significant savings, process improvements, or value generation. (With many more tangible improvements to come as you embark on that first 3 to 5 year transformation journey.)

The key to advancement and tremendous success in Procurement is simple:

  • understand where you are
  • accept where you are
  • put a realistic plan in place for mid-term transformation (3-5 years) with well defined milestones along the way
  • commit to change
  • monitor, measure, and stay on track

Now that the best S2P suite providers can roll out enterprise implementations in a quarter, you can enable processes that lead to significant ROI in 6 to 12 months, and take it step wise from there. But it all starts with accepting the reality and committing to change. The system, the process, and your hard work will take care of the rest.

And a big thank you to Duncan to proving the reality!

Procurement 4.0: We are Borg?

One of the more interesting talks at Ivalua Now Paris was Natacha Trehan’s (of the University of Grenoble Alpes) talk on the “Future of Procurement”. In it she said that in the noetic economy of tomorrow, Procurement’s function will be to drive complex ecosystems on hyper connected platforms that empowers a neuronal organization that values collective intelligence.

I don’t know about you, but it sounds to me like we’re going to be part of the corporate Borg. For those of you who don’t know what the Borg are, they are a fictional alien race of cybernetic organisms in the Star Trek franchise linked in a hive mind called “the Collective”. They expand by way of assimilation where they forcibly transform individual beings into drones by way of nanoprobe injections and cybernetic implants. And their motto is “resistance is futile”. Which often seems to be the case once a large enough organization embarks on a given trajectory.

So why does she think we are on that path? Which, except for the neuronal part sounds great to the doctor because Procurement does need to learn to drive complex ecosystems on hyper connected platforms that empower a knowledge-driven organization that values collective intelligence — he’s just not fond of the “neuronal” aspect that can be easily misconstrued and misapplied.

Because the biggest future challenge for Procurement, once an organization reaches and masters 3.0 (and almost no organization has), is to reinvent the business model. Once procurement has achieved its sustainability of supply, cost reduction, and risk management objectives, it needs to be able to continually create value to elevate its function and maintain its central importance to the business. Be it supplier development, new product introduction, innovation, or business transformation, Procurement will need to serve up what the business needs.

As Natacha says, Procurement will need to become more entrepreneurial and energetic and harbour the propensity to shake up routine and define innovation. After all, once you’ve squeezed the fat out of the margins, optimized the production and distribution process, and minimized the risk, the only way to find value is to truly innovate the product or service.

Plus, as resources continue to become scarce, regulations continue to multiply, and trade winds continue to change, more and more innovation and creativity is going to be needed to meet sustainability goals.

And then there’s the fact that more and more product-oriented markets are transforming to as-a-service markets. People aren’t buying, or even leasing/renting, vehicles anymore, they are switching to uber-like models in both their personal lives and their business lives. Who knows what will be next.

Plus, as companies progress on their Procurement journey, they all want the same, most innovative supplier as they admit only so much innovation can happen within their four walls. This will shift the balance of power back to the supplier unless you are the most advanced, and best, customer to work with (in which case the odds will be about even as they will want you as a customer). “Customer of choice” is going to be measured not on dollars and volume, but what you bring to the table.

In other words, the Procurement function will need to continue to change, continue to advance, continue to collaborate, and continue to connect … but let’s make sure to avoid those neuronal implants, just to be on the safe side. 🙂

The Key Reason Spend Analyses Fail (that Often Goes Overlooked)

Today we welcome another guest post from Brian Seipel a Procurement Consultant at Source One Management Services focused on helping corporations understand their spend profile and develop actionable strategies for cost reduction and supplier relationship management. Brian has a lot of real-world project experience in sourcing, and brings some unique insight on the topic.

Organizations that develop an understanding of their spend have an edge when it comes to strategic sourcing: They better understand where money is being spent, with who, and on what than others who enter into the process either blindly or as a knee-jerk reaction to an incumbent price hike. This is particularly important for tail spend in those spend categories on the indirect side that too often fly under the radar.

That edge isn’t a given, however. Building a spend analysis can serve as the foundation for strong opportunity assessments, but doing so won’t automatically lead to better sourcing projects. Organizations who spend time on spend analyses can and do still fail at strategic sourcing for a very big reason. We put too much faith in the front-end process of building this analysis, and forsake the back-end, leaving a critical gap in our understanding of our spend profile.

The Front-End Spend Analysis

The first steps of a spend analysis are akin to cleaning out your basement. What’s the first thing you do? Before sorting into keep-or-toss piles can begin, even before moving and opening boxes – we need to turn on the light and survey the room. “Turning on the light” is really what the front-end of a spend analysis is. Our goal is to shine a light on the spend we have so sourcing project identification can begin. How does a spend analysis accomplish this?

  • Cleansing & Consolidation. Take all of the disparate data sources that make up our profile and create a single view of them, cleaning up supplier names and other critical fields along the way. For example, referring to the supplier “Dun and Bradstreet,” with that single name, even when spend from a second set that refers to “D&B.”
  • Classification. With all spend in one consolidated set, we will now attach meaningful classifications. The discussion around the best way to do this is worthy of a discussion of its own, so let’s simply say care should be taken here. Choose a system that speaks to your organization’s process, products, and objectives.

Let’s cook up an example. Let’s say we want to look into our IT spend to see where we can cut costs. We conduct a spend analysis covering the points above and learn the following: We have four locations using four different managed IT service providers offering similar services at four different price points.

This is the type of intel that suggests a strategic sourcing initiative may be called for. Pitting these suppliers against each other in a market event will drive down costs and potentially streamline operations if we can establish a single supplier for all four locations. We can estimate these savings by building a baseline spend profile and comparing to our average savings by following this strategy within this category. Simple enough. So why do sourcing initiatives often fail to deliver?

Moving Into Opportunity Assessment

Because we just committed a big mistake: We took our initial view of the spend and jumped right to goal setting without taking the time to properly scope. We went from turning on the basement light to selling boxes, en masse and unopened, directly on Ebay without knowing what was inside.

As we go to market, our sourcing event fails each of our four locations for different reasons:

  • The first location is locked into a multi-year contract with a painful termination clause. Without scoping, who didn’t know what our contractual obligations looked like
  • The second location isn’t locked into a contract, but is locked in by a lack of competition in the market. Without scoping, we never looked beyond our own buying history into the market landscape
  • The third location is free of both of these problems, but this isn’t their first rodeo. They used the providers that locations one and two use in the past, but abandoned them due to severe performance issues. Without scoping, we can’t get a good enough view into the decision making process that led to incumbent relationships.
  • Finally, our fourth location. No issues with suppliers, contracts, or market competition. The problem here? When we dig into the spend, we realize the bulk was capex: The purchase of equipment for a new server room buildout. Now that the equipment is purchased, we won’t see this spend come back around for years to come. Without scoping, we assumed spend was annually recurring, and now we have next to nothing.

Better Spend Analysis through Better Scoping

Once our spend analysis is complete, we’ll need to bring additional stakeholders into the fold. Bring in the employees who actually interact with these suppliers and their products and work with them to develop a sourcing history:

  • Did we accurately describe how you use this supplier with our chosen classification system?
  • What are we specifically buying from this supplier, and are these purchases made regularly or only once every few years?
  • How was this supplier selected, and who chose them? Were any competitors engaged at the same time? How did this incumbent beat them out?
  • What does this supplier do well? Where are their biggest points of failure?
  • Has this category been sourced recently? How was the event conducted, and what was the result?

Beyond this interview, ask these stakeholders to provide copies of any active MSAs, SOWs, SLAs, or any other document that can help define the relationship. Of particular note will be termination clauses. What date does the agreement end, and what are the renewal terms? What steps do we follow to terminate on that date, and by when do they need to be taken? If terminating before that date, are there any penalties?

From Insight to Action

Building a detailed spend analysis takes time, and the commitment of resources that could be doing other things. As such, you need to ensure you get a good ROI out of the exercise.

The best way to do that is to see beyond the front-end of what a spend analysis is (the unification, cleansing, and classification of spend data) and consider what a spend analysis helps Procurement do (identify strategic sourcing initiatives and estimate potential impact). Scoping is a critical part of this process, and properly scoping opportunities that a spend analysis shines a light on is a great way to get that ROI.

Thanks, Brian!