Driverless Delivery? Tantalizing Theft Target!

With the emergence of drones and, now, self driving cars, a number of delivery companies are promoting these as low cost delivery options to companies that want to reduce delivery costs, especially for small businesses shipping low volumes (that fit in a large van or small truck) or retailers doing B2C delivery. But are they really low cost?

Yes, drivers cost money because, like all workers, they expect to be paid. And if you could obtain a driverless vehicle for the same price of a driver-required vehicle, you would save. But driverless vehicles come with a higher price tag. Now, the argument is that over the lifetime, the savings from a reduced driver workforce will cancel out the increased up from cost, and this would be true if the driverless option were as reliable as the driver-required options.

Now at this point, you’re probably asking what madness has the doctor contracted because, unlike humans that get sick, get lazy, make mistakes, and need rest — as long as the equipment gets the fuel and proper service, the software can drive it 24/7 — and this is true. The equipment can run 24/7, but this doesn’t mean you’ll get your stuff.

First of all, if there’s a programming error, or GPS error, there is no one there to detect and correct it. If GPS steers an Uber off course (and it does regularly in big cities with lots of tall buildings … sending multiple Ubers in a row a block away from where I was in Chicago recently despite the fact I was very sure to provide the address and not accept the default GPS location), the driver can say “there’s no one here”, call, and figure out where to go. If GPS steers a delivery drone off course, the customer’s neighbour gets a free gift and you get to eat the replacement cost as the credit card company is not going to rule in your favour in a dispute where the customer provided correct shipping information but you delivered to the wrong address. And the cost multiplies if an entire truck is shipped to the warehouse next door and you can’t prove it. (Even if you can, it does not mean you will get your goods or money back.)

But the biggest problem is that there is no guarantee that the goods will even make it to the destination. Goods being delivered driverlessly are very tantalizing theft targets. Not only is there no security to worry about, but there is no driver to even notice a theft as it is happening, report it, and get descriptions of the perpetrator — which means 0 chance of recovery. And do not think for a second that insurance is going to cover it in a cost effective manner. As claims start rising, and investigations into reasons continue, rates are going to either become unaffordable for driverless delivery options or become nonexistent options for the average business.

The argument that the drone is not interceptable until it drops low enough to deliver the package is not going to hold because signals can be hijacked and they can be hacked. (If top of the line cars can be hacked, how hard do you think it is to hack a bottom of the line drone?). And the argument that the delivery vehicle is secure until it reaches its destination is not going to hold either because if thieves can bust open a lock and rob a moving delivery truck with a driver unnoticed, how hard is it going to be to do the same to a driverless one. (Answer, even easier — no one to see the theft. Cameras do not count. They are easily hacked if they are digital and easily blinded by LED lights.)

Driverless trucks are already becoming theft ring targets, and delivery drones will soon be the target of bored hackers everywhere who will be able to get stuff en-route and not have to wonder if the order on the stolen credit card number will go through before the theft is detected and reported.

Driverless delivery is a tech-dream, but, for the time being, is not a Procurement one. You have been warned.

What is a Platform Anyway? Part II

In our last post we noted that many providers that were pushing suites, as well as many that want to compete with those vendors and push the envelope a bit, have stopped pushing suites and started pushing platforms as suites have started to show the cracks in their armour and everyone wants to sell the shiny, crack-free, solution. Hence the platform.

But what is a platform? Traditionally it is a raised platform for people, animals, and objects to stand upon. In the computing realm, it is commonly defined as a framework for software applications to run on. Which is a useless definition as “framework” is ill-defined and too vague to be useful.

So what is a framework? Traditionally, this is an enclosure or structure designed to support something, and the definition changes depending upon what you want to support. In computing, it could be a software framework — a collection of classes and libraries to support the development of applications with common functionality, an enterprise architecture framework — a configuration of software and communication protocols that support a pre-set class of applications and deliver models, and hardware frameworks that are pre-configured to support a specific software framework (OS, enterprise architecture, etc.).

And, as hinted in the previous paragraph, the problem is compounded by delivery models — on premise, hosted ASP (often disguised as SaaS), and SaaS (which could be multi-tenant at the application, database, or instance level, each with advantages and disadvantages), And then there is “the cloud” to consider and the extent to which the SaaS platform takes advantage of real-time scalability, fail-over, and back-up options.

When you get right down to it, there is not only no common definition of what a platform should do, but even what a platform is and what it should address!
And any definition that would be put forward by a vendor or analyst would likely need to change slightly depending upon what Supply Management processes are being supported.

So the answer is, at least for now, a “platform” is whatever the vendor wants it to be, and not necessarily what you need it to be. And while you might need a “platform”, you do not necessarily want the “platform” that any particular vendor is going to sell you.

And in order to figure that out, you are going to have to define what you need the “platform” to do, which will dictate some key requirements and help you select a “platform” that actually provides you with a solution versus just adding as many problems as it solves (like first generation suites).

So how do you do that?

Stay tuned.

What is a Platform Anyway? Part I

In the beginning, there was the spreadsheet.

Organizations would send or fax out long, detailed RFQs asking for detailed bids and bid breakdowns for their (complex) sourcing needs, wait for the couriered or faxed responses, spend days (or weeks) entering all of the data into an early spreadsheet application (like Lotus 1 2 3), do their analysis, select one or more vendors for an award, begin negotiations, and eventually cut a contract.

Then, in the very late 1990s / early noughts, RFQ and basic e-Auctions hit the scene. Bid collection was automated, side-by-side comparisons were automatic, and organizations could quickly see who they wanted to work with.

And then, within a few years, there were contract creation and management solutions they could use to author, store, track, and manage the contract.

Then they needed to send out POs against the contract, collect invoices against the PO, match, and manage these e-Documents, so they acquired an e-Procurement or an EDI solution (connected to their ERP) to do so.

At this point they had a slew of solutions that all needed data from the precursor application in the business process and all needed to feed data into the next application in the business process workflow. A few of these solutions supported integration with the previous or next application, but many didn’t and the data re-entry nightmare became as bad as the data entry nightmare when all the organization had was a spreadsheet.

But then suite providers, who offered a set of complementary modules that digitized an entire process end to end (such as sourcing, procurement, etc.), hit the scene and the data re-entry problem was marginalized as all of the modules were integrated, data flowed through the suite end-to-end, could be pulled in automatically from a file that followed a standard format, and could be pushed to an ERP and/or exported to standard format and once IT mapped the export to the next system in the workflow, the process could be automated and manual intervention was only required on exception or on update.

This worked well, and for many smaller companies continues to work well, but as companies continue to advance in Procurement maturity, and need to find new ways to extract and create supply chain value, the cracks in the suite armour begin to show.

The issues with a traditional Sourcing / Procurement suite include:

internal data / data structure is typically not exposed

e.g. a S2C (Source to Contract) will be set up to accept supplier (master) data and export contracts and meta data, but (losing) bids, auction history, negotiation audit trails, etc. will typically not be configured as (standard) reports and exports and may not be extractable in any automated fashion

the artifacts required for related processes and functions are rarely addressed

e.g. a P2P (Procure to Pay) will be used to procure not only goods and services for re-sale and goods and services for consumption, but internal assets such as equipment, licenses, etc. that need to be tracked and managed in an asset control system; the P2P system should collect all of the necessary data, but typically doesn’t nor does it connect or push data to the asset system, meaning purchases just get lost

the workflow is typically fixed to the process the system was built to support

e.g. most companies built solutions to address problems encountered in the companies the founders worked for or the companies that adopted the beta solutions; this not only resulted in some platforms being very good for commodities for re-sale but poor for MRO, very good for direct materials but poor for services, etc. but also resulted in solutions that really only worked for one or two verticals as the sourcing process used by a finance institution (even for similar types of goods or services) was very different than the sourcing process used by a CPG company …

And so on.

So now the leading providers who recognize this are not selling suites, they are selling “platforms”. But what is a platform anyway?

The 50/50 … stamped with the doctor‘s seal of approval! Part II: To Watch

As announced last Sunday in our post on how the Masters will have the 50/50 in their Sights, this week the Spend Matters 50/50 … 50 to watch, 50 to know … list for 2016 was announced. It consists of 100 companies that every Supply Management professional should know about. (Even if the solution is not right for you, or your organization, you don’t know what tomorrow will bring after a job transfer or a merger.)

For those who missed it, this is the list of the “to watch” companies, augmented with links to past SI (and SM) coverage, and annotations where coverage is coming soon!

Provider Solution SI Coverage SM Coverage
4C Associates Consulting / Services
I
AnyData Solutions Analytics Coming Later
I
Apex Analytix Recovery Audits Coming Later
I
II
Applause CrowdTesting
I
Aptitude Healthcare Market
Coming Soon
Avetta EHS Coming Soon
Coming Soon
BuyerQuest P2P Coming Later
I
II
Claritum Tail-Spend
I
II

Coming Soon
DecideWare Agency Management
I
II
III
IV

Coming Soon
DirectWorks Direct Procurement
Co-exprise:I
II

I
II
Ecovadis CSR
I
II

I
II
Eved Event Management Coming Later
I
Exari / Contiki CLM Coming Later
I
Fluent
Coming Soon
FusionOps Supply Chain Intelligence
I

I
II
Genesis Automation Healthcare ERP
Coming Soon
Gigwalk VMS (Mobile Workforce)
I
II
Global Risk Management Solutions (GRMS) Vendor Screening
I
II
Greensill Working Capital
I
HICX SRM
I
II
III
IV

I
II
III
Hourly Nerd Workforce Marketplace
I
Innocentive Innovation Management Coming Later
I
Keelvar Optimization-Backed Sourcing Platform
I
II
III

I
II
Lavante Recovery Auditing & SIM
I
II
III

I
II
MBO Partners Contingent Workforce
I
II
Nipendo e-Invoicing
I
II

I
OpusCapita (jCatalog) P2P Coming Later
I
Per Angusta Sourcing/Procurement Project Management
I

I
II
Prodigo Healthcare Consulting / Services
I
Rapid Ratings Supply Chain Intelligence Coming Later
Coming Soon
ScoutRFP e-Sourcing
I
II

Coming Soon
SDI MRO Procurement Coming Soon
Coming Soon
Sievo Spend Analysis Coming Later
I
II
Simfoni Tail Spend Procurement App Coming Later
I
SirionLabs Complex Services Management Coming Later
Coming Soon
Source One Management Services Consulting / Services
I

I
II
SourceMap Risk Management
I

I
Spend360 Analytics Coming Later
I
SpendLead Vendor Search
I
SupplyOn SCM Coming Later
Coming Soon
TAMR Data Science Coming Later
Coming Soon
Toptal Workforce Marketplace
I
Transcepta e-Invoicing & Supplier Network
I

I
Uber Uber
I
II
Upwork Workforce Marketplace
I
II
Vinimaya Procurement Marketplace
I
II
III
IV

I
Vroozi Tail Spend Procurement App Coming Later
I
II
Wax Digital P2P Coming Later
I
Workday VMS
I
II
Xeeva e-Invoicing Coming Later
Coming Soon

And now you know.

For those curious about how the list was arrived at, the public defender has a great explanation over on Spend Matters UK. Seven analysts across three continents argued over who should and should not be on the list, making it one of the most objective subjective lists (not rankings) out there. (Now, I do not think any of us got to see all of our top ten picks on either list, but you can be sure that any company that made the list is a company that multiple analysts, including analysts that cover different areas of the Supply Management space, saw as a leader or innovator. So while everyone will question a few omissions, it is pretty hard to question that those there deserve to be there. The real question is, how many will be there next year. The competition in this space gets fiercer and fiercer.)

The 50/50 … stamped with the doctor‘s seal of approval! Part I: To Know

As announced last Sunday in our post on how the Masters will have the 50/50 in their Sights, this week the Spend Matters 50/50 … 50 to watch, 50 to know … list for 2016 was announced. It consists of 100 companies that every Supply Management professional should know about. (Even if the solution is not right for you, or your organization, you don’t know what tomorrow will bring after a job transfer or a merger.)

For those who missed it, this is the list of the “to know” companies, augmented with links to past SI (and SM) coverage, and annotations where coverage is coming soon!

Provider Solution SI Coverage SM Coverage
Accenture Consulting / Services
III
Achilles SIM / SCM Coming Later
III
Amazon Business Catalog GPO Replacement
III
AT Kearney Consulting / Services
III
Basware P2P
III

III

IV


III
Beeline VMS (Contingent Workforce)
III
Beroe Supply Chain Intelligence Coming Later
III
BravoSolution S2C
III.1

II.2

III


III
C2FO Working Capital
I
CapGemini IBX P2P / Supplier Network
I

III
CIPS Professional Organization
III
Coupa P2P
III

III


III
DCR Workforce VMS (Contingent Workforce)
Coming Soon
Deloitte Consulting / Services
III
Detrmine S2P
III

III
DocuSign e-Signature
III
E&Y Consulting / Services
I
Efficio Consulting / Services
I
GEP S2P Coming Later
III
IBM S2C / Consulting / Services
III
Infor SCM / HCM / PLM Coming Later
I
Insight Sourcing Group / SpendHQ Consulting / Services / Spend Analysis
III

III

IV


I
Invoiceware e-Invoicing Coming Later
I
IQNavigator VMS
I

III
ISM Professional Organization
III
Ivalua S2P
III

III

IV


III
KPMG Consulting / Services
I
McKinsey Consulting / Services
III
OpenText GXS Business Network
III
Oracle Procurement
I
Pool4Tool Direct Procurement Coming Soon
III
PrimeRevenue SCF
III

I
Proactis P2P Coming Later
III
PRO Unlimited VMS (Contingent Workforce)
I
Proxima Consulting / Services
III
PWC Consulting / Services
I
Recruit VMS
Coming Soon
Resilinc Risk Management
III

I
RiskMethods Risk Management Coming Later
III
SAP Procurement
I
ScanMarket S2C Coming Later
III
SciQuest S2P
Coming LaterHistorical AECSoft:
I
II

Historical CombineNet:
V
VII

Historical Upside:

I


III
SynerTrade S2P Coming Later
I
Taulia e-Invoicing Coming Later
III
The Hackett Group Analyst Group
III
Trade Extensions Optimization-Backed Sourcing Platform
III

III


III
Tradeshift P2P & Supplier Network Coming Later
III
Tungsten e-Invoicing Coming Later
III
ZeroChaos VMS (Contingent Workforce)
III
Zycus S2P Coming Later
III