Procurement Outsourcing V.V: Provade, Take II

During my most recent Silicon Valley foray, I had a chance to catch up with Provade again and talk about how they seamlessly enable services procurement for companies with and without a PeopleSoft stack. If you remember, one of the three points I covered in my last post was how they built their solution on a PeopleTools foundation on the Oracle Stack. This is a tremendous advantage for customers with existing Oracle or PeopleSoft implementations since they can tie their solution in directly to your systems with almost no effort and set-up the bi-directional data flows in record time.

However, their solution is also a tremendous advantage for customers without (extensive) Oracle or PeopleSoft implementations – espcially those with large, involved services spend, especially in the legal, financial, contract labour, and marketing categories. They have done a significant amount of work extending their Java/J2EE technology stack to be SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) compatible. This allows them to easily integrate with other systems and enabled them to support rapidly configurable punchouts so that you can tie into your suppliers existing systems. Furthermore, it also allows them to develop Web 2.0 interfaces that are significantly easier to use than traditional PeopleSoft or Oracle (forms-based) interfaces – so current users can expect usability of the platform to only increase as time goes on.

I had a great conversation with these guys because my experience has been that:

  • there is not a lot of recognition for the importance of services spend management, which can consume up to 70% of spend in some verticals (financial, healthcare, etc.)
  • most solution providers are not offering specific solutions (with the notable exception of Servigistics, whose service parts, service price, and workforce management solutions I recently discussed, but they have a different spin)
  • most solution providers are not offering an on-demand solution with a low initial implementation cost

Furthermore, they understand that certain types of services are very complex and your offering, especially on the supplier side, needs to be customized if you want suppliers to rapidly adopt the system. One example, and one of their current strengths, is legal services. Law firms don’t bill for “services” or “tasks”, but “matters”. Most services are not fixed quote, but line item services where every line item is at a different rate (para-legal, associate, partner, fixed expense, variable expense, etc.). And they’re not always the most technical of people. (Even the majority of firms that are LEDES capable would rather log into a simple user-friendly web-based system to create a bill.)

In summary, I think they are on the ball with respect to some of the major services procurement challenges in some under-serviced verticals and that their current solution is a good solution for many firms with the challenges they are tackling. I look forward to talking with them again and diving into their process model and technology architecture in a later post.