Daily Archives: December 4, 2008

The Sourcing Maniacs 2008 Vendor Tour Part 17: Power Advocate

This post is a bit lengthy, so I’ve broken it into Prelude and Power.


Wakko Faster! Faster!
  The maniacs are describing their ride on the Mindbender at the West Edmonton Mall, which they visited after meeting with Upside Software.
the doctor I’m glad you enjoyed your trip to The Mall, but would you like to get back to where we left off before I had you jump ahead in your story?
Yakko Where were we?
the doctor You were describing your on-line review of MFG
Wakko MFG … it’s dynamite
MFG … it’ll win the fight
MFG … it’s the power load
MFG … watch it explode!
  air guitar
the doctor Yes, Wakko, we covered that already. So who did you visit next?
  A brief moment of silence while they collect their thoughts … a daunting task for Wakko.
Wakko I’ve got the Power!
the doctor Uhmm …
Yakko That’s right! Power Advocate.

We were sitting in the Chinese Cafe …

Wakko finishing up our sixth order of Chow Mein …
Dot while wrapping op our review of MFG.
  The maniacs return to their story and, as usual, proceed to ignore me.
Dot Where to next?
Wakko Hopefully someplace a little less breezy. I’ve lost three kites today!
  The maniacs are still in Chicago, having recently visited Kinaxis before hopping into the cyber-enabled Chinese Cafe for their MFG research.
Yakko We’re on the N’s. I don’t know many N’s. New Momentum?
Dot Predictive market intelligence using optimization models. I think that’s a wee bit over Wakko’s head.
Yakko Fair Enough. NewView?
Dot Visibility solutions for automotive and aerospace?
Yakko I think so.
Dot Given the turmoil in those markets, I’m sure they’re too busy trying to get their solution installed at manufacturers that desperately need it to talk to us.
Yakko Possibly. the doctor did mention that he’s never been successful in his reach out attempts to them …
Next Generation Logistics?
Dot Again, Logistics.
Yakko Right. Not our focus. Well, I’m tapped.
Again, because he doesn’t check the Resource Site often enough, which currently has over ten companies that start with N.
Dot On to the O’s?
Yakko Sure! I’ve always been intrigued by Open Bravo.
Dot Aren’t they headquartered in Spain?
Yakko I believe so. But maybe we could get a web-demo and research them from right here!
Wakko That would be great! I could have more chow mein … six is an unlucky number in Cantonese … while eight is very prosperous … Waiter!
Yakko Let’s see if I can Google a number …
tappity, tappity
Here we go! A US number too!
beep bip-beep-bop boop-bop-bip boop-bop-bip-beip
Operator Hello …
Yakko Hello … could we get a demo of Open Bravo?
Operator You can download Openbravo ERP through SourceForge or access our demo centre for a quick overview. As we’re open source, you have free access to the product.
Yakko Oh. Uhm … thank you?
Operator You’re welcome.
Dot So?
Yakko Looks like “O” stands for “Oh, Bother”.
Dot What happened?
Yakko They told me to download it and try it out for myself. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like installing an ERP system just to review it.
Dot Neither do I. Who else starts with O?
Yakko I’m too bummed to think about it. Let’s just move on to the P’s
Dot Perfect Commerce?
Yakko Perfect? As far as I can tell, they got their ass-whooped so bad in the market, they had to be saved by a European-based services firm by the name of Cormine, that, for reasons beyond me, decided to keep the name. Plus, especially considering what we’ve learned so far on our tour, I think it’s really conceited to claim that your applications enable “perfect” commerce.
Dot Prime Revenue?
Yakko Interesting. Online billing and payment is commodity these days, but supply chain finance is cutting edge. However, as most companies still haven’t figured out that making your suppliers wait 30 extra days for payment isn’t supply chain finance, the concept might be too innovative for the market and an area we should tread carefully in.
Dot Power Advocate?
Yakko Didn’t the doctor mention them as a company he wanted checked out?
Dot I think so …
Yakko Where are they?
Dot Back in Boston …
Wakko Awesome! I was just thinking how great a cream pie would be to top off my eighth order of Chow Mein!
Wakko is, apparently, addicted to Boston Cream Pies.
Yakko I guess that settles it. Back to Boston we go!
Wakko So who will we be visiting?
Dot Power Advocate
Wakko I’ve got the Power!
Yakko Wha …
Wakko Like the crack of the whip I snap attack
Front to back in this thing called rap
Dig it like a shovel rhyme devil
On a heavenly level
Bang the bass turn up the treble
Radical mind day and night all the time
Seven to fourteen wise divine
Maniac brainiac winning the game
I’m the lyrical Jesse James

apparently, Wakko likes Snap


  We rejoin the maniacs a few days or so later back in Boston.
Dot Are we here?
Yakko I don’t know … I always get so turned around in this city … even Wakko could have done a better job at urban planning!
Dot I think this is the right address.
Wakko raps on the door with his mini-mallet
British Professional Good day, sirs and madam. How can I help you?
Wakko Do you have the power?
British Professional Well, as you Americans say, we always pay the hydro on time …
Yakko I believe what my colleage is asking if this is Power Advocate.
British Professional Absolutely. How can I be of assistance?
Wakko Well, we came here from Chicago to find out what you do?
British Professional Blimey O’Reilly! You trekked all the way here from Chicago and you don’t even know what we do? Are you off your rockers?
Wakko Nope!
Somehow, Wakko has found a rocking chair.
British Professional On the cadge?
Wakko Not yet …
British Professional Well, that doesn’t sound very made up. So why are you here?
Wakko the doctor said we should give you a check-up.
British Professional Well, now I’m in bits.
Wakko You look whole to me!
British Professional looking very cautiously at Wakko
Yakko I believe what my colleague is trying to say is that the doctor of Sourcing Innovation said we should check you out if we wanted to expand our horizons.
British Professional Well that certainly clears things up a bit. I thought I was going bonkers.
Yakko Conversations with Wakko often have that effect. So, can you enlighten us.
British Professional I can definitely give you the griff. What would you like to know?
Yakko Let’s start with the basics. What do you do?
British Professional In his best American
We provide cost-effective supply-chain solutions to the energy industry with the goal of helping our customers achieve operational performance goals. We have deep expertise in the energy, utility, power, gas, chemical, and manufacturing industry; a custom 3-tier schema for the utility industry that captures detail in critical areas that UNSPSC and other generic schemas lack; tailored sourcing and spend analysis solutions; and customized category intelligence and cost-indices that you won’t find anywhere else.
Yakko That’s a mouthful!
British Professional It’s definitely not half! Where would you like to start?
Yakko Let’s start with your sourcing platform.
British Professional It’s essentially your standard e-RFX and e-Auction platform.
Yakko So why would someone choose your platform over Ariba or Emptoris?
British Professional Well, besides the fact that it’s a lot more affordably priced, it’s customized for the energy and utility industry. We have a lot of built-in commercial and technical templates as well as extensive capabilities for buyers to build their own data-sheets for apples-to-apples comparisons.
Yakko Don’t scores of platforms come with templates and templating capabilities?
British Professional They do, but buying hardware in the energy and utility industry is very different than buying a stapler from the cheapest office supply site. A lot of this stuff isn’t commodity, and even standard components are often only made by a handful of companies. Plus, it often takes a lot of detail to distinguish one component, like a transformer, from another … detail that’s lost without the right questions … which require the right templates … which requires the right category knowledge, which your average e-Sourcing firm lacks.
Yakko And you have that expertise?
British Professional Yes. That’s what differentiates us not only from other supply chain software providers, but other sourcing consultancies — our expertise in the energy industry where we’re an end-to-end solution provider. Even the new marketplace entrants, like Co-Exprise and CombineNet Energy don’t have the platform – services – market intelligence package that we can offer our customers. You have to remember, we’ve been around almost a decade, and many of our staff members have been doing this for over two decades … giving us hundreds of years of collective experience in the energy and utility industry and expertise that we feel is unmatched.
Yakko Can you tell us about your expertise?
British Professional Our expertise comes in the way of three major offerings: category intelligence based on years of experience that helps you get the most from your sourcing events; our new capital and O&M cost indices that provide our clients with leading market intelligence on the categories that matter to the energy and utility industries; and our customized taxonomy, used by a number of Fortune 500 companies, that provides the foundation for our leading spend analysis and visibility solutions.

Let’s start with our new cost indices. They’re web-based and provide our clients with real-time access to supply market data. They’re dynamic and allow users to define their own scenarios, with their own assumptions, to create their own probabilistic cost and demand forecasts in addition to the forecasts we provide them. And since they’re based on over 880 publicly available indexes that are augmented with data from over 65,000 suppliers and 1,000 international companies, they provide the most accurate market trend information you can get.

We currently offer six O&M indices and seven construction indices, with more coming in 2009, including “green” indices in first quarter and European indices in second quarter. The 5-level indices break costs down to the commodity level and allow the impact of each commodity to be measured and understood. The data goes back to 2000, and for any index, or any component category, sub-category, item, or commodity you can view trends based on at least five years of data.

These indices complement the decades of category expertise in the energy and utility industry that we bring to our clients, as well as our unique category intelligence power-search tool that acts like a Google for the energy industry. We also maintain extensive supplier lists, like Thomas Net, but with more detail, and our own category hierarchy, which underlies not only our spend analysis and visibility offering, but a number of Fortune 500 ERP taxonomies as well.

With regards to spend analysis, we offer all of the standard data-aggregation, cleansing, and enrichment capabilites that all of your standard spend analysis vendors offer, augmented by 20,000 unique industry specific auto-classification rules that allow us to parse transactions and automatically classify a much greater percentage of your spend faster.

Yakko 20,000 rules?
British Professional Yes, 20,000 rules.
Yakko I thought automatically classifying spend was easy and only required a small rule set?
British Professional That’s what the big players want you to believe. The reality is that there’s so many suppliers, so many abbreviations, so many SKUs, so many part numbers, and so many ways to identify a part in a limited-size description field that it’s almost impossible to automatically classify spend across an organization. Most solutions don’t even come anywhere close to 80% accuracy, which a good data analyst can do by hand in a few hours with the right spend analysis tool that allows real-time rule-generation and data classification!
Yakko Then how do Emptoris and Zycus do it?
British Professional Lots and lots of manual labor in India. The reality is that unless they’ve already classified spend at another company in your vertical with a similar supply base and similar purchases, they’re “automated classification engine” won’t even classify half of your spend, and they’ll have to ship it off to their offshore operation to clean it up and classify the rest. That’s why it often takes them 3 weeks to 3 months for them to build you an initial cube … they’re classifying your spend by hand and building the rules your organization needs to automatically classify similar transactions in the future.
Yakko So that’s why you have so many rules?
British Professional Yes, that’s why we have over 20,000 rules … which, by the way, only map spend in energy and utility companies. (A cross-industry solution would need hundreds of thousands of rules!) And it’s also why we use the most powerful spend analysis tool we could get our hands on that allows for real-time rule-generation and classification of spend. It’s called BIQ. You might have heard of it. Between our huge rule-set and our ability to apply our domain expertise on the fly, we can build a starting cube in a matter of hours, and do an initial spend analysis for our customers in a matter of days.
Yakko Days?!?!
British Professional Absobloodylutely!
Yakko But I keep hearing about how it usually takes a few quarters to select a solution, build a data warehouse, map the data, clean the data, enrich the data, configure the reports, and get actionable information.
British Professional Well, if you’re using last-generation technology, it certainly does, but we use BIQ, a rule-set we’ve been building for years based upon decades of experience, and deep expertise. Did you know that Lexington Analytics, another services distributor of BIQ with deep expertise in the financial industry, routinely goes to client sites and builds an initial cube, on the fly, in a few hours in their first meeting?
Yakko You must be pulling my plonker!
British Professional I assure you I’m not. With the right tool, and the right expertise, it really is possible to build starting cubes that fast. You really should read Eric Strovink‘s guest posts on Sourcing Innovation carefully. A real spend analysis solution allows you to map data on the fly … and do so after you’ve applied a layered rule-set that allows you to progressively refine rules until you’ve achieved the required level of accuracy … usually 90% is sufficient for a good spend analysis. And it allows us to get results quite quickly.
Yakko But you say you also offer a web-based solution. BIQ is desktop. How do you do it?
British Professional Right now, we build the initial cube in BIQ, map it to our taxonomy, and when we have the right view, export it to our custom on-line viewing engine that provides you with dozens of built-in reports and allows you to slice and dice the data in the cube anyway you want.
Yakko Doesn’t the data get stale?
British Professional It would if we didn’t update it, and we have an automated process to do that. Which, to be quite frank, is just as good as any other product out there, as they all work the same way.
Yakko And what if the user wants more flexibility?
British Professional Such as …
Yakko Multiple-cubes. Measures. Meta-measures.
British Professional We rarely run into that. The reality is that only the power-users even think about that level of analysis. It’s not a problem though. Since we use BIQ ourselves, we can provide our clients with a full data dump of their cube at any time, the associated ruleset, and relevant report templates that will allow them to use BIQ on their own machine.

Plus, if the demand is there in the future, we will take advantage of BIQ’s new XML interface, forthcoming in its next release, that allows it to be driven over the web through a standard web-browser.

Yakko It sounds like you guys have an extensive solution for the energy industry.
British Professional We do … and we’re building out a basic contract management solution that takes into account energy-industry specific needs as we speak. An initial version will be available next year.
Yakko How will it compete with the stand-alone players like
CMA Contiki,
Open Text,
Symfact, and
Upside Software, and a slew of others I know I’m forgetting?
British Professional It won’t. Just like our sourcing platform isn’t built to be the be-all-and-end-all of generic sourcing platforms, our contract management solution isn’t being built to be the be-all-and-end-all of enterprise contract management platforms. It’s being built to meet the needs of the energy and utility industry, and will offer capabilities, and templates, that specifically meet those needs. It will help us serve our clients better. We don’t serve companies buying staplers from office supply vendors. We serve utility companies buying transformers from electrical equipment manufacturers. There’s a big difference, and that’s why you need a customized solution.
Yakko So you really are an end-to-end solution for the energy industry.
British Professional Yes we are.
Yakko Cool.
British Professional Very, and with that I bid you ta-ta old bean!