In the first three parts of this series, we introduced you to SpendHQ, a spin-off of Insight Sourcing Group (ISG), one of the strongest, but yet most overlooked, players in the spend visibility and analysis space from a software and services solution viewpoint. Introduced is the operative word here as we only reviewed the features of the product at a high level — each tab of each module has many more features, options, and capabilities than we reviewed, as our goal in this initial series was just to outline the capabilities of a solution that has been under development for close to a decade. Unlike most spend analysis solutions that were designed and built by sourcing solution providers, SpendHQ was designed by sourcing and spend experts and implemented by a development team experienced in the implementation, and integration, of sourcing and spend analysis solutions.
The solution, which so far consists of a spend visibility and category management module, soon to be accompanied by a contract (metadata) management module that will allow an organization to track contracts, associated prices, and expiry dates (and associate them with managed spend categories), as any expert in spend visibility and analysis knows, is only as good as the data it contains.
Fortunately, SpendHQ manages the entire process and has a good handle on the matter at hand. From consolidation through normalization, categorization, cleansing, and enrichment to cube building and release, the SpendHQ team is experienced at the end-to-end lifecycle.
And, moreover, they recognize that this process can take time. Even though a spend expert with analytics expertise can map 90%+ of spend by hand with the right tool in a week for even the largest fortune 500, most companies don’t have this spend expertise in a single person, don’t have all of the data available in a single merged instance, and don’t content themselves with 90% of spend when many providers promise 98%+ (even though this increased level of accuracy doesn’t make a difference during an initial spend analysis effort and initial project selection, as an organization always goes after the biggest cost savings opportunities first, which can always be identified with 90%+ mapping accuracy). As a result, while some spend analysis providers will promise to have you up and running in a week (and work their Indian data mapping team to the bone 24/7 in an effort to meet this goal), SpendHQ makes a more reasonable promise of six weeks from initial consultation to final deployment. The SpendHQ team knows it will take time to get data, create merge rules, cleanse, classify, review with the customer, create new rules, re-classify, enrich, get executive sign-off, and roll-out. Sometimes the process only takes a couple of weeks (with a smaller company that’s really on the ball), but, as a consulting firm, they know better than to make promises that are unrealistic (and it’s always better to beat a deadline than to miss it). Considering that they can get to full-deployment for even the largest multi-billion dollar companies with 60+ file formats and 20+ currencies in this timeframe, you don’t have to worry that they won’t be able to turn-around data and mappings as fast as you can get them the data and review the mappings.
ISG has been doing spend analysis engagements since it was founded in 2002 and started working on it’s own spend analysis toolset shortly thereafter (with the first commercialization of its spend analysis product in 2007) and, as a result, ISG and SpendHQ are quite familiar with the fragile data supply chain. Poor data input discipline leading to 200 different supplier names for FedEx in your system? Multiple AP Systems that fragment spend data across the enterprise in different file formats? Accounting oriented categorizations useless for spend analysis? Maverick spend gone wild? They’ve seen it all and can deal with it all. And before the cleansed and categorized data is presented to the customer, it is reviewed by North America and European Union based sourcing professionals — not by a low-cost data-entry tech in an outsourced Indian development shop.
And, as per recent posts, the SpendHQ product is extremely useable — one of the best UIs SI has seen yet for a vendor-managed spend analysis product that is designed to be comprehensible by even the most technology-inept. (SpendHQ believes their UI to be their competitive advantage, and SI agrees.) It’s a great entry point to spend analysis and a quick way to identify your top savings opportunities and get sourcing projects to address them underway. (And then, a few years down the road when you’re ready for do-it-yourself advanced spend analysis, it’s a perfect segway into a product like Opera’s BIQ — which supports multiple categorizations, multiple cubes, and the ability to re-define your own rules hierarchy on the fly — when you’re ready to dive deeper into tougher opportunities.)