In case you haven’t guessed, this post is about The Little Engine That Could not only get up the big hill, but after scaling the hill, decided to follow the tracks up to Alaska, tackle, and climb, Mount McKinley (also known as Denali), which is the highest mountain in the United States at 6,190.5 meters (or 20,310 feet), and not stop until it reached the summit.
For those of you who missed our prior posts, namely Keelvar: Strange Name. Uncommon Results., Keelvar: Are They Right for You, and Re-introducing Keelvar, An Optimization-Backed Sourcing Platform, Keelvar, which is the newest, and still the smallest entrant, to the strategic sourcing decision optimization game, and one of the few (correction: two) vendors to provide a fully integrated optimization-backed sourcing platform (with integrated RFX and e-Auctions), has been making great strides since it spun-out of the 4C research laboratory (in the Department of Computer Science) at the University College of Cork a mere four years ago in 2012. Since then, it has been advancing faster than all of its peers except Trade Extensions, and has emerged to become a top contender for the provision of optimization-backed sourcing platforms. In fact, as hinted at in an upcoming Pro piece, the doctor expects that Keelvar will grow faster than 4 of its 5 five competitors over the next few years.
So what’s so great about this little upstart? The first thing to note is the ease-of-use of the platform. The platform, which embeds a simple-to-follow seven-step best practice sourcing platform, literally guides even the most junior of buyers through the most complex events the platform can handle, and the side-bar navigation makes it a breeze to quickly access any step in the process. (The tried-and-true best-practice methodology is strikingly similar to what MindFlow used back in the day, but it never had such an easy to use, clean, and modern interface.)
The second thing is the speed of improvement. Since SI last reviewed the platform last fall, a number of considerable of enhancements have been made that go well beyond usability. Extensive supplier self-service has been added (which allows the supplier to manage not only the response and bid process, but the team assigned to it – all the buyer has to do is invite one supplier rep, and that supplier rep can create the supplier organization’s records, add users, give them appropriate, fine-grained read/edit rights to the documents and bids, and manage all of their effort without any buyer involvement whatsoever). Single-sheet smart-load (which allows the platform to detect field-types, field-status, and other relevant information without a user having to define a lot of meta-data or use the cell-based encoding required by other platforms) has been developed. And parametric bidding is in quality assurance.
Parametric bidding is, in a world, cool. Often in the acquisition of fleets, computers, cell phones, etc., the buyer doesn’t precisely know the exact configuration details that are desired until the last minute. In this situation, the buyer has to either create a huge number of potential configurations for bidding, or pick a few and hope for the best. With parametric bidding, the supplier can bid on a base configuration and define all of the options they offer against that configuration as well as the price increments (or decrements) for that option. When the final configurations are selected, the system will automatically calculate the appropriate costs (and discounts) from the parametric sheet for the optimization model, with no effort at all required by the user. This is a feature that is jut not seen in first generation sourcing platforms. Watch for it.
Keelvar, which was first named as a SpendMatters company to watch last year (and which will soon be covered in depth on Pro by the doctor and the public defender), is a company that you should be keeping a really close eye on. Optimization-backed sourcing platforms are the future. and right now there are one of only two providers with a single, integrated, end-to-end, solution. We may see more in the future (with BravoSolution working on integrating its two product lines, SciQuest’s acquisition of CombineNet, and Determine’s acquisition of Selectica), but Keelvar (and Trade Extensions) have an early lead that gets larger every day their competitors work on integration (as opposed to innovation).
Now, you’re probably worried about adoption, because first generation platforms were, for the most part, so damn hard to use (to put it bluntly), but second generation optimization-backed sourcing platforms are actually quite easy to use and focussed around adoption. For more information on how to get Higher Adoption, check out the linked white-paper. And for more information on Keelvar, we recommend checking out their new, open, Keelvar support portal.