Monthly Archives: April 2017

A Great UIX is MORE than just a Version Number

… and MUCH MORE than just a minor version number!!! Soon after the doctor and the prophet published the first part of their UIX guide, the doctor received a copy of a mass email from a vendor claiming that they couldn’t agree more and that their new release, X.Y+0.1 now met that requirement. Pretty bold claim!

As we haven’t yet reviewed the current release, we can’t comment, but we imagine that it would not be that much different than X+Y, which we did see. Now, we’re not saying in this case that X+Y wasn’t good, it was, or that the vendor won’t be a leader if it participates in the upcoming solution maps, as it has as good of a shot as anyone else, and probably better in some ways, but UI and UIX doesn’t change over night, and definitely doesn’t change much on a minor, almost quarterly, release cycle.

And a bold claim like this, especially a bold claim coupled with a minor release, can cause the vendor more harm than good as it can lead to unrealistic expectations in the mind of analysts and, more importantly, potential customers that might then hold it to an unrealistic standard when evaluating the solution than the analysts, and more importantly, customers would otherwise convey upon the solution. This could cause the vendor’s solution to be scored lower than it should be, and even lower than an inferior solution from a competitor (as compared against the customer’s specific needs) which would then be, incorrectly (with respect to the customer’s specific needs) chosen.

Moreover, a great UI / UIX does not need to be sold — one look and the UI/UIX and it sells itself. All a vendor with a great UIX needs to do is promote all of the great things the solution can do and all of the processes that it solves and get in front of the potential customer. That’s it.

Remember, as Scotty always said, under-promise, over-deliver. After all, how else do you expect to get a reputation as a miracle worker?

50 Ways to Kill Your Business

At the request of the prophet:

The problem is all inside your head
They like to say
The answer is easy if you
Take it day by day
They’d like to help you in your struggle
To be safe …
There must be fifty ways
to kill your business

They said it’s really not our habit
To intrude
Furthermore, they hope their message
Won’t be lost or misconstrued
But I’ll repeat myself
At the risk of being crude
There must be fifty ways
to kill your business
Fifty ways to kill your business

They just slip out the back, Jack
<b>Make a new plan, Stan</b>
You don’t need to be coy, Roy
Just break yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus
You don’t need to discuss much
Just drop off the lease, Lee
And get yourself free

They said it grieves them so
To see you in such pain
I wish there was something I could do
To clear your mind again
I hope you appreciate that
And if I could explain
About the fifty ways

They’ll say why don’t we both
Just sleep on it tonight
And they believe in the morning
You’ll begin to see their light
And then they all go
And you’ll realize I was probably right
There must be fifty ways
to kill your business …
Fifty ways they can kill your business

UNSuitable Procurement Spend Classification!

Brian Seipel of Source One Management Services recently shared his Pros and Cons of using UNSPSC for spend classification, indicating that the best taxonomy for you, including UNSPSC, was determined by your primary goal.

According to Brian, if your goal was to hit the ground running fast and base analysis on a tried-and-true standard, then UNSPSC was a great start because, as a standard, it is:

  • pre-developed and ready-to-use,
  • capable of expressing a good degree of granularity, and
  • widely available from vendors and a significant number of data enrichment options exist.

And this sounds great, but, any services vendor with a spend analysis offering (Insight Sourcing Group – SpendHQ, Spendency, Sievo, etc.)

  • has one more standard taxonomies designed for Procurement that it has been using for years and years (that has been refined across dozens, if not hundreds, of clients) and that it regularly achieves great results with
  • and these taxonomies are highly granular, usually to at least four levels of detail, and sometimes more and
  • can be enriched from dozens of sources using pre-defined mappings that the expert spend services group has ready-to-go

And when you look at it this way, there are really no benefits. (Well, there is one benefit to UNSPSC, and that is easy H(T)S code mapping, but that’s a Finance/AP benefit, not a Procurement one!)

However, the benefits of a custom Procurement taxonomy:

  • alignment to organizational Procurement/Sourcing needs
  • flexibility and capability to be re-organized on the fly
  • ability to support different levels of granularity in different categories (so that drill down is only available where it makes sense)

can not be found in UNSPSC. It’s one rigid unaligned structure. It can’t be remapped and re-organized as needed to support changing spend responsibility (such as department-specific IT services being taken out of IT spending and mapped to the appropriate departments). And the granularity cannot be altered. Allowing spend to be analyzed in some cases down to nonsensical levels.

So while it may be standard and universally supported (and even useful from a Finance/AP point of view), it really is an UNSuitable Procurement Spend Classification. So, when it comes time to do spend analysis, do NOT use it. (Select a system that supports multi-classification and finance can have their UNSPSC pound-cake and you can have your feathery souffle.) Are we clear?

(And yes, if asked, even consultants who do not like UNSPSC will say it’s a reasonable option because they are told to never directly contradict a client who signs the cheque, and if the CFO who signed the PO wants it, for whatever half-baked reason, guess what is all of a sudden a viable option … )

AnyData: Another Analytics Arriviste from Across the Atlantic

Maybe some good is coming of all the gross incompetence in public sector spending, unreasonably long payment terms, and multi-nationalization of contemporary British companies … the last few years have seen more Analytics companies start in the UK than in the rest of the English speaking world. Anydata, founded in May, 2013, is one in the long list of UK-based spend analysis providers that have been receiving coverage here on SI and over on SM over the past year or so.

It’s one of the more unique offerings as, in some ways, it has more in common with Agiloft, a BPM (Business Process Management) vendor which recently forayed into Contract Management, building its first application in a matter of days using its visual development environment.

Like Agiloft, and unlike many other vendors in analytics, Anydata started out by building a visual development framework upon which it built its spend analysis offering. This gives it a number of advantages which include, but are not limited to, rapid configuration, rapid report and dashboard construction, rapid visualizations (that is on par or faster than Tableau, QlikView, PowerPivot, Birst, and other platforms they are typically compared against), and rapid development of workflows to support additional data collection.

The analysis platform is centered around powerful dashboard-driven analytics that can be customized by client from dozens of dashboard templates that include historic, strategic, geographic, vendor, company, office, cost-center, and chart-of-account overviews as well as savings opportunities, invoice opportunities, and category opportunities.

The categorization is quite powerful, and currently second only to Sievo in functionality currently on the market. Sievo’s unique multi-pivot drill-down approach allows users to classify data in chunks in any way they want to define those chunks in any order in a very collaborative fashion, which is currently unique on the market today. And while the AnyData approach is not as collaborative, it is as powerful as you can define chunks not on pivots and values, but on queries which can then be replayed, in the order of your choosing, as data is reloaded. So instead of having to define a three level breakdown to select a specific group of transactions for a category, it’s a simple query — which allows for much faster categorization if you are a power user good at creating SQL queries. Much faster.

And, rather uniquely, it has a very powerful data intelligence feature that allows an analyst to query and inspect the data and meta-data on a recently imported data source for the purposes of validating the accuracy and completeness — an activity that should go well beyond just validating the basic check-sums (against the annual financial reports). With AnyData’s platform, you can quickly identify sums, trends, and outliers for any time period of interest, use sliders to zone-in and zone-out on potentially anomalous data, use filters to restrict to dimensions (and even facts) of interest, and understand the characterization of the data you are importing. Not only does this help immensely in cleansing, but helps you pinpoint errors that standard techniques miss in cleansing and classification.

It has additional strengths, and, of course, weaknesses compared to other tools on the market — which can be explored in depth in the Spend Matters Pro series co-authored by the doctor and the prophet [membership required] (Part I) — but this should give you a good introduction to, and flavour for, what Anydata is.

What Makes a Good UX? Part I

Now that we’ve sung Bye, Bye to Monochrome UIs, it’s time to address what makes a good UI, which is the foundation of a good User Experience (UX). This is a question the doctor has been working on for over a year as he has done deep dive vendor reviews (co-authored with the prophet over on Spend Matters Pro, membership required) that go deeper than any analyst or blogger reviews that have ever been done.

This is because each of those reviews have included a section on UI where the UI was rated on a number of high level factors, namely:

  • Overall Ease of Use
  • Ability to Learn and Use Without Training
  • Comparative Ease of Use
  • Sourcing/Procurement User Experience
  • Business User Experience
  • Planned Upgrades

which, while seemingly subjective, were all based on a comparison of the platform against other platforms that themselves were rated against a generalized baseline of what makes a “good” UI / UX for that type of platform. And while these have not yet been shared, as they have been in development, with the release of the first Spend Matters Solution Map (C) in P2P and the upcoming Solution Maps in Sourcing, the doctor and the the prophet have decided to finalize their joint criteria for UX evaluation. To this end, we are co-authoring a series on Measuring the Procurement Technology User Experience: More Than Just a Pretty Screen (Part 1) where we will dive into the general and specific characteristics of what makes a good UX in Sourcing and Procurement.

And while the full deep dives will be on Spend Matters Pro, our view of the basics are something we intend to spread far and wide. So just like key aspects of Sourcing, SRM, and CLM functionality were covered on both Spend Matters and Sourcing Innovation, the core of what makes a good UX will be covered on both blogs as well (but if you want drill down and examples, that will only be found in the deep dives on Pro).

We’ll start with the generics. A good UI brings integrated guidance that helps the user through each function it supports, with the user needing to be aware of policies, detailed user guides, or business specific rules. The platform knows all those and guides the user through any minefields.

An even better UI leverages pattern recognition, machine learning, trend detection, and reasoning to adapt to the user and make the UX better and better over time. In short, the most effective UX not only makes a platform sticky, but makes the everyday user more productive over time — without extensive training or the need for deep knowledge on the part of the user.

And it goes beyond the obvious. For example:

  • An ideal UX doesn’t have to exist — it can be “touch-less” and automate anything that can be automated without user involvement
  • An ideal UX realizes context can be as important as content
  • Mobile is part of the platform and user experience where it makes sense
  • Messaging is used as a competitive advantage (but not necessarily in the way you think it might be)
  • And it incorporates guidance based on true expertise — what some are calling predictive analytics

In other words, it gives the user what the user really needs, not what the developer wants.

For a deeper dive on the features and capabilities of a good UX, see Measuring the Procurement Technology User Experience: More Than Just a Pretty Screen (Part 1) [membership required] and stay tuned for future entries in this series.