The UX One Should Expect from Best-In-Class Optimization … Part III

In our last post on The UX One Should Expect from Best-In-Class Optimization (Part II) we continued our foray into the world of optimization and how the requirements for a good user experience go well beyond the requirements for e-RFX and even best-in-class e-Auction platforms. (As for the basic requirements of any e-RFX or e-Auction platform, see our two-part series on Best-in-Class e-Sourcing Part I and Part II and our deeper dive into Best-in-Class e-Auctions Part I and Part II.)

the doctor cannot emphasize just how important sourcing optimization is, and is about to become, for any organization that wants to continue to not only find savings but identify crucial value, and, to be blunt, unavoidable. This is because, especially in North America and the UK (where many global organizations are headquartered), savings are about to go up in smoke due to inflation, protectionist policies, insufficient supply of raw materials, and forthcoming breakdowns in trade agreements.

Considering that it’s one of only two advanced sourcing solutions that can be used to generate year-over-year savings, and value, in excess of 10%, and the only solution that can not only identify the potential but also identify an actual award scenario to realize the savings and/or value, organizations getting budget-stressed year-over-year will not be able to hold out much longer — at least not if they want to stay competitive.

But not any platform will do, it has to be useable. Most buyers, who are afraid of, as the Brits like to say, the maths, are naturally afraid of such platforms, which they still fear are math heavy and insanely difficult to use (like the first generation platforms tended to be), and that fear will only be overcome if they see a great user experience awaits. And we mean great.

What does that entail? About a dozen different usability requirements, of which we’ve already discussed two — true, powerful, cost modelling and guided sourcing by the way of system-assisted “what-if” support.

But this is just the beginning. Another core requirement, and one the vast majority of systems have missed in the past, is automatic identification of unsatisfiable constraints. In basic sourcing optimization events, as the doctor and the prophet pointed out over on Spend Matters Pro [membership required] in our latest article on What To Expect from Best-in-Class Sourcing Optimization Technology and User Design (Part 3), the “model” itself will only be lightly constrained, as procurement will want to limit the potential inputs to award scenarios (all of which impact price) to one or only a handful of constraints. Quite often these constraints are centred around capacity in potential award decisions. But as stakeholders gather and add more constraints, the potential increases to create a null award set. And if the scenario can’t be solved, the value of optimization can’t be realized.

Sometimes a human can easily figure out which constraints are prevent solution, and sometimes, because there are so many and they all weakly constrain the award and it’s actually a set of 6 to 10 working in unison making the scenario unsolveable, a human can’t. And if a human’s only option to find a reasonable solution is just to delete constraints until the model solves, that’s not likely to generate the lowest cost award or the award that satisfies the stakeholder’s desired constraints to the maximum extent possible. The buyer or analyst really needs to know the exact constraints, or sets, causing the model to be unsolveable so she can modify, or remove, just those and present her stakeholders with the lowest cost / highest value award that violates the smallest number of desired constraints.

But, as you can guess, that’s not all a platform needs to do. For a deeper dive, check out the doctor and the prophet‘s latest instalment in our optimization UX series, What To Expect from Best-in-Class Sourcing Optimization Technology and User Design (Part 3), over on Spend Matters Pro [membership required] and stay tuned for Part IV.

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