Monthly Archives: January 2019

How Do We Drive REAL Technological Advances? Part III

SI first tackled this subject back in 2014 in a 3-part series (Part I, Part II, and Part III) and then returned to the subject last year (Part I and Part II) since it seems that the core technology we are using hasn’t changed much in the last decade (as er the public defender’s lament over on Spend Matters UK) and many organizations are stuck on the Supply Chain Plateau.

That’s because driving technological advances is hard. Many among the older generation are still inherently distrustful of technology (and the doctor doesn’t blame them … self-driving Carl will drive them off the cliff someday) and 45% of the world’s population still hasn’t used the internet. But that’s not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is lack of …

Adoption. Why? If people don’t adopt platforms, they don’t use technology on a daily basis. If they don’t use the platforms regularly, they don’t push the platforms. If they don’t push the platforms, they don’t figure out what they need from the platforms. And then they don’t itch for an advance from the platforms, they won’t drive for an advance.

And, as we noted, when it comes to adoption, the key is to provide users with a platform that does everything they want, including things they never thought the platform to do, but makes it so easy to do that if you tried to take the platform away from them, they’d get mad and scream.

But, as we noted before, even if you have a great platform, this doesn’t mean it will be adopted … because the users who you need to adopt it might not even try it. Not only might they be from the older generation, but they might be from the older generation that has heard the same old story about how this new tool will make their lives easier a hundred times before, only to be let down. As a result, why would they want to be let down for the 101st time?

How do you get past that? We suggested a great UX, which is key because it has to be usable, but that only helps if you can get them to try the platform … in earnest … at least once. How do you get them to do that? Our answer last time was to convince them through messaging that hit home.

But what if the messaging only works for early adopters? What if the grizzled just get fizzled? Then what do you do?

It’s a tough question without an absolute answer. But the doctor now believes that the answer is to select a platform where you can do it for them!

As an easy example, let’s say they always complain about how long T&E expense claims take and lack of visibility. If you just acquired a new T&E management platform, chances are supervisors or processors have the ability to create claims for someone else, assign it to them, route it for approvals, and then simply sell the submitter (who still uses the old Excel form) a link to “track progress and status”. When they see how much easier the system makes their life, and see that they can create the claim in the system in an Excel like interface (if they choose, or the new wizard-driven way with OCR, but totally up to them) and get this progress and status insight even faster, they are more likely to adopt.

Similarly, if you want them to use a new sourcing platform even for simple bids, show them how much easier it is to keep track on supplier status and ability, use a template for th bid, and centralize communication. Send them links to pre-created supplier management portals and reports, event templates, and so on. Offer to be their “administrator” where you do the work but they have full visibility. If the platform really is easier to use and better, they’ll see how easy it is to just take control sometime and start using it. Don’t tell them how great it is, show them.

As long as you select a platform that allows multiple roles and delegation, this is easily doable and just might make the difference.

At least it’s worth a try!

Procurement Requires MORE Than a Platform

As a result of the M&A frenzy that continued throughout 2018 and recent investments by P&E firms taking majority stakes in a few suite players, every vendor is now all about the “platform” because apparently the “platform” is the ultimate software solution for every Procurement organization.

While it’s true that some vendors are bringing platforms to market with immense value, a platform, in and of itself, has no value. To put it into simple terms, a platform is what you build on … and the best way to think about it is like a construction platform. Without it, you can’t build anything significant … but it doesn’t do you any good, and that’s why the construction company generally takes it away when they are done. The only difference is that a software platform is, in reality, a mix of a foundation (that you build your office building on) and a platform (that is used to finish the walls, etc. on the higher floors).

The reason a platform is important is that, without it, there is no foundation for integrating new modules, integrating third party best-of-breed solutions, or integrating third party data feeds that bring facts and intelligence needed by the organization to make good Sourcing and Procurement decisions.

There’s a reason we asked why is it all about the platform when it should be all about the power last year in the midst of the M&A frenzy. A platform, on its own, does nothing, saves you nothing, but still costs big licensing fees.

Before you jump on the “platform”, make sure it has the “power” that is worth the price-tag. If it’s 100K, there better be 100K of functionality out of the box.

Plus, if it’s a real platform, it should have sufficient do-it-yourself connectivity because, as we have noted many times, no platform excels in everything that is needed to support the S2P cycle and you will have to bolt-on some best of breed solutions and integrate third party data feeds.

Always remember, despite the table pounding and cost-cutting demands, your job is to generate value. There’s only so much cost that can be cut in any category, and once it’s cut, that’s it. So you need something that can identify more value (in value-add services, differentiated/sustainable components the organization can charge a premium for, better reliability, etc.). That takes more than just a “platform”.

How Do You Identify A Truly Stellar Supplier? Part III

Assuming one exists …

Five years ago we first asked this question and a few answers we gave was a stellar supplier was a supplier that

  • actively self manages
  • measures, tracks, and even reports its own performance against SLAs and KPIs
  • accepts — and even helps to identify — the corrective actions it needs to take
  • actively works to not only meet expectations but exceed them
  • communicates as soon as something happens that could threaten a KPI, SLA, commitment, or expectation.

And if multiple suppliers met these requirements, you wanted one that is willing to

  • collaborate
  • jointly identify opportunities for efficiency improvements and cost reductions

But then last year we noted that we missed something important. Most importantly, none of this mattered unless the supplier was willing to

  • open its books
  • expose its supply chain and jointly identify tier 2 risks

But this is not everything that makes a stellar supplier. While its critical that any strategic supplier open its books and expose the risks that affect you, one more thing is critical.

  • platform adoption

If you’re using modern S2P platforms, they all rely on data to deliver their value. And a lot of the data they require is supplier (-related) data that needs to come from the supplier. And since there is no way you can enter all of the data you need from all the suppliers, you need them to use the portal you provide them. You need them to adopt your platform. If they won’t, they are not the stellar supplier you need.

Why Are CFOs and CPOs Still Delusional When it Comes to Analytics?

the doctor was recently asked if an organization needs a dedicated Sourcing Spend Analytics solution if the organization already has a generic BI tool that sits on top of its ERP or data warehouse. Well, while the answer is No in theory, it’s rarely No in practice. This is because even if the generic platform you have can support (sourcing) spend analysis, chances are it hasn’t been set up for that. And it will need to be (heavily) customized.

So you either need to get a consultancy and do a lot of specialization, or buy a dedicated solution that is ready out of the box — and, preferably, if possible, buy one that is built on top of your BI platform if you bought one (like Tableau or Qlik) that is best in class.

As we noted in our piece last year that asked why do we still have first generation ERP/Data Warehouse BI, most arguments for generic BI have more holes than swiss cheese. As the Spend Master noted himself ten years ago in his classic, but still under-read, piece on screwing up the screw-ups in BI:

  • central databases, like the kind favoured by most BI tools, don’t solve the analysis problem
  • business analysts should be able to construct BI datasets on their own
  • a governance and stewardship program, which is likely the reason for the generic BI platform acquisition, doesn’t actually put any meat on the table
  • cleansing is often the problem, not basic analysis & reporting
  • BI systems are difficult to use and set up, it is difficult to create ad hoc reports, and it is impossible to change the dataset organization … all the stuff that makes spend analysis, you know, valuable


  • BI reports are pretty generic, and not fine tuned to Sourcing, Procurement, or Finance
  • BI engines work on one schema — the ERP schema … which is rarely suited to spend analysis
  • BI engines expect all of the data to come from the ERP. SA systems don’t.
  • The ability of first (and even second generation) BI engines to create arbitrary reports is considerably overstated.

Hopefully someday soon CPOs and CFOs alike will get the point that if you want to do proper Sourcing and Procurement Spend Analysis, you need a proper Sourcing and Procurement Spend Analysis Solution.

There is No Bright Side to a US-China Trade War

I’ve read a few pieces over the last couple of weeks that some Asian nations expect that a drawn out reciprocal trade war between the U.S. and China could have a bright side for them as they expect that they can lure more manufacturing or agricultural exports their way.

Sounds good in theory, but here are the problems with that theory.

1. A lot of outsourced production over the last two decades has become highly specialized to the point where very few nations have factories with production lines that can produce the goods.

2. The modern electronics industry relies on rare earth metals, and China is the majority producer for many of these — in fact, only a few nations on the planet produce some of these rare earth metals.

3. The only nation that can rival China in agricultural production in Asia is India.

4. A number of companies that need supply assurance have locked in contracts with Chinese (multi-)nationals that can’t be easily broken without penalties.

5. International trade requires logistics infrastructure — good roads, reliable trucking, modern ports, large cargo carriers, etc. Something that not many countries in Asia outside China and India (and to some extent Japan and South Korea) have a lot of.

In other words, there’s not a lot of outsourced production that can be easily switched to other Asian countries, and, most importantly, if China becomes unattractive to the U.S., which we must remember controls about one quarter of global GDP, then

6. Central and South American sources can be just as attractive, and can be easier to source logistically.

Trade wars are never good, and there is no bright side, especially in this trade war.