Where’s the Procurement Management Platform?
When we started out in the very, very, very late nineties, it was all about Procurement and/or Strategic Sourcing, which, in the beginning was all about RFPs and on-line auctions. The focus was on taking many organizations from fax and spreadsheets to integrated bids and on-line analysis and reporting (even if utterly simplistic).
Then, in the early naughts, we had the introduction of spend analysis, CLM, S(R)M, and invoice management and by mid-decade vendors were building mini-suites for upstream (Source-to-Contract) and downstream (Procure-to-Pay, which included Catalog Management, etc.) Sourcing and Procurement. By the time the teens came upon us, the big suite vendors were taken steps to merge upstream and downstream and you had the mega S2P suites start appearing in the early to mid-teams, some through over a decade of development and others through acquisition (mania). They third generation of these products/suites were heralded as the one platform solution (which ERP vendors like SAP and Oracle were hailing themselves as back in the eighties), but …
1) Even though the mega-trend in the 2010s of the Source-to-Pay mega-suite was supposed to be the end of decades of advancement in S2P, we soon found out that even a suite that had the six-core applications of Sourcing, SRM, CLM, Spend Analytics, Procurement, and Invoice to Pay didn’t meet all of an organization’s needs as they needed supplier networks to engage with suppliers, data providers for discovery and diversity, CSR & GHG data providers for risk, custom sourcing tools for complex/niche categories, etc. etc. etc.
2) Most of these platforms had little to no project management, process management, or opportunity management
3) Most assumed that serving procurement meant serving buyers and that was it … but you have to serve reports and oversight up to management and pull purchasing needs in from across the organization. I.e. no (out-of-the-box) management / Finance reporting and projections or intake management (facilitating the need for further Excel usage, and not less)
4) Even those with great spend analysis didn’t always revolve around the spend, and when you think about how business measures its metrics, spend should be the foundation.
And, in summary, they didn’t, and still don’t, deliver an organization everything it needs to be successful (which is why the BoB vs Suite debate rages on today), because Procurement is not an island (even though it was once staffed like the Island of Misfit Toys), and instead is the front-end interface to the supply chain, which, for some companies can include 10,000 companies when you trace all of the product requirements down 3, 4, 5+ levels to the raw material source. (But that’s another topic for another day.)
Getting back to the topic at hand, if you had a proper Procurement Management Platform, which was designed to support data-centric end-point integrations for specific processes and organizational needs, then
1) it would be quite easy to augment and add in custom applications for niche processes or data collections for niche process and reporting management as needed
2) it would be built around sourcing and procurement centric project management and contain the extensible workflow capability required to add customized process and opportunity management as needed
3) it would allow for the creation or integration of intake applications and interfaces to gather needs and report on decisions and progress and to synthesize all relevant data for roll-up views and KPIs that finance and management needs on a regular basis
4) it could be built to use the organizational spend as the foundational data source …
and Procurement could build up, maintain, and evolve the solution it really needs to be successful over time — which is something it can’t do today because buyers can’t code low level APIs, app stores don’t ensure app connectivity, and today’s “networks” merely support data exchange and not overall process management.
So where do you get this when no single provider on the market has (historically) had this? Good question … and one that we’ll hopefully answer in the year ahead.