Monthly Archives: May 2024

RFP Everything? Are You Mad? Even The Squirrels Will Think You’re Nuts!

A recent post on LinkedIn that proclaimed Exciting News! (and which should have exclaimed Good News Everyone*) worries the doctor greatly because a remarkable example of AI was

autonomous tail spend RFP’s, generating over 15,000 RFPS annually through a programmed bot!


15,000 more RFPs for inconsequential tail spend might sound exciting to buyers, but it’s terrifying to sales professionals who are already over-inundated with ever more demanding RFPs where they know, statistically, they will only get 20% to 33% of the business if they are on par with their peers, and the odds will be worse if they are not.

More RFPs, or even just quick-quote RFQs, is NOT the answer to good tail spend management! If you try it, you’re just going to end up:

  1. losing potential suppliers who just drop you because you can’t keep up with the volume or
  2. getting auto-generated responses from suppliers who “wise up” and counter idiotic tech with idiotic tech — and these may be good, or may be pointless …

You need to use tech to find the best deals on tail spend WITHOUT overburdening the supply base. This means, at a minimum, you need tech that:

  • allows you to find potential products/services in your catalogs / covered under your agreements
  • find potential products/services from your GPOs
  • find potential products/services from preferred suppliers
  • … and identify the lowest cost items from the groups above
  • identify potential products on the open market
  • … and identify the expected lowest cost as a baseline
  • identify past events, possibly in an anonymized community intelligence database,
  • … and how much the price was reduced against catalog/market price
  • and then let you know whether or not an RFQ will likely result in a significant savings (not just 1% or 2%, it’s tail spend, after all), and, if not, present the best option that will NOT over-inundate, and deprive you of, good suppliers in your supply base

Just like AI in marketing, too many RFPs is just adding to the noise, and no one wins when neither side can hear what needs to be heard!

* It was NEVER Good News!

Proper Solution Selection is Harder Than You Think!

In Jon The Revelator‘s recent post on what can 2005 tell us about Procurement AI in 2024 he listed a dozen vendors from 2004 that no longer exist and asked if we recognized these names. To this, the doctor replied every single one and noted that the market is even more fragmented today than it was in 2004 and pointed you to the Source-to-Pay+ Mega-Map. Jon then asked if history will repeat itself, and as per the doctor‘s recent post on Market Madness, it will … with a vengeance!

This response prompted The Revelator to ask which companies would join their brethren from 2004, to which the doctor provided some indications, which were many (and even more numerous in the Market Madness post). So The Revelator then asked what do practitioners need to do during these pending turbulent times? The real answer is quite a bit and, in fact too much to address in a single article, or even a book, so the doctor decided to focus in on stable solution selection.

And while the doctor made it look as easy as 1, 2, 3 in his comment, when he said:

  1. first identify what kind of solution you need
  2. then identify which providers actually offer those solutions for their geography – market size – vertical
  3. then restrict down to those that are *stable*

It’s a lot more complicated than that, and for some companies, some of these steps will consist of many steps within themselves.

What kind of solution is complicated! At a minimum, one needs to consider:

  • what processes are you doing
  • … and which of these are properly, or not, supported by your current tech
  • what processes should you be doing
  • … and what tech will support those
  • and which subsets of tech are the most relevant (and make sense to focus on)

Which providers is harder.

  • many providers will claim to be everything to everyone, but that’s not true
  • the big analyst firms over-focus on the big vendors, because that’s who they have to (contractually) spend most of their time on
  • smaller firms will focus on the smaller vendors, because some of the big ones believe their big cheque to the big firm(s) covers all their marketing/market needs, and may not have the time to dive deep into geography – market size – vertical appropriateness
  • and logo maps don’t give you near enough detail to even get a short list

In other words, it’s a heck of a lot more than just choosing the first 5 names that come back in a Google or a “chat, j’ai pété” search!

You want a vendor that is going to be around, or if acquired, a solution that is going to be maintained because it’s growing year-over-year, wasn’t built on an oversized investment (pressuring the firm to increase prices or cut costs or grow too fast), 10+ to 50+ customers (depending on solution type and implementation / replacement time and cost and risk tolerance), etc. Where do you get that data? How do you ask in a way that won’t result in the sale person clamming up?

It’s more than most Procurement organization’s can handle as they just don’t have the TQ (Technical Quotient) or the market knowledge. They need to get help from an expert who does who is not biased towards any particular vendor and will follow a proper process, not just throw an RFP over the wall to three providers they have worked with before (as that’s no better than a refined “chat, j’ai pété” search)! And it can be hard to identify the right expert (and the only hint the doctor will give you now is you’re not likely to find one at a Big X — the Big X have them, but they are few and far between, spread thin, and unless you are a Fortune 500 / Global 3000, you won’t get the expert, you’ll get the f6ckw@d). You need a niche consultancy with experts who specialize in this. There are a few, but not as many as the space needs.


Why aren’t you bothered by the smell?!?

If you haven’t been following along, we’ll lay out the top six reasons for you.

1. Case studies are ranker than expired fish in a microwave … and you don’t seem to care.

As per yesterday’s post, Have We Been In The Dank Basement So Long That We Don’t Care If the Fish Stinks?, we’re accepting that case studies are now nothing more than meaningless marketing mush and not even saying anything.

2. Approximately 85% of companies are AI-washing everything.

And the majority of these solutions don’t have any AI, or at least don’t have any native AI and are reliant entirely on questionable AI integrations. AI is hard. Really f6ck1ng hard. It’s not something you whip up overnight, especially if you want a solution that addresses a real problem with a real solution with any reliability. Before the Gen-AI craze, the doctor spent almost two decades here on Sourcing Innovation (and six years on Spend Matters) trying to educate you on the value of (strategic sourcing) decision optimization (SSDO), advanced (predictive) analytics, and proper targetted machine-learning AI that could provide better projections than the majority of “experts” — and the handful of vendors (and he means handful) that had this technology because, at any one time, we’ve never had more than half a dozen or so true SSDO vendors, a dozen or so true spend analytics providers with best-in-class technology, and more than 1 or 2 companies out of every 10 with true AI (and none with AI for more than a few targeted problems, but sometimes that was all you needed to identify extremely significant pockets of value and savings). Now, all of a sudden, we’ve gone from less than 20% to 85% literally overnight, when true AI advances have traditionally taken decades? Not f6ck1ng likely! Not only is AI a buzzword (as pointed out by Sarah Scudder), but it’s a delivery mechanism which, FYI, is a method by which the virus spreads itself.

3. Gen-AI claims that it will deliver Procurement to the enterprise are false.

It will deliver Procurement somewhere, but not the enterprise, unless the enterprise is code for Purgatory or Sheol. Gen-AI, which stands for Generative AI, literally means “AI that makes stuff up“, and, more specifically, since it’s trained to please, it makes stuff up that it thinks you want it to, not stuff that’s true, safe, or even legal. It’s NOT trustworthy, and won’t solve your Procurement problems. And while it may be a bit better at creating natural language responses, we’ve had Natural Language Processing (NLP) commercially for almost two decades, and a few vendors built very good, very reliable solutions, that will provide you with a significantly better chatbot than yet another custom variant of “chat, j’ai pété“. (There are no valid uses for Gen-AI that can’t be accomplished better, faster, and cheaper with existing tech.)

4. Intake / Orchestration is totally useless on its own.

There’s always a bandwagon we have to deal with, but rarely do we have two competing, often overlapping, equally useless bandwagons to deal with, with intake-to-orchestrate now speeding towards the cliff almost as fast as Gen-AI. As we discussed in Marketplace Madness, the days of pure intake-to-orchestrate are numbered because:

  • Intake is Pay Per View on YOUR data. Why are you paying for another view into your data?!?
  • Orchestrate is Solution Sprawl. It’s adding to the problem it purports to solve.
  • Intake-to-Orchestrate is Where’s the Beef? Sure you’re integrating everything and getting visibility into everything, but that’s not Procurement — which is identifying and strategically managing spend. So if the platform isn’t doing that, why not buy a platform that is that supports intake-to-orchestrate natively and allows you to manage strategic spend for risk reduction and savings???

5. Consultancies, purporting to help you, are often more in the dark than you are!

The Big X, which followed the money into tech, and then followed the money into Procurement, did so without any knowledge of where they were going or what was at the end of the yellow brick road. While some of the firms had good knowledge of Procurement from an operational or logistics perspective, they generally had little knowledge in tech and even less knowledge on the ProcureTech landscape (and most would be challenged to name 66 vendors, yet alone the 666 companies in the Sourcing Innovation Source-to-Pay+ Mega Map). And they have no clue how to differentiate the vendors that purport to offer the same (set of) module(s) and determine which one is best for you … and, as a result, all they end up doing is recommending a “best-in-class provider” for which they are a preferred implementation partner (which usually happens to be one they picked from a Market Map, all of which give THE REVELATOR a migraine and the doctor anger management issues because meshing 6+ dimensions on an axis and/or putting a roll-up interface on top of the map that no one understands only adds to the confusion).

But it’s even worse than this … many of the mid-market specialist consulting firms don’t have any more knowledge than the Big X beyond the vendors they have personally worked with. the doctor is sad to say that he’s been talking to quite a number of them and has yet to find one that has a methodology for identifying third party solutions beyond hiring true expert consultants and practitioners with decades of solution (related) experience. And while you will get a good solution from one of their consultants (as they are hand picked by people that know what they are doing), there are two problems here for you:

  • you won’t necessarily get the best solution because the consultant won’t know about it
  • if that consultant retires, which is inevitable as the consultants with the cross-role and industry experience to get this right are closing in on three decades of experience (because you need practitioner/developer, manager, integrator, and consulting experience), and are, thus, a decade or less from retirement, will her replacement be as good?

and two problems for the firm:

  • when the leaders retire, will there be anyone with the necessary depth of knowledge to take their place
  • with not enough senior people to fill the roles relative to the large number of companies that need digitization and Procurement transformation, how will they scale and grow?

It’s too bad that, unlike the next generation of Procurement Providers (like Zip, who realized they needed a Head of Research in-house to help identify what their market was looking for so they could develop the right solution), it would appear that none of these consultancies have realized that they need an internal consultant to keep tabs on the market and help them not only manage technology partners, but qualify the solutions and figure out which clients those technology partners are most appropriate for, so that they can ensure the success of both their clients and their technology partners (and be the consultancy of choice for that partner who will prioritize their deals because they are confident the consultancy vetted the potential client before dangling a “deal” in front of them). (Or, if they are just starting to think about the issue, realize that they can’t just give an existing consultant this role as the background required is different than that of the consultant who works with the clients day-in-and-day-out.)

(FYI: the doctor is not the only one thinking this or saying this, although me might be the only one willing to state it publicly. He’s talked to a number of growing technology solution providers in our space that literally have “consulting” firms tripping over each other to be the provider’s “partner” as a result of the downturn many of these consultancies are experiencing [as qualified by THE PROPHET in his piece on the Consulting Bloodbath], but many of these consultancies are unable to qualify what unique value they would bring to the provider or joint clients. What these consultancies are failing to understand is that providers who are offering real, sometimes almost immediate, value with their SaaS solutions are getting a lot of traction in this down market and don’t have time or personnel [due to budget cuts when the funding taps turned off] to chase poorly qualified deals or deals with little or no profit for the provider. So when all the provider saw in the past from some of these consultancies was poorly qualified deals, they are wary of working with the consultancy that didn’t take the time to understand the potential customer, the necessary solution, and what the hot provider actually did.)

6. DEI is being misused to push agendas and, in some cases, commit fraud!

DEI, which was supposed to be about “equity” (which is supposed to be “fair” and “impartial” and “freedom from bias or favouritism”, as defined by the Oxford and Webster’s dictionaries), somehow became all about “equitable outcomes*, and now that is being used to push agendas and, sometimes, commit outright fraud as we have numerous examples of not only universities, cities, organizations, and countries mandating a lead Procurement role be filled by a minority (whether or not any exist with the required qualifications), but sometimes firing the person in the role to place a more junior person into the role under the guise of “DEI” so that the leader can ensure that all Procurements go his way (which can include purchases to organizations he is invested in, or gets campaign funds from, and so on). The most recent example is the city of Chicago, with the ramifications laid bare by THE PROPHET in his recent article on Why Would Chicago’s Mayor Fire Its Top Procurement Executive and Bring in Someone With a Fraction of the Experience?

* which is not at all equitable because that is not “fair”, “impartial”, or “free from bias” when you insist a minority be hired; equity is supposed to be about “equitable opportunity”, but apparently no one in DEI knows how to use a dictionary anymore

Now that you understand this, why are you putting up with it? Why aren’t you demanding more? You have every right to demand more, and you should be demanding more of your vendors, consultants, and Procurement leaders!

Because if you don’t, The Prophet‘s April Fools Day joke on how we must #EndProcurement might just become reality!

Have We Been In The Dank Basement So Long That We Don’t Care If the Fish Stinks?

the doctor has to ask because when Jon The Revelator asked if you would eat a piece of fish that has been in your freezer for 10 years? 5 years? 1 year? not many of you spoke up and it seems you are quite okay with old, smelly fish, which, in this case was a metaphor for provider case studies, as this was a follow up to The Revelator‘s post that asked Should Solution Provider Case Studies Have a Best Before Date.

A question, which was in turn sparked from a comment by Duncan Jones to his preceding inquiry on what can 2005 tell us on why most AI initiatives fail in 2024, which is a question that was partially sparked off of a post the doctor himself made on how we need to hasten onshoring and nearshoring — the drivers will pound those who don’t into the ground! (Part 2).

While this sounds like a long, meandering, pointless introduction, it’s exactly the opposite. The purpose is to demonstrate that not only are many parts of Procurement and Supply Chain connected, but they are connected in complex ways that require sufficiently broad, as well as sufficiently deep, solutions that address the complexities being experienced by the organizations a vendor is trying to sell to.

Furthermore, this means that for an organization, or a consulting partner, to select the right solution, they need deep information on what the solution does, where it’s been used, and what it has been proven to do. Traditionally, this would mean that they would require product sheets and demos, customer references, and case studies to make a good decision.

However, centering in on this last requirement, not all case studies are created equal, and not all are even “case studies” at all. What once was the domain of third party analysts, consultants, and professors (who would do proper due diligence, data collection, and impartial write-ups for educational and investment purposes) has now become the domain of marketers who get happy customers, often still wearing the rose-coloured glasses that came free with the install, to tell a story that they write-up and promote using very little, and often unverified, data. Those are not useful at all. Furthermore, if you don’t know what version of the software, what stack the customer ran on, and/or, and sometimes most importantly, when the study was done (and the time period it was done over), is it even still relevant at all?

This prompted the critical question from The Revelator about whether or not studies should have a best before date. the doctor leans towards no on best before date, because just like different types of fish have a different shelf life, different case studies will have a different shelf life, but votes a most definite yes on a packaging date.

To elaborate on the comment he made when asked, the following is absolutely critical to be included in the case study:

  • when the case study was written (packaging date)
  • the time period it was over (processing dates)
  • the precise metrics that were tracked and how they were computed (labelling compliance)
  • the extent of organizational data that was used (ingredients)
    [as well as the full extent of data available (may contain)]
  • the products, and versions, that were used (processing)

In other words, a feel-good story with a few random numbers is not case study! (the doctor would say any marketer trying to pass such off as one should be ashamed, but any marketer who did would obviously be without shame, so there’s really no point in saying it.) A case study has rigour in definition, methodology, data collection, and exposition and contains all the information that would be needed if a third party wanted to repeat it. (The same way a scientific study provides enough detail for an independent team to verify it.) Anything less should be considered unacceptable.

And, most importantly, since business processes, products, systems, and stacks continually change, a study (processing) date and a publication (packaging) date MUST be included so that a buyer can make an informed decision as to whether that study is still relevant to them (as they decide just how much stink they are willing to tolerate).

Playbooks? Those Were the Good Old Days!

THE PROPHET Jason Busch recently posted about 50 Years of Pivots in Procurement where he stated that:

  • 1980s: Procurement is Supply (prioritize)
  • 1990s: Procurement is Sourcing (save)
  • 2000s: Procurement is Transactional (systematize)
  • 2010s: Procurement is Spend (manage)
  • 2020s: Procurement is Playbooks (rinse/repeat)
  • 2025 : Procurement is …

the doctor‘s first response to this: Playbooks? He wishes!

In the late 2000s and 2010s, the top Procurement consultancies had playbooks that had good processes, methodologies, and metrics that would help any organization not best in class out-of-the-gate because they were built on tried-and-true processes, analysis, and results that worked. They weren’t centered on just implementing tech for tech’s sake, trying to roll out Procurement for the masses (who didn’t want, or need, a full Procurement solution — just easy acquisition of the products and services [they were responsible for buying to do their jobs on a daily basis] in an organizationally compliant way), or implementing AI for the heck of it (because they over-invested in training their workforce on Gen-AI solutions that have no value).

But that’s not the worst of it. In the doctor‘s view, the worst of it is that

2025 Procurement at many organizations is (on the road to) “Consumer” (intake/orchestrate).

Procurement is now all about ensuring every single person in the organization can “buy” on their own from the catalog or preferred vendor with no real management as long as they have “budget”, “authority”, or it’s a “preferred vendor”.

That’s just transactional Procurement on steroids. (i.e. it’s 2000 all over again, we just survived Y2K, and we don’t know how to manage spend with tech … really?) Now, it’s true that getting Spend Under Management (SUM) is good if you do something with that Spend Under Management data, but this surely isn’t.

Why? First of all, if you talk to a real old timer who did Procurement in the 80s/90s about this “intake” or “orchestrate” phase and they’ll probably say they just don’t get it. As far as they are concerned, Procurement is supposed to be more strategic and focus on all encompassing processes, strategies, negotiations, etc. Not about trying to manage every single nickle-and-dime purchase in the organization. This is one of the leading reasons results (and costs) in most organizations are getting worse, and not better.

Secondly, see our recent post on how Marketplace Madness is Coming on how

  • “Pay For View” Intake makes no logical sense
  • “Solution Sprawl” Orchestration doesn’t make any logical sense either
  • when it comes to I2O, it’s “where’s the beef” and “where’s the market” [hint: not where most of the providers are looking]

Furthermore, the age old analogy applies here — they can’t see the forest for the trees. Nor can you manage it that way. If you spend too long trying to focus on each individual sick tree you come across, the sickness will spread and consume the forest. Sometimes you have to just cut and burn the tree.

In other words, the madness is taken us towards consumerism in Procurement, and it’s the wrong path! We need to get back to process-centric playbooks, and let the tech take back-stage, as the tech supports Procurement, it doesn’t do it, or solve it, on its own.