Author Archives: thedoctor

Are You Ready to Get Analytical But Don’t Know How? Read On!

Now that you’ve read our last three posts and understand that you need to get more analytical if you want to get cognitive, hopefully you’re ready to dive deeper but just don’t know how to do that.

The four part answer is almost as easy as it was for optimization, just a bit more nuanced. What’s the nuance? Figuring out if your provider offers a modern spend analytics platform or is still a generation (or two) behind (when you are still behind yourself) is the nuance. So how do you determine if a vendor at least passes the sniff test? We’ll get to that, but first, let’s talk about where you start.

At a high-level, the four-part answer is almost the same as optimization. Just the vendor names change.

1) If you are using a sourcing or analytics platform from a modern provider with modern (next generation) analytics capability, use it (and acquire the module if necessary).

Who are the vendors? While we can’t say this list is thoroughly exhaustive, if you look at Spend Matters Deep Solution map, you see that the following providers make the map: AnyData, (SAP) Ariba, (Opera) BIQ, GEP, iValua, Jaggaer, Sievo, Simfoni, SpendHQ, Synertrade, and Zycus. Not all are equal, and this list is likely not exhaustive, but depending on your organizational needs, a sub-set of these providers is likely your starting point. (What Sub-Set? Depending on whether you are data, function, process, technology, configurability, or services oriented, the sub-set will vary. And practitioners who want to know which vendors match which subset can contact Spend Matters.) And if you are a do-it-yourself type, you could probably start with a platform like Spendata.

2) If you are not using a modern analytics platform or a modern sourcing platform with analytics, get a modern analytics platform or a modern sourcing platform with analytics, your choice.

Again, you can start with the dozen of providers above, which you can quickly narrow down depending on whether you prefer best of breed or sourcing suite and whether you favour technical orientations or service orientations. If the list is still too large, find the subset that bests fits your organizational size, industry, category focus, geography, and culture and focus in on those.

3) If you are using another sourcing or analytics (reporting) platform that is not meeting your needs, and can replace it, do so.

As with the optimization providers, a few of these providers have a considerable portion of their customer base that consist of customers that switched from another provider with a solution that didn’t meet their needs and, thus, have a lot of experience with change management, fear squashing, migrating your data over, and getting you up and running on the right processes quickly. Simply craft the right RFI and you will quickly zero in to the handful of providers that will likely be the best fit for your situation.

4) If you are using another sourcing platform or reporting platform that is otherwise meeting your needs, or can’t be replaced at the present time, or both, augment it with a pure-play deep-dive best of breed modern analytics solution.

So if you are in the situation that you just bought a best of breed Source-to-Contract or Source-to-Pay solution and can’t replace it, or you have a first generation BI tool that produces reports the executives love but doesn’t meet your needs, augment it with a point-based best of breed solution. From the above list,
AnyData, (Opera) BIQ, Sievo, Simfoni, SpendHQ, and Spendata fit that bill.

But what about the “sniff test”?

How do you differentiate a last generation solution from a current generation solution? Three tests. Have them, in front of you, in a live demo:

  • Build a Cube with Derived Dimensions and a new Report on the Cube on the Spot
    if they can’t do so (in 15 minutes), they are a last generation platform that can only work on pre-defined and pre-built OLAP cubes
  • Run a categorization exercise on at least 3 months of your transaction history / invoice data and at least 100,000 transactions
    if they can’t either use their AI, or powerful (collaborative) filtering and priority based rule definition, and get to the 95% mark in an hour, it’s not for you … (and, trust me, you don’t need AI to get to the 95% mark if the rule definition capability is appropriately defined)
  • Map the cube to a new taxonomy, create new derived dimensions, and create a set of filters that will allow comparison reports to be run between the cubes
    let’s face it, there is no one size fits all taxonomy for analysis, and this is the kicker test to see if the platform can support any taxonomy that is needed, run any analysis you want, and allow you to run comparison reports both as checksums and as differentials to figure out where the opportunities are hidden

All this should take less than a morning or afternoon. But it means the provider deserves to be on your short list.

Are You Ready To Get Optimized But Don’t Know How? Read On!

Now that you’ve read our last two posts and understand that you need to get optimized (and analytical) if you want to get cognitive, hopefully you’re ready to get optimized but you just don’t know how.

The four-part answer is pretty easy.

1) If you are using a sourcing platform from a modern provider that offers optimization, acquire the module and start using it.

If you’re already using (SAP) Ariba, Coupa [Trade Extensions], EC Sourcing [with bidmode Inside], Jaggaer (Indirect/Direct/Advantage), Keelvar, or SynerTrade, acquire the sourcing module, turn it on, and start using it. We know that not all platforms are equal (as made clear by the Optimizer Persona in the Spend Matters Solution Maps), but all are more than enough when you are just beginning your sourcing journey. Plus, the majority of these providers are all actively developing their optimization solutions and should stay ahead of your optimization needs.

2) If you are not using a sourcing platform, get one that has decision optimization.

We gave you six names, and these six names can all help you. While we have our preferences, the right solution is utterly dependent on your organization size, industry, dominant categories, geography, and culture and which provider matches your profile the best. There’s only six names, and a relatively short RFI should allow you to quickly zero in on the 2 or 3 that are most likely the best for you.

3) If you are using another sourcing platform and it is not meeting your needs and can replace it, replace it with an optimization-backed sourcing platform.

A few of these providers have a large customer base that consist of those that have switched from another provider with a solution that didn’t meet their needs and, thus, have a lot of experiencing with change management, fear squashing, migrating your data over, and getting you up and running on the right processes quickly. Simply craft the right RFI and you will quickly zero in to the 2 or 3 providers that will likely be the best fit in this situation.

4) If you are using another sourcing platform and it is meeting your needs, can’t be replaced at the present time, or both, augment it with an optimization-backed sourcing solution just for those events where optimization is a must-have.

You just bought Source-to-Contract or Source-to-Pay Solution X a year ago and you know that Finance / Operations / etc. will not approve a new solution for at least a few years because they still believe systems should last five to ten years. In that case, you get a pin-point solution that you use to augment your current solution as a bolt-on. Two of the providers in particular that we mentioned — EC Sourcing with bidmode Inside and Keelvar — are small, mid-market focussed, pin-point best of breed optimization-backed RFX solutions that start in the six figure range (or five figures on an event basis) that can be used to augment a traditional Sourcing platform at a low cost and deliver a high value.

And, no matter what Don’t Say It’s Not That Easy. It is. Yes it’s work to create the technology RFX, reach out to the vendors, make the short-list, do the negotiations, select a (new) vendor, create a transition plan, create an integration plan, and get it done. But making the decision to get a platform that will save your organization an average of 10%+ year-over-year and taking action to do it is easy. And there’s no situation there isn’t an answer for. So, just do it. You won’t regret it.

You Want to Get Cognitive? Then Get Analytical!

As per our post yesterday, the new “cognitive” buzzword is getting a lot of people interested in modern Sourcing and Procurement technology, and that’s a good thing, except when it isn’t. (How can it now be? Not all providers truly offer cognitive capabilities, not all are equal among those that do, and not all are right for your organization.)

And unless you truly understand what cognitive sourcing can do, when it should be used, what technologies you need to power it, and how to properly apply it, the answer is no cognitive sourcing is right for you.

In yesterday’s post, we noted that there were five (deep) technology requirements that a cognitive sourcing platform had to meet to have any hope of truly being cognitive and zeroed in the optimization requirement to indicate that before you even think about getting cognitive you better acquire, and master, strategic sourcing decision optimization because you can’t really properly apply what you don’t really understand, and the vast majority of organizations don’t really have a clue what this is because they don’t have it.

But optimization is not the only area that the average Procurement organization doesn’t have a good grip on. Spend Analytics is another area. Most organizations that have “spend analytics” solutions really have first generation “spend reporting” solutions that are nothing more than a set of canned reports and a few mildly alterable report templates that are customized to certain categories or segments of the supply bases. That’s not analytics.

Regular readers of Sourcing Innovation know that true analytics is the ability to create your own cubes, derive your own dimensions, define your own (pivotable, filterable) reports, and drill across data elements until you find opportunities that cannot be exposed by a canned report. (See the Spend Analysis archives for over a decade of great insights.)

Next generation cognitive systems find opportunities by doing more than just running a set of canned reports on a monthly basis and looking at trends. They are regularly running running variations of dozens, if not hundreds, of analytics on purchase data against deep should cost models populated by ever changing commodity and market costs feeds and looking for variations and emerging trends that could signify potential opportunities as they emerge.

But to understand what’s an emerging opportunity vs. a blip and what is small enough to allow automated platforms to procure and big enough to justify a deep strategic sourcing event or second look at the market, you need to understand just what analytics can do and how to best apply the insight gained from, and the capabilities provided by, a modern cognitive platform — and that requires hands-on experience.

So get a modern spend analytics solution and get your hands dirty in the data. Then maybe, someday soon, you can think about getting cognitive.

You Want to Get Cognitive? First Get Optimized!

The new “cognitive” buzzword is getting a lot of people interested in modern Sourcing and Procurement technology, and that’s a good thing, except when it isn’t. (How can it now be? Not all providers truly offer cognitive capabilities, not all are equal among those that do, and not all are right for your organization.)

And unless you truly understand what cognitive sourcing can do, when it should be used, what technologies you need to power it, and how to properly apply it, the answer is no cognitive sourcing is right for you.

When it comes to sourcing, a sourcing solution must meet a number of requirements in order for it to be considered cognitive. It must be capable of:

  • supporting advanced cost models
    to allow for an accurate determination of should cost
  • supporting sophisticated automated data collection to populate those models from market indices, statistics bureaus, public (government) data repositories, etc.
  • supporting a large repository of trend analysis algorithms
    to help an organization understand market dynamics
  • support sophisticated analytics
    to help organizations slice, dice, and compare all the insights extracted by the cognitive platform
  • support advanced optimization
    to analyze the cost models and all the supply and logistics options available subject to business constraints

If you look at each of these requirements in comparison to an average Procurement organization with some semi-modern Supply Management technology

  • they have some cost modelling capability in their ERP
  • they have some automated data collection around risk and commodity costs through providers like D&B and Ecovadis and Market Index data providers
  • they have some familiarity with trend analysis in their inventory management systems
  • they have adopted a spend analytics platform, which may be a generation behind, but still gives them some cost insights
  • but they have no decision optimization at all

So if you really want to get cognitive, get optimized. Without a good understanding of what optimization can do, and how to use it, how do you expect to figure out when to apply, and not to apply, cognitive sourcing technology properly.

M&A Has Been Mad. Platforms Will Disappear. But There Will Be More Than One. But Who?

We’ve been writing a lot about M&A lately, including, but not limited to, our pieces on:

because M&A is still going strong. (And, as per our recent post on The Hidden Value of SI Association, SI is acutely aware of this because this is how it loses its customers. SI works with these companies, helps them become known and successful [through a focus not on buzz but actual education, process improvement, and appropriate roadmaps], they get noticed by cash-rich firms, who then buy them, and in many cases, strip out the management teams and/or consultants.)

We’ve also noted that not only will some platforms have to disappear (to make the mergers successful) but that (in our recent piece on One Vendor Won’t Rule Them All … And One Ring Won’t Bind Them), due to the wide range of needs that organizations need and the different process that are used around the globe in organizations headquartered in different regions and run by different cultures.

But that being said, now that Sourcing and Procurement technology is starting to become more mainstream — and the majority of organizations are looking for analytics, procurement automation, and supplier program management — those organizations that are looking for their first platform (as well as the early adopters of first generation platforms that are now almost a decade behind) are trying to figure out who they should look at and, more importantly, what product lines they should look at (now that some organizations have as many as three different product lines for Procurement under one organizational roof).

This is hard to predict, especially since the Fortune 500 is in more flux than it’s ever been. It used to be if you were on the list, you were on the list for years (if not decades) and changes were subtle. Now a company can make it one year and as a result of one major disruption or media fiasco, be in bankruptcy the next year (and disappear from the list). And while most of the companies in our space are not on the Fortune 500, these companies are now being bought by the big enterprise software giants, including SAP (with a market cap over 100B), that are.

And the instability in enterprise software companies amplifies they smaller they are, and when the biggest stand-alone public company in our space has a valuation of a mere 2.5B and the largest private company in our space would likely get a valuation in the same range, you can see where we are when the average large company has revenues that you have to round up to 100M and the average BoB vendor rounds to the 10M range.

But the platforms provided by some companies, due to the immense value they offer, will survive, even if under a different name, as part of a different platform, under a different company, held by a different holding co, whose name may change three times over the next decade. And who will they be?

Simply put, they will be those platforms that are the hardest to replicate and offer the deepest capabilities that are key to value identification, like optimization, advanced predictive and prescriptive analytics, cognitive process automation, semantic risk identification and monitoring etc — whether the platform is a standalone best of breed platform in a financially stable 10M company or part of a suite of a larger 100M company or just one module in a suite in stable of suites in a 1B enterprise. So don’t try to guess which vendor will survive, instead focus on what platform will survive — and chances are you will be setting your organization up for success.