Author Archives: thedoctor

AnyData: Another Analytics Arriviste from Across the Atlantic

Maybe some good is coming of all the gross incompetence in public sector spending, unreasonably long payment terms, and multi-nationalization of contemporary British companies … the last few years have seen more Analytics companies start in the UK than in the rest of the English speaking world. Anydata, founded in May, 2013, is one in the long list of UK-based spend analysis providers that have been receiving coverage here on SI and over on SM over the past year or so.

It’s one of the more unique offerings as, in some ways, it has more in common with Agiloft, a BPM (Business Process Management) vendor which recently forayed into Contract Management, building its first application in a matter of days using its visual development environment.

Like Agiloft, and unlike many other vendors in analytics, Anydata started out by building a visual development framework upon which it built its spend analysis offering. This gives it a number of advantages which include, but are not limited to, rapid configuration, rapid report and dashboard construction, rapid visualizations (that is on par or faster than Tableau, QlikView, PowerPivot, Birst, and other platforms they are typically compared against), and rapid development of workflows to support additional data collection.

The analysis platform is centered around powerful dashboard-driven analytics that can be customized by client from dozens of dashboard templates that include historic, strategic, geographic, vendor, company, office, cost-center, and chart-of-account overviews as well as savings opportunities, invoice opportunities, and category opportunities.

The categorization is quite powerful, and currently second only to Sievo in functionality currently on the market. Sievo’s unique multi-pivot drill-down approach allows users to classify data in chunks in any way they want to define those chunks in any order in a very collaborative fashion, which is currently unique on the market today. And while the AnyData approach is not as collaborative, it is as powerful as you can define chunks not on pivots and values, but on queries which can then be replayed, in the order of your choosing, as data is reloaded. So instead of having to define a three level breakdown to select a specific group of transactions for a category, it’s a simple query — which allows for much faster categorization if you are a power user good at creating SQL queries. Much faster.

And, rather uniquely, it has a very powerful data intelligence feature that allows an analyst to query and inspect the data and meta-data on a recently imported data source for the purposes of validating the accuracy and completeness — an activity that should go well beyond just validating the basic check-sums (against the annual financial reports). With AnyData’s platform, you can quickly identify sums, trends, and outliers for any time period of interest, use sliders to zone-in and zone-out on potentially anomalous data, use filters to restrict to dimensions (and even facts) of interest, and understand the characterization of the data you are importing. Not only does this help immensely in cleansing, but helps you pinpoint errors that standard techniques miss in cleansing and classification.

It has additional strengths, and, of course, weaknesses compared to other tools on the market — which can be explored in depth in the Spend Matters Pro series co-authored by the doctor and the prophet [membership required] (Part I) — but this should give you a good introduction to, and flavour for, what Anydata is.

What Makes a Good UI? Part I

Now that we’ve sung Bye, Bye to Monochrome UIs, it’s time to address what makes a good UI. This is a question the doctor has been working on for over a year as he has done deep dive vendor reviews (co-authored with the prophet over on Spend Matters Pro, membership required) that go deeper than any analyst or blogger reviews ever done.

This is because each of those reviews have included a section on UI where the UI was rated on a number of high level factors, namely:

  • Overall Ease of Use
  • Ability to Learn and Use Without Training
  • Comparative Ease of Use
  • Sourcing/Procurement User Experience
  • Business User Experience
  • Planned Upgrades

which, while seemingly subjective, were all based on a comparison of the platform against other platforms that themselves were rated against a generalized baseline of what makes a “good” UIX for that type of platform. And while these have not yet been shared, as they have been in development, with the release of the first Spend Matters Solution Map (C) in P2P and the upcoming Solution Maps in Sourcing, the doctor and the the prophet have decided to finalize their joint criteria for UIX evaluation. To this end, we are co-authoring a series on Measuring the Procurement Technology User Experience: More Than Just a Pretty Screen (Part 1) where we will dive into the general and specific characteristics of what makes a good UIX in Sourcing and Procurement.

And while the full deep dives will be on Spend Matters Pro, our view of the basics are something we intend to spread far and wide. So just like key aspects of Sourcing, SRM, and CLM functionality were covered on both Spend Matters and Sourcing Innovation, the core of what makes a good UIX will be covered on both blogs as well (but if you want drill down and examples, that will only be found in the deep dives on Pro).

We’ll start with the generics. A good UI brings integrated guidance that helps the user through each function it supports, with the user needing to be aware of policies, detailed user guides, or business specific rules. The platform knows all those and guides the user through any minefields.

An even better UI leverages pattern recognition, machine learning, trend detection, and reasoning to adapt to the user and make the UIX better and better over time. In short, the most effective UIX not only makes a platform sticky, but makes the everyday user more productive over time — without extensive training or the need for deep knowledge on the part of the user.

And it goes beyond the obvious. For example:

  • An ideal UIX doesn’t have to exist — it can be “touch-less” and automate anything that can be automated without user involvement
  • An ideal UIX realizes context can be as important as content
  • Mobile is part of the platform and user experience where it makes sense
  • Messaging is used as a competitive advantage (but not necessarily in the way you think it might be)
  • And it incorporates guidance based on true expertise — what some are calling predictive analytics

In other words, it gives the user what the user really needs, not what the developer wants.

For a deeper dive on the features and capabilities of a good UI, see Measuring the Procurement Technology User Experience: More Than Just a Pretty Screen (Part 1) [membership required] and stay tuned for future entries in this series.

We Don’t Need Another Hero!

the doctor‘s response to the public defender‘s post on What’s the Future of Procurement? How the Rogues Will Become the Heroes

Out of the ruins
Out from the wreckage
Can’t make the same mistake this time
We are the relics
The last generation
We are the ones they left behind
And I wonder why we are always after change
Dancing around the way, till nothing pure remains

We don’t need another hero
We don’t need to know the way forth
All we want is rules stopping
Mavericks

Looking for something
We can rely on
There’s gotta be something better out there
Rules and processes
Their day is coming
All else is descriptive vapourware
And I wonder why we are always after change
Dancing around the way, till nothing pure remains

All the stoics say
We don’t need another hero
We don’t need to know the way forth
All we want is rules stopping
Mavericks

So what did we do with our lives
If we don’t leave our mark
Will our story shine like a light
Or end in the dark
Give it all or nothing

We don’t need another hero
We don’t need to know the way forth
All we want is rules stopping
Mavericks

While flexibility, collaboration, and innovation are to be nurtured and cherished … if the system is the workaround, then something’s wrong …

PRGX: Optics on Optix

In our last post, we noted that, as written by the doctor and the prophet over on Spend Matters Pro (membership required) in the PRGX Intro, PRGX is one of a select number of dominant services provider in the niche market for recovery audit services — a market that unlike other procurement services faces tremendous price pressure for its core recovery, statement and related auditing and profit recovery services but also a vendor that has started to remake itself quietly from within.

As a result, as indicated in our last post, PRGX has built the most complete, and in many ways the most advanced, analytics and recovery solution for the retail sector and, in doing so, has built one of the most complete and advanced analytics and recovery solutions for just about any sector that buys and relies on goods. It does this via two platforms, Optix, which has deep Payment, Spend, and Product analytics, and Lavante, which has deep SIM and automated recovery prevention analytics. (We expect they will eventually be merged, but, for now, they are separate.)

As we have covered Lavante multiple times in the past, we’re going to focus on introducing the features of Optix.

Spend Optix

Spend Optix is designed to help an organization get deep insight into their category spend like a typical spend analysis platform for Sourcing and Procurement. Reporting revolves around categories and suppliers. It is also the only PRGX product that today has a built-in report builder, which can build spend reports across pre-defined dimensions and fields. The product is designed to help you understand spend category performance, spend under contract, invoice-vs-supplier insights, item price variance, and commodity cost indices.

This product can also be configured to track all contracts, all meta data of interest, and relate the contracts to the relevant categories and products. This allows a user to drill into a contract from a category, a category from a contract, and create accurate “address spend” reports, as will be described below. The ease of use is not at the level of Lavante SIM, but we expect that will change over time.

Payment Optix

Payment Optix is designed to help an organization get deep insight into their payments and related metrics and, in particular, DPO (days payable outstanding), PO (purchase order) vs. Non-PO spend, deep AP analytics, and risk insights.

The home screen, as with the other OPTIX products, is a dashboard with key metrics and graphs, such as invoices processed by month, DPO, Benford’s law (by invoice amount or value), and related metrics that an organization wants to see on a daily basis. The platform is drill-down report oriented, and the reports are segmented into Invoice Processing, DPO, and Risk Management.

Product Optix

Product Optix is designed to help an organization get deep insight into their product pool, including net margin, equivalent products, and best supplier funding opportunities. Reporting revolves around categories, suppliers, and deals.

The best part is the product detail report which brings up not only detailed product information, but the most complete product margin breakdown report you ever did see. With their extremely strong background in retail, PRGX understands true lifecycle margin calculations as good as anyone and it shines through in their report.

This is just a brief overview of what PRGX can do. For a much deeper dive, see the Pro series (Part I, Part II, and Part III) by the doctor and the prophet over on Spend Matters Pro (membership required) that also dives into strengths and weaknesses and a very detailed SWOT analysis to help you understand where they fit.

Bye, Bye to Monochrome UIs …

In recognition of what’s to come …

A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that black screen used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make that cursor dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while

But colour displays they made me shiver
With every app I’d deliver
Bad news on the ‘Net chats
I couldn’t sell more DOS apps

I can’t remember if I feared
When I read about this message clear
But something touched me deep inside
The day monochrome died

So bye, bye, to monochrome UIs
Took my green screen to the market but the interest was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey ‘n rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Did you write the book of code
And do you have faith in monochrome
If MRP tells you so?
Now do you believe in best of breed?
Can GUI save your efficiency?
And can you teach me how to colour scheme?

Well, I know that you’re in love with new
‘Cause I saw you were mesmerized too
Sat and kicked off your shoes
Man, you dig those yellows and blues

I was a lonely teenage hacker, mate
With a fifty six six and an X-8-8
But I knew I was out of luck
The day monochrome died

I started singing bye, bye, to monochrome UIs
Took my green screen to the market but the interest was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey ‘n rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Now for decades we’ve been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rollin’ stone
But that’s not how it used to be
When the hacker wrote for the king of blue
Coding up screens for MRP-2
For a dream that came from me and you

Oh, but while the king was looking down
VGA stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned

And while Heilmeier read a book on Crookes
Tang and Slyke wrote a new cook-book
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day monochrome died

We started singing bye, bye, to monochrome UIs
Took my green screen to the market but the interest was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey ‘n rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Helter skelter in a summer swelter
Xerox flew without a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast
It landed foul on the grass
The players tried for a forward pass
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast

Now the halftime air was sweet perfume
While Three Rivers played a marching tune
We all got up to buy
Oh, but the system did not fly

‘Cause old Xerox tried to take the field
Apple Lisa refused to yield
Do you recall what was revealed
The day monochrome died

We started singing bye, bye, to monochrome UIs
Took my green screen to the market but the interest was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey ‘n rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Oh, and there we were all in one place
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again
So come on, Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
‘Cause fire is the devil’s only friend

Oh, as I watched ERP on stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell
Could break that Satan’s spell

And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day monochrome died

He was singing bye, bye, to monochrome UIs
Took my green screen to the market but the interest was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey ‘n rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

I met a girl who coded Shell
And I asked her for some happy tell
But she just smiled and turned away
I logged in to the BBS
Where I’d learned the code and to transgress
But the admin said we’re now dispossessed

And in the streets, the children screamed
The lovers cried and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
CRTs were all broken

And the three men I admire most
Wozniak, Moore and Tim Berners Lee
They caught the last train for the coast
The day monochrome died

And they were singing bye, bye, to monochrome UIs
Took my green screen to the market but the interest was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey ‘n rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Yes they were singing bye, bye, to monochrome UIs
Took my green screen to the market but the interest was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey ‘n rye
And singin’ this’ll be the day that I die