Category Archives: Adoption

Tonkean: Making Enterprise Procurement work with ProcurementWorks, Part 2

In Part 1, we introduced you to Tonkean, an enterprise applications provider founded in 2015 to transform the enterprise back office. Tonkean leverages smart technology to bring people, process, and technology together in a manner that revolutionizes how businesses operate, allowing people to focus on high value work that gets results, and not redundant data processing, unnecessary application usage (which requires unnecessary training and unnecessary time), or unnecessary emails. The primary goal is to increase adoption and push employee requests, and actions, through official channels, instead of having enterprise employees find backdoors and dark hallways to get around cumbersome systems and processes they don’t want to use.

After providing a brief history and an overview, most of Part I focussed on Tonkean’s AI Front Door, a smart AI interface that was built by a team that understands the strengths, weaknesses, and, most importantly, the limits of AI, especially LLMs and (Open) Gen AI, and that includes pre- and post- processing to verify the requests and responses as reasonable, and where confidence is lacking, not provide any response (and send the inquiry, and response, or lack thereof, for a human who can, if necessary, tune the underlying system after review).

Today we will overview the rest of the Tonkean Intake Orchestration Platform for Procurement and how it can help your organization.

Procurement Intake and Guided Buying

The core of ProcurementWorks is their intake ability described above and guided buying that gets a requester to the right process and form and allows them to monitor, take part in, and/or execute the process end-to-end as required. They can do this through their platform, via e-mail, or a third party platform, like Slack or Microsoft Teams, through their integration capability. If the buy is small and can be put on a PCard, the system will direct the user to do so. If it’s large and requires a buyer to run a Procurement event, the system will guide the buyer to provide all the information the buyer needs and provide updates to the requester after each step of the process is concluded (which the buyer can proactively monitor through the ProcurementWorks request tracking application that monitors the entire workflow, which can be as simple as the request, Procurement approval, and PO/contract generation or as involved as a request, budgetary approval, procurement acceptance, RFX, award selection, InfoSec Approval, Risk & Compliance approval, Legal approval, contract generation, contract negotiation, signing, and completion).

All of this can be done in the Tonkean platform if desired, which will integrate with, push data into, and pull data out of any enterprise applications that are used for Finance, Procurement, Risk, Legal, and Contracts. For example, the system can pull the associated budget for the category from the budget system and send the appropriate manager the request for approval based on the expected cost and the category budget. If approval to proceed is received, the buyer can setup an RFP, which can then be pushed into the enterprise’s sourcing platform (which could be Coupa or Ariba) for execution, and then the results pulled back into the Tonkean request tracking and management module. Procurement can then select one, send it off to InfoSec, Risk, and Legal, in order, for approval, which can come in through the platform, and, once received, use the platform to push the award details into the CLM that can generate the contract, which the platform can then push to the supplier for signature through their e-Signature platform, and when it’s signed, push it back into the CLM.

The platform comes with a number of built-in Procurement process templates that can be customized as needed to support every organizational category and buying process based upon organizational needs. It can be integrated with all the applications and all the document stores, pull in the necessary attachments, help with exchange and version management, and track approvals. And it can be accessed through the form based interface or the chatbot, natively or through API connections.

Procurement Center (Workspace Apps)

The enterprise can create multiple views (and even multiple, separate portals if they like) to support both the Procurement Team and the employees that need to interact with Procurement (so that Legal, Risk & Compliance, IT/InfoSec can all have their own views, and even their own portals if they want to handle their workflows through Tonkean versus their current applications). (Thus, in addition to the Procurement Request Tracker and Manager, Procurement could build a custom Risk and Compliance Portal, Contract Negotiation Tracking and Management Portal, Vendor Inquiry Portal, and so on.)

How little or how much is enabled by default in the Procurement Center is up to the customer, but typically the Procurement Center will contain:

  • AI Front Door: Their name for their AI request intake experience, which can process free text requests or guided requests based on drop downs
  • My Requests: A listing of all of the users’s requests where they can click into the Request Tracker (which listens in near real time for system updates from all integrated systems)
  • My Approvals: A listing of all of the approvals and reviews in the user’s queue (that other users are waiting on)
  • Reporting Dashboards: Tonkean is not a BI/Analytics platform (and integrates with yours for deep Analytics/BI), but comes with a number of out of the box templates for workflow/process/cycle time analysis, request tracking, review and approval tracking, supplier onboarding/review request tracking, sourcing request tracking, invoice monitoring, etc. and can build custom dashboards by role (CPO, CFO, etc.) and pull in data from the connected BI systems to populate those dashboards if desired
  • My Supplier Requests: A listing of the suppliers that the user has requested be onboarded, where they can click into the New Supplier Tracker that tracks the pre-onboarding and onboarding steps that must be completed for the supplier to be onboarded in the Supplier Master (with workflows that adapt to the supplier type; a software vendor offering a product that processes financial or personal data needs considerably more reviews than a new office supplies or janitorial supplies vendor)
  • Solutions Studio: where the super/admin user can update the workflow for the request tracker and all other modules in the system

Reports and Dashboards

As indicated above, there are a number of out-of-the-box reporting templates for Procurement that are easily instantiated/modified in the Tonkean platform. These include, but are not limited to:

Purchase Agreements
The Purchase Agreements Dashboard will summarize, by quarter or month, the number of requests, completed requests, total spend, average completion time for each step (FP&A Review, Management Review, Security Assessment Review, Legal & Privacy Review, IT Review, and Accounting Review, etc.), active requests by status, vendors, spend by vendors, and other key agreement metrics.
New Suppliers
The New Suppliers Dashboard will summarize the number of new supplier requests that came in, the suppliers in each state (NDA Sent, NDA Completed, InfoSec Review, Approved for Onboarding, Profile in Process, Approved, Onboarded in SIM, etc.), and allow a user to click in and see who the suppliers are in each state, who the requester/owner is, and other key data or flags as desired.
Existing Suppliers
The existing suppliers dashboard tracks all suppliers with contracts, insurance, certifications, etc. expiring in the next 90 days where something needs to be done.
CFO Dashboard
The CFO Dashboard will generally contain an overview of spend by quarter/year, compliance, overall productivity, productivity by stakeholder, cycle time by process, workload by buyer/analyst, etc. and other key metrics pulled in from the other reports.

Solutions Studio Module Builder

The core of the Tonkean Enterprise offering is the Solutions Studio that is used to create the no-code workflows from action blocks, triggers, and conditional checks. Action blocks tend to fall into coordination actions (which require people) or workflow (which connect coordination actions and data blocks). Conditional logic make it easy to define requests for information, status, and action items; respond, send updates, and provide notifications; and create approval cycles and assign owners. Workflows make it easy to update data fields, create new (instances of) data objects, trigger module actions, perform (textual) analyses and extract text, create models, train models, and introduce programmatic delays or waits (for information from parallel workstreams, for example).

Data actions provide the means to create, read, update, and delete as applicable (according to the principles of least access required, which will be configured by the Tonkean team on implementation so that any data that should only be capable of being changed in a base system will not be capable of being changed through Tonkean regardless of the user’s authority level) the relevant data in the connected source systems. There are blocks for each system that make it easy to drill in and work with the data in that system, as each data source is preconfigured with the default actions it supports.

For one of the 100+ systems already natively integrated with Tonkean, adding the system as a data source is simply a matter of providing maybe a few connection parameters, and the data source will be good to go for your team, with all of the standard actions available. In the Enterprise Component Manager, it’s easy to drill in and find out, for each data source, the inputs it will accept, the outputs and actions the interface supports, the data retention and audit policies, the access rights, and admins and owners, and general information on connectivity restrictions. It’s also easy to drill into the Tonkean access log and see a complete history and to drill into the data through the Tonkean app (so you don’t have to go to the native app to see what’s available in each object/record, how complete those objects/records usually are, etc. or do low-level SQL queries in the underlying database).

In addition, super users and admins can also define new custom actions if their implementation supports additional data or actions, or they want to define custom actions with more limited capability or complex actions that ensure a sequence of actions (such as updates) happen all-or-nothing. All they have to do is define the action type (Get, Post, Put, Patch, etc.), the URL, the data encoding format, the relevant field(s), and the relevant data and the platform creates the workflow logic for them.

Building the workflow is easy in their graphical select drag-and-drop environment where action blocks and data sources can be dropped and connected by arrows that can encapsulate the associated conditional logic for sequential and parallel workflows.

Procurement Knowledge Base / Component Library

The ProcurementWorks solution can also be configured to support the procurement knowledge base, either by housing documents natively, linking to relevant repositories, or both, allowing for Tonkean intake to also sere as the help center as well as the purchasing request center.

In addition, the Tonkean Component Library contains a large number of standard, out of the box, workflows with embedded standard/best practice, for Procurement, Legal, Compliance and other standard enterprise functions that the customer organization can enable and customize as desired in the Solutions Studio. With Tonkean, an organization doesn’t have to start from scratch, and Tonkean will help the organization pre-configure all of the modules/workflows of interest on go-live.

Data Source (& Communication Platform) Management

The Tonkean platform makes it easy to manage organizational data sources. It’s easy to query which sources exist, what data they have, where they are used, what data can be retrieved, which data can be updated, and what the Tonkean access policies are. Similarly, one can manage which communication platforms are integrated and what they can be used for.

In addition, for each connected data source, Tonkean can provide you a “native” view into the core application and data if you so desire. Want to query your Coupa invoices natively in Coupa? No problem! Tonkean can bring up the appropriate screen from Coupa in a frame where you can see exactly what invoices are there and their status. Want to see the full ticket created in JIRA for the IT Review Team? No problem! Tonkean can pull up the Read-Only JIRA screen for your perusal. It truly is people coordination and enterprise platform orchestration.

In conclusion, if you are a large midsize or global enterprise and have an adoption problem, are struggling to get the value out of your enterprise systems, or are looking for ways to make the whole greater than the some of its parts, and need a better intake platform to boot, consider including Tonkean in your evaluation. They just might be what you need to take your current enterprise software investments to the next level.

Tonkean: Making Enterprise Procurement work with ProcurementWorks, Part 1

Tonkean was founded in 2015 to transform the enterprise back office. Tonkean leverages smart technology to bring people, process, and technology together in a manner that revolutionizes how businesses operate, allowing people to focus on high value work that gets results, and not redundant data processing, unnecessary application usage (which requires unnecessary training and unnecessary time), or unnecessary emails. One of the big problems Tonkean saw with traditional enterprise systems is that anyone who didn’t need to use the system daily was resistant to learning yet another system they saw as difficult or cumbersome (which applied to any system that didn’t use their terminology), adoption was a major problem, and employees would constantly look for ways to circumvent the system. Tonkean’s goal was to solve the adoption problem by providing users a superior intake experience, that could be as simple as a standard form-based or natural language interface like they’d find on the web, that didn’t require any training and that helped these employees make their requests through official channels instead of sneaking through back doors and dark hallways.

After a few custom projects, they found an initial niche in the Legal department and created Tonkean LegalWorks to help Legal Teams with legal mail routing, legal matter intake, matter lifecycle management, legal discipline and category classification, conflict waiver processing, law firm onboarding, contract routing and review, and even legal risk monitoring. It brought together the systems used by Legal (email, word processors, specialized Legal Billing Management solution, etc.), any risk and compliance applications they use to ensure their lawyers and firms dot all the ies and cross all the tees they need to take on every case and practice in every state they are taking legal matters in, and any other enterprise applications the team used to work and communicate internally (Slack, Teams, etc.).

And while we’re not here to discuss LegalWorks, it is through the development of LegalWorks that they learned how to bridge the gap between people, process, and technology in a in a way that empowered their clients to spend more time on strategic (legal) work instead of redundant data entry and system usage, get more value out of the tools they already purchased, and be more productive and satisfied with their technology. They learned how to enable a department to use the tools they have in ways that went beyond the original use cases, and learned they could do more and set out to identify where the biggest needs were and where they could do more. And once they found Procurement, and realized that Procurement had a lot of the same challenges as Legal, but considerably more amplified (with more systems, more complexity, and higher stakes), they knew they had found an area where they could provide their enterprise clients with the most value (and especially those that were using the major S2P suites but getting low utilization rates due to lack of intake support and a lack of integration with other internal systems).

When investigating Procurement in their enterprise customers, they found that while the major suites were reasonably suited for, and well used by, the Procurement team in strategic projects, they weren’t used much in tactical purchasing, especially in tail spend, as most of the organizational users found the system too complicated and bypassed it whenever possible (as the P2P tool lives on the long tail of enterprise applications of choice for the average enterprise employee).

So, as with some of the new breed of vendors who started specifically with the goal of Procurement intake and/or orchestration, one of their first goals was to help their Enterprise customers get more value out of their big S2P suites (and Ariba and Coupa in particular; for example, they have Intake Orchestration for Ariba and the Coupa Intake Experience to help the organization route all indirect spend, no matter how far down the tail, through Ariba or Coupa). While that’s where they are still focussed (given their current Enterprise customer base), they’ve expanded their ProcurementWorks to be a full Procurement lifecycle orchestration solution, from intake to resolution, regardless of what solutions the customers have or don’t have, what enterprise applications the teams use to communicate, what external catalogs or data sources they need to integrate with, and what policies and procedures need to be followed. In this way, ProcurementWorks is a system-agnostic solution that wraps around the customer’s existing process and applications to orchestrate and better coordinate that process.

However, one major difference is that, to Tonkean, full orchestration means creating a solution that solves all of the Procurement related problems an organization’s employees have, not just Procurement requisitions or catalog buying. That means answering all of their Procurement related questions in addition to taking their product and service requests, guiding them to the right systems if needed, or being the one interface of choice if Tonkean can be that. That means a much smarter intake process that can take any Procurement related natural language request, interface with all of the organizational data sources, and provide an appropriate answer.

For Tonkean, that starts with a smart AI interface, that they call the AI Front Door. The AI Front Door, unlike many other LLM-based products, is not just ChatGPT in a shiny wrapper, but a hybrid solution based on in-house engineering, the client organization’s preferred LLM, and knowledge systems owned by the client. It’s a very sophisticated “chatbot” compared to most offerings on the market, a technical definition would be very extensive (and lose non-PhDs), but we can illustrate much of the uniqueness of the capability with a high level overview and an example or four.

For example, when a user inputs a request, the general approach the system takes is:

  • use their AI to process the question for the type, intent, and goal
    and inform the user if they have no information (or are unable to process it) while simultaneously
    redirecting any unanswerable query to a human expert for review
  • use internal, trusted, knowledge bases to get initial information and potential answers
  • feed the question, processed clarification, and internally retrieved knowledge into the organization’s LLM to provide Natural Language feedback to the user, which could be the answer, or a refinement question if ambiguity existed in the question or potential answers from organizational data sources, which causes (an extension of) this 3-step loop to repeat
  • verify the response is sensible before presenting to the user (and, if not confident, route to a human for feedback for future internal Tonkean model training while informing the user no relevant information can be found)

Thus, if the user asks if there is an agreement with Vendor V:

  • their AI Front Door will process the query and determine that the user is asking if there is a signed contractual agreement with Vendor V that is currently active, and potentially what that agreement is
  • create the appropriate queries for each organizational system that stores contracts and agreements
  • take the responses and construct a carefully engineered prompt for the LLM that will return an answer indicating if there are agreements, and, if so, what they are and where they can be found (possibly including a direct link if the document can be accessed through the Tonkean platform)

If the user asks if she can purchase a license for SaaS app S:

  • their AI Front Door processes the request, determines that the user wants to make a purchase, it falls in the software category, and asks a few clarifying questions about the type and purpose of the product and, if it discovers the organization already has a license for a tool of that type, asks why the other tool won’t do
  • the system takes the responses and prompts the user with a link to launch a purchase request, where the system then pre-populates key fields of the organization’s software license purchase request form based on its learnings from the AI Front Door interaction and data attributes from other relevant systems (such as budget information in the ERP)
  • the system bundles the appropriate information and prompts the LLM to create grammatically correct responses that not only explain the request to the Procurement Buyer, but a Supplier if an RFP is required
  • the draft form is then presented to the user to verify, and one click puts it into the Procurement Request queue (where it can be accessed from the ProcurementWorks My Requests page at any time)

If the user asks for the procurement policy for SWAG for the marketing event she is attending:

  • their AI FrontDoor processes the requests and determines its a policy question
  • it creates the appropriate pattern match, DQL, or index query for each of the organization’s policy document data stores and collects the appropriate responses and documents
  • creates an appropriate prompt for the LLM that appropriately forms the question while asking the LLM to use only the inputs fed to it to create the response
  • ensures the response that comes back has a decent similarity to a subset of the text from the documents and then presents the natural language summary to the user

If the user asks the system for the results of the hockey game he missed working late:

  • the system processes the requests, realizes it doesn’t have that information (unless, of course, the enterprise is a sports news outfit), informs the user it doesn’t have that information and ends that interaction there

In other words, it’s built to be the central information source and jumping-off point for all types of inquiries and tasks a Procurement professional or employee with Procurement needs is likely to have, with the intent of cutting out 90% of unnecessary emails, texts, questions, and requests an augmented intelligence system can answer or guide a user through.

Moving on, the core of the Tonkean Intake Orchestration Platform that their Procurement solutions were built on is a workflow automation platform with extensive built in workflow customization, data integration, and form creation capability. In the platform, the customer can build forms (using a no-code form editor) they need to power any Procurement process (which can be created and modelled using a no-code process editor) they have, and customize them for requesters, buyers, risk & compliance, IT, or any other department as needed. They used this capability as the foundation not only for their Coupa Intake Experience and Intake Orchestration for SAP Ariba (as organizations never replace major investments, but innovative organizations look to improve and expand upon them), but their guided buying experience, supplier onboarding, and tail spend automation (among others).

One key differentiator is that any workflow can be updated at any time, something which is generally not possible in your traditional Procurement Suite such as Coupa, Ariba, and Jaggaer. For example, many of their customers now require an additional AI Review of any platform that uses AI to determine the nature of the AI and any direct and indirect risks in its proposed application to the business from a technical, legal, and brand perspective. For example, if the vendor is using Open Gen AI (such as ChatGPT), there are technical risks in that these platforms have been repeatedly demonstrated to have biased, harmful (and even murderous), hallucinatory, thieving, and sleeper behaviour. There are direct legal risks in that you could be sued (and on the hook) if the AI makes a recommendation that ends up causing personal or business harm, and indirect legal risks if the technology was trained on stolen data or data that contained copyrighted, illegal, or national secret material. There are brand risks if the Open Gen AI product you are using all of a sudden suffers extreme public backlash for its actions (or your software results in a decision that tanks shareholder value or increases environmental harm). However, they have found that most of the suites they work with do not yet have many of these new “standard” compliance checks in their relatively rigid product workflows (and telling their customers to just include it in the InfoSec review), which increases the likelihood a key check will be missed. [Considering the attention that AI is getting and the fact that legal frameworks will need to come soon, not the best idea for a large organization NOT to be assessing AI risks now.] However, with Tonkean, it takes minutes to add a compliance check and ensure it gets done by the right people before a decision is made on any Software purchase or use.

In our next article, we will dive deep into the major components of the Tonkean ProcurementWorks offering.

The 39 Steps … err … The 39 Clues … err … The 39 Part Series to Help You Figure Out Where to Start with Source-to-Pay

Figuring out where to start is not easy, and often never where the majority of vendors or consultants say you should start. They’ll have great reasons for their recommendations, which will typically be true, but they will be the subset of reasons that most benefits them (as it will sell their solution), and not necessarily the subset of reasons that most benefits you now. While you will likely need every module there is in the long run, you can often only start with one or two, and you need to focus on what’s the greatest ROI now to prove the investment and help you acquire funds to get more capability later, when you are ready for it. But figuring out how much you can handle, what the greatest needs are, and the necessary starting points aren’t easy, and that’s why SI dove into this topic, with arguments and explanations and module overviews, both broader and deeper than any analyst firm or blogger has done before. Enjoy!

Introductory Posts:
Part 1: Where Do You Start?
Part 2: Where Should You Start?
Part 3: You Start with …
Part 4: e-Procurement, and Here’s Why.

Part 5: Defining an e-Procurement Baseline
Part 6: There are Barriers to Selecting an e-Procurement Solution (and they are not what you think)
Part 7: Over 70 e-Procurement Companies to Check Out

Interlude 1
Part 8: What Comes Next?

Spend Analysis
Part 9: Time for Spend Analysis
Part 10: What Do You Need for A Spend Analysis Baseline, I
Part 11: What Do You Need for A Spend Analysis Baseline, II
Part 12: Over 40 Spend Analysis Vendors to Check Out

Interlude 2
Part 13: But I Can’t Touch the Sacred Cows!
(including Over 20 SaaS, 10 Legal, and 5 Marketing Spend Management / Analysis Companies to Check Out)
Part 14: Do Not Stop At Spend Analysis!

Supplier Management
Part 15: Supplier Management is a CORNED QUIP Mash
Part 16: Supplier Management A-Side
Part 17: Supplier Management B-Side
Part 18: Supplier Management C-Side
Part 19: Supplier Management D-Side
Part 20: Over 90 Supplier Management Companies to Check Out

Contract Management
Part 21: Time for Contract Management
Part 22: Contract Management is a NAG: Let’s Start with Negotiation
Part 23: Contract Management is a NAG: Let’s Continue with [Contract]Analytics
Part 24: Contract Management is a NAG: Let’s End with [Contract] Governance
Part 25: Over 80 Contract Management Vendors to Check Out

Part 26: Time for e-Sourcing
Part 27: Breaking Down the ORA of Sourcing Starting With RFX
Part 28: Breaking Down the ORA of Sourcing Continuing with e-Auctions
Part 29: Breaking Down the ORA of Sourcing Ending with [Strategic Sourcing Decision] Optimization
Part 30: Over 75 e-Sourcing Vendors to Check Out!

Invoice-to-Pay (I2P):
Part 31: Time for Invoice-to-Pay
Part 32: Breaking Down the Invoice-to-Pay Core
Part 33: Over 75 Invoice-to-Pay Companies to Check Out

Part 34: How Do I Orchestrate Everything?
Part 35: Do I Intake, Manage, or Orchestrate?
Part 36: Over 20 Intake, [Procurement] [Project] Management, and/or Orchestration Companies to Check Out
Part 37: Investigating Intake By Diving In to the Details
Part 38: Prettying Up the Project with Procurement Project Management
Part 39: Deobfuscating the Orchestration and Fitting it All Together

Procurement is Global. Platforms should be Global. Truly Global.

And, in particular, as previously noted, those platforms should form the foundation for Virtual Procurement Centres of Excellence. But just acquiring a platform is not enough. It has to be adopted — and not just in the center of excellence, but in every local purchasing department around the globe.

This means a global rollout, but not an instantaneous one. Big bang roll-outs usually end up in big blow-ups. The biggest supply chain disasters in history have often been the result of big-bang ERP or technology projects that tried to update the entire system all at once, often in a bet-the-company endeavour. Such a project even brought down a 5B company. (Remember Foxmeyer? Probably not, but that’s because a big bang ERP project resulted in a big bust.)

Now, a global Procurement platform roll out is not replacing the ERP and a failure likely wouldn’t bankrupt the company, but it certainly would be very costly and knock Procurement back into the dark ages it’s trying to crawl out of. So it has to be done right. So how do you do it right?

1. Take it in steps.

Start with just enabling the center of excellence so that the Procurement leaders can get familiar with the platform before the questions start rolling in. After all, they will be the trainers, leaders, barkers, and bugle-men of the solution, and need to be prepared the lead the charge. After that, enable just a few locations at a time until each is up and running.

2. Get the data model right before a single implementation.

Remember, you have to control the information and financial chain with the platforms, and this will require integrating with data from dozens, if not hundreds, of systems and sources. Without a good data model, integrations will be difficult and time consuming.

3. Identify the systems of record for each data component.

The days where the ERP is the system of record are long gone in leading organizations. These days, organizations have a financial system as the system of record for invoices and payables, a supplier management system for supplier (and sometimes catalog) data, local catalog management for products and services that are primarily sourced locally, a CAD/CAM system for product designs, a MRP system for custom product designs, and so on. Make sure the integrations with each of these core platforms is complete and accurate before using the new system for the first Procurement event.

4. Define small test projects that can be used to evaluate the implementation adequately before continuing with the roll-out.

Pick a few representative, but not mission critical, projects that can be completed in weeks (not months or years) that will adequately test the system, define milestones and checkpoints, and evaluate at each stage. Only continue when any issues or bugs are identified and corrected.

5. Make sure you have experienced, expert help for the roll-out.

Each office will have its own particular process needs, regionalization (in terms of language and currency), audit trail requirements, and so on. Expert help can not only help you identify these requirements but appropriate system configuration options for maximum performance and minimal complexity at each location.

In other words, create a reasonable plan, with expert help, and stick to it. Things will generally go smooth if you realize that, like every evolution before, the advancement of the Procurement function is a journey. You can’t always afford to stop and smell the roses, but you can’t afford to run through the thorns either.

Good Strategies for Microsoft AND Big Software Co. Enterprise Renewals

A guest post earlier this month over on Spend Matters on 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Renewing a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement in 2015 had some good tips not just for Microsoft Enterprise Agreement renewals but Big Software Co. Renewals in general.

The major pieces of advice generalize as follows:

Waiting until the last minute for renewal negotiations.

While this may have worked in the past, the bigger providers have smartened up. They have learned that it’s not the month or quarter or the year, but profit that matters, and will wait a month to get more profit when they are sitting on a huge cash reserve. Also, they have learned that if you wait until the last minute, you probably haven’t identified any other options, and even if you did, would not have time to implement another option and it’s you they have over a barrel, not the other way around. In addition, as per the article, there are only so many sales people and, unless you are a really big customer, if the sales people are busy, they may not get to you before the licenses expire and the systems lock up.

An over focus on price and an under focus on terms and conditions.

Price is important, but, as per the article, so is matching the service offering to the organizational need. Not only do you not want to over subscribe, and end up with a large number of unused licenses, but you don’t want to subscribe for products that don’t meet organizational needs either. But this isn’t the most important thing — it’s the fine print. If organizational needs are in flux, the last thing the organization wants to be is locked into a multi-year agreement or a minimum license count, with a huge penalty if the organization tries to end the agreement early. Similarly, the organization wants to understand the full cost of a cloud service and, if additional bandwidth or CPU usage costs can be added on during periods of intensive usage, this needs to be understood as well.

Treating negotiations as a one-time event.

The buying organization may set-and-forget the three year renewal until thirty (30) months, or more, have passed, but the vendor will be analyzing the contract, and usage, every quarter and looking for ways to extend the offering as soon as possible. The organization needs to monitor its usage as well to be able to make an informed counter to a vendor who indicates that the company is nearing capacity in licenses, computing power, etc. when it is still 20% away from maxing anything out and only increasing in usage at 1% a month.

Not being audit ready.

Chances are your Big Enterprise Software Vendor has an audit clause in the contract for any licenses installed on premise. And chances are that if the organization has not had an audit in the last couple of years, that, unless the organization agrees to the default renewal (which will often be for more licenses than required at a higher rate), that the customer will be audited for usage. The organization should do it’s own software (license) audits on at least an annual basis and keep detailed records. Not only will it have the data to dispute any claims to the contrary made by the vendor, but it will be able to make sure it remains in compliance at all times.

Enterprise software is costly. But it doesn’t have to be a spend sinkhole.