Category Archives: Auctions

COUPA: Centralized Optimization Underlies Procurement Adoption …

… or at least that’s what it SHOULD stand for. Why? Well, besides the fact that optimization is only one of two advanced sourcing & procurement technologies that have proven to deliver year-over-year cost avoidance (“savings”) of 10% or more (which becomes critical in an inflationary economy because while there are no more savings, negating the need for a 10% increase still allows your organization to maintain costs and outperform your competitors), it’s the only technology that can meet today’s sourcing needs!

COVID finally proved what the doctor and a select few other leading analysts and visionaries have been telling you for over a decade — that your supply chain was overextended and fraught with unnecessary risk and cost (and carbon), and that you needed to start near-sourcing/home-sourcing as soon as possible in order to mitigate risk. Plus, it’s also extremely difficult to comply with human rights acts (which mandate no forced or slave labour in the supply chain), such as the UK Modern Slavery Act, California Supply Chains Act, and the German Supply Chain Act if your supply chain is spread globally and has too many (unnecessary) tiers. (And, to top it off, now you have to track and manage your scope 1, 2, and 3 carbon in a supply chain you can barely manage.)

And, guess what, you can’t solve these problems just with:

  • supplier onboarding tools — you can’t just say “no China suppliers” when you’ve never used suppliers outside of China, the suppliers you have vetted can’t be counted on to deliver 100% of the inventory you need, or they are all clustered in the same province/state in one country
  • third party risk management — and just eliminate any supplier which has a risk score above a threshold, because sometimes that will eliminate all, or all but one, supplier
  • third party carbon calculators — because they are usually based on third party carbon emission data provided by research institutions that simply produce averages for a region / category of products (and might over estimate or under estimate the carbon produced by the entire supply base)
  • or even all three … because you will have to migrate out of China slowly, accept some risk, and work on reducing carbon over time

You can only solve these problems if you can balance all forms of risk vs cost vs carbon. And there’s only one tool that can do this. Strategic Sourcing Decision Optimization (SSDO), and when it comes to this, Coupa has the most powerful platform. Built on TESS 6 — Trade Extensions Strategic Sourcing — that Coupa acquired in 2017, the Coupa Sourcing Optimization (CSO) platform is one of the few platforms in the world that can do this. Plus, it can be pre-configured out-of-the-box for your sourcing professionals with all of the required capabilities and data already integrated*. And it may be alone from this perspective (as the other leading optimization solutions are either integrated with smaller platforms or platforms with less partners). (*The purchase of additional services from Coupa or Partners may be required.)

So why is it one of the few platforms that can do this? We’ll get to that, but first we have to cover what the platform does, and more specifically, what’s new since our last major coverage in 2016 on SI (and in 2018 and 2019 on Spend Matters, where the doctor was part of the entire SM Analyst team that created the 3-part in-depth Coupa review, but, as previously noted, the site migration dropped co-authors for many articles).

As per previous articles over the past fifteen years, you already know that:

So now all we have to focus on are the recent improvements around:

  • “smart scenarios” that can be templated and cross-linked from integrated scenario-aware help-guides
  • “Plain English” constraint creation (that allows average buyers & executives to create advanced scenarios)
  • fact-sheet auto-generation from spreadsheets, API calls, and other third-party data sources;
    including data identification, formula derivation and auto-validation pre-import
  • bid insights
  • risk-aware functionality

“Smart Events”

Optimization events can be created from event templates that can themselves be created from completed events. A template can be populated with as little, or as much as the user wants … all the way from simply defining an RFX Survey, factsheet, and a baseline scenario to a complete copy of the event with “last bid” pricing and definitions of every single scenario created by the buyer. Also, templates can be edited at any time and can define specific baseline pricing, last price paid by procurement, last price in a pre-defined fact-sheet that can sit above the event, and so on. Fixed supplier lists, all qualified suppliers that supply a product, all qualified suppliers in an area, no suppliers (and the user pulls from recommended) and so on. In addition to predefining a suite of scenarios that can be run once all the data is populated, the buyer can also define a suite of default reports to be run, and even emailed out, upon scenario completion. This is in addition to workflow automation that can step the buyer through the RFX, auto-respond to suppliers when responses are incomplete or not acceptable, spreadsheets or documents uploaded with hacked/cracked security, and so on. The Coupa philosophy is that optimization-backed events should be as easy as any other event in the system, and the system can be configured so they literally are.

Also, as indicated above, the help guides are smart. When you select a help article on how to do something, it takes you to the right place on the right screen while keeping you in the event. Some products have help guides that are pretty dumb and just take you to the main screen, not to the right field on the right sub-screen, if they even link into the product at all!

“Plain English” Constraint Creation

Even though the vast majority of constraints, mathematically, fall into three/four primary categories — capacity/allocation, risk mitigation, and qualitative — that isn’t obvious to the average buyer without an optimization, analytical, or mathematical background. So Coupa has spent a lot of time working with buyers asking them what they want, listening to their answers and the terminology they use, and created over 100 “plain english” constraint templates that break down into 10 primary categories (allocation, costs, discount, incumbent, numeric limitations, post-processing, redefinition, reject, scenario reference, and collection sheets) as well as a subset of most commonly used constraints gathered into a a “common constraints” collection. For example, the Allocation Category allows for definition “by selection sheet”, “volume”, “alternative cost”, “bid priority”, “fixed divisions”, “favoured/penalized bids”, “incumbent allocations maintained”, etc. Then, when a buyer selects a constraint type, such as “divide allocations”, it will be asked to define the method (%, fixed amount), the division by (supplier, group, geography), and any other conditions (low risk suppliers if by geography). The definition forms are also smart and respond to each, sequential, choice appropriately.

Fantastic Fact Sheets

Fact Sheets can be auto-generated from uploaded spreadsheets (as their platform will automatically detect the data elements (columns), types (text, math, fixed response set, calculation), mappings to internal system / RFX elements), and records — as well as detecting when rows / values are invalid and allow the user to determine what to do when invalid rows/values are detected. Also, if the match is not high certainty, the fact-sheet processor will indicate the user needs to manually define and the user can, of course, override all of the default mappings — and even choose to load only part of the data. These spreadsheets can live in an event or live above the event and be used by multiple events (so that company defined currency conversions, freight quotes for the month, standard warehouse costs, etc. can be used across events).

But even better, Fact Sheets can be configured to automatically pull data in from other modules in the Coupa suite and from APIs the customer has access to, which will pull in up to date information every time they are instantiated.

Bid Insights

Coupa is a big company with a lot of customers and a lot of data. A LOT of data! Not only in terms of prices its customers are paying in their procurement of products and services, but in terms of what suppliers are bidding. This provides huge insight into current marketing pricing in commonly sourced categories, including, and especially, Freight! Starting with freight, Coupa is rolling out a new bid pricing insights for freight where a user can select the source, the destination, the type (frozen/wet/dry/etc), and size (e.g. for ocean freight, the source and destination country, which defaults to container, and the container size/type combo and get the quote range over the past month/quarter/year).

Risk Aware Functionality

The Coupa approach to risk is that you should be risk-aware (to the extent the platform can make you risk aware) with every step you take, so risk data is available across the platform — and all of that risk data can be integrated into an optimization project and scenarios to reject, limit, or balance any risk of interest in the award recommendations.

And when you combine the new capabilities for

  • “smart” events
  • API-enabled fact sheets
  • risk-aware functionality

that’s how Coupa is the first platform that literally can, with some configuration and API integration, allow you to balance third party risk, carbon, and cost simultaneously in your sourcing events — which is where you HAVE to mange risk, carbon, and cost if you want to have any impact at all on your indirect risk, carbon, and cost.

It’s not just 80% of cost that is locked in during design, it’s 80% of risk and carbon as well! And in indirect, you can’t do much about that. You can only do something about the next 20% of cost, risk and carbon that is locked in when you cut the contract. (And then, if you’re sourcing direct, before you finalize a design, you can run some optimization scenarios across design alternatives to gauge relative cost, carbon, and risk, and then select the best design for future sourcing.) So by allowing you to bring in all of the relevant data, you can finally get a grip on the risk and carbon associated with a potential award and balance appropriately.

In other words, this is the year for Optimization to take center stage in Coupa, and power the entire Source-to-Contract process. No other solution can balance these competing objectives. Thus, after 25 years, the time for sourcing optimization, which is still the best kept secret (and most powerful technology in S2P), has finally come! (And, it just might be the reason that more users in an organization adopt Coupa.)

Mercanis: Men with a Mission to bring Modern Volkswagen Efficiency with BMW Style to Source-to-Contract! Part 2

As discussed in Part I, Mercanis is a new Source-to-Contract mini-suite provider based in Berlin, Germany that is bringing a powerful, affordable, and easy to use solution to the mid-market that not only has core capabilities in sourcing, supplier management, analytics, and contract management, but also has core capabilities around risk assessment AND intake, which is not something we have traditionally seen in mid-market Source-to-Contract, and even enterprise Source-to-Contract and Source-to-Pay suites.

Logging into Mercanis takes the end user, who could be a buyer, an AP clerk, or an average employee who needs to go out to market for a product or service to do their job, to their customized dashboard (according to their role) where they can see an overview of their events/requests, contracts, suppliers (including individual supplier overviews) they manage or have access to, organizational spend they oversee, and other relevant information depending on the selected widgets.

Yesterday we overviewed Sourcing, Supplier Management, and Risk. Today we are going to overview Contracts, Spend Analysis, and Platform Administration.


Contract Management in Mercanis is straightforward contract document management with a sprinkle of contract creation capability. It stores all of the contracts and associated metadata, including the supplier, active term, value, type, and status (which is draft, pending, active, inactive, and archived by default). It’s easy to search, filter, retrieve, and view a contract at any time. Viewing takes the buyer to the summary screen, from which the user can drill into more detailed screens on payment, linked documents and contracts, stakeholders, relevant clauses, and other (custom) information screens as appropriate to the contract type. The system also supports the definition of tags and contracts can be tagged to categories or conditions of interest, such as sensitive of personal data, auto-renewing, special initiatives, and so on.

Uploading a contract in the Mercanis platform is easy. You drag and drop the document and it auto-extracts most of the key meta data elements that are described in the platform using OCR and advanced NLP. It’s not perfect (no system is, no matter how much fancy AI the systems claim), but it’s easy for the user to override any extract data that is not quite what they want, or not found, and index into the relevant part of the contract.

Finally, contract queries can be search and filter on metadata or Natural Language chat, which will learn from repeated use and adapt to the user’s natural language queries over time.


Basic Spend Analysis is integrated into the core and allows the user to select filterable widgets and dashboards that show spend by category, cost center, supplier, and other major identifier in the system (contract, sourcing event, etc.). It is instantiated with AP data on system implementation, which the system auto-maps to your pre-defined category taxonomy using (auto-generated) mapping rules consisting of suppliers and keywords/phrases/abbreviations/tags in the line item descriptions (identified by AI and curated by humans) and provides sourcing professionals insights from the date of go-live.

As with every other modern platform, it’s easy to drill into the categories (and sub-categories), suppliers, cost centers/business units, and contracts and see the associated transactions. Filters will also allow limiting to date ranges or other record values of interest. And it’s very easy to pop-up a supplier profile from a spend analytics widget or screen or a contract as the analytics, while basic compared to best-of-breed spend analysis tools, are fully integrated.


When it comes to platform administration, it is highly configurable by the organizational administrators. This administration includes the ability to configure approval paths, role groups, individual users, and workspaces (which roles can be limited to) as well as the company information your suppliers see about you. (It’s such a simple concept, but even many SRM platforms don’t make it easy for a supplier to access the customer information about you that they need as a supplier.) There can be different approval paths for every workflow including, but not limited to, supplier onboarding, sourcing (intake) request approval, sourcing awards, and contract approvals, including conditional/branching approvals based on arbitrary fields (such as amounts over or under 50K, product/service category, etc.). These flows can be built using a visual approval workflow builder that can support all standard Boolean logic and if/then/case conditionals.

Let’s dive into workspace configuration, as this is one of the most unique capabilities. The platform supports the definition of as many workspaces as you want, where each workspace can have its own dashboard, its own subset of modules, restricted/no admin access, approval workflows, and templates. Most importantly, a role can be associated with a workspace and when a user is associated with role, that is the workspace, and the only workspace, they will see when they log in. If necessary, the platform can support hyper-personalization natively.

In addition to the platform administration capabilities outlined above, the organization can define business units, manage its category tree (for sourcing and the built in spend analysis), define it’s default meta data requirements by contract type, visually manage all platform workflows (across all modules), manage its currency exchange rates, define its (supplier/RFQ) ratings, and define and manage the data collection templates for every module in the system including supplier data collection forms, pricing sheets, RFP questionnaires, and contract/document templates.

When it comes to workflows, just like the platform can support as many workspaces as you like, it can support as many workflows as you like for each process supported by the module. For example, you can not only have a different sourcing workflow for each category, but you can have multiple workflows based on expected spend. You can have different supplier onboarding workflows depending on category, geography, or a combination thereof (for example), different contract / document creation and management workflows (in addition to approval), and so on. And each can be linked to the associated module in the associated workspace. Highly configurable.

Workflow definition is enabled by the rule builder which is very flexible, and just like approval workflows, is completely visual, supports all Boolean logic, and allows rules to be easily defined in a rule chain that defines the category/ies, role group(s), workspace(s), discriminator (such as budget amount), and action (which can itself kick off another workflow).

The pricing sheets are very flexible and essentially act as mini-spreadsheets embedded in the sourcing tool. Allows for detailed cost break downs and calculations in both sourcing events, and analytic comparisons. The templates can have any number of elements and support all standard HTML components.


The system can be implemented and configured for go-live in as little as two weeks, as long as the relevant supplier dataset and spend history can be provided day one and is complete enough that their processes can sufficiently classify the AP data on the first pass to the point that they can complete the processing with manual intervention within the timeframe. Note that the buying organization can choose to load all suppliers, all suppliers used within the last x months or years, or just currently active suppliers that will be used in sourcing events.

Mercanis is a great new entry to the mid-market Source-to-Contract space, especially considering all of the acquisitions and roll-ups of the last 5 years or so that took a lot of companies out of the mid-market and into the enterprise suite game. If you’re looking for a new S2C solution, and especially if you are based in Europe, Mercanis will make a great addition to your shortlist. It’s come a long way in a short time and the doctor has no reason to believe that they won’t continue to make significant progress, and add significant value, over the next few years while maintaining a price-point the mid-market can afford.

Mercanis: Men with a Mission to bring Modern Volkswagen Efficiency with BMW Style to Source-to-Contract! Part 1

Mercanis a new Source-to-Contract mini-suite provider based in Berlin, Germany that is bringing a powerful, affordable, and easy to use solution to the mid-market that not only has core capabilities in sourcing, supplier management, analytics, and contract management, but also has core capabilities around risk assessment AND intake, which is not something we have traditionally seen in mid-market Source-to-Contract, and even enterprise Source-to-Contract and Source-to-Pay suites.

Logging into Mercanis takes the end user, who could be a buyer, an AP clerk, or an average employee who needs to go out to market for a product or service to do their job, to their customized dashboard (according to their role) where they can see an overview of their events/requests, contracts, suppliers (including individual supplier overviews) they manage or have access to, organizational spend they oversee, and other relevant information depending on the selected widgets.

Today we’re going to discuss Sourcing, Supplier Management, and Risk.


Creating a sourcing event in Mercanis for new or previously sourced articles can be accomplished in just a few minutes as the platform was designed for high efficiency. With integrated intake, the system will either guide an organizational user to a self-serve sourcing event for articles (products/components/fixed services) in acceptable categories under a certain amount or funnel to the appropriate sourcing team, as appropriate.

When an organizational user wants something, they define their event name, a unique departmental project reference, category, budget, RFX due date, relevant organizational tags, affected business unit[s], preferred NDA (from those associated with the category), and then the system will either notify the requester that this needs to be a (strategic) sourcing event and direct it to the sourcing team or take the buyer to their (selected) workspace where they can set it up on their own.

In either situation, the next step is to select suppliers. Suppliers are auto-suggested by the system and it’s one click to select them (and the user can search for other known suppliers or even invite a new supplier for onboarding if they want to). After that, they select an appropriate pricing sheet (from those associated) which is automatically pulled in, and then they select appropriate RFP surveys that they want filled out (which are also auto-suggested based on the article). They can then launch the event immediately, or specify a later date, and at any time they can (come back and) add stakeholders.

For a single article, since everything is auto-suggested, they can literally select the core suppliers, price sheet, and surveys with a few clicks and launch a small event in a minute. Most events on an article or category can be reasonably defined in five to fifteen minutes (vs. the 15 hours for some first, and even second, generation suites).

In the Sourcing projects can be multi-round if necessary. Once the results come back, the buyer can kick off another event based off of that project and link it to the existing one to create a multi-round event.

Also, once response come in, as many stakeholders as desired can score it, the scores can be weighted, and once an award is decided upon, it can be sent to the contract module. Survey responses for each survey can be compared side-by-side for easy comparison against peers. And when the individual responses are scored, the buyer can see the assessment criteria scores graphically in spider graphs, including a calculated score based on total relative pricing. When it comes to price sheets, which can include embedded formulas, the buyer can select the prices of interest for side-by-side comparison as well. And to make the comparisons pop, the buyer can even shift to dark mode. While not always the best for data entry, it does make certain visual comparisons pop.

The entry point to sourcing is the dashboard which will summarize the requests, events by category, upcoming, and current sourcing events that need to be reviewed, managed, or awarded.

An organizational buyer can also two-click a new sourcing event by going to the article summary screen, locating the article of interest, clicking on it, defining an event name, selecting one of the associated sourcing workflows (defaulted if just one), selecting one of the associated pricing sheets (defaulted if just one), and confirming the event creation.


The Supplier Management module revolves around the Supplier Repository which organizes all supplier related information in the system with each supplier maintained by the system. It’s easy to search suppliers by name, category, location, associated transaction cost centers, and other information. Upon implementation, Mercanis can import all of your suppliers from your ERP, just a subset you mark as active, or only those suppliers used in the past x years.

On implementation, they will pull in as much information as they have, fill in gaps with any information they have in their system, and augment with a 360-degree profile they auto-generate using their AI tools that scrapes supplier websites and pulls in data from third party sites, Compliance Catalyst, Dun & Bradstreet and/or other third party supplier data providers you have a subscription to. This profile will include a short description, any known (reference) customers, categories the supplier (can) supply in your taxonomy, any known contacts, owners, known business units, primary / head office location, website and Linkedin URLs, and even known similar suppliers in your database. It will also contain direct links to any third party profiles you have access to, and can even pull all of that information into the platform for you.

This is in addition to the basic corporate information (and contacts) maintained by the system (which includes legal identifiers, basic accounting information, and location data), supplier states (which can be buyer organization defined), tiers (as the organization can track tier 2 suppliers or suppliers typically used by your suppliers, third party ratings (from the ERP or a data partner) and data that can be pulled in (which can be visually displayed in spider graphs), specific information collected during onboarding, and appropriate risk data (including cached data from any third party data feeds you have a license too). Note that suppliers can also be evaluated using organizational surveys that can be associated with them, and multiple evaluators can be associated with these surveys.

The SRM system also centralizes and maintains a record of all system activity, including sourcing events, contracts, risk profiles, and associated supplier analytics. It also tracks all associated tasks from across the system in one location, all associated (onboarding/sourcing/contract) requests, and any notes the buying organization wants to add.

New supplier creation is easy. It can be as easy as defining a name and email to kick-off the onboarding process, which will send a request to the buyer to provide the requested information. (Note that if you provide an appropriate legal identifier or URL and the supplier is in the Mercanis database, base information will automatically be populated to simplify the onboarding process for the supplier.)

Search can be customized to work on any given supplier identifier.


The risk module, primarily used in supplier pre-qualification, tracks country and industry risk across the globe and can instantly associate the relevant country and industry risks with an existing, or new, supplier based on its address and NAICS code. The platform uses over 40 different data sources to analyze country and industry risk in accordance with the German Supply Chain Act and computes a score for every country-industry risk correlation.

In addition, it can integrate with third party data from providers like IntegrityNext and Ecovadis and, for any supplier, pull in all the relevant data if the customer has the data feed licenses and automatically compute advanced risk measures using their data (from public sources) and third party data.

Come back tomorrow for Contracts, Spend Analysis, and Administration.

Promena’s Upgraded Platform Packs a Rich Caffeinated Turkish Punch

Promena is a two-decades old company (founded in 2001) that has been offering e-Sourcing (and, more recently, source-to-contract) solutions to Turkish enterprises to major enterprises in Türkiye that you likely never heard off on this side of the world until their coverage over on Spend Matters in 2019 (Vendor Analysis Part I and Part II by Nick Heinzmann, Pro/ContentHub subscription required), if you’ve heard of them at all.

However, they are another mid-market source-to-contract (with some e-Procurement capability) that you should be aware of, as they are a two-decade old company with an annual transaction volume nearing 3 Billion that is now expanding throughout the European market and into North America (mainly through partners for integration and services). The solution is solid, time-tested, modular, multi-lingual (13 languages at the present time), being improved annually (with new capabilities in development for late Q4 and 2024 release), and offered at an affordable price-point for mid-markets. In this article, we will overview the main components of their solution and highlights. (We’ll refer you back to Nick Heinzmann’s Vendor Analysis on Spend Matters for a deeper dive as well as Xavier Olivera’s 2022 Update, especially if you want analyst commentary. Note that a Pro/ContentHub subscription will be required for all of these.)

The typical entry point into Promena for most buyers is e-Sourcing project creation, which allows buyers to define an e-Sourcing project (with basic meta-data like name, department/child company, owner, description, etc.), define the RFX and Auction events that will constitute that project (so you’re not mixing categories, creating projects where only a subset of suppliers can bid on each item or lot, and balancing the need for detailed RFX events for strategic or high value products or services with low-value/non-strategic products or services that can be sourced through a quick-hit auction), define the project milestones and project tasks, and create the team (which will allow different team members to be responsible for sub-events, milestones or tasks). Overarching documents can also be attached at the project level. Note that the platform also supports a Gantt chart view of a project if the milestones and tasks are given start and end dates and tasks associated with the milestones.

RFX functionality is more-or-less what you would expect from a mid-market sourcing platform. You can attach any RFI/RFP/Qualification survey forms that you want the suppliers to fill out (that can be constructed in the internal form builder), select the products from the internal product management functionality (which we’ll cover later) or define new product/service requirements free-form, define the quantity, select the suppliers who you want to invite (from the built in supplier management functionality, more on this later), and immediately send it off. Once the bids are returned, the associated team members can score each supplier-product or supplier-service combination based on the qualification surveys and then see the total price for each supplier-product or supplier-service combination, with the lowest price for each pairing highlighted. In addition, it will show you the lowest bid by supplier across all products/services as well as the savings if you cherry pick the lowest bid for each product or service. Also, the user can, at any time, pop up a complete bid change history for every supplier, which is incredibly useful if you’re doing a multi-round RFX and/or want to see the drop between current system price and the new bid price. Note that, currently, it only supports unit prices (and calculates total prices based on demand), but the 2024 roadmap includes the ability to breakdown the unit price by primary component type (item, freight, interim storage, waste, etc.).

e-Auctions are similarly easy to set up. Simply define the products / services, indicate the quantities, define the auction parameters (starting prices, weightings, start and end times, bid requirements [equal allowed, min/max changes, auto extension, etc.]), invite the suppliers … and go! As with all auction tools, you can see the bids change (graphically) in real time, and suppliers can see where they stand by rank, or, if you so choose, rank and distance to next competitor. It’s important to note that they support Dutch as well as English/standard reverse auctions as not all platforms support Dutch auctions.

Once RFX events and auctions are complete, awards can be defined in the system through the creation of award document. These award documents can then be used to kick off contract creation. In the current release, contract management is foundational and is essentially a searchable electronic filing cabinet that stores meta-data indexed executed contracts with complete pricing information (extracted from the award documents), but a new version with negotiation support is currently in beta and final (security) testing and should be released by year end.

For every contract, you can define system-wide foundational meta-data fields, additional fields that may be specific to that contract, or the product/service category the contract falls under, parties (and who signed on behalf), associated documents and addendums, add it to a group, and break out the price for every product or service in the contract for easy access.

The next major area of the system is supplier management. Supplier Management in Promena is essentially information, relationship, and baseline performance management. Supplier management starts with basic profile creation (company details, HQ address, and third party identification numbers) and onboarding. Onboarding asks a supplier to identify the products they provide, their banking information (for payment), and additional information (through buyer defined forms) specific to the organization’s need (which could be around ESG, product reliability metrics, etc.). Individual forms can be assigned to different individuals in the organization to review and approve (as the platform allows for approval flows across each major platform area, which will be discussed later), and suppliers onboarded (and approved) as soon as all information is completed and reviewed. Once a supplier is onboarded, it’s quick and easy to access all of this information and maintain it going forward.

One differentiating feature of the supplier information management module is that the supplier suitability score for specific products and services is continually assessed through supplier responses to the buyer’s form-based questions using the company’s pre-defined weighted criteria. This score, while providing insights to the buyer during the onboarding process, is kept continuously updated through subsequent sourcing events, contracts and addendums, and development projects.

Moving on to the relationship management, that is primarily accomplished through Action Management, where a user can make a CAPA (Corrective Action/Preventive Action) request, assign an owner/reviewer, send the request to the supplier, and then evaluate and either accept or reject the response from the supplier. A request consists of defining information (name, reason, category, supplier, product, required completion date), a detailed overview of the problem and the resolution needed, any associated (e-)documentation (which could consist of multimedia files), and the log of all accesses/activity on the action. It’s also really easy to search for actions, which can be queried by id, name, status, category, supplier, assigned supplier rep, assigned team member, reason (which is limited to a standard list, which the buying organization can configure in the company settings upon implementation), date range, and/or success status. It’s also easy to use this capability to find all actions associated with a supplier, product, or individual, by status.

Moving on to performance management, it’s specifically survey and KPI-based performance management. At the present time, they don’t integrate with third party data feeds to automatically bring in data that can be used to automatically compute KPIs such as on time delivery / average delivery time, average response time, defect rate (based on returns), etc. Thus, if you want this data included in a supplier performance scorecard, you have to define the KPI you want and the organization user who is going to provide it. But once the KPIs are defined, the relevant organizational users can be identified to either fill out (or validate) the data (if you are asking the supplier to provide metrics) and then you can see a summary by supplier in the performance management area or see a summary across suppliers / products / categories in the reporting section (which will be addressed later). Note that evaluations, and KPIs, can be defined for arbitrary periods, which means that you can collect and track KPIs over time (and the ability to display and analyze those trends in the reporting section is on the roadmap for 2024).

The platform also contains a section for ESG Management, but it’s just a named section for collecting surveys and centralizing KPIs related to ESG. It doesn’t specifically address Scope 2/3 carbon, integrate with third party data feeds (with audited data), or provide ESG best practices. In other words, it doesn’t contain any unique capabilities. However, for many firms that need to track ESG data from suppliers / for their associated products, it’s great to have a separate named section. Plus, Promena is in the process of integrating with third-party data providers to enhance data-driven decision-making and when those integrations are launched in 2024, the data will appear in this section (assuming the buyer licenses the appropriate data subscriptions).

Moving on to reporting, while the platform does not contain a full self-serve reporting engine or spend analysis capability, it does have a number of built-in drill-down dashboard reports built in Qlik Sense that provide the users with a lot of information. Standard reports (and more can be built by Promena or their partners using services) include Project Reports (across sourcing events) and Event (RFX/e-Auctions) reports, SRM reports (on supplier statistics, participation and performance), and Contract Reports. There are also reports on POs (for the purchase order capability we’ll define soon), and the ability to drill down to REQs (data related to individual purchase requests, which we’ll discuss later). When we say Project or Event reports, we mean that each of these groups contain one or more sub-reports (pages) that a user can drill into. For events, this includes category analysis, participant analysis, auction analysis, RFQ analysis, and authorized person analysis. Similar breakdowns exist for other reporting areas.

This more-or-less completes coverage of their Source-to-Contract capability, with the exception of configuration settings (that will be discussed later), so now we will move onto e-Procurement.

The first capability we will overview is the product management capability of the Promena platform. Within the platform, the buying organization can define its own category hierarchy, and once this is defined, an organization can define the products and services it needs (and buys) across the category hierarchy. Products can have all necessary meta data information (name, id, units, dimensions, etc.) along with associated prices by supplier, which can be defined for individual time frames (so if a contract has price escalation or de-escalation, the price table can be adequately captured), and images. The latter is important because the platform also supports catalogs.

The catalog functionality makes it easy for organizational end-users to purchase standard, approved, on-contract, products and services they need to do their daily jobs (such as office supplies, MRO, and repair services). The catalog functionality is standard and straight forward. A user can select a sub-catalog by supplier or category or simply search the integrated catalog (maintained by the buying department, it is not a supplier maintained catalog) by description or product number/code. When the user finds what they want, they can define a quantity and add it to a cart. Once they’ve found everything they want, they can “checkout” which will automatically create a PO and send it to the associated supplier(s) by default. Alternatively, if they are requesting a large quantity, they can create a REQuistion and send it to the supplier(s) who offer the product in hopes of getting a better price quote. When the REQuisition is returned, if the user accepts, it can be converted to a Purchase Order.

Purchase orders complete Promena’s e-Procurement capability. Purchase orders basically consist of order information against a catalog item, REQ, sourcing event (RFX, e-Auction) award, or contract and allow an organization to track orders, and spend, in the platform. This is useful because, for every category, the organization can define a budget, the platform can track PO-based spend against that budget, and prevent a PO from being issued (using rule configurations) without approval if the budget would be exceeded.

The final capability of the platform is the (self-service) configuration for user and platform management. We’ll start with platform management. The buying organization administrator(s) can define general company information, approved users, locations (for shipments from POs), organizational structure, default organizational currencies (which can be associated with different levels of the organization), units of measures (metric system used), standard organizational payment terms (for awards and POs), inco terms, any additional terms to be included in POs (such as delivery, invoice requirements, etc.), account codes for products and services, their category hierarchy, their cost centers, event settings, supplier search/internal discovery settings, and approval flows (for award creation from RFXs and e-Auctions, supplier onboarding, contracts, actions, REQs, and Purchase Orders). User definition is simply the user, organizational profile, and their platform roles (and thus permissions). Finally, the company settings area displays the Promena platform license the organization has acquired and when it renews (or expires).

Finally, while this is not platform related, we should also point out that Promena offers on-demand professional services. While the buyer can use the platform as a self-service solution, they can engage the Promena Account team to take over and manage end-to end sourcing activities on their behalf at any time. Their account teams currently manage more than 5,000 sourcing activities a year.

While you may not find anything truly unique in the Promena platform if you compare it to high end suites (which come with high-end seven figure price tags), it’s a very solid platform for mid-market enterprises and one where the entirety of the source-to-pay workflow that is supported is tightly integrated, easy to use, and affordably priced (and supported, with 10 global partners for integration and support services). Given that there are only a few such platforms out there (due to all the M&A activity in the later part of the teens), Promena’s global expansion is definitely a welcome addition to the marketplace.

MarketDojo has stepped up it’s Mid-Market Game!

The last time we covered MarketDojo (which recently had a majority stake in the company acquired by Esker) was in 2016 where we noted that marketdojo opens the dojo to suppliers as well after introducing you to MarketDojo in 2014 back when it was a simple RFX/e-Auction platform with some category intelligence and SIM (in our posts on how you could walk your own way and plan your own path). Since then, they have improved the platform greatly. For details on some of these improvements, we recommend their 2016 Vendor Analysis on Spend Matters by Jason Busch (Part I, Part II, and Part III) and their 2020 Vendor Analysis on Spend Matters by Magnus Bergfors (Part I, Part II, and Part III) [Pro or ContentHub subscription required].

Today, we’re going to quickly overview the primary capabilities of the platform, and then focus in on the new and advanced capabilities added since our last review.

MarketDojo is primarily an e-Sourcing platform with foundational supplier management (information and relationship capabilities) and contract tracking (baseline governance). (They still have their categorydojo solution, where they identify current market opportunities that you may want to pursue, but that isn’t the focus of this piece, so we will refer you back to previous articles for details on that functionality.)

e-Sourcing primarily consists of (multi-round) RFX capability, lot-based e-Auctions, and quick quotes (for quick one-time buys/quotes where full sourcing events are not needed). e-RFX creation is quick and easy — define some basic meta-data under settings, add any necessary documents, create the specific questionnaires and additional supplier data collection forms, define the items (which can be lotted in RFX as well as Auctions), add the collaborators (that can be given full access or limited view access), and even invite new suppliers (which can be onboarded later if the responses to the survey forms look good).

The major improvements and/or differentiation since we covered them last is in the

event instantiation
they now support templates, with a library of out-of-the-box templates (for the categories they track in categorydojo and then some) for RFX and e-Auction as well as custom templates built by the organization
survey creation
(in beta) you can now use Bard to identify common questions / characteristics of a category or product/service and then edit the form accordingly [which is a decent use of NLP, gives you some good ideas you might miss but keeps you, the intelligent human, in full control]
lots now support transformational bids (where bids can be marked up by a percentage or a fixed amount to implement switching costs or penalties for reduced quality/utilization rations) as well as bids in DPD (Dynamic Parcel Distribution), FOB (Free on Board), and EXW (ExWorks).
bids can defined as a complex formula over an arbitrary number of bid components and they support a brand new formula builder
collaborators weren’t part of the initial solution, and they didn’t have tiered access
bid ranking
easily see the top bid for every item in every lot in a default lowest cost award scenario and easily dive in to see all the bids for every item of every lot in rank order
bid component ranking
see how every bid component ranks against all supplier bids for an item; this helps you identify the cost components that a #2 or #3 supplier (that you want to do business with) is not competitive on (such as freight, overhead, etc.), which might allow you to work with the supplier to get those cost components down to make their bid more competitive
dynamic RFX round creation
you can easily create a new round and control which suppliers and collaborators from the current round get invited to a new round

And, of course, the quick-quote functionality is brand new. These are super simple. All that a requester has to specify is what do they want, when do they want it by, what requirements must be satisfied, what are the payment terms, and which (approved) suppliers should it go out to and off the quote request can go. They can also attach spec documents, add special instructions, and request physical copies, but that’s not necessary. And if they want a certain currency or quotes in a certain unit of measure, that can also be specified. When the quotes come back, they’ll see an easy-to-understand quote summary and can choose one for award. Easy-peasy and, most importantly, the spend is captured and can be managed.

The supplier information management primarily covers the onboarding of new suppliers, to ensure that the appropriate information is captured, and then supports ongoing maintenance of the data. Onboarding is quite simple. A buyer defines the basic supplier information (name and corporate e-mail address), adds any mandatory and optional tags (such as DPST Tier, ESG, Minority, specialized category, etc.), selects the questionnaires they want the supplier to answer (of which a default set will be automatically selected upon tag definition), identifies the business users, either by role or by name, that will approve the forms as the supplier returns them, and then the corporate/contact email the onboarding request will be sent to (and the language the request should be sent in — it’s relevant to note that MarketDojo now supports 23 languages in its platform, but if you want the forms in 23 languages, someone will need to translate them, unless you are using MarketDojo out-of-the-box forms where those forms have already been translated).

The relationship management solution is straight-forward as well and is primarily designed to track supplier contacts and organizational users, associated sourcing events (that they participated in, not just awards), onboarding status (by requested survey/form) and associated surveys, contracts, identified innovation opportunities, and activities. Activities have a type (such as call, task, objective, audit, review), an assigned organizational user who is responsible for ensuring the supplier completes the activity, associated documents, organizational (and user) notes, and possibly even an (optional) associated hierarchy of sub-tasks.

Reporting has been updated and is currently supported in PowerBI through MarketDojo’s OpenAPI (and it is also supported by MarketDojos partner SpendKey) and the default built in reporting suite is pretty decent for a Sourcing platform with click-through dashboards on contracts, sourcing events, suppliers, overall spend, spend by category, spend by supplier, spend by country, spend distribution, PO (vs non-PO) Analysis, Compliance, and even Supply Chain Geographic Coverage. While not a full-fledged analytics platform by any stretch of the imagination, it’s enough to give buyers some insights as to where they may want to begin their analytics efforts if they are looking to increase savings, increase diversity, increase compliance, or decrease risk.

Contract management is baseline. It’s basically a searchable meta-data index of contracts, which can be associated with suppliers. However, for smaller mid-size organizations, that might be all they need.

MarketDojo is a great mid-market SIM-powered sourcing platform at an affordable mid-market price point.