Category Archives: Best Practices

SolutionMaps – A Badge of Honour for All!

Spend Matters recently saluted the value leaders — SolutionMaps Best Performers — in the recent release of Q3 Solution Map. But as the Consulting Lead Analyst for the majority of SPT, the doctor wants to make one thing clear. SolutionMaps are a badge of honour for all those that participate.

Solution Maps are not your typical tragic quadrant or grave reports, chronicling arbitrary notions of “market leadership”, “vision”, or “revenue giants” of days gone past, with fuzzy definitions of fuzzier metrics highly dependent upon analyst interpretation of both vendor capabilities and customer feedback, and fuzzier definitions of inclusion criteria that can change from report to report.

They are highly objective technical analysis of very specific technical requirements with pre-defined scoring scales that allows analysts to objectively rank all vendors on the same scale crossed with raw, unfiltered, unbiased, customer feedback where raw scores are averaged by vendor — and then all these cross-products are mapped against each other using the center point on each of the two dimensions as the average.

And when you consider that the technical scores can be composed of anywhere from 100 to close to 1000 data points (depending upon whether a vendor is doing a single map or the entire set of S2P maps), you can see this is a monumental effort. The capabilities associated with every question must be clearly documented (and this can take a paragraph or two per question), exhaustively demoed, and the details maintained over time … because the analysts verify each and every claim of significance. Each and every claim. (In fact, some vendors claim responding to one of our RFIs can be more intensive than responding to an RFI from a fortune 500.)

And considering that three of the RFIs were written by the doctor, and a fourth co-written by the doctor and the maverick, you can rest assured that these questions are not broad high-level capability requests but detailed technical requests that must be answered with precision.

So, yes, all vendors who appear in a SolutionMap quadrant — be they solution leaders, customer leaders, or value leaders — have earned a badge of honor, and you should feel free to hail them all.

e-Procurement Benefits – What’s the ROI? Part II

In our last post we reminded you that there are valuable benefits to e-Procurement systems, as evidenced by the fact that many organizations are claiming to have saved millions of dollars thanks to their modern e-Procurement systems. This is great, but one shouldn’t just look at the savings, because if you spend enough on anything, you will likely show some savings for it. The real measure is the ROI.

And when you break it down as to where the ROI comes from, you see that it’s possible to get almost the same benefit from pretty basic systems that enable the proper processes and provide the right insight, often at a fraction of the price tag that comes with the big P2P/S2P systems. This means that the organization is not getting the ROI it could be — and isn’t the smartest business move to always chase the biggest ROI? (Since that leaves more money on the table for other high-performing initiatives?)

Yes, it is. So does this mean you go with the cheaper systems? That depends. On what? On what else the integrated system brings, your ability to use it, and your ability to define more sophisticated — and more appropriate — ROI models. If the benefits you expect to take advantage of in the beginning are few, and there are lower-end systems that give you 80% or more of those benefits for a fraction of the price, maybe you should acquire a low-cost SaaS subscription to a lower-end system for a few years. Reap the reward, improve your Procurement proficiency, and when you are ready to take advantage of more benefits, then you can upgrade to a bigger better system.

For example, a bigger, better, more integrated system can also bring the following benefits:

  • negotiation management and contract creation support — integrated redlining, audit trails, e-Signing
  • centralized supplier data and scorecards — make better informed, more risk averse decisions and identify opportunities for non-risky supply base consolidation and volume leverage
  • wider adoption throughout the enterprise — this is important especially when department managers are authorized to do their own purchasing up to 10K or 25K …
  • … and a slew of others …

But only if the organization is ready for them. In other words, in order to determine if an e-Procurement system is the best buy, the organization needs to evaluate the solution against an ROI model that accurately models the benefits its able to capture, not the benefits that are theoretically there.

In other words, just like there is still no one-size-fits-all P2P/S2P solution (and that’s why the doctor works with Spend Matters to make sure Solution Maps accurately capture and convey the differences), there’s no one size fits all ROI model either. Just because a competitor saved 9M on a 1.5M investment and saw a 6X return, that doesn’t mean you will. You have to take your time, do the proper evaluation, and run the proper analyses. That’s the only way to truly benefit from e-Procurement.

e-Procurement Benefits – What’s the ROI? Part I …

In our last post we provided an overview of the big benefits of e-Procurement systems, namely:

  • on-contract spend
  • market costs
  • one-off spend approvals

These are valuable benefits, and the reasons that many organizations claim big, multi-million dollar savings from their e-Procurement system. But are these the system? Or the process? And, the most important question, what’s the ROI? Remember, big P2P installations can run your organization a million dollars — or more — up front and millions more over the years.

At a high level, the ROI calculation is easy. The system costs 1M, but saves you 5M, so it’s a 5X ROI. Right? Well, if all 1M is the result of the system. But chances are, only a small fraction of that is the system.  But even if we attribute all 100% to the system, is it really the system.   Or is it just because you have a system.

Let’s start with on-contract spend. If before the system was installed the organization had a 65% on-contract spend rate and after the system was installed the organization has a 90% on-contract spend rate, then the system boosted on-contract spend by 25%. If this resulted in a 2M savings, 40% of the 5M savings is due to this boost. This also means that 40% of the cost can be attributed to the on-contract spend potential.

Let’s move to market costs. If the system reduces off-contract spend by 1M on average over what was 20M of market spot-buys, then the organization improves spot buy spend by 5%. And since this is 20% of the 5M savings, 20% of the cost can be attributed to this savings.

Finally, let’s end with one-off spend approvals. Let’s say the organization does a lot of big asset rentals and purchases and they are typically done whatever way the individual wants. But lets say the standardized approach supported by the system allows the organization to reduce costs by 20% on the 10 M+ they spend annually, then another 40% of the big savings is due to this ability and 40% of the cost is attributable to this capability.

In other words, the organization is paying 400K to increase on contract spend 25% and save 2M, 400K to save on one-off spend approvals and processes to save 2M, and 200K to take advantage of market cost data to save another 1M. At this point, you’re probably saying, so what? It’s still a 5X return any way that it’s broken down. And you’re right.

But what if an organization can acquire all the market cost data it needs from a subscription to a commodity price consolidation service that costs 50K a year? Is the 1M system worth it then? Especially since the amortized cost for what the organization is using is effectively 200K? Is it worth sacrificing a 20X return for a bit of convenience?

And if the organization just needs a better RFP process with embedded collaboration to reduce those one-off spend approvals by 1,600K, and that better process can be obtained from a simple e-Negotiation platform for a mere 50K a year, instead of 400K, the organization is sacrificing a 32X return for a bit of convenience. Is that worth it?

And if the on-contract spend can be increased by 20% with a simple best-of-breed catalog solution which can also be acquired for about 50K a year from a leading provider, then the organization could save another 1.6M for 50K, another 32X return.

In other words, the organization could acquire 3 basic systems for 30% of the cost and see 80% of the return for a 28X ROI. So why spend 1M on a complete S2P suite?

e-Procurement Benefits – Just What Are They?

A couple of posts ago we indicated that e-Procurement benefits were true, but left you with a caution that process was a key element. How much so? Well, let’s talk about what the big benefits are.

On-Contract Spend

If there’s a contract for a product or service, the system can steer the user towards the contracted product or service, and not even allow a purchase to go through unless it is for the contracted product or service. This can significantly cut down on off-contract maverick spend and this makes a noticeable bottom-line impact when the off-contract spend was significantly higher than the market price.

Market Costs

When a product or service is not on contract, a good e-Procurement platform with a catalog that has multiple entries for products and services at market prices ensures that an organization will only pay market cost for a good or service the majority of the time. While the savings will not be as significant as when there is a contract, if the organization was generally paying more than market, this will still add up.

One-off Spend Approvals

Without a system with insights into on-contract goods and services and market costs for off-contract commodity goods and services, the best insight you, and your approvers, will have is the handful of RFIs that were returned from the 3-bids-and-a-buy. If all of these were above market cost, who would know? No one, and that’s why an organization overspends here as well. But with a good e-Procurement system, approvers will have insight into market costs and will make smart decisions and not approve anything excessive.

These aren’t the only benefits, but these are the big ones that cause many organizations to claim big, multi-million dollar, savings from their e-Procurement system. But, as per our last e-mail, how many of these are the system? And how many of these are the process supported — or instilled — by the system? And does it matter?

Stay tuned!

Maybe It’s Time You Go Direct … Part II

In our last post we noted that most sourcing platforms were designed for indirect sourcing, commonly described as the sourcing of finished/consumer goods and services, because it was easy, quick, and allowed an average organization, even a manufacturing, pharmaceutical, or Oil & Gas company, to get big savings — at least initially. After a while, the savings dry up, and unless an organization acquires an advanced optimization-backed sourcing platform, they’ll disappear entirely. (And even with such a platform, the returns will shrink over time.)

The organization will hit a brick wall, unless it goes direct. Why?

Because going direct is the only way an organization can get true insights into the costs, and opportunities, associated with each product it sources. Because, when you get right down to it, there is no indirect sourcing from a product perspective — your indirect is someone else’s direct. And if it’s indirect for your provider, you’re just paying a handling fee to a third party to handle purchase from the source and transportation to a locale closer to you (because you don’t want to deal with import / export, remote suppliers, etc. etc. etc).

And, more importantly, as direct manufacturers know well, up to 80% of product costs are locked in during design finalization and/or product selection. So the only way to take costs out is to understand what costs are going in. But when you go direct, you create detailed should cost models. You tie them to material costs and component costs defined in a bill of materials and roll up the costs with overhead production costs and understand precisely what a product should costs and whether a bid is in line with expectations. This way you know when quotes are higher than they should be (possibly due to collusion), when they are inline with expectations, or when they are lower. If they are inline with expectations but higher than you need them to be, you can understand what the cost drivers are. Then you can ask suppliers to identify designs with alternate materials, or at least less of the high cost materials, and then select those suppliers who will work to bring costs down. If the costs are lower, you can interrogate the suppliers to find out why. Do they have a lower cost source of raw materials? Are labour or energy costs significantly lower than usual? Or is the specification the supplier is quoting toward not up to snuff? The latter is extremely important — it can prevent a purchase of a poor product that could cost the organization dearly.

The power of a direct platform for continual cost insight, and cost saving, is incomparable, especially when compared to an indirect platform. And there’s nothing a direct platform can’t source. It’s the harder sourcing project — indirect is just a bill of material with one entry. And a service project is just a roll-up of service line items.

So why don’t you have a direct platform? Sure, most platforms, including the one you’re using, don’t make the cut, but some of the newer up and coming platforms do, even the S2P platforms. For example, Synertrade has been able to do direct since day one. Ivalua acquired DirectWorks and is integrating direct into its native end-to-end code base. Jaggaer acquired Pool4Tool and has been working on a universal data model (& bridge) to link it to its indirect platform. And even Zycus can suck in a BoM (although it can’t do BoM management) for sourcing purposes.

So go direct. Finance will thank you.