Category Archives: Market Intelligence

All Aboard the M&A Train!

It seems that the M&A train, once sporadic, is now running on a regular schedule (thanks largely to Coupa and it’s 1B valuation that allowed it to raise enough cash to scoop up providers left, right and center). Is this good or bad? The answer is it all depends who you are.

Generally, when a company buys another, it does so with an objective in mind that, should the acquisition help it to complete the objective, helps the buyer and usually the set of customers that the buying company wants to satisfy. This might also include a sub-set of the acquired’s customers, which would then be helped in the process, but may also exclude a set of the acquired’s customers, which would not be help. Then there’s the acquired. Depending on the strength of the company, the goals of the management / owners on acquisition, and the alignment with the buying organization, it might be a good thing, or it might be a bad (or very bad) thing.

What do we mean? Let’s take each affected group at a high level and indicate what could be good or bad.

Buying Company

Potential Positive: New Technology

New technology offers the buying company a host of potential benefits including, but not limited to, new technology to sell its current customer base, new technology to bolt onto in a potentially new customer base, and process insights it did not have before.

Potential Negative: Dis-satisfied Customer Base

Expanding the customer base is not always a positive if the customers being acquired are not happy customers from the get-go. Even if the customers are happy, they might be unsettled by an acquisition …

Buying Company’s Customers

Potential Positive: New Technology

Not only does the buying company have new technology to sell, the existing customer base has new technology, that they might desperately need, to buy, and, moreover, they might also be able to buy at a discount because they are already spending with the vendor.

Potential Negative: Less Support

If the company acquired an unhappy customer base, all of the resources might be tasked with making the acquired customers happy because the company was acquired for those customers. This means that support for current customers would drop. And that’s not good.

Bought Company’s Customers

Potential Positive: Vendor has a bigger piggy bank

If the acquiring company has more resources, those could be spent improving the situation for the bought company’s customers. Better support, tech upgrades, more integrations, etc.

Potential Negative: Acquiring company is Mega-co

… and acquired company is mini-co, acquired only because it’s technology posed a future threat and mega-co decided the best risk mitigation was to buy mini-co when it was small and cheap with just a few customers as the acquisition cost dwarfed the potential losses to market share if mini-co succeeded in their efforts. In this case, Mega-co wouldn’t care at all about the customer base and could just ignore them completely.

Bought Company

Potential Positive: Bigger Piggy Bank

… which could be used to further the mission … but

Potential Negative: Lack of Support

… if the mission of the bought company does not match the mission of the buying company.

So what does this mean for Coupa, Trade Extensions, and their customers? the doctor knows you want to know, but the doctor will not provide his thoughts until the acquisition is complete.

S2P Nirvana is a LONG Way Off!

And no amount of M&A is going to change that.

Why?

  • 1. There are still lots of problems software does not address
  • 2. No provider can address everything, even with a narrow functional focus
  • 3. Benefits only come from integration, not acquisition

1. There are still lots of problems that software does not address.

Software is simply automation of process by way of (mathematical or logical) algorithms. It is not intelligent (despite claims of AI supporters to the contrary), cannot sense the problems you need to solve, and cannot tell you what you are not doing outside of the process it was coded to support.

For example, in spend analysis, it cannot tell you what spend to look at, how to slice and dice it for unidentified opportunities, and where the functionality is lacking. It can identify trends, indicate what processes worked in the past to take advantage of those trends, but cannot identify any new, unknown, variables that could prevent those processes from working again.

2. No provider can address everything, even with a narrow functional focus.

There are at least half a dozen pure-play best of breed providers in pure spend analysis, and these follow half a dozen pure-play best of breed providers in pure spend analysis that were recently acquired, and all have unique capabilities. Thus, when there is still no provider that does it all, and still so much innovation to do in each narrow functional domain, it’s obvious that S2P Nirvana is still a long, long way off.

3. Benefits only come from integration, not acquisition.

Without integration, there are no more benefits than each solution had on its own. Just because the two solutions are now owned by the same provider does not mean there is any benefit besides potential volume-based cost leverage (if the provider can be persuaded) or more staff for additional services support. Benefits come from simplified and expedited processes, which generally only come from smooth integration, and, sometimes, even absorption of a smaller product into a bigger one.

In other words, S2P Nirvana is a long way off and M&A isn’t going to change that, so while the M&A train is going full steam ahead, it doesn’t mean it’s going to get you to your destination any faster.

Dave Caroll was Lucky! United Only Broke His Guitar!

Reading this incident (reported on cbc.ca) about how United is now forcibly removing paying passengers from planes after assigning them a seat and allowing them to board, and knowing how little room there is to maneuver in those aisles, it seems that boarding a plane now comes with the risk of getting broken bones! (While it, fortunately, did not happen this time, getting an arm or leg caught on an armrest or having one’s head banged into the overhead bins could easily result in a dislocation, fracture, or even a break!)

I guess the lesson here is clear! Do NOT fly United! (And when sourcing travel, leave them OFF of the potential preferred carrier list during negotiations.)

For those who have forgotten, you can go view the entire trilogy of videos Dave made about his horrendous experience on YouTube through the links in this 2010 post:

United Breaks Guitars (The Trilogy): 10 Million Views, All Thanks To You!

(FYI: The trilogy is now closing on 20 Million Views.)

Coupa Enters into a Share Purchase Agreement for Majority Ownership of Trade Extensions

SI typically does not do analyze of acquisitions and, unlike it’s brethren, does not do public analysis of transactions until the deal is done because it ain’t over until the fat lady sings, or in silicon valley, it ain’t over until the money hits the bank. And even though the chances of this deal not completing are, in the doctor‘s view, extremely small, he’s still going to withhold his analysis until the deal is done.

That being said, there are huge implications for both parties once the deal completes, and just like you should be doing risk mitigation when a potential disruption event is identified in your supply chain, you should be doing a cost/benefit advantage/disadvantage analysis as soon as a large acquisition that impacts your primary platform is announced. Every acquisition brings with it opportunities, but if an organization is highly resistant to change or locked into an existing platform or, even worse, a current (but now no longer) partner solution, there could be disadvantages as well. So do your homework and be prepared to take advantage of any opportunity that arises.

And if you want analysis, Spend Matters US and Spend Matters UK have chimed in already. You can start there. SI is providing these links as information only. While the doctor did provide his insight into the Trade Extensions’ technology platform strengths and capabilities for an upcoming piece on Spend Matters, he is not releasing his views on the merger (announcement) until its done and none of the speculations as to the implications of the merger in that piece are his. (However, the technology assessments of Trade Extensions are likely all his, and as these are not impacted by a business transaction, he will comment on these freely if asked. Great thing about software is it’s code, and code is algorithms, and algorithms is math, and it does what it does.)

Coupa Enters an Agreement to Buy Trade Extensions: A Game Changing Move For Strategic Sourcing by the prophet, Spend Matters US

Coupa Acquires Trade Extensions, Leading Sourcing Optimisation Software Provider by the public defender, Spend Matters UK

The SEC filing is online for those interested.

PRGX – The Biggest Analytics Provider You Don’t Know!


For those that do not know it, PRGX would appear to be one of a select number of dominant services provider in the niche market for recovery audit services — a market that unlike other procurement services faces tremendous price pressure for its core recovery, statement and related auditing and profit recovery services.

the doctor and the prophet, PRGX Intro on Spend Matters Pro (membership required)

In particular, PRGX would appear to be a recovery audit specialist for the global retail sector. And that is what they are, but that is not all they are.


PRGX has started to remake itself quietly from within — out of necessity, given these broader market trends — building and acquiring technology capabilities in the spend analytics and supplier management areas, both to expand its relevance and to start driving automation and scale in its core business.

PRGX has built the most complete, and in many ways the most advanced, analytics and recovery solution for the retail sector and, in doing so, has built one of the most complete and advanced analytics and recovery solutions for just about any sector that buys and relies on goods. Pharma, Manufacturing, and Aerospace and Defense, just to name a few, could all benefit intensely from the out-of-the-box PRGX solution.

This is because it has evolved it’s application from a simple recovery analytics application to a full featured analytics solutions with modules for:

  • Payment Analytics
  • Spend Analytics
  • Product Analytics
  • Recovery Avoidance Analytics
  • Supplier Information Management

With the latter two coming through its recent acquisition of Lavante.

It can analyze what you paid (payment analytics), what you should have paid (recovery analytics), what you are spending (spend analytics), how much that is costing you and profiting you on a product level (product analytics), and what suppliers are supplying that product and how they are performing (SIM with a hefty dose of SPM).

And it can do this analysis end to end around a product or category, and allow you to simultaneously see what you ordered, spent, overspent, took in on sales, lost on returns, and profited when all was said and done. It’s one of the most powerful analytics solutions you don’t know about. Stay tuned — there is more to come!