Category Archives: Market Intelligence

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.

The Road to Riches? The Rails, My Friend, the Rails.

Every day, SI is becoming more convinced that if you want your Supply Chain to be a success, you need to ride the rails. It used to be if you were shipping goods long-haul over land, you’d ship them by train. There was no long-haul trucking and air was just too expensive. But then the war ended, Dwight D. Eisenhower championed the National system of Interstate and Defense Highways, the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 came into effect, long-haul trucking became an option, buses became more popular than trains for many trips, the railroads started to struggle financially, and ground eventually overtook rail for most cargo in the US.

And today, people in North America associate trains with the Wild, Wild West despite the fact that rail is, by far, the most cost-efficient way to move cargo over ground for distances in excess of 500 miles. It’s also typically the best choice for intermodal ocean freight as the major rail networks will not only have their terminals in the ports, but SLAs (Service Level Agreements) to make sure cargo is quickly transferred from ship to rail-car. For example, agreements between the Port of Halifax and CN Rail gives you a double-stack rail-service direct link to Chicago in 71 hours, which is typically a 3-day drive when you factor in daily driver limits and border crossing.

Why is SI becoming more convinced that Rail is the Future? Three reasons:

  1. Fuel Efficiency
    Efficient trains can move a ton of freight nearly 450 miles on a single gallon of fuel. Find a truck that can do that!
  2. Predictability
    The railroads control the rails – and can schedule them to maximize capacity and prevent traffic jams that can delay trucks for hours or more. Plus, well maintained lines and trains that keep to schedules suffer significantly less accidents than traffic on the road.
  3. Adoption by the East
    While the young and immature west might have dumbly abandoned trains just like it abandoned trams (and replaced them with gas guzzling polluting busses), the East is investing Billions in new (high-speed) rail lines everywhere. Consider the amount being invested in the Kunming-Singapore Railway with Laos alone committing to invest 6.2 Billion on the 260-mile segment between Kunming and Vientiane straight through the mountainous region of Northern Laos. Think about that. The GDP of Laos is only 9.3 Billion! That’s a huge commitment for a country the size of Laos, even if the commitment connects China to Thailand and will capture a sizeable portion of the 4 Trillion worth of imports and exports that flow into and out of China. This 6.2 Billion dollar railway will require 196 km of blasting and will create 76 tunnels. To put this into perspective, combined they would form a tunnel long enough to connect Korea to Japan under the sea.

It’s time to ride those rails! All around the world!

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?

Category Management: Getting it Right is Key to Surviving the Trade Wars Part III

The Trade Wars are here! Tariffs! Counter-Tariffs! Counter-Counter-Tariffs! Counter-Counter-Counter-Tariffs! Even online traders can’t trade that fast. It’s dizzying.

And if you’re planning didn’t start weeks ago, you have a lot of catching up to do. Because if you don’t, your business may not survive. Literally.

So far, we told you it was critical to:

    1. 1. Understanding your Current Costs in Detail
    1. 2. Understand your Tier 2 Supply Chain in Detail
    1. 3. Start By Identifying Alternative Supply Choices
    1. 4. Then Build Alternative Cost Models Around those Alternative Supply Choices

5. Re-Evaluate on Every Tariff Change

But this is not always enough. What if the majority of the rare earth metal comes from China and the cost is insurmountable for your business? You also need to:


6. Start looking at alternative designs that eliminate dependence on a single country.

You can’t be dependent on China, the EU, or any other locale that Trump is targeting. Costs could go through the roof.

Also, you can’t be dependent on certain transportation methods. If diesel costs go through the roof, long haul shipping is going to get considerably more expensive. It may actually be cheaper to do short-haul trucking from Mexico or Brazil if you’re selling in the US because you know that the US may subsidize your industry in other ways (with lower taxes or rebates for buying / shipping at home). Thus, you also need to


7. Start looking aggressively at near-shoring.

SI has been telling you for years that sometimes the best cost county sourcing is home country sourcing, and when that’s not viable, near-shore sourcing is becoming a better option again. Find alternative suppliers closer to home, just in case!

And, you better make sure their supply chains are secure.


8. Weed out near-shore suppliers that are actually getting most of their materials or doing most of their production remotely.

Remember, the entire point of trying to bring production closer to home to ensure affordable supply is to actually bring production back, not just source from a supplier that is just an intermediary that outsources on your behalf. That actually adds more time, risk, and cost to the supply chain.

Is this everything you can do? No, but it’s progress.