Category Archives: Process Transformation

Visibility into Vizibl, The Collaboration Platform for True Supplier Innovation

It’s been a decade in the making, especially since it took years for Vizibl (founded in 2013) to find it’s focus, but what was once yet another SRM (Supplier Relationship Management) platform is now a truly leading Supplier Collaboration, Innovation, and Transformation platform.

Starting out with the vision of a better SRM, it took a while for Vizibl to find its niche and double down on it. In fact, it took years of working with clients with highly specific (customization/process) needs for them to realize that they were good at developing for and supporting specific, sometimes, complex processes and years more for them to sit back and identify the commonality, design standard project and service layers, and bring them to market. But they did, and they have, and we will discuss the first major project/service layer they are bringing to market later in this article.

The Vizibl platform has seven main components:

  • Supplier Information Management Foundation
  • Supplier Collaboration Workspace
  • Supplier Innovation Hub
  • Supplier Relationship Management Module
  • Dashboards, Analytics, and Reporting
  • Program Layer: (Foundation for) Specific Development/Improvement Programs that Cross-Cut the Entire Platform
    (built on a virtual platform integration layer)
  • Supplier Sustainability Management

1. The Supplier Information Management Foundation is what you would expect from a leading SRM platform — it can track all of the core data and meta data you would expect on a supplier and can be extended as needed to track all of the data you require across all areas of supplier information, products, risks, compliance requirements, performance requirements, contracts, projects, initiatives, and activities you wish to manage.

Supplier Onboarding is straight forward as it’s quick and simple to create a new company record to begin the process, with only minimal data needed. New suppliers can be onboarded as standalone, children of an existing company, or related entities. The platform can maintain complex supplier tree relationships and the tree can be visualized along with a roll up of relevant metrics, project counts, and appropriate relationship data.

2. The Supplier Collaboration workspace is where the buyer can communicate with the supplier, spin off action plans and initiatives, store ideas and plans, pull in and push out data as needed, and put thought into action.

3. The Supplier Innovation Hub is where the core of the magic happens. This is where challenges can be issued, goals set, and projects planned. It’s where projects are defined to increase supplier performance, improve product designs or manufacturing, increase sustainability, or decrease CO2/GHG emissions.

Projects have activities (or tasks), roadmaps that link them together, objectives (outcomes), value tracking metrics, integrated communications, and teams.

4. The Supplier Relationship Management Module is the glue that holds it all together. In addition to integrating all of the pieces, it also supports the creation of basic supplier action/account plans, the definition of strategic objectives, and integrated overview dashboards. It also allows for the definition of supplier teams (that it calls circles) that represent the different teams the organization will be working with, the management teams, and boards of relevance.

5. The Dashboards, Analytics, and Reporting capability is used to summarize and display the various types of data, metrics, and indicators tracked by the platform. These dashboards cannot only roll up metrics across the platform, but can also roll up metrics in, and across, projects by stages, as well as break them down by regions or supplier trees.

6. The Supplier Sustainability Management module is one of their latest modules focussed on tracking and managing an organization’s sustainability initiatives. It can track all of the emissions for each supplier, those that are reporting, the associated spend, and any other GHG data of relevance to the organization. It can also track all of the data associated with ESG surveys requested by the organization, which can be custom created and as broad or deep as required.

7A. The Program Layer is the toolkit that they use to build custom cross-platform program management capability that allows an organization to tackle new, and possibly exciting, initiatives that can transform their operations, product, and / or supply chains. Programs consist of suppliers, goals and targets, indicator metrics, associated data and reporting, summary dashboards, and scores.

7B: Decarbonization as a service is the first offering from Vizibl built on the program layer that integrates all of the platform capabilities to track scope 3 carbon across the supply chain by extending the sustainability management module to focus on the import and calculation of carbon emissions by supplier over time as well as best practices and learnings that can be shared with a supplier to help them reduce their emissions through leaner production, cleaner energy sources, new production processes, etc.

When it comes to the administration of the Vizibl platform, an administrator can configure, more-or-less, everything. First of all, they can configure the organizational tree as needed to match their organizational structure and include subsidiaries and use a variable number of levels for each organizational branch. So, the organization can have the global holding company; American, European and Asian holding company subsidiaries; individual (holding) companies for each country it operates in; and, if necessary, breakdown into individual locations or divisions if needed for management purposes. You can have five levels in Asia, four levels in Europe, and three levels in the Americas if that’s what’s necessary to exactly match the organizational structure. And of course, each company node in the organizational tree can have its unique settings, inheriting from the node above anything that does not need to be changed.

Similarly, because a company is a company in the system, full supplier organizational structures can also be modelled according to their company structure and modelled down to the individual (factory) location. This is particularly important since a diversity initiative may be global but improvement efforts might be restricted to one factory producing one particularly unique component for one product line.

Then, the organization can configure, for that company:

Account Plans
for each supplier, the company can define the strategic objectives, guiding principles, and target behaviours; these can be defined from scratch or added from a common library
Data Imports
to define regular / repeating file-based imports
Initiatives & Opportunities
the overarching initiatives and/or opportunities being sought, the plans and project stages, questionnaires, suppliers, etc.; the form builder is section based, supports all standard HTML objects, and all of the (numeric) data collected can be subjected to metrics and rules (to map to binary/integer) which can be defined on multiple choices
allows a user to define the performance metrics / KPIs, organized into categories, that are to be tracked, define what levels they are tracked at / rolled up to, and even customize the metric calculation in individual nodes
define the user permissions (by role)
centralizes the organizational projects
define the supplier relationships by mapping the supplier to the specific nodes in the organizational structure where the relationship exists as well as the segment (division/category) they are servicing
define and customize the reports
define the project states for initiatives and opportunities, rejections, suppliers, etc. as needed to match the organizational process; can start with defaults
encapsulates all of the surveys that can be reused across initiatives and opportunities
custom tags for tagging initiatives, opportunities, suppliers, etc. for quick search & filter
User Management
define the organizational users
Value Trackers
defines, and centralizes, the metrics that will be used in the innovations, opportunities, and performance tracking

In summary, the administration is very powerful … in fact, it’s one of the few solutions where the organizational structure for all companies (buying and supplying organizations) is extensively customizable, where initiatives can be tailored to the subset of relevant relationships and locations, where the inheritance for an initiative can be customized, and where you fully customize and localize all supplier interactions to just the organizations and teams that you need.

This is the first aspect of Vizibl that truly makes it stand out. The degree of customization of initiatives only to the relationships of relevance, teams of relevance, with metrics of relevance is far beyond what most of the traditional “Relationship” solutions actually offer.

The second aspect of Vizibl that makes it stand out is the new program layer they’ve built to support the creation of programs that tie together all of the relevant SXM capabilities needed to completely manage an organizational initiative across the supply base. In many platforms, the organization needs to manage the surveys, performance metrics, reports, projects, collaborations separately across the different modules of the platform that were built up over time.

The third aspect of Vizibl that makes it stand out is the new Decarbonation-as-a-Service offering built on this program layer that integrates all of the platform capabilities to track carbon down to scope 3 across the supply chain, provide insight into best practices and learnings to reduce emissions, allow for the creation of projects and initiatives to tackle the opportunities, track improvement over time, and essentially turn measurement into action into improvement. Carbon calculators are a dime-a-dozen from everyone and their dog, and can be built in 15 minutes in any good modern (spend) analytics platform, but few platforms do real monitoring, few platforms allow for the creation of supplier development projects, and fewer still provide real insight into what can be done to get results.

In other words, if you really care about the “R” in Supplier Relationship Management, and truly want to manage that relationship for true supplier development and improvement, you should definitely make sure Vizibl is on your short-list.

A CPO Leading a Spend Management Strategy is a Key to Organizational Success

Not that long ago, the doctor gave you THE SIGN that you need a CPO which, directly put, was that your organizational spend was over 10 Million a year. No ifs, ands, or buts about it! Not long after, he found this article over on which pointed out that empowering business success was The Art of Mastering Spend Management. This article stated that companies should consider implementing a spend management strategy, regardless of their size and it made him happy (even though the article looks like it was written by a junior copy-editor* who just cut and paste standard spend management summary sentences from generic spend management publications as it was not very deep or specific) because CXOs need to hear this at a high level over and over and over again until they get it. (Note that the doctor doesn’t get happy often. Most articles just make him angry. Sometimes very angry, especially when the conscientious invoke their right to dare to be stupid and embrace artificial idiocy, but that’s a rant for another day.)

The article starts off by clearly stating that a spend management strategy plays a vital role in today’s economic reality as it enables companies to control costs, boost financial efficiency, and make informed decisions. It ensures resource optimization, agility, and long-term stability, enhancing competitiveness and adaptability in a rapidly changing business landscape.

This is most certainly true. And all one has to do to see that it is true, and it would have been so much better if the article said this, is remember the first formula they teach you in business school:
Profit = Revenue – Expense

Since Spend Management allows you to minimize expenses, this helps you maximize profit. And when you consider that
Margin = Sale Price – COGS      and that
Margin % = (Sale Price – COGS) / Sale Price      and that
Margin % for most industries <= 10%

This says that every $1 saved in expense generates at least as much profit as every $10 increase in sales. As a result, spend management is at least ten times as effective as sales or marketing and key to get a grip on early, even before you can afford the full time CPO. The CFO and COO should develop best practices for any decisions that result in spending, monitor the decisions, ensure corrections are made (and employees [re-]trained) when mistakes are made, and baselines generated for all recurring costs. Even though they might not realize the same level of success as an experienced and dedicated CPO, the baselines they generate and the knowledge they capture will be key when the CPO starts as the knowledge will allow them to dive in quickly and find near-term and mid-term opportunities for improvement (and cost reduction) and the benchmarks will allow them to not only prove it, but ensure that all bids received are competitive.

The only thing we want to note is that the important aspects of spend management, especially for smaller organizations, are:

  • strategy,
  • process (that implements the strategy), and
  • governance (that ensures the process is followed and the strategy implemented)

Technology is not critical (or even necessary), and only technology that supports the process (and collects the appropriate data) should be implemented.

This is important to note because this article is sponsored by a particular vendor in an effort to promote a particular product (which is only good for T&E spend, not all organizational spend) and you don’t necessarily need that technology (or any other instance of that technology) to have a spend management strategy and do proper spend management, especially if you are a smaller organization. (However, larger organizations do need good T&E spend management, and spend analysis, because flowers should not be $5,000 unless it’s a greenhouse.)

* but what should one expect considering it was sponsored by SAP to promote SAP Concur (and routed through their PR Agency)?

The Procurement People-Process-Technology Pain Cycle …

Recently on LinkedIn, someone asked the trick question of which came first: process or technology. The answer, of course, was people since, when Procurement, the world’s second oldest profession, started, it was just a buyer haggling with the seller for their wares. and this is how it was for a long (long) time (and in some societies was as far as “procurement” progressed), until shortly after a culture advanced to the point where people could form private businesses that were entities unto themselves. Once these entities started to grow, and multiple people were needed to do the same job, they realized they needed rules of operation to function, and these became the foundations for processes.

But when business buying began, there was typically no technology beyond the chair the employee sat in, the table they used to support the paper they wrote their processes and records on (and the drawers they stored the paper in), the quill and ink they used to write with, and the container that held the ink. And in many civilizations, it was like this for hundreds of (and sometimes over a thousand) years. The first real technological revolution that affected the back office was the telephone (invented in 1876, the first exchange came online in 1878, and it took almost 30 years for the number of telephones to top 1,000,000 (600K after 24 years, 2.2 million after 29 years). [And it took 59 years before the first transatlantic call took place.] The next invention to have a real impact on the back office was the modern fax machine and the ability to send accurate document copies over the telephone. Even though the history of the fax machine dates back to a 1843 patent, the modern fax machine, that used LDX [Long Distance Xerography], was invented in 1964, with the first commercial product that could transmit a letter sized document appearing on the market in 1966. Usage and availability was limited at first (as the receiver need to have a fax machine compatible with the sender), but with the 1980 ITU G3 Facsimile standard, fax quickly became as common as the telephone. But neither of these inventions are what we consider modern technology.

When we talk about “technology” in modern procurement, or modern business in general, we are usually talking about software or software-enabled technology. This, for some businesses, only became common place about 30 years ago (since most businesses could only afford PCs, and even though they were invented in the 1970s, it was the 80s before they were generally available commercially, and the 90s before most smaller businesses could afford them [for the average employee]), and only commonplace in the largest of businesses 50 years ago. Once has to also remember that the first general purpose automatic digital computer built by IBM (in conjunction with Harvard) only appeared in 1944, and that IBMs first fully electronic data processing system didn’t appear until 1952, and, as a result, back office technology really only began in the fifties, and was only affordable by the largest of corporations. (Furthermore, even though he first MRPs were developed in the 1950s, the first general commercial MRP release wasn’t until 1964, and it took over a decade until the number of installations topped 1,000. [And MRP came before ERP.]) In other words, technology, beyond the telephone [and fax] did not really exist in the business back office until the MRP. And it wasn’t common until the introduction, and adoption, of the spreadsheet. The first spreadsheet was VisiCalc, on the Apple II, on 1979. This was followed by SuperCalc and Microsoft’s Multiplan on the CP/M platform in 1982 and then by Lotus 1-2-3 in 1983, which really brought spreadsheets to the masses (and then Excel was introduced in 1985 for the Mac and 1987 for Windows 2X). (And 36 years later Excel is still every buyer’s favourite application. Think about this the next time you proclaim the rapid advance in modern technology for the back office.)

In other words, we know the order in which people, process, and technology came into play in Procurement, and the order in which we need to address, and solve, any problems to be effective. However, what we may not fully realize, and definitely don’t want to admit, is the degree to which this cycle causes us pain as it loops back in on itself like the Ouroboros that we referenced in our recent piece on how reporting is not analysis — and neither are spreadsheets, databases, OLAP solutions, or “Business Intelligence” solutions as every piece of technology we introduce to implement a process that is supposed to help us as people introduces a new set of problems for us to solve.

Let’s take the viscous cycle created by incomplete, or inappropriate, applications for analysis, which we summarized as follows:

Tool Issue Resolution Loss of Function
Spreadsheet Data limit; lack of controls/auditability Database No dependency maintenance; no hope of building responsive models
Database performance on transactional data (even with expert optimization) OLAP Database Data changes are offline only & tedious, what-if analysis is non-viable
OLAP Database Interfaces, like SQL, are inadequate BI Application Schema freezes to support existing dashboards; database read only
BI Application Read only data and limited interface functionality Spreadsheets Loss of friendly user interfaces and data controls/auditability

This necessitated a repeat of the PPT cycle to solve the pain introduced by the tool:

Technology Pain People Process
Spreadsheet Data Limitations Figure out how to break the problem down, do multiple analysis, and summarize them Define the process to do this within the limitations of existing technology
Database Performance Issues Define a lesser analysis that will be “sufficient” and then figure out a sequence of steps that can be performed efficiently in the technology Codify each of those steps that the database was supposed to do
OLAP Stale Data Define a minimal set of updates that will satisfy the current analysis Create a process to do those updates and then re-run the exact same analysis that led to the identification of stale data
BI Tool inability to change underlying rollups / packaged views define a minimal set of additional rollups / views to address the current insight needs, as mandated by the C-suite create a process to take the system offline, encode them, put the system back online, and then do the necessary analysis

In other words, while every piece of technology you implement should solve a set of problems you currently have, it will fail to address others, introduce more, and sometimes bring to light problems you never knew you had. Although technology was supposed to end the pain cycle, the reality is that all it has ever done is set it anew.

So does that mean we should abandon technology? Not in the least. We wouldn’t survive in the modern business world anymore without it. What it means is that a technology offering is only a solution if it

  1. solves one or more of the most significant problems we are having now
  2. without introducing problems that are as significant as the problems we are solving

In other words, technology should be approached like optimization (which, in our world is typically strategic sourcing decision optimization or network optimization). Just like each potential solution returned by a proper mathematical optimization engine should provide a result better than the previous, each successive technology implementation or upgrade should improve the overall business scenario by both solving the worst problems and minimizing the overall severity of the problems not yet addressed by technology.

This is why it’s really important to understand what your most significant business problems are, and what processes would best solve them, before looking for a technology solution as that will help you narrow in on the right type of solution and then the right capabilities to look for when trying to select the best particular implementation of that type of technology for you.

Now that Per Angusta is going away …

… we’re finally getting a new Procurement Management Platform! And that’s a great thing!

Hopefully that last line caught your attention enough to read on (since Per Angusta isn’t actually going away, just its name) because the reason it’s a great thing is that Per Angusta, which finally completed it’s integration with SpendHQ, is soon to be one with SpendHQ. This will provide the procurement space with one of the first, true, Procurement Management Platforms, which, as per yesterday’s post, is something the space is desperately needing. (We doubt it will be the last such platform this year, but it’s certainly the first.)


1) It will be spend data driven, not just pull and push spend data around.

2) It will support all of the necessary intake requests and output reporting.

3) It is built to support procurement-centric workflows or projects.

4) It is built to integrate with any application an organization needs to support a certain process, sub-process, or data-centric capability through easy multi-endpoint integration with push-pulls at either end.

… which solves the four big problems created by Source-to-Pay suites as pointed out in yesterday’s post that asked where the Procurement Management Platform was.

And how they did it is very slick. Not only did they follow the levels of integration appropriately (where they started by re-creating the Per Angusta UX using SpendHQ look-and-feel, while they were working on data model integration on the back-end [which is a difficult task that many companies don’t actually achieve]) to get to the point where they are now working on full integration, but they built the solution to support third-party solution integration at key process points, not just separate integration tabs / menus, and this allows all of the embedded applications to be extensions of each other, not a pool of disconnected apps you have to glue together with Excel.

In other words, every solution that is integrated is inserted at key points of the process flow where it makes sense to do so … for example:

* sourcing partners are brought up when an opportunity is being created and sourcing is selected as the mechanism
* data partners are displayed in a supplier overview / risk report so that an analyst can punch in to the source system for deeper analysis, metric breakdowns
* partner spend solutions are integrated at key parts of category drill downs if an analyst wants to push out a subset of data for what-if or experimental (AI) analyses without messing up the categorization or mappings of the source system
* key data from CLM systems can be pulled into the core to drive the application, and when contracting opportunities arise, data can easily be pushed out and pulled in at key points


And on top of all of this, there’s a solid, modern, competitive spend analysis platform built into the solution that is both a leader in data usability and in multi-data source integration, which is a key requirement for spend analysis, and Procurement success, as a whole, because, unless you can get a complete picture across all of your spend (related) data, you can’t truly make informed decisions and determine which opportunities are worth pursuing and likely to deliver the best organizational results over all.

The only thing that’s missing is the message.

* SpendHQ is all about “Spend Intelligence: Clear & Simple” (which is not a unique message or capability)
* Per Angusta is all about “Powering Up Procurement” and “Procurement Performance Management” (which is not a unique message or capability either)
… but neither comes close to capturing what the integration truly is, or can do, or how they’re one of the handful of players that will be creating the new foundations for Procurement offerings going forward (as Suite 4.0 is not just a suite, it’s a platform).

I hope they get it right, as we don’t want SpendHQ to go away too …

Where’s the Procurement Management Platform?

Where’s the Procurement Management Platform?

When we started out in the very, very, very late nineties, it was all about Procurement and/or Strategic Sourcing, which, in the beginning was all about RFPs and on-line auctions. The focus was on taking many organizations from fax and spreadsheets to integrated bids and on-line analysis and reporting (even if utterly simplistic).

Then, in the early naughts, we had the introduction of spend analysis, CLM, S(R)M, and invoice management and by mid-decade vendors were building mini-suites for upstream (Source-to-Contract) and downstream (Procure-to-Pay, which included Catalog Management, etc.) Sourcing and Procurement. By the time the teens came upon us, the big suite vendors were taken steps to merge upstream and downstream and you had the mega S2P suites start appearing in the early to mid-teams, some through over a decade of development and others through acquisition (mania). They third generation of these products/suites were heralded as the one platform solution (which ERP vendors like SAP and Oracle were hailing themselves as back in the eighties), but …

1) Even though the mega-trend in the 2010s of the Source-to-Pay mega-suite was supposed to be the end of decades of advancement in S2P, we soon found out that even a suite that had the six-core applications of Sourcing, SRM, CLM, Spend Analytics, Procurement, and Invoice to Pay didn’t meet all of an organization’s needs as they needed supplier networks to engage with suppliers, data providers for discovery and diversity, CSR & GHG data providers for risk, custom sourcing tools for complex/niche categories, etc. etc. etc.

2) Most of these platforms had little to no project management, process management, or opportunity management

3) Most assumed that serving procurement meant serving buyers and that was it … but you have to serve reports and oversight up to management and pull purchasing needs in from across the organization. I.e. no (out-of-the-box) management / Finance reporting and projections or intake management (facilitating the need for further Excel usage, and not less)

4) Even those with great spend analysis didn’t always revolve around the spend, and when you think about how business measures its metrics, spend should be the foundation.

And, in summary, they didn’t, and still don’t, deliver an organization everything it needs to be successful (which is why the BoB vs Suite debate rages on today), because Procurement is not an island (even though it was once staffed like the Island of Misfit Toys), and instead is the front-end interface to the supply chain, which, for some companies can include 10,000 companies when you trace all of the product requirements down 3, 4, 5+ levels to the raw material source. (But that’s another topic for another day.)

Getting back to the topic at hand, if you had a proper Procurement Management Platform, which was designed to support data-centric end-point integrations for specific processes and organizational needs, then

1) it would be quite easy to augment and add in custom applications for niche processes or data collections for niche process and reporting management as needed

2) it would be built around sourcing and procurement centric project management and contain the extensible workflow capability required to add customized process and opportunity management as needed

3) it would allow for the creation or integration of intake applications and interfaces to gather needs and report on decisions and progress and to synthesize all relevant data for roll-up views and KPIs that finance and management needs on a regular basis

4) it could be built to use the organizational spend as the foundational data source …

and Procurement could build up, maintain, and evolve the solution it really needs to be successful over time — which is something it can’t do today because buyers can’t code low level APIs, app stores don’t ensure app connectivity, and today’s “networks” merely support data exchange and not overall process management.

So where do you get this when no single provider on the market has (historically) had this? Good question … and one that we’ll hopefully answer in the year ahead.