Category Archives: Procurement Innovation

Finance and Procurement Need to Collaborate, but Sometimes the Relationship Needs to go Beyond the Financial Viewpoint

A recent article over on Financial Executives on Why Finance and Procurement Need to Collaborate For Success made some very good points …

The article in question, which noted that how companies approach expense management will become a top priority with the economy heading into uncertain times summarized an interview with Matthew Smith, CFO & CoFounder of finetune, a full service expense management firm focussed on select complex categories (such as uniform rental, waste & recycling, pest control, energy & utilities, and security) for large clients. In addition to the baseline assessment, sourcing, implementation, and ongoing management (which many BuyDesk operations will do), they also do regular auditing, which is key to ensuring you get what you pay for because, as Matthew said, where the rubber meets the road in expense management is what happens after the contract is signed.

Matthew believes that expense management does need to be its own thing and that there has to be a coordinating element between the affected functions, which always includes Procurement (which is responsible for placing the order and managing the contract) and Finance (for paying the bill) and then the department(s) that are using the goods or services being procured. Especially since the vendors will give up a lot in the negotiations, and then do their best to get it all back through change orders and off contract-purchases of items not covered under the contract. In addition, analytics is becoming critical, but most organizations have bad data. However, without the necessary expertise, the data won’t be clean and the right calculations can’t be done. Procurement can identify the good data and Finance can identify the key analysis that needs to be done. (Not ChatGPT, which is hallucinating and getting all those bad answers and producing false information. Matthew’s words, but the doctor couldn’t agree more.) Furthermore, without a good understanding of the entire situation from multiple sides, you don’t know when incentive are good or bad.

Expense management is a key area where Finance and Procurement needs to collaborate because it takes both departments to prevent overspend, and the article was a really great deep dive in this respect, but it’s not the only area. Working capital management is also key. Managing expenses is a great start, but the goal should be improved working capital management. If both departments work together, and with other organizational departments, to appropriately predict demand and utilization, and optimize payment terms, then the organization can do accurate cash-flow forecasting and working capital can be optimized. And that can truly only happen when both departments collaborate.

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.

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)?

Fairmarkit wants to bring a fair market price to your RFQs

Fairmarkit, which claims to bring you from requisition to PO in as little as 5 minutes (or 5 seconds if you turn on full automation) is a provider of an autonomous sourcing solution for all tactical spend, and tail spend in particular (with more Fortune 500 customers using it for Tail Spend than any other tail spend provider). Founded in 2017 with the intent of solving the tail spend sourcing problem prevalent in the modern enterprise, it has grown from a point-based stand-alone simple tail spend solution to a fully integrated solution that can sit behind, and power, any enterprise sourcing or procurement application that is missing tail spend functionality, and does so for many of the enterprise customers that it has acquired in a mere six (6) years. Drilling in on that last point, Fairmarkit is fully integrated with Ariba, Coupa, Oracle, and ServiceNow and users can conduct tail spend events without ever leaving those platforms (should they choose) and can even setup the Fairmarkit platform to automate the entire event (and, should they choose, even the award according to well-defined rules).

For the average user doing an RFP or RFQ, who is not initiating the event from within a third party platform, the entry point to the platform is their new NLP-powered interface that allows a user to start the process by stating a request in Natural Language. Once the request is made, the platform does it’s best to extract all key details that will be needed by the buy-desk sourcing professional (for categorization, potential supply base, etc.) and then verifies its interpretation step-by-step with the user, asking additional questions as necessary depending on the category, etc. If, at any point, it determines that the amount is too small for an event (and should just be a P-card expense), then it will notify the user of such. If there are suitable products (or services) in a pre-loaded catalogue, then it will direct the user to the catalogue. If the budget or potential spend exceeds a threshold, it will notify the user that this needs to be a strategic event (possibly through an integrated platform) and/or that approvals will be needed to kick-off the project and make the award.

For services projects, if the user does not have an SOW, the platform will use GEN AI to automatically create an outline based on a repository of best practice SOWs. Once the outline is generated, the requester can then edit it as needed before sending it to the sourcing team for execution. The platform understands more than 100 categories and can generate SOW outlines for all common contracting categories.

Once the buy-desk receives the request, the buyer can

  • message the requester with any questions they need answered to fully understand the need
  • edit the request as required for clarity
  • turn it into a full-fledged RFP
  • create a quick-hit RFQ
  • archive the request (if inappropriate for a sourcing event)

Creating an RFP is easy-peasy as the process, and complexity, is completely defined by the user. Depending on the category, the user can:

  • create an RFP from scratch
  • create an RFP from a pre-existing template (which includes a library of defaults created in conjunction with SIG)
  • use the built-in AI to generate a suggested RFP

Regardless of the method chosen, at any time before it is released into the wild, the user can:

  • add, edit, or remove questions (or sections of questions)
  • add or drop existing (or new) suppliers to (or from) the invite list
  • define weightings for scoring
  • invite (internal) collaborators to the event (for review and scoring)

When the due date arrives, all invited collaborators can score the RFP, and when scoring is complete, the sourcing professional can go to the summary screen that shows, for each supplier, its score, diversity status, and internal (preferred status) as well as the cost of each supplier – line item pairing. The buyer can then award by supplier, or by individual pairing. The buyer can also pop-up the scorecard at the category level and drill in as needed. When the award is selected, the user can add notes to explain their decision, the day the contract or term will begin, any expected on-time costs, and the platform will compute the recurring costs and one-time savings automatically (and all of this information is logged and can be used to produce a report summarizing the full project history and decision criteria for any executive who asks).

RFQs are quick and easy. Define the items, select the suppliers, and send it out. And, as per our introduction, if Fairmarkit is integrated with another sourcing platform, RFQs can be fully populated through the API, automatically sent out, and even automatically awarded (for repeat buys for tactical products or services when appropriate rules are defined). For most RFQs, the buyer is just filling in missing information not passed from the source system and doing the final award.

In addition, Fairmarkit RFQs can also take advantage of the first industry integration of the new Amazon Business quoting module that allows a seller to offer different prices than what you see in the cart, guarantee those prices for 30 days, and even hold inventory. This, for the first time, makes Amazon Business a viable catalog for quick-hit RFQs for commodity purchases.

Supplier selection is quick and easy as the platform will automatically recommend suppliers based on the actual products and services being sourced (and not just the category) using a sophisticated AI algorithm that will match on all available details. If the user doesn’t like the suggestions, they can also quickly identify suppliers by category as well.

Finally, as expected, the platform also has some built-in reporting that can be used by the management team to track performance and progress over time. (It’s not a full analytics solution as Fairmarkit expects a client to use their own best-in-class spend analysis platform as the API allows all data to be extracted at any time.)

By default it will ship with the following dashboards (which can be tailored to your organization):

  • executive overview which summarizes overall platform utilization, event time, requests time, and platform-wide savings (which are averaging 11% across all events) as well as missed savings opportunities
  • buyer performance which summarizes the buyers by activity, savings, single vs. multi-sourcing, and other key attributes
  • buyer reporting which summarizes events and results by suppliers
  • supplier trends around bidding, response, and overall performance
  • RFQ Details which summarizes key RFQ statistics
  • Supplier Diversity (if there is supplier diversity data available, which can be obtained from a subscription to their partner by event, month, buyer, etc.

The platform is also highly configurable by the end user organization that can define

  • all company settings
  • users, requesters, buyers, and teams
  • suppliers and groupings
  • categories (and associated templates)
  • templates for RFPs
  • price books (which is their term for built-in catalogs)
  • project settings
  • API settings (and diversity)

Fairmarkit is a great platform for tail spend, and the proof is in the pudding. In September, 2023 FairMarket passed the 1 Billion mark for spend sourced. One Billion in quick-hit tactical RFQ across it’s enterprise customers that issue between 700 and 4,000 RFQs a month (because they are so quick and easy and save an average of 11% even in today’s turbulent times). Also, Fairmarkit is available in multiple languages and is being used globally in 72 countries and counting.

Need Some Procurement Principles? Balfour Beatty Published a Great Starting Point.

Google sometimes digs up the strangest things when you ask for Procurement News. One thing it recently dug up was the Balfour Beatty “Procurement Strategy” page, which wasn’t so much a strategy, but a set of principles that every organization should subscribe to. (Regardless of what industry they are in.)

So, if you’re wondering what principles you should adopt before you set your Procurement organization strategy, you can start with these seven principles:

  1. Become the customer of choice
  2. Ensure that we have the right, skilled people for the job, a strong talent pipeline and that we provide an environment where they excel
  3. Put in place processes that work, are compliant and transparent, making the best use of technology to deliver for our business and for our supply chain partners
  4. Mitigate and manage risk through early and closer integration with our supply chain partners
  5. Work together to identify market risks and forecasts
  6. Keep safety and wellbeing at the forefront of all that we do
  7. Prompt Payment for Suppliers

The great thing is they will lead to a great strategy as:

  • it covers talent, technology, and process transformation
  • it places importance on the supplier, the relationship, and the supplier sustainability
  • it covers CSR (corporate social responsibility)
  • it covers risk

In fact, the only principle that is missing is Sustainability, so if you add this eight principle

  1. Embrace sustainability in all that we do

We’re pretty sure that if you were to start here, you won’t go too far astray in the creation of your Procurement Strategy.