Category Archives: SaaS

Serex – Searing SRM into the CRM World

Serex was founded 23 years ago to help clients select, implement, deploy and effectively use CRM and marketing automation systems, something it still does to this day. However, a few years ago, during a routine meeting, a client asked if it had any systems to support buying because while it had its CRM and order management under control, and working like a fine-tuned oiled machine (their words, not Serex or SI’s), it’s Procurement organization was unable to keep up, and it was having to hire more and more buyers on a regular basis. Serex’s first response was, appropriately, why not use a social media platform to collect bids, and more specifically use a reverse auction and let the suppliers come to it? The answer Serex got was not the answer they expected — the organization had tried over a dozen auction platforms and not a single one met its need. Not one. (Sounds surprising, but when you consider the limitations of first generation auction platforms, it’s really not. And when you consider that marketing from these first generation platforms dominate the marketing airwaves, it would not be a surprise if only first generation platforms were tested.)

So Serex said that if they really wanted a useable solution that worked, they would build one, under an appropriate agreement. First of all, the solution would be designed under the guidance of the CPO, who had a lot of cross-vertical industry experience at Global 3000 companies. Secondly, the buying team would engage in regular review sessions, assist in UI design, and begin to use the beta as soon as it was ready. Third, the company would commit up front to use, so that the system would be developed by buyers, for buyers, and be used from buyers day one. And while new, and basic in some respects, it is obviously an auction platform designed by buyers for buyers that is used by buyers and works. (Serex’s first customer saved over 6 Million in its first year. And since launch, its first few clients have achieved similar success to its first customer.)

But the real proof that the solution is useable, even it is still a point-based procurement solution, is that all of the ten plus companies it is in negotiations with following it’s inaugural ISM event are all Fortune 500 companies, many of which already have big sourcing and procurement implementations with auctions (like Ariba, Zycus, and Emptoris). This only goes to show that while the e-Auction market is crowded, there is always room for a useable solution that does exactly what a buyer needs it to do in an easy and obvious manner. So while the platform has miles to go, the miles it has crossed make it well suited for a certain market. Which market? For now, in SI’s view, the mid-size market with a need for an easy best-of-breed solution.

The platform is essentially an e-Auction solution built to enable buyers to quickly set up and run auctions through quick bidder search and selection, quick product search and selection, quicker selection of which suppliers can bid on which products, and default auction parameters (which can easily be overridden). Complete product specs can be defined or uploaded as attachments if needed. Suppliers can send detailed messages during the auction to request or offer alternate delivery dates or substitutions for quicker delivery, and a buyer can update the auction specs as needed. In addition, all auctions are saved and new auctions can be created as copies of old auctions, and then updated as needed, allowing repeat auctions to be setup in just minutes (which is valuable if a product sells better than expected and an auction needs to be repeated on short notice to meet demand). (The auction platform has a built in attachment viewer that displays standard web formats.)

The platform also has a product manager sub-component that allows a complete product database that can be maintained and uploaded into the auction platform using a standard flat file format with attachments. In addition, a complete bidder database can be uploaded and maintained into the auction platform with all relevant supplier information.

Serex is not an extensive e-Procurement platform, but it’s one that fledgling organizations need when they want to being their strategic sourcing journey.

For a much deeper dive, check out the doctor and the prophet‘s in-depth dive over on Spend Matters Pro [membership required]. (Part I, Part II, and Part III.)

Procurement is Global. Platforms should be Global. Truly Global.

And, in particular, as previously noted, those platforms should form the foundation for Virtual Procurement Centres of Excellence. But just acquiring a platform is not enough. It has to be adopted — and not just in the center of excellence, but in every local purchasing department around the globe.

This means a global rollout, but not an instantaneous one. Big bang roll-outs usually end up in big blow-ups. The biggest supply chain disasters in history have often been the result of big-bang ERP or technology projects that tried to update the entire system all at once, often in a bet-the-company endeavour. Such a project even brought down a 5B company. (Remember Foxmeyer? Probably not, but that’s because a big bang ERP project resulted in a big bust.)

Now, a global Procurement platform roll out is not replacing the ERP and a failure likely wouldn’t bankrupt the company, but it certainly would be very costly and knock Procurement back into the dark ages it’s trying to crawl out of. So it has to be done right. So how do you do it right?

1. Take it in steps.

Start with just enabling the center of excellence so that the Procurement leaders can get familiar with the platform before the questions start rolling in. After all, they will be the trainers, leaders, barkers, and bugle-men of the solution, and need to be prepared the lead the charge. After that, enable just a few locations at a time until each is up and running.

2. Get the data model right before a single implementation.

Remember, you have to control the information and financial chain with the platforms, and this will require integrating with data from dozens, if not hundreds, of systems and sources. Without a good data model, integrations will be difficult and time consuming.

3. Identify the systems of record for each data component.

The days where the ERP is the system of record are long gone in leading organizations. These days, organizations have a financial system as the system of record for invoices and payables, a supplier management system for supplier (and sometimes catalog) data, local catalog management for products and services that are primarily sourced locally, a CAD/CAM system for product designs, a MRP system for custom product designs, and so on. Make sure the integrations with each of these core platforms is complete and accurate before using the new system for the first Procurement event.

4. Define small test projects that can be used to evaluate the implementation adequately before continuing with the roll-out.

Pick a few representative, but not mission critical, projects that can be completed in weeks (not months or years) that will adequately test the system, define milestones and checkpoints, and evaluate at each stage. Only continue when any issues or bugs are identified and corrected.

5. Make sure you have experienced, expert help for the roll-out.

Each office will have its own particular process needs, regionalization (in terms of language and currency), audit trail requirements, and so on. Expert help can not only help you identify these requirements but appropriate system configuration options for maximum performance and minimal complexity at each location.

In other words, create a reasonable plan, with expert help, and stick to it. Things will generally go smooth if you realize that, like every evolution before, the advancement of the Procurement function is a journey. You can’t always afford to stop and smell the roses, but you can’t afford to run through the thorns either.

Simeno – Global Catalogs for Global Businesses

Simeno, which is not yet a household Procurement name in North America, is a provider of a SaaS-based e-Procurement that has been around since 2000 and that has been offering catalog management solutions and services since 2002. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Simeno has grown to be a rather large provider of such solutions in the EU and around the world. With 250,000 users in 60 countries, including users from dozens of Global 3000 companies, Simeno is still growing steadily, having recently opened offices in Germany (Hannover) and the USA (Chicago).

In addition to offering catalog management, Simeno also offers supplier-onboarding, catalog maintenance, and the custom requisition form creation services for their clients so all of their client spend — product and service — can flow through the system. But they are heavily focussed on selling long-term Procurement solutions centered around their catalog-based Procurement solution that can be integrated with the ERP, AP, and other relevant Supply Management solutions that can support the relevant parts of the Source-to-Pay cycle.

The core of the SIMENO solution is the catalog management capability which, like other leading platforms, allows clients to integrate punch-out catalogs, their-own catalogs, and vendor-provided catalogs (in various file formats) and search across all catalogs in real time. Simeno not only focusses on integration, but on fast upload and even faster search. Simeno can process extremely large updates (in the GB) in minutes, search catalogs of up to 10M items in 1.5 seconds and provide a real-time glimpse into what’s happening from a buying perspective in their global organization in just a few seconds.

This catalog solution is offered as a private cloud solution, where access to public catalogs and punch-outs can be as broad, or restrictive, as the organization wants it to be. The platform can be used in conjunction with, or as a replacement for, other catalog and purchasing systems, and can integrate with, or replace Oracle iProcure and SAP SRM UI5. Simeno regularly integrates with a host of ERP solutions and best-of-breed Sourcing / AP systems and can set up workflows to take data in and push data out as needed, which is all part of the initial set-up.

The catalog also supports 22 languages simultaneously, including accents and special characters, product and supplier centric views, and very easy requisition and purchase order creation. The form-based “guided-buying” solution works so well that some organizations have over 1,000 predefined forms, and define more as needed using the detailed form builder that can be used to create forms customized to the organization’s needs.

Simeno is very powerful, and there is a full solution around the platform with RFX, contract management, requisition, purchase order, and invoice management. For more information on these extended capabilities, and deeper insight into Simeno, check out the recent >Spend Matters Pro series (Part I, membership required) by the doctor and the prophet. The deep coverage is worth the time it takes to review it.

ScanMarket – Spreading P2P through the Clouds

ScanMarket is a Denmark-based cloud-based Source-to-Contract suite provider with hundreds of global clients and high adoption rates. ScanMarket claims that companies that switch to their solution see 3x gains in adoption and spend volume (put through the system), and it’s not an unrealistic claim (especially when the system is compared to older Source-to-Contract solutions). It’s another company that has been around quite a long time (since 1999), even though it’s not a name you know in North America.

Even though modules can be activated or deactivated as desired (and an organization can buy anything from just Project Management to the whole suite), ScanMarket was designed to be a single, integrated, source-to-contract suite that contains eRFX, eAuctions, Contract Management, Supply Base Management, Project Management, and Spend Analysis (which is the only module that is almost completely separate). Functionality can be purchased separately, but there is no versioning — ScanMarket is one platform, one instance (where ‘modules’ can be turned off depending on the functionality not desired by a customer). (ScanMarket provides a short, quick on-line introduction video overview of what they think an e-Sourcing platform is.)

The RFX solution allows RFI, RFP, and RFQ which support numerous evaluation settings via bid parameters and weighted scoring, a powerful bid matrix that can capture up to 1 Million data points in a single bid, a template (and question) library for quick event creation, (standard) Excel integration for offline completion, and integration into the sourcing dashboard. In addition, it contains the ability to copy events using multiple template settings that take just the desired data forward. In addition, the buyer can choose to just take some suppliers and some bids forward as well. It’s pretty powerful for an RFX platform.

The e-Auction platform is more-or-less your standard e-Auction platform supporting Japanese, Dutch, Reverse, Factored, and Forward auctions with numerous, configurable, bidding rules to match the event to the situation including individual starting prices, feedback options, blindfolding, proxy bidding, rank, traffic lights, staggering, blind period, reserve price indicator, and partial quantity bidding. Auctions can be monitored in real time on an item and lot level, and the buyer can choose whether to see a full tabular history of bids by item or lot or a real-time graphical “horse-race” view. In addition, the bids can be modified in real time using one or more modifiers (such as switching costs) or formulae (which can include factors to account for different defect rates) and allow buyers to do realistic cost comparisons (even if such cost comparisons are hidden from suppliers).

Contract Management provides a single, online, repository for all contracts with search and reporting. It supports templates (for quick contract data capture), version control, categorization, and buyer-defined meta-data with a detailed approval workflow to support negotiations. Contracts can be instantiated directly from the results of a (cherry-picked) RFX or e-Auction, dates specified, and appropriate notifications and reminders set.

ScanMarket SBM is their Supplier Information Management (SIM) solution that acts as the central, single, repository for all supplier information. It can capture all of the data you expect, including any and all attachments that need to be captured, index those attachments with meta-data, allow for repository-wide (metadata) search, provide full visibility into associated supplier activities (including event history, contracts, and captured performance), and maintain complete audit trails. It also integrates with the suite dashboard for dashboard-based reporting.

Project Management in ScanMarket is a single repository for all projects, notes and attachments that provides an integrated dashboard view of, and reporting across all, projects. There is customizeable workflow management, that allows for the creation of multiple project workflows that can be instantiated as needed, and the templated workflows can be customized for each task in each project across stakeholders and participants. There is also integrated communication and messaging and the ability to quickly jump into the appropriate point in the eRFX, e-Auction, supplier profile, or contract associated with the project.

ScanMarket is a solution that is definitely worth looking into. For more information, see the recent Spend Matters Pro [membership required] series by the doctor and the prophet. (Part I, Part II, and Part III)

iValua: Brewing the Kettle for the Vertical Petals

When SI last did a deep dive on Ivalua back in late 2013, they were proving their mettle with source-to-settle (Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV) because an integrated Source-to-Settle (S2S) platform brings unparalleled benefits to Supply Management. Since then, they’ve been extending the platform, but instead of broadening it (as they already had just about everything covered except decision optimization and cashflow optimization), they’ve been deepening it with industry specific functionality for a plethora of verticals, namely, the manufacturing and automotive industry; the banking and services industry; the retail and distribution industry; the construction, oil, and gas industry; the health care industry; the telecom industry; GPOs (Group Purchasing Organizations), and the public sector.

For the machining and automotive industry, in addition to their powerful RFX capability which allows buyers to create detailed cost models for components and products being sourced, they also have integrated sourcing project management (as a Bill of Materials might require multiple sourcing projects, capabilities for New Product Introduction (NPI) management, asset and tooling management and tracking, and the ability to identify raw material / component price data variance across plant locations. This is in addition to the detailed supplier master data management (that can support the definition of approved suppliers by category, buyer, and location), quality tracking and management (through scorecards), and productive action plans (that build on the corrective action plan capability).

For the banking and services industry, in addition to vendor managed catalogs, contract compliance management, invoice data capture, and dynamic discounting, unlike some of their peers that grew up in the indirect (commodity) sourcing world, they support detailed rate cards and services profiles, e-Signature integration, and multi-envelope bidding.

For the construction, oil, and gas industry, in addition to support for spot-sourcing and spot-awards to on-contract suppliers, detailed service personnel data collection, and supplier data access to available assets (and tools), the platform also supports the creation of field service request estimates based on PR and PO process initiation, asset and tooling management, automatic monitoring of supplier credentials and certificates, data collection for supplier personnel performance management, and the collection of documents and specifications on all relevant supplier safety practices.

They’ve also fleshed out their analytics and out-of-the-box reports to cover spend data and metrics from all aspects of the source-to-settle lifecycle (which is easy to do when all of the data is in one store maintained by one platform, and not 3, 4, or 5 — which is common with some of their competitors that created their suites from multiple acquisitions), increased the configurabilty of their solution (where the buying organization not only has control over modules and workflow, but even what is displayed, or not, on individual screens), exposed the full extent of their integration capability within the platform (where lead buyers can configure the APIs through a simple form-based interface and XML), and created an add-on store where clients can share and download additional reports and components and integrations created by their peers or third parties.

Ivalua is still coding strong, and extending their platform year after year. It’s hard to say what will come next, as two-thirds of their road-map is always client-driven, but if you’re looking for a true, native, end-to-end source-to-pay platform from a responsive organization, the Ivalua platform is one that should be on your short-list.