Category Archives: Technology

Insight. That’s What Marketers Should be Marketing in 2020.

Because that’s what you need. In this day in age, any platform should be capable of implementing a digital process that accomplishes a basic sourcing, procurement, catalog buying, or contract negotiation process … this technology has existed for almost two decades. So if an organization is going to spend money on marketing, it should be marketing something more than just basic digital process support as dozens of vendors have that (as evidenced by the participation of over 75 vendors in Spend Matters SolutionMaps with more in the wings). And if the organization doesn’t have anything more to market, then it shouldn’t be marketing at all — and investing those pesos in product development until it has something worth marketing.

Now that we are in the third era of Procurement, we should be looking for solutions that enhance our processes, not systems that just digitize them. And for systems to enhance our processes, they need to do more than digitize them or automate them with fixed rules. They need to provide relevant insights at key stages of each process to help a buyer make good decisions in an efficient manner.

For example, when a buyer selects a category or set of products / services for a sourcing event, the system should automatically highlight current and past suppliers, suppliers who responded to previous events, and new suppliers who have matching products or services. Furthermore, if there is any risk or environmental data associated with those suppliers, it should also be highlighted. When all the bids are in, it should automatically highlight the lowest-cost award, the incumbent award, the best award with a preferred number of suppliers, and any other relevant out-of-the-box scenarios.

During contract time, if there is an appropriate template, it should present that to the project lead as well as highlight any clauses that might be missing or any clauses that might need to be addressed.

When an organizational buyer needs to make a requisition, and logs into the catalog, the system should guide the buyer to the on-contract product for requisition. If that product is unavailable, then it should guide the buyer to the next preferred option. If there is no on-contract or preferred product, then the system should recommend the product that provides the best overall value to the organization (which balances cost, quality, volume requirements on general product/service contracts, etc.).

When an invoice comes in that doesn’t precisely match the purchase order, but is within what could be considered a reasonable tolerance or has an extra charge that could be considered reasonable under the circumstance, the system should immediately point out the discrepancy and whether or not an approval should be given or denied. For example, if there was an expediting charge because the order was shipped same-day (when the contract required three days notice) that is relatively low value, or extra units were shipped and received (and billed at agreed upon rates) (and needed anyway), the system can point out the discrepancy and recommend approval. If the surcharges exceed typical amounts or a significant number of units were marked damaged on receipt, the system can recommend rejecting with a request for more information or invoice reduction.

Similarly, before an order is placed, the system should highlight any suppliers that have become more risky in the past month or performing poor on OTD.

While the talk of Procurement 4.0 might be more autonomous systems that do more of our work for us, that’s at least five, and most likely, ten years away. Right now, what we need are systems that allow us to make good decisions efficiently. And that means presenting the right information at the right time. If the system can’t do that, then don’t bother. Seriously.

Digital. Digitized. Digitization. Digitalization. Don’t Get Fooled by the New Buzzwords for Outdated Tech!

Leave it the moronic marketers to come up with the most brain-dead buzzwords to launch us into the new decade. Over the past year, these have been on the rise despite the fact that you should NOT even be looking at any vendor building an entire marketing campaign around this gibberish in 2020. (The only exception is if they open up about how useless the word is and instead lay out a roadmap which defines the many possible levels and how they intend to get there, but this is a topic for a later post.)

Why do these buzzwords make the doctor sympathize with Kuni from UHF who had to keep screaming they’re so stupid every time he got a new batch of students? Because it seems the doctor has to keep screaming it every time we get a new batch of marketers that couldn’t tell a calculator from a computer.

Let’s look at the definitions of these terms.

Digital: displaying a readout in numerical digits or available in electronic form; readable and manipulable by computer
This means that, technically, a vendor who sells you a process that can be performed on a calculator or any system that works on a computer, including e-mail and a two decades old spreadsheet, can claim to have a digital Procurement Solution. Moreover, technically, the earliest MRP was “digital” in the Procurement world. Do you really want to be stuck with four decades old technology? Because that’s digital!

Digitized: to convert (data) to digital form for use in a computer
This means that if the digital solution includes the ability to handle document scans, which may or may not be processable, then the solution is digitized. E-mail that can handle attachments and a decades old spreadsheet solution still qualifies.

Digitization: the process of converting (data) to digital form
This means that if the solution comes with the ability to integrate with the output of scanning technology, it qualifies. So, email, a decades old spreadsheet solution, and a UX for the scanner driver qualifies.

Digitalization: the process of converting (data) to a digital form that can be processed by the application
This actually brings us up to the nineties, because now you need a system that supports OCR and can convert that scan into a spreadsheet with numeric and textual values for processing in the decades old spreadsheet solution.

Just like the imbeciles who brought back infinite scroll (because it’s theoretically easier to scroll on mobile devices — but that’s only the case if the page fits in memory and, more importantly, can actually load — which isn’t the case when you put a whole website with heavy graphics onto a single page), these moronic marketers should also be tar-and-feathered. Dumbing down technology by decades doesn’t help anyone, and the doctor is fed up of this data dung and is going to rip into any vendor who continues to peddle this tomfoolery.

Tailoring in 2020 …

Even though bespoke tailoring didn’t come into vogue in the UK until the early 1700s, the modern art of tailoring is an age-old practice that dates back to at least the 1200s when skilled garment makers would make custom attire for the royalty in their realms. These tailors would provide a “made to measure” service would insure that each garment, original and unique to each customer, would fit perfectly.

Tailors understood the value of service, so the question is, why don’t your platform providers. They all promise the perfect fit, but most don’t deliver. Why?

Well, there are a slew of reasons. Many providers claiming to be Procurement 3.0 are actually still delivering hacked together 2.0 solutions with limited capability and even more limited customization. But will this change?

With some providers, especially those with platforms with true 3.0 foundations who are embarking on completing their journey with the hopes of someday embarking on the Procurement 4.0 journey (which right now is unobtainable* despite the proclamations of the futurists), it will.

Platforms will not only be more configurable, but they will be configurable by you and, more appropriately, as they get more complete, and smarter, they will begin to adapt to you. Smart assistants will learn your grammar and usage patterns and immediately guide you to what you ask. Augmented intelligence will provide you insights you need where you need them … not 3 reports and 6 drill-downs away from where you need the insight.

Basically, what we are saying is, now that we are into the third decade of stand-alone best-of-breed Procurement technology, it’s time that the technology works for you. No longer should you be burdened with technology that makes you work for it. So when you are looking for a platform, look for one offered by a tailor, not by a one-size-fits-all milling machine.

* For reasons that we’ll discuss in the near future …

S2C Decision Tree …

Over on Purchasing Insight, Pete Loughlin ran a great post on the “build or buy decision tree for Purchase-to-Pay” that should not be overlooked because it gives every organization a very simple answer that even the most luddite of C-Suites can understand … NO!

You do NOT build a P2P system in-house. In fact, you should NOT have been building or maintaining a P2P system in house since the early part of the last decade — but with so many suite providers to choose from now, the fact that some organizations are still even considering building a P2P solution is almost inconceivable in-and-of itself.

As Pete Loughlin clearly states, when facing the build-or-buy question you first need to to ask yourself if the problem you are trying to address is new, uniquely different or so rare that a suitable solution doesn’t exist already. And the only reason you’d build in-house is if you could honestly answer no. In the days where there were only a couple of solutions, and they only worked well with ERPs or indirect purchases, there might have been good reasons to say no, but now that there are dozens of options, that can be focused on indirect, services, direct, or the whole kit-and-kaboodle, the only reason you’d say no is if you were completely unaware of what has happened in the space in the last 20 years — and if that is the case, you really shouldn’t be making the decision.

However, the reason SI is drawing this to your attention is not just because you shouldn’t be building P2P in-house, but because you shouldn’t be building S2C and, most definitely, shouldn’t be building S2P (or any component there-of) in-house either! But the real reason SI is bringing this to your attention is the flow-start doesn’t stop there … it continues. Not only should you NOT build in-house, but you should not formalize the short-list in-house without the help of an expert advisory partner. There are 100s of companies out there, and just shortlisting SAP Ariba, Coupa, and Oracle is not the right answer — and it’s even worse if you shortlist Basware, Coupa, Oracle, and ScanMarket for S2P. While these are all great providers in their own right, they are not all S2P and it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. And when it comes to best-of-breed solutions, the doctor has seen even worse shortlists!

This one of the reasons the doctor worked on the development of SolutionMap — by creating a custom profile, it can be used to identify the companies that best-match an organization’s need on the tech-axis, which allows the organization to shortlist the right vendors to invite to the RFI. Vendors that can meet basic tech needs and be compared in an apples-to-apples comparison … allowing the organization to focus on finding the provider that can best serve the organization overall and match their culture, versus focusing on basic check-the-box technology features just to find out 2 of the 3 shortlist providers don’t even meet the basics. (And this usually ends up with the organization having to go with the vendor that’s left versus selecting the vendor that’s the best.)

Platforms in 2020

Last week we talked about analyst predictions for analytics in 2020, most of which were just statements of the obvious, wishful thinking, or some combination thereof, but there was one prediction in particular that stood out … the one that was 100% correct. In particular, the prediction that companies will continue failing analytics and AI transformations.

Considering that most companies don’t have a good grip on analytics and an even worse grip on AI, what it really is, and how to judge if a company truly has some level of Artificial Intelligence — be it Assisted, Augmented, Cognitive, or Autonomous Intelligence — or if the company is just using Applied Indirection in their marketing.

But Analytics is just one aspect of technology that an average company is going to be interested, and if the company is not looking for a best-of-breed analytics vendor, it is looking for a platform. So what’s in-store for platforms in 2020?

Well, as usual, more of the same-old same-old, but their might be a few pinpoints of light in the near future. However, first, let’s discuss what’s going to happen for sure.

1) The M&A Mania is going to continue … and accelerate.
Workday’s (almost) ridiculous multiple for Scout (based upon current revenue) is going to make everyone hungry for acquisitions to keep up.

2) CLM and Analytics will be focal points.
Contract Management is the buzz, and while most organizations still don’t quite understand how to really extract value from it, no one wants to be left behind.
Similarly, AI is weaving it’s way into analytics, and while most vendors don’t have what the market thinks they have, it’s bringing analytics back into the limelight.

3) Mega-Acquirers (large companies and PE firms) will be all-in with suite mania.
If they don’t have a sourcing, supplier management, contract management, analytics, e-Procurement w/ Catalog Management, Invoice Management, and Payment management capability, they will be out to acquire any of those pieces as fast as possible to check all the major boxes and claim equivalency with Coupa, Ivalua, etc.
If they have the main pieces, they will be looking for ancillary pieces to increase the value and differentiate from the competition along the lines of T&E Management, BoM management for direct sourcing, Quality Management for Direct, Optimization and What-if Analysis, Freight “Broker” platform integration for (near) real-time weights and accurate Total Cost bids, etc.

But this is no surprise … it’s just an acceleration of what we’re seeing now.

So will anything be new?

1) “Chat-bots” will be put to work.
They will slowly transform from interactive help systems to actual assistants that will take commands and implement standard actions across the application. “Create an RFP for all off-contract products and products that will be off-contract in 90 days in the office supplies category” will find the template, find the products, identify the minimum information needed (release date, initial supplier pool, etc.) and ask it, and create a RFP ready to be finalized and sent out (using naming conventions, standard definition of incumbents, etc.).

2) “Predictive” Analytics will start to be integrated cross platform.
But don’t get too excited … for the most part it will be traditional trend algorithms or open-source models that have been found to typically work on that type of data and little to no machine learning, but it will be a step in the right direction.

3) “MDM” will be bandied around like it’s the new acronym candy.
And while platforms will make progress in terms of managing all of the data that flow through them, their ability to push data back to source systems and manage master data across systems will still be a while off. MDM will stay in the hands of ERP and highly specialist vendors for a few years to come.

While not an in-depth discussion of the trends that will continue or the trends that will start, it’s a good start.