Category Archives: Technology

Virtual Procurement Centers of Excellence: Will We Ever Realize Them?

Three years ago we told you that Virtual Procurement Centers of Excellence where The Next Level of Complex Direct Procurement and that your sourcing platform should enable this.

But it’s three years later, and we still only have a handful of S2P platforms that can properly support bill of materials for direct sourcing. (In fact, you don’t even need all your fingers!)

Add this to the fact that either ERP integration is minimal, that support for modification and should-cost modelling is limited, or there is no support for integrating price indices or market intelligence, and it’s still a pretty sorry state of affairs.

Especially since true value is only going to be realized not only with proper insights into bill of material costs, but what the bill of materials should look like. (Maybe the steel being used is inferior, the rare earth metal component could be reduced with a better design, etc.)

In other words you need a platform that not only supports full ERP integration, BoM modelling and management and deep should-cost modelling but also up-to-date market intelligence. This should not be limited to commodity feeds (as these are not global or available for all commodities), but should also use community intelligence, especially around labour rates and energy costs in a region.

But we only have one S2P platform with real budding community intelligence, and it’s support for direct is relatively non-existent compared to some peers.

So the question is, are we ever going to realize them? For all of the reasons we gave three years ago, and then some, we need Virtual Procurement Centers of Excellence for Direct, backed by Market and Community Intelligence, but they still seem to be in the distant future.

So what do you think? Are the current S2P players going to up their game to where we need them to be? Or do we need a new breed of players to come out of the shadows and show the market what is needed.

The Platform is Becoming Ever More Important …

In Monday’s post, we quoted an except from Magnus’ interview on Spend Matters where he noted how important it is to start with the most important capabilities / modules and build out towards a full S2P suite (because he knows as well as the doctor does that a big bang approach typically results in a big explosive bang that usually takes your money and credibility with it). If you examine this closely, you see that you need to select not only the right starting solution, but a starting solution that can grow.

This requires a platform approach from the get-go. It doesn’t need to underlie the starting modules, it doesn’t need to underlie the ending modules, it just needs to underlie the suite you want to put together. It can be part of an application you already have or a third party application you buy later. But it has to exist.

The simple fact of the matter is that you can’t put together an integrated solution that supports an integrated source-to-pay workflow if you don’t have a platform to build it on. And you can’t patch it together just using endpoint integrations using whatever APIs — that’s just enabling you to push data from one point into another … or pull it from one point to another. That’s not an integrated solution, which requires an integrated workflow, just data integration. And while that is a start, it’s not enough. Especially when there is no one-size fits all category strategy and source to contract or procure to pay workflow for even the smallest of organizations with the simplest of needs.

So before you select any solution, the first thing you have to make sure is that it is built on, or works with, a true platform … otherwise, you may find as you undertake your S2P journey that a component you selected early does not fit the bill and you have to repeat steps … which is something you really can’t afford to do.

You Wouldn’t Let Your Banker Pick Out Your Job …

So why do you let a systems implementor / integrator choose your Sourcing / Procurement system???

And while you might initially believe that this simile is far-fetched, the reality is that it’s very close to home. While a banker is the right partner to help you manage your money, he or she is probably the worst person to figure out the right job for you given that he or she doesn’t really know you. Similarly, while you’re preferred implementation / integration partner is probably the best company out there to implement the platform that will control the majority of your organizational spending, chances are that partner has no knowledge of the true breadth of your Procurement processes work and no clue what the right kind of system for the organization would be. And as a result, just like a banker might steer you towards a job you’d fail miserably at (and lose, leaving you without a pay cheque), an implementor / integrator might steer you towards a system that will not work at all for your organization, and cost your organization millions in the process.

Furthermore, this is also true for any consultancy that has partnerships with a select group of source-to-pay vendors. In fact, taking advice from any of the consultancies that have partnerships with a select group of source-to-pay vendors is MORE risky than an implementation partner without any relationships. Why? Because these consultancies, by way of their partnerships, tend to ONLY recommend their partners because:

  1. that’s all they tend to implement, and know, and
  2. their partnerships provide them with referral fees, guaranteed services, and / or higher margins (and the senior partners at these consultancies mandate that these options are always recommended)

So, if your preferred consulting partner only has relationships with platforms that are primarily for indirect S2P, but your organization is primarily direct S2P, your organization’s chances of getting a good recommendation are zero. That’s right. Zero! (Even worse than a generic systems implementor with no knowledge of the space doing a Google search, coming up with five vendors, and making a random recommendation — at least then you have a 20% chance of getting a good recommendation!)

In other words, if you want a good recommendation, you have to ask a neutral third party, like an analyst firm, a niche consultancy which does not do implementations (and has no partnerships), or a consultancy that uses third party evaluations to provide you with the best recommendations it can, leaving aside any partnerships the consultancy might have. (For example, such a consultancy could license Spend Matters Customer Maps, which are Solution Maps with custom personas defined specific to the client needs, to help your organization identify the best fits and then help your organization with the RFIs to identify the best-of-the-best).

Otherwise, the doctor can pretty much guarantee you’re always going to be recommended vendors A and B (and maybe C) in North America and vendors X and Y (and maybe Z) in Europe … even though there are 8 S2P platforms and dozens of best-of-breed solution providers that might be right for you (as Solution Map ranks over 50 and plans to add many more over time). [Not that A, B, C, X, Y, and Z aren’t good in the right situation — but in S2P, one-size does not fit all — especially when you consider direct vs indirect, product vs service, head vs tail spend, strategic process requirements, optimization and analytics needs, automation, etc. — and the fact that some providers never get recommended even though for certain industries they are usually the best choice.]

So again, unless you want a quick way to triple your losses, don’t let an implementor choose your S2P platform. You choose it, and as per a recent piece of the doctor‘s over on Spend Matters, you take what you want!

How Do You Identify Dead Companies Still Standing?

They still use Excel.

We’ve known for over a decade now that errors in spreadsheets are pandemic. Needless to say that it boggles my mind that Microsoft Excel still continues to be the application of choice for supply chain and logistics managers around the world. Why do we need to remind you that Fidelity lost 2.6 Billion as a result of a spreadsheet error, that Fannie Mae made a 1.13 Billion honest mistake with a spreadsheet, and RedEnvelope lost more than a quarter of their value in a single day after they warned of a fourth-quarter loss due to a spreadsheet-based budgeting error that resulted in an overestimate of gross margins.

How long is it going to be before someone accidentally uses a plus sign instead of a minus sign in a profit formula and forgets to uncap an inventory calculation and instead of ordering 100,000 units of a profitable product, instead orders 1,000,000 units of a product that actually results in significant losses at the target sale price, for which the market demand is weak, ties up all of the organization’s working capital, and essentially bankrupts the company?

My guess, with the steadily increasing complexity of S&OP, JIT inventory management models, and supply chains, any day now! But, maybe after a few companies are brought to their figurative knees from spreadsheet errors, we’ll see the day when Excel is sh!tcanned along with the dinosaurs who still think it has any more use than a HP or TI calculator.

It’s time for anyone still using Excel to wake up and realize we don’t live in Walt Disneyland and that the story of the prince and the pauper is a fairytale. A pauper is not going to become the benefactor of princely riches by trying to save money on real supply chain and logistics software by stretching Excel to the limits just so that it can temporarily inflate the balance sheet or the profit and loss statement. In today’s uber-connected world, appearances don’t account for much. It’s not long before someone digs deep and uncovers the truth.

There’s a reason why customers are demanding end-to-end visibility of their supply chains, including those of their supply chains logistics’ partners. And a reason customers ow expect all of their suppliers and business partners on the supply chain (including logistics providers) to participate in a supply chain network. It’s because they know that the only way they can accurately manage their supply chain is to keep on top of it, that the only way they can build accurate models is with accurate data gathered from partners, and that the best reports they are going to get are going to come from supply chain visibility and planning software plugged into these “networks” (where, in reality, these are “enterprise communities” that allow the necessary collaboration, not “consumer [social] networks” where you can poke, prod, and shake your buddy for no apparent reason).

In other words, Excel has become the new paper, and, like paper, it needs to be abandoned. So if you don’t want to be the pauper, move off of this outdated technology and onto solutions designed for your supply management needs. With a plethora of Best-of-Breed solutions on the market, including modern Source-to-Pay solutions, designed for large and small providers, it’s extremely likely that there’s at least one solution that meets your needs almost exactly without too much tweaking. If you look hard enough, the doctor would bet that there’s at least three, or will be before you can look twice

Twenty Years, and Nothing’s Changed. It’s still all about the Pentiums!

Today they might be called Xeon Ws or something similar, and power Mac Pros, but at the core, they are still, more or less, Pentiums!

Rock on, Al Yankovic, Rock on!

Because It’s All About The Pentiums (Original Video!)

Al may have been Running with Scissor, but no one did a better job of predicting the future of the IT industry.

     
My new computer’s got the clocks, it rocks
But it was obsolete before I opened the box
You say you’ve had your desktop for over a week?
Throw that junk away, man, it’s an antique
Your laptop is a month old? Well that’s great
If you could use a nice, heavy paperweight

  It’s All About the Pentiums
    by “Weird Al” Yankovic (@alyankovic)