Category Archives: Technology

What is a Good Foundation for S2P Tech?

A couple of weeks ago in our posts on What Elements Should You Be Looking For In A Platform (Part I and Part II) we outlined some of the key platform requirements we are looking for in the new Spend Matters SolutionMap (where Sourcing, SXM, Analytics, and the vast majority of Common Platform requirements were defined by the doctor) to give you a hint, but it’s a lot to take in.

And might be more than you need today when you just need to solve a few major pain points and advance on your S2P journey, especially if you still don’t have any dedicated modern technology or are still on Procurement 1.0 when most of your peers are on Procurement 2.0 and the leaders are starting on the Procurement 3.0 journey. (As per another recent post, while there’s a lot of talk about Procurement 4.0, we won’t see it for another 8 years based on history. 1.0 started around 97 with FreeMarkets and the emergence of stand-alone players. 2.0 started around 2007 with the first mini-suites [S2C or P2P]. 3.0 began around 2017 with the rise of the true [mega] S2P suites and integration that allowed for the pursuit of value where the whole is greater than the parts. 4.0 will began around 2027 based on the rate of historical development.)

But it’s not necessarily more than you will need in time. Especially if you want to reach the height of Procurement 3.0 with your peers when it materializes later next decade.

But we do recognize that you won’t need it all today. So what do you really need to look for in the first go-round? Especially if you can’t have it all or can’t become enough of an expert to evaluate it all?

While the most important capabilities do depend on the specifics of the technology you’re buying and the problem you need to solve, there are a few general capabilities that need to be there regardless, and these * capabilities in particular must be there in every solution you buy if you want to have any hope of “future-proofing” your platform.

  • Configurable Workflow
    Preferably with RPA support. Let’s face it, whatever process you use today won’t be the process you use tomorrow, especially as you mature in your processes and best practices, the partners you work with change, and governmental regulations continue to change the way you have to report.
  • Open / Extensible API
    that supports both 3rd parties integrating with your platform and the development of interfaces to integrate with third party platforms through their open API. Your platform will never do everything, no matter how much you want it to. It’s software, not sorcery. So the ability to extend it with ease is critical.
  • Dynamically Extensible Data Model
    that you can do, not a third party or the provider. Because you never know every piece of data you’re going to need until you need it.
  • Globalization Support
    including the ability for a user to select their language and overrides, the organizing to define new currency exchanges and projections, and IT to define where the application instances are hosted and where the data is stored (which may need to be segmented for a global organization)

This is not to say that other technical requirements are not important, but that without these, the life expectancy of your platform is limited, to say the least.

What Elements Should You be Looking for In a Platform? Part II

That’s a very hard question and, to some extent the key elements will, at least in many views, revolve around what you are looking for the platform to support, but there are some elements that should be part of your S2P platform regardless of where your solution focus is.

What are they? Where can you find some hints? For starters, you can loo to the new version of Solution Maps, designed by the doctor, with initial results releasing in less than two months, which have refactored all of the maps to have a new Common *platform* section (as well as a new common section for Sourcing – SXM due to the large overlap between the requirements and today’s platforms) which focuses on areas that are critical to S2P success regardless of your focus.

This new Common section is broken down into five categories

Analytics
Configurability
Supplier Portal
Foundational SXM
Technology

And they key requirements for any platform can be found in these four categories

Analytics
Technology
Configurability
Supplier Portal

In our last post we analyzed analytics and technology. In today’s post we are going to look at configurability and the supplier portal, both of which are also vital to ANY S2P application, whether best of breed, mini suite, suite, or next generation platform.

Let’s start with configurability. It has five critical sub-categories:

Globalization

Sourcing is done over global supply chains so global support for languages, currencies, data exchange, and data protection is absolutely vital.

Organizational Modelling

The application needs to support accurate organizational modelling to allow for selection of proper delivery addresses, identification of appropriate personnel associated with a location, identification of the right accounting structures (for the local country), etc.

Personalization

When it comes to usability, there is no one size fits all view. The CPO needs to see summaries and critical issues when she logs in, the category buyer needs to see a snapshot of current category performance, current projects, related issues, and so on. The CFO only cares about the financial summaries and impacts. And so on. And no one wants to click around for 5 minutes to find the information they need – they want it in their face when they log in. A good measure of a modern application is not how long the user is in it, but how long they aren’t in it. From a user’s viewpoint, as Weird Al so eloquently put it two decades ago, “it does all my work without my even askin’”.

Project Management

These days, users don’t have tasks to do, they have projects to manage. RPA was built to do mindless, repetitive tasks. And that’s what the system should do, guiding the buyer through the project to allow her to focus on the strategic decisions and relationships.

Workflow

A modern S2P application needs some workflow support that allows it to adjust to the needs of the user and the senior administrators to pre-define common workflows to optimize user productivity.

Similarly, every application that collects or stores supplier data needs to provide great capabilities around

Document Management

Business is captured in documents of all shapes, sizes, and types … and these come from both parties, not just the buyer – it must be easy for the supplier to get and put these with ease

Profile Management

A supplier must be able to maintain, or at least easily submit updates and corrections to, their profile. The whole point of a portal is to enable the supplier and ease life on the buyer.

And, of course, as we dive into each of the main areas of S2P, there are other core features, but these foundational elements need to be addressed before any vendor can offer a great best-of-breed point based solution, mini-suite, suite, or platform.

What Elements Should You Be Looking For in a Platform (Part I)

That’s a very hard question and, to some extent the key elements will, at least in many views, revolve around what you are looking for the platform to support, but there are some elements that should be part of your S2P platform regardless of where your solution focus is.

What are they?  Where can you find some hints?  For starters, you can loo to the new version of Solution Maps, designed by the doctor, with initial results releasing in less than two months, which have refactored all of the maps to have a new Common platform section (as well as a new common section for Sourcing – SXM due to the large overlap between the requirements and today’s platforms) which focuses on areas that are critical to S2P success regardless of your focus. 

This new Common section is broken down into five categories

Analytics
Configurability
Supplier Portal
Foundational SXM
Technology

And they key requirements for any platform can be found in these four categories

Analytics
Technology
Configurability
Supplier Portal

Let’s start with analytics.  This has four sub-categories, all of which are vital:

Data Schema

  As today’s information economy runs on data.  Big data.

Data Management

  As this data is constantly expanding and changing.

Metric Management

  As you can’t manage what you can’t measure

Reporting

  As we need to extract the data we need to do our jobs.

Now let’s look at technology.  Each of the seven sub-categories it contains are vital:

Data Management Support

  Which looks at foundational technology requirements to handle the data needs of today and tomorrow

Document Management Support

  Which looks at the additional technology required for document management (as the business world runs on documents and contracts)

Core Platform 

  Which looks at the architecture and software stack designed to support an evolving system

Automation

  As efficiency is about automation, usually accomplished by RPA and, in some cases, assisted intelligence (the first level of AI, which is where most companies are)

Standards and Integration

  As one platform can’t do it all.  Just like the internet does not support the One Ping. 

Emerging Technology Support

  As platforms must keep up

UX Layer

  As the platform must be usable. By the average user, not just the PhD with years of esoteric knowledge. 

Tomorrow we’ll outline the other categories and then in future posts we’ll dive into some of these key areas and define what they might mean in plain English. 

Stay tuned. 

One Hundred and Ten Years Ago Today …

Kinemacolor, the first successful color motion picture process, is first shown to the general public at the Palace Theatre in London by way of an eight-minute short filmed in Brighton titled A Visit to the Seaside.

This revolutionary technology was invented by George Albert Smith and launched by Urban Trading Co. of London and used commercially for 6 years. It was a two-colour additive colour process that involved photographing and projecting a black and white film behind alternating red and green filters at a rate of thirty-two images per second on panchromatic film.

Motion was a bit blurry, and color was a bit off, but it gave color to a world without any. It was revolutionary. And a mere 110 years later we can scan in Colortrac and capture 281,474,976,710,656 different colors (using 48-bit deep color), process it through ATI FireGL 3D Workstation Graphics Accelerators which can process 48-bit color, and display it on a HDR*1-enabled LCD*2 flat-screen display.

But still, a mere 110 years ago, this image of a 1911 Kinimacolor recreated from original materials, and found on Wikipedia, was revolutionary!

*1 High Dynamic Range
*2 Liquid Crystal Display

It’s 2019. This is What QuickStart Sourcing Should Look Like!

As we mentioned in yesterday’s post, a decade ago the Oompa Loompas at Coupa announced the availability of Coupa QuickStart which was simply a setup wizard that visually guides purchasing mangers through the setup process for users, approval rules, payment and shipping terms, billing information, chart of accounts, suppliers, and other basic information that was required to get a purchasing system up and running in less than an hour.

But just being able to order a product from a catalogue or send out a simple RFP is not very strategic, especially for 2019. And these days, any event that is not strategic is not going to generate much value when savings are drying up, brands are falling, and spending is falling as GDP growth stagnates and we return to depression era economics.

Needless to say, not only should every system have the capabilities that Coupa had 10 years ago, and the capabilities that we outlined in yesterday’s post on what QuickStart Procurement should look like, but that’s not enough. Not for 2019. Ten years ago we were promised semi-cognitive systems, and most systems can’t even automate basic invoice processing. It’s sad, sad, sad.

So, what should a modern system have? One built this decade?

  • smart RFI creation
    that, as per yesterday’s article, can be generated purpose built for the products in question using templates and organizational data in the ERP
  • smart RFI monitoring
    that can monitor the event, send out reminders, automatically check inputs against public data, organizational data, and expected data, and send out alerts to buyers when suppliers are late, inputs are off, or bids are outliers
  • smart bid analysis
    that can compare bids to past bids, market averages, and expected costs from reasonable should cost models
  • smart award recommendations
    based on bids, delivery times, availability, and supplier preferences
  • automatic auctions
    that can auto-populate from RFIs, auto-run, auto-monitor, auto-enforce rules, and auto-award and notify winners when the auction is over (as they won’t be invited to the auction if they don’t agree to the necessary terms and conditions to be offered an award beforehand)
  • automatic default contract creation
    that uses the organizational boilerplate, terms and conditions, default category clauses, awards, and associated obligations to generate a default contract
  • automatic document comparison and change tracking
    even if the supplier sends back a signed PDF that looks like the one you sent, every character will be analyzed
  • automatic performance monitoring plan generation
    that will track, based on the contract, when orders should go out, when goods should be received, when documents should be received, when reports should be received, when other deliverables should be received, when assessments should occur, etc.
  • real-time performance monitoring
    that monitors a plan, sends out alerts to buyers when deliverables are missed, sends out alerts to suppliers when they have not submitted a document or a shipment notification on time, automatically sends out pre-defined performance assessment surveys, etc.

Quick Setup is more than a wizard, it’s an assisted intelligence platform backed by sophisticated algorithms community and market data, and all organizational data and processes to mitigate the need for the buyer to do pointless tactical data processing in the first place and focus purely on the strategic analysis of RFX responses, when the relevant data and insights have already been generated by the platform.

But how many platforms have that today? The same umber of platforms that have assisted intelligence for Procurement. Zero.

In other words, just like Procurement Leaders are stuck in 2009 (as per yesterday’s article, but so are the vast majority of technology providers. So when looking for a new solution, find one of the few technology providers on this path. Otherwise, your solution capability will be nought, and that’s the decade you will return to. Not something anyone wants.