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Supply Management Technical Difficulty … Part III

A lot of vendors will tell you a lot of what they do is so hard and took thousands of hours of development and that no one else could do it as good or as fast or as flexible when the reality is that much of what they do is easy, mostly available in open source, and can be replicated in modern Business Process Management (BPM) configuration toolkits in a matter of weeks.

So, to help you understand what’s truly hard and, in the spend master’s words, so easy a high school student with an Access database could do it, the doctor is going to bust out his technical chops that include a PhD in computer science (with deep expertise in algorithms, data structures, databases, big data, computational geometry, and optimization), experience in research / architect / technology officer industry roles, and cross-platform experience across pretty much all of the major OSs and implementation languages of choice. Having covered basic sourcing and basic procurement it’s time to move on to Supplier Management.

But first, what is Supplier Management? Supplier Management, depending on the vendor, is defined as the provision of Supplier Information Management, Supplier Performance Management, and/or Supplier Relationship Management. The question is, do either of these areas contain any technical difficulty.

Supplier Information Management

Technical Challenge: NONE

Let’s face it, supplier information management is just data in, data out. Collect the data, push it in the database, run a report, pull it out. It’s just a database with a pre-defined schema and some fancy, optimized, UI for getting the right data to push in and pull out.

Supplier Performance Management

Technical Challenge: NONE

Supplier performance management is two part — performance tracking, done with software, and performance improvement initiatives, identified and managed by humans. The latter can be complex, but since this series is focussed on technical complexity, we will ignore this aspect. As for performance tracking, this is just tracking computed metrics over time. Essentially information management, but focussed on collected performance data and metrics.

Supplier Relationship Management

Technical Challenge: NONE

Supplier relationship management is all about managing the relationship. It’s usually done with collaboration (and collaboration software is not technically challenging), development management (lean, six sigma, and other programs), and innovation management (goal definition, initiative tracking, and workflow). All human challenges, not technical challenges.

But does this mean there are no challenges? Depends whether you are using old definitions or new definitions. A new definition goes beyond the basics and looks to software to guide the future of Supplier Management. And that’s where the challenges come in.

Technical Challenge: Predictive Analytics

Inventory levels, sales, and costs are relatively easy to predict with high accuracy with enough data using a suite of trend algorithms. They’re not always right, but they’re right more often than human “gut” (unless you happen to have a true expert who’s top of her league and been doing it for 20 years, and those are very rare) and that’s all we can expect.

But predicting a market trend is different than predicting supplier performance as performance shifts can result from a variety of factors that include, but aren’t limited to, worker problems (such as union strikes), financial problems (which can happen overnight as the result of a massive launch failure, loss, etc.), raw material shortages (as the result of a mine failure, etc.) and so on.

Thus, predicting future performance requires not only tracking performance, but also external market indicators of a financial, regulatory, and incident nature. The latter is particularly tricky as incidents are the result of events that can often only be detected by monitoring news feeds and applying semantic algorithms to the data to identify incidents that can affect future performance. Then, all of this data needs to be integrated to paint a picture that can more accurately predict performance than the predictions made from just monitoring internal data sources.

In other words, if all you are being sold is a data collection and monitoring tool, it’s not particularly challenging to build (and a business process management / workflow configurator tool could probably be used to build a prototype with your custom requirements in a week), but if it’s a true, modern, performance management solution with integrated predicted analytics to help you identify those relationships at risk, that’s a completely different story.

Next Up: Analytics!

What Makes a Good UI? Part I

Now that we’ve sung Bye, Bye to Monochrome UIs, it’s time to address what makes a good UI. This is a question the doctor has been working on for over a year as he has done deep dive vendor reviews (co-authored with the prophet over on Spend Matters Pro, membership required) that go deeper than any analyst or blogger reviews ever done.

This is because each of those reviews have included a section on UI where the UI was rated on a number of high level factors, namely:

  • Overall Ease of Use
  • Ability to Learn and Use Without Training
  • Comparative Ease of Use
  • Sourcing/Procurement User Experience
  • Business User Experience
  • Planned Upgrades

which, while seemingly subjective, were all based on a comparison of the platform against other platforms that themselves were rated against a generalized baseline of what makes a “good” UIX for that type of platform. And while these have not yet been shared, as they have been in development, with the release of the first Spend Matters Solution Map (C) in P2P and the upcoming Solution Maps in Sourcing, the doctor and the the prophet have decided to finalize their joint criteria for UIX evaluation. To this end, we are co-authoring a series on Measuring the Procurement Technology User Experience: More Than Just a Pretty Screen (Part 1) where we will dive into the general and specific characteristics of what makes a good UIX in Sourcing and Procurement.

And while the full deep dives will be on Spend Matters Pro, our view of the basics are something we intend to spread far and wide. So just like key aspects of Sourcing, SRM, and CLM functionality were covered on both Spend Matters and Sourcing Innovation, the core of what makes a good UIX will be covered on both blogs as well (but if you want drill down and examples, that will only be found in the deep dives on Pro).

We’ll start with the generics. A good UI brings integrated guidance that helps the user through each function it supports, with the user needing to be aware of policies, detailed user guides, or business specific rules. The platform knows all those and guides the user through any minefields.

An even better UI leverages pattern recognition, machine learning, trend detection, and reasoning to adapt to the user and make the UIX better and better over time. In short, the most effective UIX not only makes a platform sticky, but makes the everyday user more productive over time — without extensive training or the need for deep knowledge on the part of the user.

And it goes beyond the obvious. For example:

  • An ideal UIX doesn’t have to exist — it can be “touch-less” and automate anything that can be automated without user involvement
  • An ideal UIX realizes context can be as important as content
  • Mobile is part of the platform and user experience where it makes sense
  • Messaging is used as a competitive advantage (but not necessarily in the way you think it might be)
  • And it incorporates guidance based on true expertise — what some are calling predictive analytics

In other words, it gives the user what the user really needs, not what the developer wants.

For a deeper dive on the features and capabilities of a good UI, see Measuring the Procurement Technology User Experience: More Than Just a Pretty Screen (Part 1) [membership required] and stay tuned for future entries in this series.

The Coupa Factory … Rethink!

In recognition of Coupa’s recent acquisition of Spend360 and it’s planned acquisition of Trade Extensions …

Oompa Loompa Doom-pa-dee-do
Our goal is a great product for you
Oompa Loompa Doom-pa-dah-dall
But demands are too high when suites promise all

What do you get when you go enterprise?
Encroaching upon the ERP course?
Where they are spending to salvo back?
What do you think will come of that?

I don’t like the look of it

Oompa Loompa Doom-pa-dee-dar
We were all willing, and we went far
We wanted to give you happiness too
Like the Oompa Loompa Doom-pa-dee-do

Oompa Loompa Doom-pa-dee-do
We built a great product for you
Oompa Loompa Doom-pa-dee-done
but it’s not enough, it must be the “One”

There was a time best-of-breed tickled pink
Multiple products working in sync
But platform providers promised it all
Now the market expects us to fall [in line]

Amongst the propaganda

Oompa Loompa doom-pa-dee-dar
But here at Coupa, we said you’d go far
That You will buy in happiness too
Like the Oompa-Loompa doom-pa-dee-do

Oompa Loompa Doom-pa-dee-do
So now we buy great product for you
Oompa Loompa Doom-pa-dee-derd
If you are wise, you will heed our word

Use Spend360 to find all your waste
Use Trade Extensions to eliminate
Use Contractually to manage your deals
And Use InvoiceSmash to balance your Riels

And ZenPurchase to manage it all

Oompa Loompa doom-pa-dee-dar
Now here at Coupa, we’ll take you far
You will buy in happiness too
Like the Oompa-Loompa doom-pa-dee-do

Oompa Loompa Doom-pa-dee-do
I have a great product for you
Oompa Loompa Doom-pa-dee-dise
If you are wise, you’ll buy enterprise

You’ll buy our whole line, from source down to pay
You’ll Source and Procure the new Coupa way
Finance and HR, they’ll be happy too
With the Oompa-Loompa doom-pa-dee-do

You’ll have no … you’ll have no … you’ll have no more wants!

Oompa Loompa doom-pa-dee-dar
Yes now with Coupa, you will go far
You will buy in happiness too
Like the Oompa-Loompa doom-pa-dee-do

On the Eleventh day of X-Mas (2016)

On the eleventh day of X-Mas
my blogger gave to me:
Analysis Posts
Standard Sourcing Posts
Direct Sourcing Posts
Risk Management Posts
Sustainable Posts
e-Procurement Posts
some SRM Posts
some CLM Posts
some Best Practice Posts
some Trend Bashing Posts
and some ranting on stupidity …

Some of you might have thought we dished up the best first with our trend bashing posts and some ranting on stupidity. While those are some of the best posts SI has to offer, SI would like to think that its posts on Analysis and Optimization, the doctor‘s areas of expertise, are its crème de la crème. So, without further ado,

We know what spend analysis is (heck, the doctor co-wrote the book), but
What the Hell is Automated Spend Analysis?

Also, analysis is good because
Decisions Should be Data-Derived — But They Should Not Be Big Data Driven!

And even though you might think you can hire a high-school student and give him Microsoft Access and get a good analytics system on the cheap (as this was the complexity of many first generation contract management systems that, sad as it is, are still being sold today), the reality is that this is not the case and here is
Why You Should Not Build Your Own Analytics System

But all is not list. If you want to know, we will tell you
Spend Analysis – How You Get it Right?

In What Way Would the doctor Improve Spend Analysis? Glad you asked!
Part I
Part II
Part III

And we could not end this post without paying homage to the classic series by the old grey beard:
  I: The Value Curve
 II: The Psychology of Analysis
III: Common Sense Cleansing
 IV: Defining Analysis
  V: New Horizons Part I
 VI: New Horizons Part II

Come back tomorrow for the twelfth day of X-Mas.

On the Sixth day of X-Mas (2016)

On the sixth day of X-Mas
my blogger gave to me:
e-Procurement Posts
some SRM Posts
some CLM Posts
some Best Practice Posts
some Trend Bashing Posts
and some ranting on stupidity …

Before we go any further, the doctor would like to remind you that It’s Sourcing and Procurement, that we’ve already given you a list of basic questions to ask your e-Procurement Vendor, and that Procurement is so extensive that it’s the source of 101 Damnations that plague your working existence. All that being said, there is still more to say and some of it is captured in the linked posts below.

What is a “Best” Procurement Organization? Does it even exist?

No Environment is too Challenging or too Unique for Procure to Pay … despite what the neigh-sayers say!

3 More Terrible Reasons NOT to use e-Procurement … to add to the neigh-sayers’ pile of excuses!

What Procurement Processes Should be Automated? (Hint, not all of them!)

Procurement is Complex. Is Your Platform Capable of Handling It? (Hint, probably not!)

Have We Reached B2B 3.0 Yet? Part 5: B2B 3.0 in Procurement

How Do You Maintain Coherence Between Sourcing, Procurement, and Accounts Payable? (This is an important question, any incoherence costs you $$$!)

Some Procurement Myths Debunked!
Part I
Part II

And a shout out to the maverick!

And, finally,
Finding Your Procurement Mojo and Gettin’ Sigi Wit’ It
Part Un
Part Deux

Come back tomorrow for the seventh day of X-Mas!