For all I care, they can ban all the Social Media Platforms!

For those who haven’t heard, Montana is the first state to try and ban TikTok, presumably because it’s owned by China that is harvesting the data. Following that logic, shouldn’t they ban every platform that has Chinese investment?

… and then every social media platform that has a presence in China and, as such, must adhere to Chinese law?

Of course, if the real reason they want to ban Social Media platforms is because they realize the damage that social media platforms have been doing to us (and are using the Chinese ownership as an excuse), they can ban them all — including their home-grown American platforms. After all, Twitter made us dumber than a doornail and Facebook is a Toilet so please feel free to take them away too.

Remember, even if you overlook the fact that Facebook is primarily used for sharing conspiracy theories and information that is NOT fact-checked, seeking attention, cyber-stalking your favourite celebrities, and other uses besides the good, wholesome, community aspects they tirelessly promote, if you acted in real life like you acted on Facebook, as the image below suggests, you’d be the subject of multiple psychological assessments and suspicious individual #1 at your local precinct. (Credit to the original source, which I wish I knew!)

Don’t Cheat Yourself with Cheat Sheets, Kid Yourself with KPI Quick Lists, or Rip Yourself Off with Bad RFPs!

In an effort to quickly catch up on the parts of S2P the doctor hasn’t been covering as much in the past few years, when he was focussed primarily on Analytics, Optimization, Modelling, and advanced tech in S2P (inc. RPI, ML, “AI”, etc.), he’s been paying more attention to LinkedIn. Probably too much, even though he can (speed) read very fast and skim a semi-infinite scroll page in a minute. Why? Because a lot of what he’s been seeing is troubling him, and as per last Friday’s post, sometimes angering him when predatory sales-people and consultants are giving other sales-people and consultants bad advice (presumably to increase their follower count or coaching sales or whatever) that will not only hurt what could be a well-intentioned sales-person or consultant (they still exist, though sometimes it seems they are fewer by the year as more sales people bleed into our space from enterprise software, looking for the next hot software solution and the next big payday), but also the individuals, and companies, those influenced sales people sell to in the thoughtless, emotionless, uncaring aggressive style the predatory sales coaches are mandating. (Not to say that a sales person shouldn’t be aggressive about getting a sale, just that they should be focussed on the companies they can actually help and be focussed on getting the customer all the information and insight that customer needs to make the right choice, feel comfortable about it, and feel prepared to defend it. The aggression should be channeled into making sure their company does everything it can to properly educate the potential client before that client commits to a long term relationship.)

A few of the things that have been repeatedly troubling him is

  1. all the cheat sheets he’s been seeing for those looking to get a better grip on Procurement and how it integrates into the rest of the business, that supposedly summarize everything you need to know about accounting, finance, payments / accounts payable, etc. to help you make good choices about Procurement in general;
  2. all the 10/20/50 Procurement, Spend, Manufacturing, etc. KPIs that you need to keep tabs on your Procurement, cashflow plan, product lifecycle, etc.; and
  3. all the RFP outlines or guidances that are being made available, sometimes by leaving your email, to help buyers acquire a certain technology.

And it’s not because they’re bad. They’re not. Some of them are actually quite good. A few are even excellent. Some of the cheat sheets and KPI lists the doctor has seen are incredibly well thought out, incredibly clear, and incredibly useful to you. Some are so good that, as a buyer, likely with little support from your organization and even less of a training budget, you should be profusely thanking whomever was so kind to create this for you and give it away for free.

Nor is it because the doctor suspects any ill intent or malice behind the efforts (in the vast majority of the cases). Many of these people giving away the cheat sheets or the KPI lists are generally trying to help their fellow humans get better at the job and improve the profession overall. And when the RFP outline is coming from a former practitioner, it’s also the case that they are typically trying to help you out (and maybe sell their services as a consultant, but they are providing proof of value up-front).

So why has it been troubling the doctor so? It took a while and some thought to put his finger on it, and the answer is, surprisingly, one of the reasons [but not the obvious one] that the doctor hates software vendor RFPs and despises any vendor that gives you one.

Now, the primary reason the doctor despises those RFPs, which became popular when Procuri started doing it en-masse in the mid-to-late 2000s (before being acquired by Ariba and quietly sunsetted as the integration never finished by the time Ariba sold to SAP, for those of you who remember the APE circus), is that these RFIPs are always written to be entirely one sided and ensure the vendor giving them away ALWAYS comes out on top. The feature list is exactly what the vendor offers, the weightings correspond exactly to the vendor core strengths, etc. etc. etc. And don’t tell me you can start with a vendor RFP and alter it to suit other vendors, because you can’t. You’d have to know all the features as the vendor focussed on point features, not integrated functions, and you, as a buyer who’s never used a modern system, have no knowledge of how to equate features (when vendor specific terminology is used), or how to determine if one feature is more advanced than another. (That was the reason the doctor co-developed Solution Map, to help rate and evaluate technology, which is the one thing most buying organizations can’t do well. Not the things they can do well, and better than most analyst firms, like rate the appropriateness of services to them, assess whether or not the vendor has a culture that will be a good fit, define their business needs and goals, etc.)

But the primary reason doesn’t apply here. So what’s the secondary reason? When an average, overworked, underpaid, and overstressed buyer got their hands on one of these free vendor RFPs, especially when the RFP was thick, heavy, and professionally edited and prepared to look polished and ready for use, and was more detailed than what the buyer could do, they thought they had their answer and could run with it. They thought it was all they needed to know, for now, and that they could send it out, collect the responses, and get back to fire-fighting. They were lulled into a false sense of security.

And that’s why these cheat sheets and KPI guides and former buyer/consultant RFPs are so troubling. When you’ve been struggling without even the basics, and these are so good that they teach you all the basics, and more, it seems like they have all the answers you need and that when you learn those basics, encapsulate them in the tool, and start running your business against them, things will be better. Then you configure your tool to respect the basics, encode the KPIs, and things are better. Significantly better, and for once processes start going smoothly. And then you believe you know everything you need to in that area (that’s not your primary area) to interface with those functions and that those KPIs will be enough to keep you on the Procurement track and let you know if there are any issues to be addressed. And you start operating like that’s the case. But it’s not.

And that’s the problem — these cheat sheet, guides, and templates, which are much better than what you’d get in the past, can make such a drastic difference when you first learn and implement them that they instill a false sense of security. You get complacent with your integrations, reports, and KPI monitors, not recognizing that they only capture and catch what they were encoded to capture and catch. However, real world conditions are constantly changing, the supply base is constantly changing, and external events such as natural disasters, political squabbles, and endemics are coming fast and furious. If the risk metric doesn’t take into account external events, real-time slips in OTD (as it is based on risk profiles upon onboarding, and updates upon contract completion), or past regulatory compliance violations (as an indicator of potential violations in the future), the organization could be blindsided by a disruption the buyer thought the KPI would prevent. Similarly, the wrong cash-flow related KPIS can give a false sense of liquidity and financial security and the wrong inventory metrics can lead to the wrong forecasts in outlier categories (very fast moving, very slow moving, or recently promoted).

In other words, by giving you the answers, without the rationale behind them, or deep insight into how appropriate those answers are to your situation, you will cheat yourself, kid yourself, or, even worse, rip yourself off. And that’s worrisome. So please, please, please remember what these are — learning aids and starting points only — not the end result. (Especially if it’s an RFP template.)

Source-to-Pay+ is Extensive (P15) … And So Is Supplier Management! It’s a CORNED QUIP!

That’s right, Supplier Management is a CORNED QUIP! And we’ll explain what we mean shortly, but first … how did we get here?

When we started this series back in Part 1, we noted that Source-to-Pay is extensive, your organization needed all of it, but your organization couldn’t implement it all at once. So we needed to give you advice on where to start, which, after a careful analysis, needed to be e-Procurement. Next came spend analysis because, in the hands of the right analyst, if your organization wasn’t sure what module was the next most valuable, spend analysis would help the organization identify which modules would likely bring the most (relative) value (based upon the opportunities spend analysis identified). Often, there will be a clear winner, and your organization will know what module to start implementing tomorrow, but sometimes there won’t be. So what’s the answer then? When you are dependent on suppliers, there is no value beyond the supplier. Thus, in this situation, Supplier Management comes next.

But why is Supplier Management a CORNED QUIP? A good solution preserves and maintains the data, like a good cure, but the marketing from most of the vendors with these solutions is more entertaining than enlightening (as they seem to prefer wit to wisdom). This, of course, is not at all helpful when there are literally ten (10) different types, or at least aspects, of supplier management solutions on the marketplace, no one vendor addresses all of the aspects in their solution, and, in many cases, doesn’t even address more than a couple of these aspects. Furthermore, depending on your organizational needs and the platforms your organization currently has in place, some capabilities will be much more important to your organization than other capabilities. Moreover, sometimes certain capabilities in a supplier management solution, already present in solutions already implemented by the organization, will be downright useless as these aspects will, thus, be completely redundant. So, if a vendor is just selling “Supplier Management” or “Supplier Lifecycle Management”, which theoretically includes every core type of capability (even though not a single solution on the market today comes close to materializing all the capabilities), how do you know what they are selling?

Just what might that vendor be selling when they are trying to sell you Supplier Management? One or more management aspects of the CORNED QUIP (but likely not all of those aspects, as every cure is different, and every message witty in its own way, but not exactly enlightening).

What are these ten (10), core, aspects of modern supplier management? (Which dictate the core capabilities that such a solution should offer.)

  • C: Compliance (+ Government + Regulatory)
  • O: Orchestration (or Onboarding + Multi-Tier/Multi-Supplier capability)
  • R: Relationship
  • N: Network
  • E: Enablement (+ Engagement)
  • D: Discovery
  • Q: Quality
  • U: Uncertainty (+ Risk)
  • I: Information
  • P: Performance

Now, before we continue, we know you’re saying “what about ESG” and “what about diversity“? Well, at least as of today, most of these providers are data services that you use to augment your central supplier records (in your Supplier Master Data Management [SMDM] Solution, which could be your SXM or could be the ERP that the SXM extracts data from), and not standalone SXM products, so we will tackle those separately at some point in the future (especially since diversity is literally just data enrichment on a supplier record in any current solution).

Thus, now that we know what we are implementing, our next step is to decide how to evaluate the solution. Thus, in our next post, we’ll begin to break down the ten core aspects of the CORNED QUIP and define not only what they mean, but what capabilities are critical to the cure.

On to the A-Side in Part 16.

Source-to-Pay+ is Extensive (P14) … So Do Not Stop at Spend Analysis!

As we discussed in Part 8, once you have your eProcurement baseline, that’s just the beginning. The very beginning. Even though not all modules are equal, and not all modules will return equal results, you, and your organization, will need all of Source-to-Pay eventually. However, since you can’t implement it all at once, you take it one module at a time.

After eProcurement, if you aren’t 100% sure where the most value will come from, you go on to spend analysis and use it to help you identify the best opportunities, and those opportunities may indicate the next best module to implement (for your organization at the current time). After that, you may have a clear answer, or, you may not. Sometimes the analysis indicates almost equal opportunity between sourcing and contracting, between contracting and supplier management, or between sourcing and supplier management. (Or, you might not have the manpower or expertise to do the analysis you need to get the right answer.)

So if it’s unclear as to which solution to choose next, it’s back to arguments and logic in an effort to determine which of the three aforementioned solutions to choose.

How about Strategic Sourcing? It’s the one technology proclaimed to identify the most savings and deliver the best results. The truth is that while it almost always identifies the most savings, it doesn’t actually deliver those savings, or even guarantee them. The savings are guaranteed by the contract, delivered by the (new) supplier, and captured by the eProcurement system.

So how about a Contract Management System? In order to guarantee the cost reductions, you need the contract. Or it’s just a quote that’s given today, denied tomorrow. But, as we indicated in a prior post, you don’t need a contract management system for a contract. You need (e-)paper, (e-)ink, and a pair of (e-)signatures. The right contract management system makes it easy to author, negotiate, manage, track, and enforce a contract. But the contract itself is up to people, and if they don’t agree, there’s no contract, and, thus, no need for a contract management system.

This just leaves Supplier Management. But is this where we start? If we think about the value sourcing identifies, it’s generated by the supplier. So it’s critical that the supplier perform. If we have a good supplier management solution, it will track the supplier’s progress, alert us to issues, and assist us in managing the relationship if intervention is required. It will enable performance management, which is critical because if the supplier doesn’t perform and/or doesn’t adhere to the contract, then it doesn’t matter how great the sourcing event was or how good the contract inked was.

And so, because suppliers, and relationships with them, are key, when all things are about equal, or when it’s hard to identify where to go next, we go with supplier management.

Start the dive in Part 15.

Source-to-Pay+ Is Extensive (P13) … But I Can’t Touch The Sacred Cows!

In our last installment (Part 12) of this series here on Sourcing Innovation (SI), we provided you a list of forty-plus (40+) vendors that could potentially meet your spend analysis needs and help you identify the cost savings, reduction, and avoidance opportunities you have in your organization as well as the best modules to achieve those cost savings, reduction, and avoidance opportunities. The right spend analysis tool properly applied will generate returns that are many orders of magnitude greater than the cost of the tool and will surprise you.

However, some of those best opportunities will be in the “sacred cows” of Marketing, Legal, and SaaS subscriptions. And you probably think you can’t do anything because you don’t have the data, Marketing and Legal won’t let you touch their spend (or give you the detail you need to even analyze it, often because they didn’t collect it), and you have no idea on what SaaS is actually being used and how much you overspend.

the doctor knows this, and knows that you might need custom solutions to manage, and analyze, this spend, so, before we move on and tackle the next module in the Source-to-Pay queue, we’re going to take a brief sidebar and provide you with short lists of vendors that specialize in each area that will collect the data you need — and sometimes even provide you with deep, customized, integrated analytics that provide you with the insights that matter (including the insights that matter on your matter spend) — to enable deep spend analysis, benchmark creation, and opportunity identification.

But first, we have to repeat our disclaimer that, as per the lists of e-Procurement vendors provided in Part 7 and the list of Spend Analysis vendors provided in Part 12, this list is most definitely in no way complete (as no analyst is aware of every company, and neither Marketing nor Legal are the particular domains of expertise of SI), is only valid as of the date of posting (as companies get acquired and go out of business, often without notice), and does not include the broader range of offerings that are available for SaaS Management (including provisioning and cloud management), Marketing (including agency management pure-plays, although DecideWare, for example, does this), or Legal (including contract authoring, management, and clause analysis — although we will cover some of these players when we get to Contract Lifecycle Management [CLM]).

Again, and we can’t say this enough, not all vendors are equal and we’d venture to say that this most definitely applies to the lists below. The companies below are of all sizes (very small to very large), offer different functionality (focussing in on different aspects of Marketing, Legal, and/or SaaS Spend Management), different levels of customization and integration, different types of companion services, focus on different company sizes and/or company types, and integrate with different Source-to-Pay and Enterprise ecosystems.

Do your research, and reach out to an expert for help if you need it in compiling a starting short list of relevant, comparable, vendors for your organization and its specific needs. For a few of these vendors, you may find a write up in the Sourcing Innovation archives, Spend Matters Pro, or Gartner cool vendor write-ups, but for many of these vendors, you’ll have to look beyond your typical sources of information as they are highly specialized and don’t fall into the typical Source-to-Pay bucket. But if you have enough Marketing, Legal, or SaaS spend, they can be highly valuable.

Note that, due to the newness of SaaS spend management, the different marketing and legal needs of every organization, and the high degree of differentiation between many of the solutions below, we are not (yet) defining baseline functionality and instead advising you to do a detailed analysis of your spend, processes, and needs and judge potential solutions based on that. If you need help with that, seek out a pro who can do the (gap) analysis and RFI creation for you.

SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) Subscription Cost Management

Company LinkedIn
HQ (State)
Beamy 60 France
BetterCloud 305 New York, USA
Cledera 63 Colorado, USA
Flexera 1026 Illinois, USA
G2 Track 792 Illinois, USA
Hudled 8 Australia
NPI Financial 410 Georgia, USA
Productiv 139 California, USA
SaaSRooms 9 United Kingdom
SaaSTrax ?? North Carolina, USA
Sastrify 166 Germany
Setyl 14 United Kingdom
Spendflo 70 California, USA
Substly Sweden
Torii 114 New York, USA
Trelica 12 United Kingdom
TRG Screen 179 New York, USA
Tropic 240 New York, USA
Vendr 404 Massachusetts, USA
Viio 18 Columbia
Zluri 111 California, USA
Zylo 144 Indiana, USA

Legal Spend Management

Company LinkedIn
HQ (State)
Apperio 48 United Kingdom
Brightflag 150 New York, USA
(LexisNexis) CounselLink 28 Ohio, USA
Fulcrum GT 158 Illinois, USA
Mitratech TeamConnect 1119 Texas, USA
Onit 339 Texas, USA
Ontra 421 California, USA
Persuit 100 New York, USA
Thomson Reuters Legal Tracker ?? Ontario
Tonkean LegalWorks 76 California
Wolters Kluwer (TyMetrix 360) ??? Netherlands

Marketing (Procurement) Spend Management

Company LinkedIn
HQ (State)
DecideWare 27 Australia
HH Global ?? United Kingdom
Mtivity 15 United Kingdom
Promost 68 Poland
RightSpend 23 New York, USA
SourceIt Market 6 Australia

Onwards to Part 14.