Tag Archives: business to business software

Are Procurement Professionals Stuck in the Stone Age? – Part IV

As B2B technology companies are beginning to realise the benefits of being easy to use, what changes do we think will happen? How do we envisage the B2B tech space evolving within the next 5-10 years?

B2B Software

Market Dojo put an article together examining what it would look like in 10 years time, and how it will have to adapt and change to remain ahead of the game.

With a focus on Market Dojo as an eSourcing company, we came up with a few conclusions, most of which can be applied not only to eSourcing, but to B2B technology companies as a whole.

The table below looks at different functions of technology and predictions on how they might change within the B2B landscape.

Function Change
Mobile Technology Whilst consumers are ever increasing their use of mobile tech, are businesses going to become more reliant on this in the workplace? The simple answer is yes. B2B companies need to be aware of becoming even more responsive, searchable and usable across the mobile technology of the future?
Google (power of the web/search) Will this develop enough and become intelligent enough to make other applications obsolete? Such as developing  more intelligent supplier search function and becoming the de-facto supplier database though their categorisation.
APIs The ability to integrate between solutions is already possible, but in the future it is set to become even more simple. We expect it becoming ever easier to integrate with any (software) component through standard connectors, so that best of breed becomes as attractive or even better than ERP solutions.
Amazon/Google/Apple B2B platform Established companies moving into other areas (E.g. developing eMarketplaces) and threatening the smaller providers with their ability to quickly develop technology. This is already happening.

Procserve, for example, have built links with Amazon for B2B purchasing. (See full article here.)

Eradicating the user interface Moving from slick user interface to ‘no user interface’, as per this Coupa article.

A rather controversial idea, but we can see some logic that instead of having to log into a tool every day, instead it fits around your life so you can interact with it outside the tool via Voice Activation such as Google Voice, Siri, Cortana, etc.

True commoditisation The final stage of the technology lifecycle is commoditisation. (See Market Dojo’s video on the four stages of technological growth taken from a TED lecture.)
Integrated market information How global news stories affect various aspects of your business and what technology can do to make companies more aware and faster.
Also how tech can keep companies updated with what’s being said about their brand. (Ref. Owler.)
More focus on AI & Automation/robotics The software could take actions when it ‘thinks’ it is needed. e.g. within eSourcing – delay an auction due to lack of liquidity, or suggest a better lot structure based on the bids received.
Public Sector Procurement A big shake-up in the public sector software market to disrupt the legacy tools with their complex workflows and procedures to be a slick tool that people enjoy using. E.g. Matrix SCM
IT involvement & Security barriers IT’s function is changing from an in-house design/build/implement function to a strategic business partner who guide business stakeholders in the selection of appropriate SaaS systems.
Marketing How will people find us in the future, compared to how they find us now?
How will the power of search change in the future?
At the minute, the focus is on Content Marketing, but what next?
More personalised, more interactive marketing?

As you can see, we expect the Market Dojo platform to become more intuitive and user-friendly over the next few years. Is this true of all business softwares? Will we (realistically) be able to prioritise usability and design over functionality and features?

The authors have pondered long and hard the question of when the B2C approach will catch on in the B2B World. We think it is progressively changing, but will, for the reasons listed in previous articles, take some time to change.

New suppliers with easy to use solutions are coming to the fore, Coupa and Egencia come to mind. But we postulate that it will be a slow change process, with perhaps another 5 years before the whole B2B solution market feels like today’s B2C environment – at which point the B2C landscape will possibly be different again!

To stay at the forefront of technology, can B2B companies look to B2C arena as a gauge of what’s to come?

What are your thoughts?

Market Dojo and Odesma have partnered to combine their intuitive eSourcing software and expertise in offering business advisory services to offer clients a winning procurement solution.

Silo Busting: Using savings management to drive collaboration

In a perfect world, savings management should follow a clear pattern: set targets, identify then prioritise initiatives, track initiatives and, finally, review the targets. However, managers know that in reality, these five steps are beset with difficulty. They have to deal with unknown targets and goals, manual inputting, approval difficulties, siloed projects, sporadic monitoring and, worst of all, focus on the wrong projects.

How to bust silos when nothing seems to work

Many of the woes besetting procurement professionals can be traced back to organisational silos, which hamper effective communication, hinder compliance, and impede transparency. You’ve tried everything to improve collaboration – from issuing company-wide news bulletins, increasing the number and frequency of interdepartmental meetings, and even drastically altering the seating arrangements … but sometimes, silo-type behaviour is just ingrained. No doubt, you have wished there was some sort of silver bullet that will do away with silos once and for all.

According to SciQuest’s Karen Sage, there is. Sage is excited about launching a new solution that will bring everyone on board with procurement savings initiatives. “Our new Portfolio Savings Manager (PSM) is really going to hit those organisational silos hard”, says Sage. “It encourages interaction, creating cross-collaboration within the business. You’ll have all of these different silos working together on your procurement savings initiatives, and those frustrating savings management difficulties have been ironed out into a seamless and efficient process.”

SciQuest has been in the spend management space for a long time – 20 years, in fact – and services a wide range of industries and organisations including many of the Global Fortune 500. Customers using SciQuest’s Source-to-Settle Suite wanted a way to track projects in a single interface that incorporates multiple aspects of the procurement process, whether it be savings tracking, project management or workflow management. The company responded with the creation of the innovative PSM, which can be used as a stand-alone product, but its full functionality is revealed when integrated with the existing Source-to-Settle Suite.

The cross-functionality of PSM enables team members in any department, from sourcing and procurement to finance and operations, to:

  • identify potential savings and process optimisation projects
  • approve and prioritise initiatives
  • assign tasks and allocate resources
  • track milestones and results, and
  • monitor progress against forecast and budget.

The system is a project-manager’s dream, automatically determining milestones and tasks required to complete initiatives and allocate resources. PSM replaces tedious manual processes such as spreadsheet inputting, project tracking and database updating. It captures strategies and savings initiatives from inception to realisation, forecasting, scheduling, tracking and reporting savings. Users benefit from historical project and savings visibility, without having to dig into the database or spreadsheets for lost information.

Savings management made simple in five steps

 PSM users follow an intuitive five-step process, with a focus on simplicity throughout:

1. Identification

Users are guided through the completion of a savings initiative creation with the aid of a left-side navigation section that indicates counts and completeness.

  1. Authorisation

Approval workflows are applied to the initiative based on business compliance requirements.

  1. Prioritisation

The user assigns a priority to each initiative on a scale of 1 to 10. Priorities can be adjusted to reflect current business and resource parameters.

  1. Execution

Deliverables and tasks assignees can update their tasks status, mark them in-progress, complete or reset the due date.

  1. Achievement

Reports and graphs are automatically generated and displayed on customised dashboards.

Having the right system in place enables procurement professionals to stop spending valuable time trying to persuade unwilling cross-departmental colleagues to collaborate. Concentrate instead on getting everyone interacting with your new system, see the silos melt away, and watch the savings flow.

SciQuest’s Portfolio Savings Manager will be available for purchase in July 2016. For more information, please visit www.SciQuest.com.

Coupa R15 – delivering agility and measurable value

David Hearn, former CPO Indirect Procurement at Kaiser Permanente, Sun Microsystems and Juniper Networks, talks to Procurious about how Coupa’s latest product releases (Coupa R15) deliver more value to businesses.

Coupa R15 InvoiceSmash

One of the benefits of being a leader in cloud-based spend management solutions is that you can push innovative enhancements to customers rapidly and efficiently. Coupa does so three times per year, with each release being something of an event as customers eagerly await the latest improvements to the platform.

We’re talking with Indirect Procurement guru David Hearn about which of the more than 45 new features he’s most excited about in Coupa Release 15.

Hyperlocalised Languages and Suggest-A-Translation™ (Patent Pending)

People access Coupa in over 100 countries and more than 20 different languages. Coupa has recognised that their customers have unique language requirements, and also that every organisation has a business language of its own. Hyperlocalised Languages allows customers to modify any of Coupa’s 20+ languages for their own purposes, with changes limited to their organisation only and not impacting other customers. Coupa also added Suggest-A-Translation to collect end-user translation suggestions and route to the customer administrator for real-time updates. This personalises the cloud platform in ways never before seen in this industry and is a key reason for the patent pending status.

David says: “The hyperlocalised language feature helps all users of the platform feel included in the management of the tool which is a huge benefit to getting 100% adoption. Language is important, and if an employee in Japan (for example) thinks that an on-screen word doesn’t fit their organisation’s business vocabulary, they can simply suggest a change to better suit their local business needs.”

Unified Platform Innovations and Enhanced Analytics:

Coupa has updated its sourcing recommendations engine to add real-time monitoring expenses, along with a new supplier risk recommendations engine, an inventory trends dashboard and enhanced embedded analytics functionality that adds more visibility and control. The platform embraces ‘suite synergy’, which means applications are fully unified, and the user experience improves with the use of multiple applications.

David says: “I can’t stress enough the importance of having everything seamless on one platform. Having the Coupa platform provide recommendations across all the ways an employee spends money is a game changer. The entire end-to-end process is electronically sharing data and pro-actively prompting procurement teams with new ideas for better sourcing. This enables those teams to focus on being strategic – and that’s a huge value. These latest updates help companies be more agile and make decisions faster”.

Contract Collaboration

Contract Collaboration is a new Coupa application that brings real-time authoring to contracts and extends Coupa Contract Lifecycle Management. It removes the need to use Microsoft Word for redlining documents passed around via email. The new application provides automatic versioning, captures key terms and conditions and transfers them electronically into the ordering system.

David says: “For as long as I’ve been a CPO, we’ve struggled with the entire lifecycle management of contracts. This latest application from Coupa captures the upfront authoring collaboration and links it to the actual transaction – no one has done this before in a unified suite that captures all spending from expenses, to invoices, to requisitions. There’s no longer a need to manually input the contracts terms and conditions into the system; it auto-fills the whole process. It frees up time to focus on better sourcing instead of clerical duties. It also reduces the risk of contract errors.”

Check out Coupa’s great video on Contract Collaboration (watch for the procurement professional smashing up his keyboard in frustration at Microsoft Word). 

InvoiceSmash

While we’re talking about smashing things, Coupa InvoiceSmash enables suppliers to automatically parse emailed PDF invoices so details are auto-filled into Coupa. One of the most exciting aspects of this product is its machine learning, which ensures the same mistake won’t be made twice and minimises the need for human intervention. The application is currently available in an early access program.

David says: “No one wants to use their limited headcount budget to fund clerical duties of manually entering data from invoices.  It’s archaic. Many have tried using OCR for invoice processing, but this is expensive and the human review and rework on invoices is extensive. InvoiceSmash automates this mundane data entry through accurate digital data extraction and means companies can remove most of their clerical team members and re-invest back into the business.”

Coupa released a clever parody video showing AP and AR professionals on the couch with a relationship counselor – their “marriage” can only be saved by InvoiceSmash.

And much more in Coupa R15:

For the full list of R15 updates, visit http://www.coupa.com/newsworthy/press-releases/release-15/

Smarter relationship management with ClientLoyalty

Procurious caught up with Kent Barnett, Chairman and CEO of ClientLoyalty at ISM2016, Indianapolis USA.

solving_loyalty_equation

CPOs worldwide recognise the need to keep track of supplier relationships to reduce costs, minimise risk, and uncover opportunities to grow their businesses. Voice of the supplier surveys are common, yet the technology employed is often archaic. Typically, stand-alone web-based surveys are sent out, with the results downloaded into spreadsheets and painstakingly interpreted by analysts. Subsequent surveys are often not linked to the ones that have gone before, and even if they are, it’s left to human analysts to make intelligent connections and interpret the trends.

“This is the gap we discovered in the business services space”, says Kent Barnett, CEO of ClientLoyalty. “Organisations rarely use data to manage the voice of the supplier process, and hence miss out on an enormous opportunity to employ a continuous improvement methodology. They also fail to put that data to work by translating the information into meaningful action.”

The potential impacts of failed business relationships are huge. For buyers, it means wasted time and painful switching costs, while for suppliers, it means churn. In Barnett’s words, “a revolving door is never good for business”. That’s why ClientLoyalty’s founders saw a need to create a supplier performance management system that would build long-term, meaningful relationships between buyers and suppliers.

How ClientLoyalty works

The easy-to-use system is built to optimise relationships through transparency. Users can input operational metrics (KPIs), which are reported using a simple green, yellow and red approach. The system gathers direct feedback and social sentiment, using in-built algorithms to scan the web and track suppliers’ reputation ratings.

The data is delivered in the form of alerts (risk flags), dashboards, and report-out tools. “We call it a data-driven solution”, says Barnett. “The system uses NPS (Net Promoter Score) and the AI generates recommendations on how to reduce detractors and raise your score. Six Sigma is another important part of our measurement methodology – it’s all about smarter relationship management.” All data is benchmarked across ClientLoyalty’s growing client base, showing the low end, high end, and where your supplier falls.

The artificial intelligence kicks in with recommendations on how to improve performance, and is one of the most valuable aspects of ClientLoyalty’s system. This aspect addresses the major gap and frustration many CPOs have with voice of the supplier surveys – there’s really no point in gathering data on relationship strength if you are not going to do anything with that information. ClientLoyalty’s automatically generated recommendations provide a factual base to create a targeted action plan that will improve supplier relationships and save you money.

The results

“We’re creating a business culture that’s based around accountable performance, one company at a time”, says Barnett. “The key is having clear and transparent communications, with the ultimate goal of turning business relationships into business partnerships.”

ClientLoyalty is software that optimises relationships between B2B buyers and suppliers, helping organisations continuously improve by analysing direct feedback, social sentiment and operational data to create stronger bonds of loyalty. If your organization is a buyer of goods and services and needs to manage critical supplier relationships, or a supplier of goods and services and needs to manage strategic client relationships, ClientLoyalty can help you connect with your business partners using data-driven management tools.

Are Procurement Professionals Stuck in the Stone Age? – Part III

If procurement technology is stuck in the stone age, what do we need to do to modernise? We take a look at some B2C examples for inspiration.

B2B & B2C

So far in this series, Market Dojo and Odesma have discussed whether procurement technology is stuck in the stone age, and why B2B software isn’t keeping up with its B2C counterparts. This article examines some B2C companies getting it right.

This article was originally published on Market Dojo.

Slowly but surely, not only do we see B2B companies adopting B2C ideologies, but some B2C companies are jumping in and filling the gap left by B2B providers. Granted, the complexity of B2B companies isn’t completely covered by the consumer oriented companies, so they are aiming more at the smaller companies. But all the same it still highlights a shift in the market.

By taking a couple of examples, we can see where these changes are happening and examples of B2C solutions doing it right.

Uber and Freight Brokering

MD - Uber

The transportation networking company Uber originally focussed on the B2C space by bringing together people looking to travel in the same direction, aggregating the demand and sharing out the cost of the journey to charge a lower price.

Targeting those traveling for personal reasons and commuters, they are paying special attention to the business sector with their latest development of business profiles.

More recently, focus has shifted to the freight industry where they hope to achieve similar by introducing mobile-based freight brokering technology. Not only will there be a reduction in number of ‘empty miles’ travelled, mobile-based freight brokering technology can help lower operating costs, improve fuel efficiency, boost asset utilisation and enhance resource productivity.

Benefits which Uber have been reaping since they formed in 2009.

Amazon Business

Amazon touch briefly on the B2B side with Amazon Business. With benefits like integration with purchasing systems and order approval workflows, they have adapted Amazon to create Amazon for business.

This could have extreme effects on the the current technology providers, should Amazon develop an eSourcing/eAuction aspect. It would not be that difficult for them to make the shift.

Another area in which Amazon has moved to a B2B focus is with their hosting options. This isn’t an adaptation of their B2C offering, but an entirely new market for them.

Software as a Service

MD - Airbnb

Airbnb, for example, provide a marketplace that allows one to search for and/or offer accommodation. Their sleek design, mobile-optimisation, carefully thought-out filters, and simple sign-in methods are something to be rivalled. Having relied heavily on investment, they have been able to afford the development costs and created a really neat SaaS product.

MD - ProcurifyProcurify is another such example of improved, B2C-esque usability. They aim to provide P2P technology without the presumed “boring” grey-scale colour scheme and clunky design that we have seen (and expected?) for so long. They have responsive design and mobile applications available. With their bright colours and simplistic design, they are very appealing.

Social Networks

But will this new technology, mainly adopted by new companies, only appeal to the millennials of today? Will previous generations appreciate this or seek their old faithful, familiar, providers.

Jive is also an interesting example. Marketed as “The Next Leap for Social Intranet Software“, their user interface is very similar to that of Facebook. Or, at least, Facebook 3 years ago.

MD - Jive

The concept is brilliant – provide companies with an internal social platform to share company news and collaborate. However the user interface still leaves something to be desired. Granted it’s one of the best on the market, and I am in no way criticising them specifically, but overall, there is still a lack of ease-of-use in B2B social platforms in comparison with B2C.

Is this because we expect it, because more complexity is required, or because the design needs to remain colourless and simple?

LinkedIn have recently redesigned their ‘groups’ making them more user-friendly and appealing, so increased usability is something which they pay attention to. But the creativity of design is definitely lacking in the B2B world. Why does business have to be so boring?!

The procurement community is lucky to benefit from the industry specific, social platform Procurious, which, with its bright colours and easy interface has a very B2C feel – which differs greatly from LinkedIn.

MD - LinkedIn and Procurious

In the picture on the left, you can see crowded text and pictures with no clear direction of what to look at next with a few small tabs at the top to interact with.

On the right the information on the profile page is broken down into tabs and the contact information on the left-hand side makes it easy to see details of an individual.

It seems that Procurious, being a more recent development, has taken learnings from other solutions (in its space) to create a more user friendly social media platform. Whilst LinkedIn (above left) is busy and cluttered, Procurious provides a more simplistic, clearer view. If you haven’t done so already, definitely recommend getting involved there and signing up to the tool.

Global Trading

MD - Alibaba

Alibaba provides an online platform for global wholesale trade. They launched in 1999 and attempt to make sourcing of goods and suppliers more simple for businesses, working with millions of suppliers across the globe.

Within the tool, they have a categorised search option for buyers with the ability to ‘get quotations’ from the approved supplier list within Alibaba (AliSource Suppliers).

So how will B2B software and technology evolve in the next decade? Make sure you read the final part of this series to see what we think.

Market Dojo and Odesma have partnered to combine their intuitive eSourcing software and expertise in offering business advisory services to offer clients a winning procurement solution.

Are Procurement Professionals Stuck in the Stone Age? – Part II

Is procurement losing ground by having antiquated, “stone-age” technology solutions? Why are B2B solutions struggling to keep up?

Stone Age Computers B2B

This article was originally published on Market Dojo.

In the second article in this series (you can read the first part here), Anya McKenna, of Market Dojo, and Ed Cross, of Odesma, ponder why B2B software remains stuck in the past, while B2C software is moving forwards in leaps and bounds, providing users with the experience they want.

The question is why big B2B software solution providers have not changed and emulated B2C? We would postulate the following reasons:

  1. Customer demand or acceptance.
  2. Drive for consulting revenues by providers.
  3. Decision makers equate complicated to valuable.
  4. Industry  Research organisations are in the pocket of those who pay and report as such.
  5. Existing suppliers balance sheets stifle innovation or change due to the impact on profit of asset write downs.
  6. Big business inherently do not trust small innovative start ups / CIOs don’t get fired for selecting the old guard.
  7. B2C companies are not interested in selling to the B2B customer base.

In order to fully understand this, we need to look at each of these points in more detail:

  1. Customer demand or acceptance.

Interestingly there does not appear to be a huge clamour amongst B2B customers to secure simpler, easier systems.

Take SAP or Oracle for example. They continue to dominate their sector (SAP acquired Ariba for $4.3 billion), and continue to thrive, making little effort to simplify and re-invent with ease of use at the heart of their solutions.

Whereas, in the B2C arena, there is no choice for the providers. Millions of users’ voices are being heard, and all leading solutions, from Amazon to AirBnB, are simple and easy to use. Perhaps the imperative to change amongst B2B players is just not being voiced by action.

  1. Drive for consulting revenues by providers.

The prevailing model for providers is to maximise revenue (after all they answer to shareholders), and they have predominantly built models that support this goal. They do this by securing licence annuity, and augment this with implementation, training, consultancy and delivery services.

Take a leading and long established eSourcing provider for example. They provide a complicated and unintuitive, but effective, solution for e-Sourcing, which they support with a very large consultancy practice (600 professional staff delivering revenues of greater than €70 million).

Though figures are not available we might hypothesise that at least 50 per cent of the revenues are consulting and support related. Clearly it is not in any legacy B2B providers interests to simplify the user interface, due to the resulting loss of support revenues.

  1. Decision makers equate complicated to valuable.

Is it human nature in business to expect business solutions to be inherently complicated?

Look at Jive, a sort of Facebook for business. Whereas Facebook is really easy to navigate and personally manage intuitively, Jive is not.

Given Facebook came first, and Jive built a similar tool, albeit for a closed company environment, is it that those that selected it, measured its value in terms of its complexity?

  1. Industry Research organisations are in the pocket of those who pay and report as such.

A rather contentious point perhaps, but when looking at Gartner’s report on the e-Sourcing market a few years ago, they had only just added a 7th criteria to their analysis: Ease of Use.

Gartner had historically focused on functional components – i.e. spend analysis, contract management, etc. (making up 4 of 7 criteria) – alongside technology platform and business services.

Additionally the analysis of providers generally only lent itself to the bigger or more established players. The 2013 report included fewer than 30 suppliers, with the leaders in their opinion being the likes of IBM, BravoSolution, Ariba, GEP, and SAP.

Very few emerging and new players are included. This may be due to time constraints, but clearly is at the detriment of newer, and easier to use, solutions.

  1. Existing suppliers’ balance sheets stifle innovation, or change due to the impact on profit of asset write downs.

It is a fact of business that the balance sheet plays a large part in driving companies’ behaviour, especially if they have many millions of $/£ intangible asset value.

SAP had Intangible Assets of €25.6 billion on revenues of €17.6 billion in 2014. A write down in an asset, results in an equal write down in profits. Institutional shareholders typically take fright (and flight) at write-downs. Therefore re-inventing the hegemony of existing solutions, requires a potentially significant investment and potentially a write down in previous investments – this is not something the neither executive nor board will countenance.

Is it therefore a surprise that existing solutions lack innovation in the user interface, which may well require re-programming in a newer language?

  1. Big businesses inherently do not trust small, innovative start ups; CIOs don’t get fired for selecting the old guard.

When was the last time the CIO of a large corporate suggested taking a risk? Corporate behaviour is typically risk averse. It is much safer to select a proven provider such as IBM or SAP, than take an opportunity to shake the tree.

This therefore precludes newer, start-up technologies that will deliver often much more cost effective, easier to use solutions. Coupa are making real inroads here, but few others are.

  1. B2C companies are not interested in selling to the B2B customer base.

The question is why don’t Amazon, or Tesco for that matter, move into the B2B space? They provide a huge range of products that businesses use. Yet they generally haven’t, other than grudgingly, thought to move into the B2B market – it is not part of their strategy.

However, we understand this is changing at Amazon! They believe their market is the consumer, not business, possibly because they are much simpler to deal with, pay immediately and do not add massive administrative, process and management burdens (i.e. contracts, risk questionnaires, etc.), which corporates do add as a matter of process.

But will this change? We postulate it is slowly shifting, with B2C principles slowly coming into the B2B World. In our follow up we will discuss this shift in some detail.

Market Dojo and Odesma have partnered to combine their intuitive eSourcing software and expertise in offering business advisory services to offer clients a winning procurement solution.

Are Procurement Professionals Stuck in the Stone Age?

Ed Cross, co-founder at Odesma, and Anya McKenna (of Market Dojo) ponder the neanderthalic and stone age ways of B2B software…

Stone Age Procurement Technology

The peculiar thing about business technology is that generally it is not very easy to use. I might exclude here email, but the rest of it seems to need a training course and some sort of super user, or a training provider (or even worse a consulting firm) to come and show you how or work it for you. Whereas the most used technology that we interact with outside of work generally does not require any support.

The irony here is that business technology came first, and the use of technology first appeared in the office, long before we all had tech at home or on our person. Yet, it remains unintuitive, expensive, and, as a result, does not get utilised fully or at all by a lot of people at work.

Compare this to B2C technology, how hard is it to work? ebay for instance. Or Facebook. Or even Candy Crush. The simple answer is they are intuitive, straightforward and certainly do not need any training or consulting support to get the benefit of them. In fact even Generation X (us older types) can work them on any number of portable or fixed lumps of technology. And a lot of them are free to the user.

Where Did it all Go Wrong?

So what’s gone wrong? For this, we’ll let Ed share an anecdote from 1999. While working for PwC, I presented to a local CIPS event in Staffordshire on e-commerce. This topic was perceived as very much the new kid on the block, and a whole host of new tech start ups were receiving incredible valuations.

At this session I laid out the view of the future described by the firm, ignorant to the nay sayers. In fact there were quite a few in the audience, most notably those with a few more years under their belts than me. One or two challenged my hypothesis on the topic.

I later left PwC to set up a Private Equity backed branch of a US e-Sourcing firm Sharemax.  A year or two later the dot.com bubble had burst and I was back in Consultancy, and the nay sayers were proven right.

So, what was, or still is, the problem? From an historic perspective the leading market insight companies and so forth, focused heavily on functionality, as did many buyers of solutions. And ignored the user experience, the maturity or demographic of the population expected to use the technology.

Many people in senior or middle management positions did not grow up with computing technology, and when making selection decisions, focused on elements outside of ease of use, and considered technology against an historic understanding – one where tech is always hard to use.

They therefore condoned supplier behaviour where training and consulting support were deemed acceptable costs of enablement. And this thinking has not much changed, given the demographics of leadership.

Of course, the existing providers have not been driven to step up, because the customer has not demanded it of them. Whilst in the B2C arena the demographic is younger. The expectation is of instant gratification, solutions that are compelling, easy to use and free or very low cost. With Generation Y coming through in business we expect the current issues are about to change.

So why have B2B software providers not followed the B2C route, and provided better, more compelling solutions to pull procurement out of the stone age? You’ll have to wait for the next part of our series to find out.

Market Dojo and Odesma have partnered to combine their intuitive eSourcing software and expertise in offering business advisory services to offer clients a winning procurement solution.

The Next Big Idea: Eliminating Supplier Enablement

What’s the next big idea in procurement? Getting rid of the need for supplier enablement and moving to real time supplier activation instead.

Supplier Enablement

It may sound tactical, but really it’s the key to success with all the other big strategic ideas we’ve been talking about for a long time: Increasing supplier innovation, optimising total spend, and getting a seat at the table with top leadership.

Back when EDI , cXML, and other proprietary technologies were the only way for suppliers to electronically transmit data directly into buyers’ back-end systems, supplier enablement was a necessity. These are not the easiest integrations, so buyers had to run enablement campaigns to get suppliers on board.

We all know how that has played out. The only suppliers who participate are those with the resources and the sales volume to justify the effort. As a result, most buyers can only transact electronically with 10-20 per cent of their suppliers.

There was a time when getting the top 20 per cent of your suppliers electronically enabled was a big step forward. Today, twenty percent enablement is a dismal result that’s holding the profession back.

Proprietary supplier networks were supposed to alleviate this problem by providing buyers access to ‘pre-enabled’ suppliers. This too was a step forward at one time. But even the largest proprietary networks today only boast between one and two million suppliers. When you consider that there are close to 200 million suppliers in the world, this too is a dismal result.

Supplier Exclusion

The need for supplier enablement is excluding the vast majority of the world’s suppliers from participating electronically. For buyers, that not only means inefficient processing, it means lost data. And in today’s data driven world, that increasingly means lost opportunity to analyse, optimise and innovate.

We can do better than that now. We have the technology. In our daily lives, we no longer enable anything. We activate and go. We are already pre-enabled to connect and share data through the Internet using our computers and phones. There are 7.4 billion people on the planet. There are 8.6 billion phones. We have never been more connected, and in real time.

Over 100 billion apps have been downloaded from the Apple store since 2008. Uber fulfils a million rides daily. Over two million people have set up shop on Amazon’s marketplace. There are two million Airbnb listings.

These are all networks powered by the meta network—the Internet. The Internet is the enabling thing. If you have a valid driver’s licence, arts and crafts to sell, or property to share, all you need is a data connection, an email address, and a pulse to join and start tapping into the value of any of these networks. Their reach is already enormous, and growth is not limited by enablement hurdles.

A Phone and a Blackberry

In contrast, your typical supplier enablement exercise requires unnatural acts to get to the value. It reminds me of these people I see in the subway in New York City, who have an iPhone and a Blackberry, or two different phones—one for work and one for business.

What if you had to use a separate phone to download an app from the Apple store, hail an Uber or shop on Amazon? These networks would certainly not have achieved such widespread adoption under those circumstances. Yet that is essentially what supplier enablement as we know it asks suppliers to do—step outside of their normal systems and business processes, and do something different and unique in order to transact with the buyer.

These closed networks have been created through years of collective enablement campaigns but the whole world is moving toward open networks that require no enablement and instead leverage the ways in which we are already connected.

B2B commerce is a one trillion dollar market by some estimates. Open networks are its future. They are the key to connecting electronically to the 80 to 90 per cent of your suppliers that make up the long tail.

When you unlock the tail, the odds of finding the innovation and value that procurement is looking for go up exponentially. Those are the hungry suppliers, the scrappy suppliers, the startups, the ones that aren’t getting the same opportunity that big companies are, but who might be moving faster and doing more inventive things. This is where the next big ideas are.

The tail is not a tactical part of spend. It’s actually the strategic part, and no company can afford to write it off. The 80/20 rule of supplier enablement is no longer good enough. We have to get as close to 100 percent participation as we can, by democratising the network using technology. We’ve got to be able to say, “If you can connect to the Internet, we can collaborate.”

Coupa are one of the sponsors of the Big Ideas Summit, to be held in London on April 21st. 

If you’re interested in finding out more, visit www.bigideassummit.com, join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.

Life Changing Technology to Save You Time

When time is money, making sure you’re spending it on what matters is a key metric to profitability.

Time Saving Tech

Do you know how much time you’re spending on certain tasks? Do you know how your teams are spending their work day? And more importantly, do you know how your finance teams are spending their time?

Where Does Time Go?

APQC, a Texas-based research firm, recently conducted a study of some 832 companies’ finance departments. Using data from APQC’s Open Standards Benchmarking database, they found out what finance teams really get up to at work.

Things like transaction processing, decision support and management activities were all looked at as part of the study and APQC found that no matter how big or small the company was, roughly half of finance teams’ time was spent on transaction processing. Half.

Instasupply-Life-Changing-Tech

Source APQC

In plain English, this means highly paid finance staff spend the time equivalent to Monday AM through to lunchtime on Wednesday making sure invoices are being processed, bills are getting paid and fixed assets are accounted for.

Shifting the Balance

Now, ask a CEO what he’d like to see his finance team doing and he will tell you he’d like them delivering fast, reliable information about the economic implications of specific tactical business moves. When the year is halfway through and performance needs improving, a CEO wants to know the monetary impact of the decisions they plan to make. What the potential revenue and operational implications are when it comes to investing company resources.

When the finance team spends nearly 50 per cent of its time on transactions, plus a few more hours per week going through internal approvals and putting together financial reports, it equals not much time left to offer that critical decision support.

A finance team therefore needs to constantly juggle providing key financial information to support company growth and getting those bills paid. Reducing paperwork and minimising manual labor are an absolute must when it comes to shifting the balance.

Away from Paper-Based Methods

Based on research from bodies such as The Hackett Group, we know that just under 70 per cent of vendor invoices globally are still in paper form. That means someone within the finance department needs to manually enter all of that paper-based data into a computer based program, either straight into the accounting software, or in a spreadsheet first and then into said accounting software. This means there is a hell of a lot of paper clogging up the system, costing time and money in training, execution and management.

Further still, the software in use was generally built circa 1995 and fails to offer transparency on transactions, clarity in reporting or intuitive processes. Since the main aim here is to deal with transactions quickly, in a minimum amount of time, whilst minimising errors, having such software in place is nonsensical.

Finance departments need their working hours back to focus on their actual function in driving companies forward. Understanding costs, revenue streams and operational cost pitfalls is where their true value comes into play. Pushing paper around is a waste of time.

Be Sure to Choose Wisely

As the digital trend has been making its way into B2B (finally), larger companies have pushed for greater finance efficiency and invested resources into implementing digital tools to facilitate electronic information flows. Merely investing in something branded “cloud” though doesn’t mean it will solve all problems.

The choice needs to be made wisely. It needs to be made with the end user in mind. If it seems too complicated, it IS too complicated. And that means your staff won’t use it, or certainly won’t use it properly. You will be buying an Aston Martin, and it will be driven like a Ford.

Smart companies able to recognise the importance of user focused tech will instantly reduce the time spent managing transactions. This will enable them to direct finance talent away from repetitive tasks and back towards company growth.

What could your finance team do with more time?