Tag Archives: SaaS

A Resolution To The Classic End-to-End v. Best-In-Class Saga

End to end or best-in-class? It’s an age-old discussion in IT and became an issue in procurement – an issue which Greg Holt can resolve.


I have been working in the IT industry for a good 20 years and one of the recurring themes continues to be the “end-to-end” versus “best-in-class” saga. Like the central characters in a long-running soap opera, these two adversaries may fade into the background now and again, but they always return, even from the dead. As is the case with soap characters, fans tend to take one side and denigrate the other. You either loved JR Ewing and hated Bobby Ewing, or vice versa. You could not love both.

(Younger readers who never had the opportunity to sit through all 357 episodes of Dallas can catch up here.)

End-to-end versus best-in-class is an argument that lately came to the fore in procurement, where end-to-end solution means a complete source-to-pay or source-to-settle solution. That is to say, you invest in a software suite or platform that supports everything you do in procurement from finding the suppliers to rewarding them. A solution that combines both upstream and downstream sets of processes. The alternative is to select and invest in the best software (sometimes referred to as a “point” solution) to do each particular task or process on the continuum, and string them all together to build a world-class solution.

So, allow me to share what I’ve learned from my own experience and from my colleagues about selecting software so that you can make the best decision between point solutions and end-to-end software suites for your company.

The first and most obvious remark is that procurement software is a major investment, and you will need to work with your IT department and possibly an external consultant to help you to make the right choice, which will take into account what you have now (your legacy systems) and upcoming investments in other areas and functions of the business. You will need to carry out a cost-benefit analysis of the various approaches to business transformation, including the payback period, and where you want to be in five or ten years. Consider the total cost of ownership, not just the upfront investment.

That said, let’s return to our specific question.

When to go for best-in-class

The main benefit of a best-in-class software solution is the depth of its functionality. Think of it as a yard wide and a mile deep. Because best-in-class software is hyper-focused on one area it offers robust capabilities and features to address specialised needs. That means it is absolutely essential that it should be capable of easy integration with other systems. The best best-in-class software solutions easily sync with other systems that focus on other areas.

The promise of vendors of best-in-class software solutions is that you can custom-build a software suite with exactly the solutions each area of your business needs, with focused functionality in every area. This is why they are often loved by end users. What they see is what they want. “I work in sourcing, so I want a sourcing solution. Period.” On the other hand, depending on your organization and your industry, it is likely that your sourcing needs are limited, in which case you may end up paying for mile-deep functionality when you only need to dive down a few fathoms.

A further argument in favor of best-in-class is that you can expand capabilities on your own terms. They are scalable so you can start with the software that addresses your most pressing area of need and then add additional capabilities when the time is right. For example, once you have sorted out sourcing, you look for the best specialist provider of contract management software. On the face of it, this is also the low risk path of least resistance. Rather than buying everything up front, you can incorporate other best-in-class solutions as your business’s needs change and your budget allows. It’s a gradualist approach. Or “evolution not revolution” as the cliché runs.

On the other hand, integration is in practice more of an issue because each best-in-class system has its own data dictionaries, data formats and other sources of incompatibility that can make even a bilateral integration difficult. And when it comes to several systems, the problems multiply. It is likely that you will need to employ a specialist firm of systems integrators to make it work, and even then, the solution may be unstable, processes may not be streamlined, and visibility across all systems rather limited.

When to go for end-to-end

An end-to-end solution can fulfill every operational need for a specific business function, in this case procurement. Companies that choose end-to-end solutions should pay attention to overlap in what the full-service solution offers compared to the solutions they already use. For example, ERP systems may already offer some limited procurement functionality that can be shifted to a source-to-pay implementation.

A further advantage of an end-to-end solution is the avoidance of disputes between various point system vendors when things break down or go wrong, perhaps because there is no clean transfer of data between the contracts management system and the procurement system. With a source-to-pay implementation you only have to deal with one support desk. There is just “one throat to choke”, as the saying goes.

End-to-end software solutions should therefore be used when there is an obvious solution that can streamline processes and provide global visibility through the use of shared data. And that is increasingly the case these days as organizations seek to manage source-to-pay functionality holistically and seek to gain insights through spend analytics software to enable continuous improvements.

End-to-end solutions can also be useful even when there is functionality overlap with existing solutions when the end-to-end software adds more value than existing point solutions or legacy systems like ERP. On the other hand, the following considerations may deter you from choosing an end-to-end solution:

1. Your business need or process can easily be broken into separate parts

2. You have already invested substantially in a legacy system

3. The end-to-end solutions on the market have serious weaknesses in terms of the specific processes that are most important to your business

4. You do not want to be “locked in” to a particular vendor

5. The vendors you have seen who claim to be end-to-end are in fact only strong in certain areas; at some points in the value chain the functionality is limited, to put it mildly

6. The end-to-end solution does not integrate easily with other systems

On this final point: a source-to-pay solution overcomes most of the integration issues that arise when taking the “best-in-class” approach, but you still need to consider integration with other software such as ERP or accounting systems.

Having your cake and eating it

Since the advent and development of SaaS (software as a service) suites, it does not have to be a straight choice between the two extremes. If you are not yet ready for the whole shebang, look for an end-to-end, source-to-pay but modular software solution, and invest in the modules that best suit your immediate needs. You will be able to expand your system horizontally, from the same supplier, so there are no integration issues. Some vendors, including JAGGAER, offer strong functionality and depth of expertise across the entire source-to-pay spectrum.

A SaaS system means you benefit from system enhancements and extensions as they happen, and the cost is shared across multiple participants in the “multi-tenant” implementation.

You can review your contract at any time and if you are dissatisfied, it is relatively easy to move to another supplier – you are not “locked in” as was the case with on-premise end-to-end systems.

Soap operas will run and run with unresolved plots and dozens of loose ends, but this is one storyline that seems to be reaching a final resolution! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this debate in the comments below.

How P2P will Become the Technology of the Future

Discover the value that a procure-to-pay (P2P) system can deliver to your business today and over the next five years.


The evolution of procure-to-pay (P2P) has accelerated dramatically over the past few years. And we can expect the pace to pick up further over the years to come. Originally, procure-to-pay / purchase-to-pay technology was seen as a way to connect procurement to finance via accounts payable, and as such it started life in the form of expensive and rather inflexible bolt-ons to on premise enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. No wonder that for many years, P2P did not have the greatest of reputations, even among procurement professionals.

In the early 2000s, dedicated eProcurement systems emerged. Yet, many large enterprises still do all their purchasing and accounts payables through their ERP systems, even though this leaves much of the process highly dependent on paper in the handling of purchases orders, requisitions, goods receipts and invoicing. Or, in one word, routine. Many ERP implementations even lack a requisitioning facility and a means to communicate electronically with suppliers.

As to accounts payable, in many organisations that do not have a dedicated, built for purpose procure-to-pay solution, vendor invoices still arrive by mail or email and the data must be keyed manually into an ERP or other finance system. If the benefits of touchless invoicing were not already apparent, they have certainly become so in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The other major issue that continues to plague many organisations is our old friend, maverick spend (or off-contract buying), which is especially likely to occur when anyone looking to purchase items needed for everyday use is confronted with bureaucratic obstacles. Shopping online and submitting an expense report is much easier than submitting a requisition or purchase order that takes ages to process. Without a dedicated P2P system, maverick spend is difficult to monitor effectively. It results in lost money as employees buy at retail prices when you should be securing handsome bulk or wholesale discounts.

(Although worse than that, it forces happy-go-lucky procurement professionals into the role of jobsworths …)

And heaven knows, after years of online shopping with the likes of Amazon, corporate buyers expect the option to order online and enjoy an e-shopping experience comparable to the one they enjoy as private consumers. They expect an experience that is user-friendly, intuitive, and frictionless. Running low on stationery? Simply pick items from a catalog, review the shopping cart and place the order. And maybe pay with a V-card (single user account) number.

This can all be done via a procurement department’s P2P solution – against contracts negotiated with preferred suppliers. The P2P solution allows end-users to shop and track orders as easily as if they were shopping online, with the added benefit that all the information the procurement department needs is captured too, giving greater transparency. Plus, if the P2P solution is integrated with upstream processes such as contracts management and sourcing, the ability to monitor supplier performance against negotiated terms and non-price terms and conditions.

What you should look for in P2P now

A few years ago, people were still asking if procure-to-pay automation is worth it. I think that case has now been definitively answered. Especially if you wish to demonstrate the value of procurement – your value – to the business.

A P2P software suite integrates and automates the entire back-office lifecycle of requisitioning, purchasing, receiving, paying, and accounting for indirect goods and services. By creating standard workflows between buyers, procurement and accounting departments, a P2P solution should provide more transparency into, and control over, indirect spend and should create a more congenial relationship between all stakeholders. SaaS technology accessed in the cloud, such as the JAGGAER ONE suite, has made affordable, flexible and technically versatile solutions P2P available. A major advantage of SaaS is the ability to update functionality and innovate continuously without affecting the normal day-to-day operation of the core solution.

What you should look for in future 

Over the coming years P2P will increasingly leverage artificial intelligence, natural language processing and robotic procurement automation to deliver an even better buying experience on the one hand, while further cutting costs, increasing efficiency, reducing risk and improving governance and insight on the other. Generally speaking, you can expect P2P solutions to be more open, network-oriented, autonomous, collaborative and intelligent.

Here are seven trends that I think you can reasonably expect to reshape P2P not in some distant future but between now and 2025.

·   It will be a more collaborative environment for all stakeholders (internal and external) with full compliance, validations and approvals. P2P and MRP systems will collaborate through direct material order and fulfilment; P2P and corporate treasury will collaborate to support cash flow planning and optimize working capital

·   It will be more autonomous by taking charge of routine tasks such as all forms payment management and processing, improving the productivity of the payment process and the financial health of the supply chain

·   It will empower open business networks bringing together the entire community of buyers and suppliers, integrating and accessing external services and market intelligence feeds

·   It will be interactive with smart assistants assisting you through guided buying, vendor management and other chores

·   Enhanced intelligence will enable P2P systems to act proactively on behalf of users learning from and using all data sources and knowledge to make improvement recommendations to all stakeholder activities and the P2P process

·   It will deliver win-win finance programs to buyers and suppliers, for example dynamic discounting and supply chain finance programs

·   The focus of P2P will shift further from savings to value, reinforcing procurement’s profile as a strategic partner to the business

Conversational systems for guided buying and vendor management

Let’s stop calling them chatbots! Digital or smart help organizations will increase efficiency and achieve high levels of P2P user adoption because of their easy interfaces and clear answers. AI combined with natural language processing (NLP) has opened the door to new, more natural, and more intuitive interfaces that stimulate conversation with humans. There are many uses for digital assistants in procurement – too many to list here. However, the central issue is that procurement specialists are increasingly dealing with vast quantities of data, which means that a lot of their time is spent looking for information rather than using it. They will enable procurement specialists to converse with their AI-powered procurement software, which will do the heavy lifting involved in finding the relevant information and making intelligent suggestions as to what actions need to be taken in specific situations.

Through machine learning the digital assistant will be able learn about your preferences and your organisation’s policies and procedures. A good example is guided buying, whereby a person who needs to buy something will interact with procurement via a conversation conducted by a digital assistant. Based on the procurement strategy (preferred suppliers, preferred items, contracts in place, history of purchases, etc.), the digital assistant will propose solutions, perhaps looking through huge volumes of catalog entries to identify specific products or suggest alternatives.

Digital assistants can also be deployed for handling queries from suppliers, avoiding a lot of back-and-forth correspondences. I think they will become more engaging and human-like in their interactions with you. That, after all, was the original promise of artificial intelligence. But nobody’s perfect, so if the digital assistant cannot find the right answer, it can of course direct the user to a genuine flesh and blood procurement professional (you, for instance).

What innovations would you like to see, or expect to see, in procure-to-pay over the next five years? Let us know in the comments below! Keep up with the latest innovations at the 2020 Global Big Ideas Summit.