Tag Archives: source-to-pay

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.

Procurement Process Technology: 3 Keys To Adding Clarity Post Covid-19

Here are three keys to conceiving, deploying and using technology to elevate the performance of your procurement process operations from IBM’s Chander Vashistha


Procurement organisations depend on technology to manage their source-to-pay (procurement) functions most efficiently and effectively. Technology also provides exceptional services experience to their requestors, buyers and suppliers. However, organisations often find the process of selecting, implementing and using technology platforms and applications challenging. While procurement technology provides many benefits, organisations that do not select the right technology, integrate the technology to create a connected ecosystem and create processes to use the technology often do not realise the full benefits.  

Clarity is the cornerstone of successful procurement practices, and procurement technology must support and enable clarity between both parties. When organisations do not receive full value from technology systems, the issue often comes down to clarity. However, it’s essential that clarity exist before adding in the technology. Technology doesn’t create clarity, but improves and enhances clarity already present in the process.

Organisations with good clarity in their procurement practice see significant competitive advantages, business continuity, resilience and digital transformation. While these aspects are essential for a successful business, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting business disruption significantly increases their importance.

Here are three keys to conceiving, deploying and using technology to elevate the performance of your procurement process operations:

1) Align the purchasing strategy with operations and vision

When organisations lay technology on top of disconnected strategy and vision, the new platforms and systems often magnify the misalignments. Before focusing on technology, organisations should review their current strategies to ensure alignment. A well-connected procurement strategy and vision drives implementation of a frictionless technology ecosystem rather than a patchwork collection of discrete point solutions.

The purchasing process works within both your procurement process and overall company operations. On an even more granular level, the purchasing strategy tightly connects with procurement operations’ vision and procurement operations strategy. Before making changes, especially in processes and technology, practitioners must step back and consider strategic alignment.

After understanding your organisation’s purchasing strategy, procurement vision and procurement operating strategy, the next step is ensuring they all align with one another. After making any necessary changes, your organization will have the foundation to begin looking for technology that supports all three.

2) Understand the four types of procurement technology

Procurement professionals often assume — incorrectly — that all procurement platforms and systems fall into a single category. By understanding the different types, organisations can ensure they are researching and purchasing the best type of technology for their needs. Without clear understanding of the different types of procurement technology, organisations may purchase multiple technologies performing very similar functions, which creates waste and redundancies, not to mention wastes funds.

Procurement organisations use the following four types of technology:

  • ERP software and blockchain equivalents – SAP-MM, SAP-FICO, TYS blockchain, IBM Temp labor blockchain and RSBN blockchain
  • Commodity or process-neutral procurement technology – SAP Ariba Solutions, Coupa, Tradeshift, Sourcematrix and IBM SpendIQ
  • Commodity or process-specific procurement technology – IBM Oniqua, SAP Concur, SAP Fieldglass, Amazon Business, Alibaba 1688, Uber for Business, Service Now and JIRA
  • Cognitive e-procurement applications with intelligent workflow platforms – IBM Procurement Service Desk, IBM Watson Virtual Buying Assistant, IBM B2B Marketplace and IBM Direct Spend IQ

Organisations often invest in one or two types of procurement technology, which does not typically enable achieving their procurement strategy and vision. Often these organisations assume they fell short due to the technology implemented. By deploying relevant technology from each of the four types, organisations achieve the clarity needed to meet their goals.

3) Focus on cognitive e-procurement applications

Organisations find a wide range of choices in technologies, especially in cognitive e-procurement applications, which use artificial intelligence to open procurement transformation processes. This type of technology helps organizations transform the procurement process experience for buyers in direct, indirect, MRO and capital purchasing.

Because cognitive e-procurement applications are relatively new and come with a large amount of hype and innovation, organisations should fully understand what features they need as well as the features offered by each solution. By selecting the right application for your specific needs instead of the most feature-rich product, you’ll significantly increase your ROI and strategy improvements.

For example, Trust Your Supplier blockchain, which came to market in 2019, helps procurement professionals automate and digitize supplier information like a “digital passport.” The application also provides the immutability and trust that comes with processing transactions through blockchain. Because the application shifts the process out of procurement operations, the technology reduces cycle time, lowers transaction costs and improves reliability of supplier information management operations. Additionally, suppliers streamline their process by only submitting information to a customer once and can share the same information to other customers using a digital key for record access.

Making the move to integrate technology

As organisations continue to manage change and disruption due to the pandemic, creating clarity in your procurement cycle remains a high priority. Through using cognitive technology driven by intelligent workflow platforms, in conjunction with the three other types of technologies, organisations can create the most effective and efficient processes that drive business value. By aligning strategies, understanding the types of technology and implementing cognitive e-procurement applications inclusive of the technology ecosystem, organisations can improve performance, maturity and outcomes.

Chander Vashistha is the source-to-pay practice leader at IBM.

How To Create A Procurement Service Desk

How can you centralise disparate tools and requests to receive, triage and manage work across the source-to-pay process without replacing your applications? It’s not as impossible as it sounds.


Are your stakeholders frustrated with finding their way through the procurement maze? As a procurement practitioner are you overwhelmed with navigating your way through a variety of disparate tools and requests, such as procurement, accounting and reporting, to get your work done?

Many organisations are increasingly improving the efficiency of the procurement process by implementing a “Procurement Service Desk,” which is a single, centralised user portal for stakeholder requests, routing, communication and PR/PO status reporting.

One-stop shop for “all things procurement”

By using one portal instead of multiple systems, the Procurement Service Desk provides seamless engagement for procurement and its stakeholders, which helps procurement organisations receive, triage and manage work across the source-to-pay (S2P) process. The single portal improves the overall user experience and outcomes with procurement for stakeholders, including requestors, legal, finance and operations.

With a Procurement Service Desk, stakeholders no longer have to spend days trying to figure out where to go, who to call, and what information is required to engage procurement. The platform provides procurement stakeholders with a simple user experience to submit procurement requests. A dashboard provides full visibility to requests and statuses throughout the end-to-end procurement process. Stakeholders and procurement now collaborate directly in the centralised portal instead of through numerous emails, files and phone calls.

Procurement organisations typically realise these value-based outcomes after implementing a Procurement Service Desk:

  • Automated triage of work to appropriate practitioners through intelligent routing
  • Improved user experience for clients, supplier and S2P practitioners
  • Workflow data captured in a structured manner for utilisation to improve processes, deliver efficiencies and provide an improved experience
  • Enablement of metrics that matter
  • Intuitive, easy-to-use platform
  • E2E flow supported by a single platform

Shortening the process through intelligent triage

Through the Procurement Service Desk, stakeholders submit requests covering the full S2P process, including sourcing, contracts, supplier onboarding, purchase orders and invoices. By using standardised processes and forms, the Procurement Service Desk ensures compliance and gathers required data from stakeholders.

Requests are based on standardised processes and forms, ensuring compliance and that required data is received upfront from the stakeholders. Because procurement professionals don’t have to chase down additional information from stakeholders, the Procurement Service Desk enables a more efficient process and quick turnaround times.

When a request is submitted through the Procurement Service Desk, the platform triages the request through intelligent routing rules to the appropriate procurement practitioner for no-touch handling.

Triage rules based on commodity, request value, country and supplier match the request with the most appropriate procurement practitioner. This automated triage ensures work gets to the right team quicker and more accurately, improving stakeholder customer satisfaction.

The Procurement Service Desk provides procurement with full visibility to the types of requests coming into the organisation through an executive dashboard, helping managers measure and address workload balance and required skills. The platform also provides improved data-driven insights based on the volume and types of requests received from stakeholders.

Integrating processes and systems

Because the Procurement Service Desk sits on top of an integration layer, the intake request process connects with the back-end disparate tools and micro services. Procurement manages their full workload in a single platform regardless of the back-end transactional systems. By sharing data from the intake process bi-directionally with the back-end transactional applications, the Procurement Service Desk eliminates data re-entry, improving process efficiencies and analytics.

The Procurement Service Desk also easily connects to other services, such as Marketplace and Analytics, making them easily accessible. Previously disparate tools and services, they now easily scale and function as a fully integrated platform.

After making the decision to move to a services desk, procurement organisations should begin looking for a system platform to manage the Procurement Service Desk and integrate their key systems. By working with a company with specific procurement experience, organisations reduce business disruptions and speed up implementation.

Learn how IBM Procurement Services can help to reduce business costs and meet the challenges of complex global enterprises through effective data-driven source-to-pay operations by visiting www.ibm.com/services/procurement

Procurement Innovation – What’s Next?

Procurement has seen some revolutionary changes over the last two and a half decades. From manual processes to powerful P2P Suites, there is no denying that procurement is becoming more innovative and tech savvy. But as a whole procurement tends to lag behind other professions – it’s time to lead the way for innovation, but where do we go from here?


Technology is driving industry forward at an exponential rate, globally. It’s hard to think of an industry that hasn’t adopted a new technology, at least to some extent, in the last several years. Technological breakthroughs are changing the world over, both from a consumer perspective, but also from a business one. From smart phone companies using fingerprint scanning and facial recognition to car companies implementing park-assist, adaptive cruise control, and in some cases, even self-driving capabilities. This is truly a world driven by innovation, and most industries and business sectors are investing heavily to that end. But what is procurement doing to keep up?

Where We’ve Been

To answer that, first it is important to see how far the profession has come. Although it has taken longer than other markets – the progress has been remarkable.

·   Manual Processes – Like most, this is what dominated the industry for a large period of time. Everything was done manually, from drawing up contracts, to sourcing and purchasing materials. This was quite a time-consuming process at a time when procurement lacked the complexity of today.

·   Emails & Spreadsheets – As technology began to become more mainstream the manual communications started to give way to emails, no longer requiring procurement professionals to travel onsite as often. The use of spreadsheets began to build the framework of an organizational system with excel becoming the main database of choice for many in procurement.

·   ERPs – Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a software that handles business process management it allows an organization to use a series of integrated applications to control and automate many functions related to technology, services and human resources. This is one of the most widely adopted pieces of technology used in procurement today.

·   S2P Systems – This is the current cutting-edge procurement technology. A good S2P suite can bring cost savings, efficiencies and data visibility to your business. Our source-to-pay (S2P) platform, JAGGAER ONE, is a comprehensive suite that automates, optimizes and provides insights across the source-to-pay spectrum. Integrating seamlessly with your ERP, JAGGAER ONE can provide data transparency and visibility, while giving access to a powerful suite of end-to-end supply chain and sourcing solutions.

Procurement is at a Cross-Roads

Procurement has long been a cost-focused profession, largely relying on siloed processes and teams, taking a reactive and tactical approach. And, at one time, that was all that procurement needed to do. But it is now time for procurement to move into a new role – one that takes charge of the business and leads the way, becoming an integral part of the overall business strategy.

I believe that procurement professionals around the world stand on the threshold of a new age. The old paradigm of cost reduction, being reactive and only focusing on purchasing is drawing to a close. In this dynamic, complex and disruptive era, procurement leaders and experts the world over are searching for a secure, successful future.

With technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) becoming more mainstream, the applications for procurement are virtually limitless. Technology like JAGGAER’s Smart Assistant, which is powered by AI, is one such possibility. This conversational platform designed for procurement is a powerful tool, which will eliminate much of the tedious and manual processes that still plague the procurement profession today. AI will be a driving factor in the development of the procurement profession.

Where We’re Going

The result of all these technological advances in several years’ time will be autonomous procurement. As I’ve written in a previous blog “autonomous procurement is a platform with embedded intelligence, but a system that also continues to build on those capabilities to automate the full source to pay process without human interaction. However, this will happen only in instances where human input isn’t necessary or desired, such as repetitive or time-consuming tasks”.

It is incredibly important to remember that autonomous procurement is not meant to eliminate human input or the role of procurement professionals. The end goal here is to augment people, freeing up time to focus on value adding tasks and strategic thinking. Human insight is crucial in business – but this is all about using technology to eliminate mistakes, monotony and cut out repetitive patterns. The future platform will assist you at every step of the source-to-pay process and over time it will manage more & more complex activities autonomously, so we can focus on doing strategic analysis to unlock new opportunities.

The procurement leaders of the future will need to combine strategic thinking, along with an analytical mindset. Leaders are crucial in today’s times, especially with the rise of AI, algorithms and automation. In order to stay ahead of the curve procurement professionals will have to evolve – becoming more data-driven and strategic, because that is something that will always require a human touch. 

To find out more about where procurement has been, where it’s going, and what you can do to stay ahead register for our webinar with Gartner, Deloitte and Blue Shield.

Where do you think procurement is headed? Let us know.