Author Archives: Pierre Mitchell



About Pierre Mitchell

Pierre leads Spend Matters procurement research activities and has broader solution development responsibilities for intellectual property creation and firm strategy as Managing Director of Azul Partners. This includes spearheading efforts to build new types of interactive and social communities of interest within the procurement profession including overseeing the evolution of spendmattersnet.com, Spend Matters PRO, MetalMiner, and other digital assets within Azul Partner’s umbrella. Pierre has 25 years of procurement and supply chain industry and consulting experience, and is a recognized procurement expert specializing in supply processes, practices, metrics, and enabling tools and services. He is a regular contributor to business publications, a frequent presenter at industry events around the world, and counts himself fortunate to have served and interacted with so many CPOs and future CPOs. Prior to his positions in research and advisory, he led numerous operations and systems transformations at Fortune 500 organizations. Industry positions include manufacturing project manager at The Timberland Company, materials manager at Krupp Companies and engineer at EG&G Torque Systems. He holds an engineering degree from Southern Methodist University and an MBA from the University of Chicago. In the early 2000's, Pierre was the first supply chain practitioner to become a procurement "industry analyst" as the VP of supply management research at AMR Research (now part of the Gartner Group) where he provided trusted counsel to procurement executives, business leadership, IT, and the solution providers who serve them. Most recently, he was the head of procurement research and adjunct business advisor at The Hackett Group, where he helped expand Hackett's procurement benchmarks and research studies while growing the Procurement Executive Advisory Program into a gold standard membership-based procurement advisory service in the market today.


I’m Afraid I Can’t Source That, Dave: Artificial Intelligence in Strategic Sourcing

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrik’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” One of the great scenes in this landmark movie is when astronauts Dave Bowman and Frank Poole chat “in private” about shutting down HAL 9000, the omnipresent, artificial intelligence-based control system. Unfortunately, HAL’s vision system is able to read Dave’s lips through a small window and learns the crew’s intentions. To protect itself and thereby its mission directive, HAL sets out to kill the astronauts. Although the complex automated reasoning that HAL uses in its attempt to snuff out Bowman and Poole is a bit beyond current AI implementations, the procurement process-specific applications of machine learning are becoming quite real.

Tech Enabling Procurement Shared Services: SAP Ariba Begins the Journey

Procurement shared services organizations and centers of excellence (CoEs) are sometimes tasked with the operational management of source-to-pay technologies on behalf of the organizations they serve. But up until now, they have not utilized purpose-built solutions to improve their own operations. While many use core analytics, sourcing, contract management, supplier management, e-procurement and invoice-to-pay solutions in some capacity in the delivery of their services, the actual operational management of shared services organizations and CoEs themselves has been loosely integrated with underlying procurement technology at best.

In other words, there has not been an operational solutions layer specifically designed for procurement shared services and CoE groups that provides a single workbench to manage activities. This is true even though legacy SharePoint, business process management and workflow solutions often loosely hold some knitting together for these teams. SAP Ariba is hoping to change this with introduction of its Procurement Desk product, which Spend Matters PRO recently profiled, covering the solution’s current capabilities in its initial release and planned roadmap for the coming quarters.

This Spend Matters PRO brief explores how different procurement technologies enable the various roles that shared services organizations and CoEs assume — and the opportunity for an operational overlay on top of underlying procurement technology modules. As part of this analysis, we also consider how Procurement Desk may help meet the broader needs of shared services and CoEs, as well as opportunities for SAP Ariba and others to close the gaps that remain in developing purpose-built operational management solutions for these organizations.

SAP Ariba Procurement Desk: Shared Services and Center of Excellence (CoE) Enablement

category management

Procurement shared services groups can take different shapes and can add different sources of value. Shared services tend to focus on procure-to-pay (P2P) and accounts payable support, including supplier enablement, supplier master data maintenance, transactional purchasing, transaction processing, invoice automation and exception management. CoEs focus on both a classic shared services model (i.e., supporting processes on behalf of the business units) or a more transformational CoE model (i.e., giving business units tools, training and focused resources like third-party services). 

The former tends to focus on tactical buying like spot buying and tail spend management, and the latter tends to focus on strategic procurement areas such as analytics, sourcing, category and supply market intelligence, and contract management support. Increasingly, a number of CoEs are focused on both areas, whether run and administered internally or in an outsourced manner — sometimes only in part — by a business process outsourcing (BPO) partner such as Accenture or GEP.

Yet even with the help of these outsourced partners, procurement shared services teams and CoEs have not had up to this point a purpose-built technology solution to manage their own operations. SAP Ariba is hoping to change this with its new Procurement Desk product. Available in March to limited release customers and in the summer months to all SAP Ariba customers, Procurement Desk has big plans to improve the capability of shared services teams and CoEs to deliver value and drive continuous improvement.

Based on demonstration sessions, presentations and analyst discussions at SAP Ariba Live in March 2018, this Spend Matters PRO research brief introduces the initial release of Procurement Desk, explores some of SAP Ariba’s ambitions for future releases based on the product roadmap and offers our initial analysis of the new offering, along with recommendations for SAP Ariba customers. A subsequent PRO research brief will provide a generalized CoE operating framework spanning all areas that procurement shared services groups can address with SAP Ariba’s current and planned capabilities for targeting this market.

Getting Real with Artificial Intelligence in Procurement

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the hottest technology topic right now, and it’s certainly going to be the most disruptive business trend going forward. To be sure, there are other technology topics that are also hot right now. Blockchain, for example, will certainly be disruptive, but no CPOs I know are clamoring for distributed ledgers as a must-have enabler to meet their goals. But as big as AI will eventually be, it’s still overhyped right now, even within “cognitive procurement.”

LegalSifter: Vendor Introduction, Analysis and SWOT

forced labor

Contract lifecycle management is becoming a priority in many procurement organizations for several reasons. First, sourcing activity is increasingly driven by contract renewals on various types of managed services agreements. Second, sourcing results (e.g., savings) only matter when executed against a contract that gets matched against. Third, outside-in supply risks are ever-present and must be monitored, but a lot of risk is buried within historical contracts in the portfolio. 

As such, managing contracts intelligently is going to require a lot more than just the ability to draft new contracts efficiently and analyze simple header-level contract metadata. It's going to require the ability to analyze contracts efficiently and effectively (i.e., deeply) to determine if they contain specific clause language, address identified regulations or fall into certain categories based on specific business rules.

This is going to require a whole new class of contract analytics that until now was only offered by a few big players, like Seal Software (the clear leader in the buy-side contract analytics space who we’ve covered for years), Exari (CLM app with demonstrated AI capabilities) and, to a limited extent, Icertis. Due to the value such solutions would provide, however, a new breed of vendors, including Kira Systems, RAVN (iManage), LawGeex, Luminance, LegalRobot, Counselytics and LegalSifter, are rising up to offer this service. They are all focused on broader contract analytics (i.e., not just the buy side) and each offers a unique market focus and approach to the problem.

In this Vendor Snapshot, we’ll focus on LegalSifter and its technical approach to the problem.

Group Purchasing Organizations: Supplier Perspectives and the Evolving GPO Landscape

Joining a GPO is like getting a Costco membership. You know you’re not going to get ripped off, so you probably won’t put much thought into joining. But therein lies the rub for GPO members. Like Costco, a GPO is a one-size-fits-all marketplace where you may overbuy when you get there or underbuy by not getting there at all.

In an increasingly Amazon-dominated world, however, this model is not the only available option.Today, the assortment and pricing of items available to consumers are tuned to the user and monetized most efficiently by intermediaries that can source better and optimize for lowest total landed costs better than individual buyers. Procurement organizations are now looking to bring this experience to the complex world of B2B purchasing. And where GPOs fit into this more sophisticated equation is not a simple answer (many are still trying to figure it out themselves). 

But that doesn’t mean GPOs will go the way of the 1980s big box retailer. Instead, GPOs will have to take on a role beyond the race to the lowest price. This multipart Spend Matters PRO series explains what motivates GPOs and helps procurement organizations best decide when and how to engage them. In this second installment (see our initial GPO introduction), we explore GPOs from a supplier perspective and offer recommendations for vendors working through GPOs to make these relationships more successful. We also explore how GPO options and capabilities are evolving and segment the GPO market by model and type and provide case example looks at different GPO business models. These include vertical/industry independent, member-owned, horizontal, affinity, category-specific and procurement technology led GPO models. 

An Introduction to Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs)

purchasing

Group purchasing organizations (GPOs) are not a new idea. Agricultural cooperatives aggregated the buying power of farmers hundreds of years ago. That said, GPOs have evolved quite a bit, and the infusion of new digital capabilities is taking that evolution to an even higher level. This evolution also means that procurement organizations must go in “eyes wide open” to best utilize this important tool in the procurement tool belt.

Not all GPOs (or GPO models) are the same. Understanding the differences will make you a more educated, and thus likely more successful, buyer. Therefore, we’ve decided to delve a little deeper into this obscure sector of the procurement provider market and shed some light on how to best extract value from it.

This multipart Spend Matters PRO brief is designed to demystify GPOs and put procurement organizations on the same information playing field as the GPOs attempting to sign them up, expand their utilization of contracts and sell additional services. Within this series, we will explore GPOs by type, as there are several business models in play, and by industry segment, as GPOs are heavily embedded in certain markets and are little more than a supply option in others.

This first installment in our GPO coverage:

  • Defines what GPOs are (and are not)
  • Explains how GPOs operate
  • Explores GPO “spend coverage and fit”
  • Analyze the GPO market segments and how to engage them
  • Offers tips and tricks for engaging GPOs based on their own constraints/models
  • Provides both basic and advanced takeaways for procurement organizations that are thinking through GPOs as an alternative supply option
  • Offers a checklist of activities to consider when sourcing GPOs

Icertis: Vendor Snapshot (Part 3) — Summary and Competitive Analysis

Icertis is one of a select number of contract lifecycle management (CLM) solutions that can equally support the needs of both legal and procurement organizations. Its solution provides role-based dashboards and workbenches that enable diverse users across global organizations to interact with contracts, related information and documents not only within the context of core CLM but also within other processes such as source-to-pay (S2P), quote-to-cash and industry-specific workflows.

This third and final installment of this Spend Matters Vendor Snapshot covering Icertis provides an objective SWOT analysis of the provider and offers a competitive segmentation analysis and comparison. It also includes recommended shortlist candidates as alternative vendors to Icertis and offers provider selection guidance. Finally, it provides summary analysis and recommendations for companies considering the vendor. Part 1 provided an in-depth look at Icertis as a technology provider and its specific solutions, and Part 2 gave a detailed analysis of solution strengths and weaknesses and a review of the product’s user experience.

Icertis: Vendor Snapshot (Part 2) — Product Strengths and Weaknesses

The contract lifecycle management (CLM) technology market is not one market. Rather, this technology comprises several subspecialties, each served by a diverse set of vendors with varying degrees of capability. Because of this, procurement, commercial, legal and other users have significant choice between broad-based suites and independent CLM vendors today.

Within this market, Icertis is one of the few providers delivering a robust enterprise-class CLM solution with significant depth across nearly all functional areas of CLM that Spend Matters tracks. Moreover, Icertis takes a truly platform-based approach rather offering just a set of fixed modules on a menu. It is also one of a handful of enterprise contract management solutions built on a modern technology stack, as well as one of the few that revolves entirely around the contract — even if its UI reminds us more of the end of the Obama era than Brexit.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot explores Icertis’ product strengths and weaknesses, providing facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations decide whether they should shortlist the vendor. It also offers a critique of the user interface. Part 1 of our analysis provided a company background and detailed solution overview, as well as a summary recommended fit suggestion for when organizations should consider Icertis in the P2P technology area. The final installment in this series will offer a SWOT analysis, user selection guide, competitive alternatives, and additional evaluation and selection considerations.

Icertis: Vendor Snapshot (Part 1) — Background and Solution Overview

As our Q4 2017 CLM SolutionMap highlights, the range and depth of functional capability between suite-based contract lifecycle management solutions and independent, top-performing CLM vendors is increasing, not decreasing. Icertis, one of the top-performing CLM providers in the analysis, is driving this change. It is less than 10 years old but already used in 40 languages within 90 countries, supporting more than 750,000 users and 2.5 million active contracts.

But it is not just the underlying functional “mojo” among top-providers like Icertis causing the divergence for specialized CLM requirements. The most recent class of CLM providers that have graduated to best-of-breed status have designed their solutions to support an increasing range of contracting, collaboration and obligation management scenarios that support supplier agreements, sales contracts, leases, partnership agreements, employment agreements and other agreements between parties. And they are doing so with the simultaneous goals of increasing both efficiency and contracting effectiveness.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot provides facts and expert analysis to help procurement and legal organizations make informed decisions about whether Icertis, as a standalone CLM solution, is a better fit than using a suite-based contract management provider. Part 1 of our analysis provides a company background and detailed solution overview, as well as a summary recommended fit suggestion for when organizations should consider Icertis. The remainder of this multipart research brief covers product strengths and weaknesses, competitor and SWOT analysis, user selection guides, and insider evaluation and selection considerations.

All We Are “Saved” — Give Purchasing Consortia (Including GPOs) a Chance

Purchasing consortia and group purchasing organization (GPO) models have been accused of being fads in the past. But there are reasons they could more than go mainstream as a common procurement lever across industries, working outside of just healthcare environments, where they have thrived in the past. Spend Matters research suggests that there certainly are a number of underlying factors that make the consortia and GPO models more attractive than before (even if some suppliers, such as the airlines, will never play ball in working with these intermediaries). Indeed, several GPO and consortia providers not focused on one particular industry have a lot to offer to procurement organizations looking to better manage cost and quality for certain categories of spend.

In this Spend Matters Plus analysis, we will explore the reason behind the current and rising interest in these models and the benefits they can bring to procurement in such categories as IT spend (e.g., hardware, software, etc.), human resources (e.g., contingent staffing and MSP programs), office supplies, employee benefits (e.g., retirement/pension, pharmacy benefits, etc.), facilities and other professional and services categories (e.g., operations consulting, energy management, etc.), not to mention some areas of direct spend as well (e.g., metals). First up: exploring the different GPO benefits for both less mature and more mature procurement organizations.

Why Purchase Price Variance (PPV) Should Be Banished From Procurement Measurements and KPIs

One of the biggest challenges to overall program impact and improvement in all but the most advanced procurement organizations are the raw elements that many procurement organizations measure themselves against: key performance indicators (KPIs). Of these, purchase price variance (PPV) is particularly obnoxious in all but certain cases. PPV measures the difference in price paid for multiple purchases for the same SKU, part or service. It is typically employed in standard costing environment in an ERP system for SKU-based items where actual PO prices are tracked compared to the existing standard cost.

This methodology is great for the financial accounting function. The PPV can be calculated easily by the system by accumulating the PPV until the new standard is calculated (and those variances posted to the appropriate general ledger account). A favorable PPV (i.e., price is less than the standard) is also known as a purchase price reduction (PPR). This all seems straightforward for the accounting department, but it’s not a great way to judge procurement performance, at least not on its own. Why?

There are numerous reasons why PPV can be such a misleading figure. In this two-part Spend Matters Plus series, we explain why PPV is a KPI that procurement organizations should stop measuring internal and individual performance against.