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.


Is Telecom and Freight ‘Commodity’ Spend? Look How Uber/Lyft and Amazon Manage Them!

I’m sitting in on a webinar tomorrow with some amazingly deep transportation experts over at Spend Management Experts. These guys live and breathe small parcel, and if you want to learn about what’s really going on in this category and what you can do to bring more than a knife to a bazooka fight, you should check it out. For a preview, read how telecom for Uber equates to logistics for Amazon.

Services Procurement is Broken: Finding Fixes Beyond Contingent Workforce Management, E-procurement

If you google the term “services procurement,” you’ll see an article from my colleague Andrew Karpie touching on the topic front and center. He talks about the need to transcend the traditional contingent labor-centric view of what is in fact a much larger scope dealing with the procurement of all services. Aggregate annual spend on complex services by U.S. organizations is on the order of $9 trillion to $10 trillion, while spend on temporary staffing is only on the order of $0.02 trillion. When looked at with a wider-angle lense, the scope of services spend is huge. But ...

This is where I’m going to carry the discussion forward. The problem that I’ll address is, to put it bluntly, the management of services spend is shockingly poor.

There are many reasons for this. The first is organizational.

A spend category like direct materials is fairly straightforward in terms of organizational reporting ultimately into the supply chain organization (and/or business unit). The same can be said for lab supplies managed alongside R&D or data center equipment managed alongside IT. But services are trickier, not only in their inherent complexity and variability, but also because of their organizational governance. For example, if I’m looking to bring in some DevOps contractors to supplant my IT outsourcing provider’s capabilities, do I use an IT category team, a contingent labor Center of Excellence or perhaps an IT Vendor Management Office to have the ITO vendor provision the resources?

Beyond the organizational governance issue, the bigger problem is the fragmented nature of managing (not just procuring) services and the underlying systems to manage them — even just in source-to-pay. Case in point: There is not a single source-to-pay solutions provider in the market that offers deep support for all enterprise spend on a platform with a single code base and a unified data model.

And this is 20 years after e-procurement systems started being developed. Let that sink in.

But before a few of the S2P suite vendors get their knickers in a twist over this statement, keep in mind that what I’m including with the term “deep support” is being able to track services work to the contingent worker level that temporary labor solutions (aka “VMS” solutions) and those solutions supporting independent contractors. These contingent labor procurement platforms for their part are only touching a portion of the spend, and the expansion of many of them into SOW-based spend isn’t necessarily something that firms want to use for all their contract-based spend given that modern S2P suites can do a reasonably good job of setting up SOWs against MSAs, modeling basic rate-based service catalogs, and then matching them to the downstream invoice-to-pay processes. The trick, however, is how to go beyond the basics and handle the real life requirements of complex services categories.

This transformation will require a new way to understand/frame services and a new class of architecture and platforms to meet these needs — while also making some practical moves with existing tools (e.g., using modern CLM platforms as a critical core to modeling the commercial details/attributes of these services). It will also require procurement to align more tightly with IT and to leverage an emerging ecosystem of platform providers and approaches that can help rise above the functional silos that manage services spend in disjointed ways.

Extracting maximum commercial value from services can only be done at an end-to-end process level, and procurement has an opportunity to help optimize the sourcing, consumption, settlement and ongoing management of these increasingly digital and externalized services (and their providers). By more easily extending the capabilities of digitally savvy suppliers into internal value chains with internal stakeholders, but also ultimately out to external customers, procurement can proactively be part of broader enterprise digital transformation activities.

In this SpendMatters PRO analysis, we’ll dive into the challenges of segmenting external business services (e.g., understanding the interplay between digital-dominant and labor-dominant services) and how to look beyond the traditional contingent labor approaches (hint: Segmenting the market based on the presence of a statement-of-work is clearly not sufficient).

Later in this series, we’ll dive deeper into a new commercial framework for services and then map the resulting business requirements to technology requirements and associated vendor/solution types that transcend the source-to-pay market (e.g., enterprise CLM, ITSM, low-code platforms, etc.).

Outlaw: Vendor Introduction, Analysis and SWOT

When people think contracts, they think lawyers. And when people think lawyers, they think semantics, tedium, inefficiency. It’s no surprise, then, that the contract management process at many businesses is perceived as lawyer-like: slow, plagued by error-prone review processes and more inclined to risk-aversion rather than to embracing the new or innovative. But these flaws are also the result of ill-suited tools to manage contracts.

The dominant preference among business users for applications like Microsoft Word and email for the facilitation of contract authoring, review and negotiation is in no small way a reason why contract management processes can feel so archaic.

These applications are general-purpose tools that fail to address the complexity and the importance of contracts to a business. Yet contract management processes have largely been designed to fit to these tools, rather than the other way around.

Reimagining what the contract management process should be is the approach that Outlaw, a nearly two-year-old vendor based in Brooklyn, New York, has taken to designing its software-as-a-service solution.

The founders, both former consultants, were all too familiar with the headaches of contract drafting and approval, which inspired them to design a new contract solution around how they would want to create, negotiate and sign agreements. In doing so, they hope to bring an outsider’s perspective to contract management, rebuilding the process from the ground up so that it can be easier, faster and more enjoyable.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Introduction offers a candid take on Outlaw and its capabilities. The brief includes an overview of Outlaw’s offering, a breakdown of what is comparatively good (and not so good) about the solution, a SWOT analysis and a selection requirements checklist for companies that might consider the provider.

Coupa CLM: Vendor Snapshot Update

Coupa is a full suite provider of source-to-pay (S2P) applications (which Coupa calls Business Spend Management), but we’ve not yet included a formal analysis of its contract lifecycle management (CLM) application other than our ongoing coverage within the SolutionMap framework.

Coupa is a bit of a conundrum because, relative to its competitors, it has some unique functionality that no other competitor possesses, but at the same time, the provider is also missing a core aspect of CLM functionality that its primary competitors already have.

As Spend Matters’ Q4 2018 Contract Lifecycle Management SolutionMap indicates, Coupa does well with customer scoring across its various CLM personas, but it lags in its solution score due to the aforementioned functionality gap that we’ll explore later in this piece. Coupa acquired a small Canadian CLM startup named Contractually in 2016 that had some nice collaborative redlining functionality (and written within Ruby on Rails framework like Coupa), and that form of “collaboration” (i.e., technical collaboration between buyers and suppliers on the Coupa user interface) is supported as well by basic MS-Word integration.

Coupa doesn’t really try to differentiate itself as a best-of-breed stand-alone CLM application provider though (and certainly not beyond the bounds of S2P to support enterprise CLM functionality across all contracts), and the contract is really treated as the core commercial system of record that is at the heart of an S2P suite. It focuses on integrating the contract into all of the other elements of this suite, especially with its focus on operationalizing contracts via transactional P2P execution, including enforcement of buying/paying against contracts, and tying the spend back to contracts and budgeting (aka spend planning and control).

This Spend Matter Vendor Snapshot Update reviews its solution, Coupa Contract Management, and highlights the good, the not-so-good and the potential of its current product.

An Introduction to Sourcing Business Intelligence (Part 3): Analytics and AI in a Sourcing Context

In the third installment of this Spend Matters PRO series, we turn our attention to how traditional human intelligence and artificial intelligence intersect with sourcing business intelligence (BI), leading to a new type of cognitive procurement built on larger and larger data foundations.

We trace the evolution of select artificial intelligence (AI) applications in procurement that are generally available today and provide examples of models that are just becoming mainstream in select markets.

But most important, we show how it is possible to let a combination of off-the-shelf capabilities and “as a service” providers do the heavy lifting in the journey toward sourcing (business) intelligence and more broadly toward supply (business) intelligence.

Transparency-One: Vendor Introduction, Analysis and SWOT

Procurement and supply chain organizations are facing pressure from consumers, governments and investors to clean up their supply chains. Whether it’s traceability of ingredients (including their source and their quality), assurance that labor and facility conditions are up to code, or proof that emerging compliance standards like modern slavery laws are being met, companies are increasingly being tasked with mapping their entire supply chain while ensuring that suppliers are meeting, and tracking, myriad metrics for safety, sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

This is the narrative that Transparency-One, a provider of supply chain visibility and compliance tracking solutions, is betting the farm on. (This is apt, because the provider actually models and monitors farms as part of the extended supply chains being tracked within its system.)

Founded in 2016, Transparency-One enables executives in charge of sustainability or responsible sourcing to report accurate supplier and compliance data to sales, marketing and regulatory compliance functions about what’s happening in their supply chains end to end, as well as to map product tracking and quality information down to the lot/batch level.

While many such efforts are already underway at major companies, compliance tracking is often fragmented, with initiatives like conflict minerals compliance managed separately (and in different tools) from the tracking of, say, facility safety certifications. Transparency-One is seeking to bring all of these efforts into a single platform, starting first with the food, retail (e.g., grocery, apparel) and industrial materials (e.g., rubber, chemicals) sectors.

Currently operating in 30 countries and in six languages, Transparency-One counts traceability projects with Intermarché, Carrefour and Mars among its pilot customers. It has offices in Boston and Paris.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Introduction offers a candid take on Transparency-One and its capabilities. The brief includes an overview of Transparency-One’s offering, a breakdown of what is comparatively good (and not so good) about the solution, a SWOT analysis and a selection requirements checklist for companies that might consider the provider. It also touches upon graph databases and their use in this supply chain management, supplier management and risk management mashup area.

Beyond Supplier Risk Management: How Procurement Can Take a Leadership Role in Enterprise Risk Management (Part 3) — Integrating Supply Risk Management into Day-to-Day Procurement

In our previous installments of this Spend Matters PRO supply risk series, we discussed an exhaustive list of strategies for using supply risk as a way to align procurement and the enterprise to safely extract more value from spend/supply. In this installment, we are going to dive more deeply into aligning supply risk within the source-to-pay (S2P) processes themselves.

Too often, supply risk management is weakly addressed within S2P, and by using some of the alignment techniques discussed in Part 2 of the series, procurement can align supply risk systematically into its own methodology and processes.

Beyond Supplier Risk Management: How Procurement Can Take a Leadership Role in Enterprise Risk Management (Part 2) — Aligning Enterprise Risk to Supply Risk

risk

In Part 1 of this series, we described the process that most progressive procurement organizations use to relate enterprise risk to supply risk. Throughout such transformations, a single theme pervades: alignment. The premise here is that while value chains are, in fact, a chain of value that flows across multiple stakeholders, the “signal” often gets lost as the components of that value go across organizational and functional boundaries. We’ve written before about this concept of “supply performance management” (i.e., where the definition of supply and the supply scorecard gets translated from the customer-facing value chain all the way down to a supplier/contract level) in terms of measuring and managing supply value, but this same concept also inherently applies to risk management.

Risk management is about protecting those value streams, and therefore the commensurate investment in risk mitigation should align with the value streams themselves. Unfortunately, they often don’t, because stakeholders are not typically measured on risk management explicitly (although they can be measured on it implicitly).

Procurement itself faces this problem. Based on our research, only 8% of procurement organizations are formally measured on supply risk reduction. Instead, they’re measured on overt reward (vis a vis savings) but not on protecting those improved supply outcomes. So, if procurement wants to protect supply outcomes, it will need help and resources from the natural risk owners (i.e., those who are measured on the business outcomes affected by those risks) — and that help will not come unless there is visibility, commitment and action. As such, in this installment of this series, we’ll discuss two critical frameworks that organizations can use to gain alignment.

Tradeshift Buys Babelway: A ‘First Take’ Analysis

Earlier today, Tradeshift announced it had acquired Babelway — a technology provider that straddles the line between a cloud integration broker/hub and electronic data interchange (EDI) enablement. It will provide integration services to Tradeshift customers.

This Spend Matters PRO “First Take” analysis offers additional insight on what we know about Babelway and what it does (in plain English), insight into the acquisition/rationale, and a cursory analysis of what it means to Tradeshift customers, partners and competitors.

Beyond Supplier Risk Management: How Procurement Can Take a Leadership Role in Enterprise Risk Management

risk

There is no shortage of news about supply risk in today’s volatile operating market:

 

  • The 12-month LIBOR rate has gone from 2% to over 3% in 2018, and suppliers are beginning to feel a capital squeeze as buyers further stretch their DPO to hoard cash (beyond stock buybacks of course).
  • Brexit continues to loom as a bugbear regarding UK/EU trade. More broadly, geopolitical risk continues to escalate in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Central America and the South China Sea.
  • S. trade policy still swings wildly at the press of a POTUS tweet, and so do commodity prices and volatility in general. The VIX index has spiked up 65% in the last 60 days alone.
  • Natural disasters driven by climate change are becoming commonplace and calamitous.
  • Competitive risks are sprouting up as digital disruption is creeping into almost every industry sector — and as monopolies “becomes features rather than bugs” with ongoing market consolidation. In response, compliance regimes like GDPR continue to crop up although enforcement is highly variable by region and country.
  • Cyber risk continues to be the most omnipresent risk that organizations are experiencing cross-industry while everyone is flocking to the cloud in record numbers.


So, enterprise risk management should be alive and well. And, logically, supply chain and procurement executives need to be increasingly prepared to work with their internal business partners to reduce this risk and defend the proverbial gates to keep the risks at bay.

Unfortunately, the castle walls are often not well-guarded because the sentries are not getting paid to do so. Procurement organizations in particular suffer from a misalignment between missing incentives for reducing supply risk and zealous Finance-driven incentives for increasing supply reward in the form of narrow purchase cost savings. Regarding the latter, nearly all groups get measured on purchase cost reductions, but only 41% get formal credit for saving money during the sourcing process when there is no initial cost baseline. However, only 8% of procurement organizations get such "hard credit" for reducing supply risk.

Part of the challenge here is that from an enterprise risk management (ERM) standpoint, there is a broader disconnect between evaluating enterprise risk overall versus extending those risk factors in a cohesive manner out to the supply chain and also out to the supply base (via spend categories and then to individual suppliers) where contracts are signed that hopefully help mitigate most supplier risks. There are four “translations” here where alignment gets lost, and to make matters worse, the risk types being managed are highly fragmented, if addressed at all — especially when various stakeholders are in the same boat as procurement regarding not getting credit (and commensurate resources/investment) regarding supply risk. Risk management gets viewed as a glorified insurance policy and set of “check the box” regulatory compliance mandates rather than a sound approach to bringing risk into the value equation (i.e., protecting the value streams of importance through the value chain).

So, the question becomes how can procurement help solve this when so much seems outside its control? And why even pursue it when there are other things to focus on like hitting savings targets?

The answer lies in deftly “connecting the dots” between enterprise risk and supply risk so that various stakeholders like GRC, internal audit, external auditors, divisional presidents, etc. can not only extend their reach into the extended supply chain, but can also be tapped to help bring some corporate power (and resources) to bear and help drive some changes internally and with your suppliers.

In this installment of Spend Matters PRO, we’ll dive into some best practices for gaining this multi-pronged alignment and also how to align supply risk management within various points of the source-to-pay (S2P) process itself. And, of course, if you want to see how various providers handle supply risk, whether S2P suite providers, or more specialized supplier management providers, then definitely check out our SolutionMaps in these respective areas here and here.

‘More people in the tools, lower risk, faster processing, better results’ — Roy Anderson sums up procurement’s future (Part 3)

“Use your suppliers to get the work done more efficiently, effectively and start to manage the overall supplier base like an orchestra leader,” procurement veteran Roy Anderson says, laughing at the image — but not the lesson. “That orchestra leader can’t play every instrument and certainly isn’t going to sing every song, but has to be able to have the structure and the reporting and the analytics to be able to manage it more effectively.

“That’s the future. A virtual procurement operation living on a marketplace of capabilities is the future of procurement.”

In Part 3 of Anderson’s conversation about his career and digital changes in the industry, he talks about being at Tradeshift (“where ideas win”),  how “every CPO has a bandwidth problem” and the promise of AI.

Anderson, who became Tradeshift’s CPO and digital transformation officer in September, sat down with another procurement veteran, Pierre Mitchell of Spend Matters, to share some laughs and lessons about how the industry adapted to technology over the last 40 years.

The following is the last of a three-part series of their conversation, which has been edited for clarity. Part 1 ran Monday, and Part 2 ran Wednesday.

‘I Think Demand Management Is the Bigger Play,’ Roy Anderson Touts Visibility into Spend, Risks of Not Buying In (Part 2)

“I saved you all $5 million,” procurement veteran Roy Anderson tried to tell one CFO he worked for. “To this day, he’s never totally believed that.”

In Part 2 of Anderson’s conversation about his career and digital changes in the industry, he talks about change management, demand management and how he did convince another CFO that Anderson’s team had saved him $150 million.

Anderson, now at Tradeshift, sat down with another procurement veteran, Pierre Mitchell of Spend Matters, to share some laughs and lessons about how the industry has adapted to technology over the last 40 years.

The following is the second of three-part series of their conversation, which has been edited for clarity. Part 1 ran Monday, and Part 3 will run Friday.