Plus or PRO Content

GEP: Vendor Snapshot (Part 7) — Competitive Landscape [PRO]

This final installment of our seven-part Spend Matters PRO series on GEP will look at how it compares to its competitors, like SAP Ariba, Coupa, Ivalua, Jaggaer, Corcentric’s Determine, SynerTrade, Wax Digital and Zycus.

Previous installments provided an in-depth look at GEP as a company (Part 1), its specific solutions (Part 2 and Part 3), and a detailed analysis of solution strengths (Part 4) and weaknesses (Part 5). A SWOT analysis and commentary followed in Part 6.

GEP competes in several market segments and brings varying degrees of capability, differentiation and strength in many areas. In certain segments of the market, it is more successful in positioning an overall suite value proposition rather than individual modules (individually or together) for several reasons. Clearly, GEP “keeps coming back to suite” as its technology mantra for good reason.

For example, Spend Matters’ analysis suggests GEP is stronger within the strategic sourcing services and solution areas than in the P2P components of its suite from an “absolute” functional capability perspective. Yet the provider is effective at selling both areas together when they are equally valued. GEP has indeed won some large-scale P2P customers, replacing other solutions, based on the integrated suite value proposition.

Or consider how GEP’s e-invoicing and e-payment capabilities are part of its integrated source-to-pay (S2P) suite solution but are not yet on par with specialist solutions. As another example, GEP has a strong analytics offering but typically positions it within the context of its suite, so while it could compete against specialists in this area, given its classification capabilities, it typically does not.

In this PRO analysis, we’ll set up our coverage primarily relative to technology application segments such as:
* Fully Integrated (and some “loosely coupled”) Source-to-Pay Suites
* Full P2P Suites
* End-to-End and best-of-breed strategic procurement technology (SPT) offerings
* e-invoicing and e-payment specialists
* Supplier and master data management (MDM) providers

But, we’ll also touch on major consultancies, BPO players and niche MSPs.

GEP: Vendor Snapshot (Part 6) — SWOT and Commentary [PRO]

Global Risk Management Solutions (GRMS)

For those procurement organizations that have not looked at GEP’s technology suite in recent years, they will likely be surprised when exploring its breadth of functionality, as well as the nuances associated with capabilities that differentiate it from other suites. These areas include clever takes on category management, integrated suite analytics, mobile support, and a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and cloud-native solution built and hosted on the Microsoft Azure platform.

This sixth installment of the seven-part Spend Matters Vendor Snapshot covering GEP provides an objective SWOT analysis of the company and offers our commentary on its platform. In our next installment, we will close out with a competitive market analysis, with recommended shortlist candidates as alternative vendors to GEP, and some recommendations and provider selection guidance for companies that may consider GEP’s suite or even individual modules and capabilities. Previous installments provided an in-depth look at GEP as a company (Part 1), its specific solutions (Part 2 and Part 3), and a detailed analysis of solution strengths (Part 4) and weaknesses (Part 5).

Community-based Procurement — Get a Buy with Some Help from Your Friends (Part 1) [PRO]

The Oxford dictionary defines “community” as “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common” and secondarily as “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.” Procurement practitioners inherently have kinship with each other based on shared experiences, pain, rewards and knowledge/know-how. Being in the tribe means you can learn from this collective intelligence and apply it individually and locally.

But, what are the best ways for practitioners to gain the wisdom of the community? Certainly peer networking events (in person or virtual) are popular, but they can be time-intensive and difficult to justify on a hard ROI. Training, memberships, conferences, subscriptions and other discretionary expenses are the first to get slashed during budget cutting. The other related issue is that the knowledge being shared is scattershot rather than a focused knowledge transfer that delivers capabilities that will pay off toward some outcome.

Community-focused outcomes can take many forms (e.g., supplier diversity, sustainability, supply chain resiliency, innovation, quality, etc.), and these communities can have many “community owners” (e.g., associations, service providers, B2B networks, tech vendors and even practitioner organizations themselves creating communities with suppliers and other ecosystem partners), but nearly all procurement folks have a common goal: cost reduction.

If cost reduction is the goal, there are many levers to pull, but good old-fashioned buyer leverage through demand aggregation never seems to go out of fashion. The notion of collective buying power is certainly not a new concept. Agricultural buying cooperatives have existed for hundreds of years. And group purchasing organizations (GPOs) are certainly a tried-and-true strategy for procurement organizations, especially those outside the Fortune 500. We’ve written a lot about GPOs, and there are plenty to choose from that provide not just aggregated volume pricing, but also varying community-based services such as events, benchmarking and partner services.

While GPOs are great, the beast known as “digital” is eating, well, everything! So, we have to look at where tech providers are playing here. And even the idea of digitally enabled GPOs isn’t new. Ever heard of MobShop or Mercata? They tried to do automated demand aggregation almost 20 years ago and are now a footnote in the dot com dustbin. Even ICG Commerce (now Accenture) had a horizontal e-marketplace with a GPO component to it before it transitioned to its BPO model. Back then, Accenture and EDS formed ePValue and CoNext, respectively, as consortia buying groups within their client bases, but that didn’t pan out either.

Times have changed, though, and newer technology and business models are gaining traction. Back in that era, I was bullish on digitally enabled group buying and, more broadly, large buy-side app vendors harnessing the power of their collective installed base for economic benefit. I bemoaned that “enterprise application vendors with large installed bases are not bringing the leverage of group purchasing to their communities,” and posited that “many of these vendors have active vertical and horizontal user communities that could be leveraged into powerful group purchasing entities. Some vendors might choose to use as an attractive differentiator while others could offer it as a value-added service.”

Yet, while I’m happy to see so many evolving options in the market right now, there still are some areas for buyers to consider in building out their own ecosystem capabilities that may leverage various types of digitally enabled solution/service providers.

In this SpendMatters article, I’ll address the following:

* Evaluating practical group-buying options available in the market
* Looking beyond traditional GPO models for community-based value
* Examining how companies like Honda and Toyota use a community-based approach with their suppliers
* Broadening the focus from “community-based sourcing” to “collective intelligence” in procurement as a means to perform more scalable knowledge transfer than just traditional community approaches
* Examining our SolutionMap criteria element called “Community Knowledge and Collective Intelligence”
* Providing a snapshot into a serious multi-pronged effort that one vendor in industry is pursuing in this area — and should be considered the pacesetter

Without further ado, let’s jump into it ...

CA Assembly Bill 5 passes: Is the gig economy doomed? (Part 1) [PRO]

California Assembly Bill 5 (AB-5), recently passed by the state Senate, changes the definition of who is an employee and who is a contractor. It is expected to be signed by the governor and is slated to go into effect January 2020. The new legislation, which codifies the 2018 state Supreme Court decision in the controversial Dynamex civil litigation case and clarifies its application, is sending shockwaves through the ecosystem of businesses and workers that constitute the so-called gig economy (that part of the labor market where businesses, including online gig platforms like Uber, engage workers as non-employees).

The main issue, one that has become increasingly fraught over the years, is whether a worker should be classified as either an independent contractor (IC) or an employee (EE) of a business, given the conditions and characteristics of the engagement. Anyone who follows this matter knows that determining the classification of a worker is not a simple matter. The presence (or absence) of laws and interpretations at the national, state and even municipal levels and the promulgated regulations of different governmental entities responsible for taxation, unemployment compensation, worker’s compensation insurance, etc. means a worker may be classified differently depending upon the reference point.

In Part 1 of this three-part Spend Matters PRO series, we will cover the background/context of AB-5 and the essential points of the bill. In Part 2, we will examine different perspectives about the law, and Part 3 will provide our own thoughts and examine some potential implications for contingent workforce managers.

20 Tips to Maximize Private Equity, Investment and Strategic Buyer Outcomes (Part 3: Before the Process — Third-Party Validated Analysis and the Importance of Understanding the Strategic Buyer Landscape) [PRO]

Aside from companies already owned by private equity firms, it is the rare solution provider — or any company — that is selling to private equity, going out for a later investment round or seeking a strategic buyer that has prepared adequately for the transaction process in such a way that the efforts will fully maximize the valuation, terms and other factors in its favor. That is, unless it gets lucky, and to be fair, some folks get lucky!

As expert advisers — primarily to “buyers” — we’ve seen this phenomenon play out time-and-time again in the procurement solutions universe. But it doesn’t have to continue to be that way. This series is focused on leveling the playing field for more advanced sellers of all types, gained by sharing our lessons learned from over 20 years of involvement in transactions in the sector, and especially our work as advisers to private equity investors, nearly all of which are extremely methodical and rigorous in their deal screening and due diligence processes.

So far in this Spend Matters Nexus series, we covered the initial seven tips to prepare — ideally far in advance — of the process itself (see Part 1 and Part 2). Today we continue with the next two tips to pay particular attention to in the lead-up to a process (but still ideally before it begins). And later in the series, we will explore tips to leverage in the actual process itself, ideally once you’ve fully prepared ahead of time to maximize your chances of an optimal exit, transaction or investment.

Jason Busch serves as Managing Director of Spend Matters Nexus, a membership, research and advisory organization serving technology acquirers (private equity, corporate development, etc.) and CEOs in the procurement and finance solutions marketplace (including contract management, B2B marketplaces/connectivity, indirect procurement, services procurement, direct procurement, commodity management, payment, trade financing, GRC/third-party management and related adjacent sectors).

VectorVMS: Vendor Introduction, Analysis and SWOT [PRO]

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Introduction offers a candid take on VectorVMS and its capabilities that help companies with their contingent workforce programs. The brief includes an overview of VectorVMS and its solution offerings, a summary solution evaluation, a SWOT analysis and, lastly, a selection checklist for companies that might consider the provider.

GEP: Vendor Snapshot (Part 5) — Solution Weaknesses [PRO]

In Spend Matters’ previous installment of our seven-part GEP review, we called out some of the real strengths of the SMART by GEP platform, including some that are rare in the market today. In this Part 5, we are going to balance our analysis by also pointing out some of the "weaknesses" of the platform, at least against peers. (A weakness isn't a weakness unless you are looking for, or need, a certain capability, which, of course, you may already have in-house in another platform.)

While we may have hinted at these by way of omission of coverage in our solution overview in Part 3 and Part 4, we are going to get more specific so you understand precisely what isn't there (and can make a judgment call as to whether you even need the capability). We’ll look at deep optimization (especially logistics), asset management for direct, VMS, trade financing, T&E and more.

GEP: Vendor Snapshot (Part 4) — Solution Strengths [PRO]

procurement software

In Part 2 and Part 3 of Spend Matters’ seven-part review of GEP, we provided a relatively complete overview of GEP's SMART S2P solution that it takes to market and uses to power the S2P efforts of some of the largest companies in the world. And while we may have hinted at some of the stronger parts of the offering, in today's installment we are going to call out the real strengths of the platform, some of which are (relatively) unique in the market. Those strengths include analytics/master data management, strategic sourcing with expert insight, mobility, network intelligence, opportunity management and more. Let’s take a look at each.

The Contingent Workforce and Services (CW/S) Insider’s Hot List: September 2019 [Plus+]

Welcome to the September 2019 edition of Spend Matters Insider’s Hot List, a monthly look at the contingent workforce and services (CW/S) space that’s available to PLUS and PRO subscribers. For those new to the Hot List, each edition covers the prior month’s important or interesting technology and innovation developments in the CW/S space.

We’ll look at several hot topics: Upwork’s review of disagreements about the size of the freelance economy, changes in worker classification, drone deliveries, a funding round by healthcare jobs marketplace provider Nomad Health, and how freelancers are changing banking and finance.

Coupa financial results: Delving into another strong quarter [PRO]


Earlier this week, Coupa reported its Q2 results for fiscal 2020, achieving revenue of over $95 million (a near 55% increase year-over-year, primarily from organic growth). The quarterly revenue performance beat analysts’ estimates, and non-GAAP EPS was also above expectations, although cash flow from operating activities declined quarter-over-quarter. Regardless, investors cheered the results, helping Coupa hit a price/sales ratio of nearly 28X in early morning trading on Thursday — and a roughly $9 billion market cap (representing over 125% appreciation in the stock price in 2019 alone).

That’s valuation perfection by just about any measure when compared to peers.

But what is happening within Coupa (and the broader market) under the surface that is driving these numbers? This Spend Matters Nexus brief provides insight on broader (and related) market trends while peeling back a few layers of the onion on what’s driving Coupa’s success, including how it is benefiting from various competitive dynamics in the market (e.g., SAP Ariba’s broader integration hurdles), as well as some of the challenges Coupa must confront to fully capitalize on its acquisitions.

Jason Busch serves as Managing Director of Spend Matters Nexus, a membership, research and advisory organization serving technology acquirers (private equity, corporate development, etc.) and CEOs in the procurement and finance solutions marketplace (including contract management, B2B marketplaces/connectivity, indirect procurement, services procurement, direct procurement, commodity management, payment, trade financing, GRC/third-party management and related adjacent sectors).

Symbeo: Vendor Introduction (Part 1 — Background and Solution Overview) [PRO]

AP automation can be a nebulous term. The exact scope of what business processes that a solution provider intends to automate, as well as whether automation covers truly hands-off processing or mere acceleration through digitization, can vary by the vendor. Generally, no vendor does everything comprehensively from end to end. Some can check the boxes in every part of the AP cycle, but none can check every box across the board.

Take, for example, paper invoice processing. Today’s major procure-to-pay solutions will tell procurement and AP organizations they can process all of their invoices digitally, using OCR-based technology and, in some cases, AI-based correction of that capture. But those invoices need to be captured by the P2P solution in a digital format, and then corrected by a human, as OCR accuracy rates, while admittedly improving, are still far from perfect. So if those organizations still receive invoices as paper — which, depending on the source, still can account for as much as 75% of all invoices sent — a standard SaaS AP automation solution would be insufficient to truly automate the AP cycle.

For small and mid-size businesses that don’t receive a large volume of invoices, an internal mailroom and a set of scanners may be enough to account for this imbalance. But for a large multinational corporation, manually scanning and capturing data from thousands of invoices a day quickly becomes a cost center.

This is the point where many multinational corporations call in a company like Symbeo.

Founded in 1983, Symbeo is a provider of invoice conversion services and AP automation technology. The Portland, Oregon-based company exhibits particular strengths in the receipt, capture and processing of manual invoices, including fax, email and paper-based invoices, using a comprehensive “human in the loop” process to maximize efficiency and accuracy. It also provides a SaaS solution for AP automation with an emphasis on exception handling, approvals and invoice collaboration, which depending on organizational requirements can be more than enough or just a starting point.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Introduction offers a candid take on Symbeo and its capabilities. The first part of this brief includes a company history and an overview of Symbeo’s offering. The second part of this brief provides a breakdown of what is comparatively good (and not so good) about the solution, a high-level SWOT analysis, a short selection requirements checklist that outlines the typical company for which Symbeo might be a good fit, and some market implications and takeaways.

GEP: Vendor Snapshot (Part 3) — Solution Overview (Midstream and Downstream) [PRO]

interest rates

As we highlighted in Part 1 of this seven-part Spend Matters PRO series, GEP is a diverse company that is a provider of source-to-pay solutions, BPO services and consulting. In Part 2, we discussed how SMART by GEP is a unified S2P solution platform built from the ground up as a cloud-based solution, with full integration capabilities into back-end systems, built and hosted on the Microsoft Azure infrastructure. From both platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and hosting perspectives, this brings the same advantages of Amazon Web Services virtualization (e.g., ability to rapidly “scale up” and “scale down” at any layer in the architecture). But further, the entire GEP platform is Microsoft native, which theoretically means tighter integration into the Microsoft ecosystem of products (e.g., SharePoint, Office, etc.) than competing products. The Azure platform and hosting model provides another layer of scalability insurance for GEP customers.

In Part 3, we’ll look at the midstream and downstream functional S2P capabilities — contract management, supplier management, procure to pay (P2P) — that GEP offers within SMART by GEP. We also take a critical look at GEP’s emphasis on user experience.