Plus or PRO Content

Upwork’s Share Price Slumps, But Online Staffing Platform Soldiers On (Part 1) [PRO]

Being a public company is not always easy, with performance vs. market expectations being put under the microscope every quarter. And Upwork (NASDAQ: UPWK), the global online freelancer marketplace and managed services provider, found that out Wednesday, May 9, after it announced its Q1 2019 financial results, which seemed to pack few, if any, surprises.

At the same time, while the shares fell swiftly from just over $20 to under $17 in after-hours trading, it bears remembering that, just months ago at the start of October 2018, Upwork offered its IPO shares at $15. Though this may not be a consolation to investors who acquired shares when the stock was trading between $20 and $25 in February and March, it may be somewhat reassuring for more conservative investors that expect a company’s share price to be linked to its fundamentals, including uncertainty.

In Part 1 of this two-part Spend Matters PRO series, we attempt to understand what was revealed shortly after 4 p.m. Eastern time May 9, that caused such disappointment among investors. In Part 2, we will look at Upwork’s several updates to new growth initiatives in the business (e.g., the creation of four service/pricing tiers for buy-side businesses), and we will offer our own perspective on Upwork’s current position as a high profile player in the changing contingent workforce space.

Shiftgig Changes Course — What Can We Learn? (Part 3) [PRO]

In Part 1 of this three-part Spend Matters PRO series, we overviewed Shiftgig’s seven-year evolution from an online marketplace/online staffing firm that matched hourly workers and open shifts that were offered by businesses (mainly in the hospitality, food and event industries). The company recently completed its pivot to a pure-play software solution/technology provider with the sale of the staffing operations part of its business to Headway Workforce Solutions and LGC Hospitality (the two established staffing firms will be using Shiftgig’s on-demand worker matching technology solution called Deploy). In Part 2, we talked with Shiftgig’s current CEO, Rick Bowman, about the company’s shift, its emergence as a technology solution provider and where Shiftgig may be heading now that the pivot is effectively complete.

In this final part of the series, we will step back and take a more analytical perspective and look at Shiftgig’s strategic shift in the broader context of the evolving contingent workforce technology solution and intermediation space. The Shiftgig story may raise more questions than answers. But they are good questions, such as: What happened? Was it Shiftgig’s execution or its strategy? What is the optimal role of online marketplaces and staffing firms? How is technology reshaping the established contingent workforce supply chain?

Promena: Vendor Introduction (Part 2) — Product Strengths and Weaknesses [PRO]

contingent workforce

In our last Spend Matters PRO post, we introduced you to Promena, an 18-year-old provider based out of Istanbul that is deploying a platform for strategic sourcing, supplier management and e-procurement. Operated under the umbrella of Zer, a procurement BPO firm that itself is a subsidiary of Turkey’s largest industrial conglomerate, Koç Holding, Promena has a solution with a long history of development and some relatively mature functionality despite its lower name recognition in the global procurement technology market. And while its newest modules are still finding their footing amid a rapidly changing sector, the solution overall offers a strong baseline off which Promena could expand it functional footprint.

Part 1 of this brief provided an overview of Promena’s offering and a short selection requirements checklist that outlined the typical company for which Promena might be a good fit. In Part 2, we provide a breakdown of what is comparatively good (and not so good) about the solution, a high-level SWOT analysis, and some final conclusions and takeaways.

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

twago

When asked to name the top locations of technology and startup ecosystems, one could be forgiven for not including Turkey. Globally, cities like London, Berlin, Tel Aviv, Stockholm, Singapore and San Francisco hold much of the technology economy mindshare, and recent political volatility in Turkey has not bolstered the country’s image as a stable place to start a business.

Yet Turkey has a lot going for it these days in terms of technological potential. As of 2017, the most recent year for available data, Turkey’s internet penetration rate was nearly 65%, giving the country Europe’s fifth-largest online population. Use of mobile devices is also relatively high, at 86% of the population. What’s more, Turkey’s demographics skew heavily toward younger generations: more than half of its 82 million inhabitants are under the age of 30, many of whom are enthusiastic about accessing and growing the technology economy in their home country.

And this technological potential is not just recent. In fact, when it comes to procurement technology, Turkey’s representative offering, Promena, has been refining its product for nearly two decades. Started in 2001 as a joint venture between Koç Holding, Turkey’s largest industrial conglomerate, and The Carlyle Group, Promena offers solutions for e-sourcing and e-auctions, spend analysis, supplier management and e-procurement. Now fully owned and operated under the umbrella of Zer, a procurement BPO firm also owned by Koç, Promena today counts more than 100 customers, with more than 11,000 sourcing events and $2 billion worth of transactions flowing through the platform.

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

AI in Supplier Management: Tomorrow (Part 2) [PRO]

complex sourcing

In Part 1 of AI in Supplier Management: Tomorrow, we began our discussion of some of the AI-enabled capabilities that you can expect to find in tomorrow's supplier management platforms, where we define AI as assisted intelligence (because, as we have discussed, there is no true artificial intelligence in enterprise platforms today and there won't be tomorrow either). AI is a buzzword, not a reality. But we don't need true AI to achieve software that can radically increase our productivity. Reaching assisted intelligence will add multiples to our efficiency and effectiveness.

In our last article, we discussed how tomorrow's supplier management platforms will offer smart, automatic, supplier profile update (suggestions) — taking the headaches out of profile maintenance that results in most profiles being out of date in a supplier management system shortly after they are created; market-based supplier intelligence that is more in line and reflective with reality — and not just the experience of an anomalous customer subset; and real-time relationship monitoring that paints a relatively full picture of the relationship, not just a point-based performance picture.

So what else will tomorrow's platforms do to help you focus more on the strategic side of supplier management? Let’s look at the next three areas:

— Automated resolution plan creation, monitoring and adjustment
— Automated risk mitigation strategy identification
— Optimized real-time resource re-alignment

Shiftgig Changes Course — What Can We Learn? (Part 2): A Talk with CEO Rick Bowman [PRO]

Spend Matters recently had the opportunity to talk with Shiftgig CEO Rick Bowman, who joined Shiftgig as its CTO in mid-2017 before becoming CEO in July 2018. Since then, he has led the company through the launch of Deploy, its technology platform, and the recent deals with Headway and LCG, discussed in Part 1. For this Part 2 Q&A, Bowman provided his refreshing insider perspective on what has been happening at Shiftgig and what it means for the business. Part 3 will conclude with our analyst commentary on Shiftgig’s strategic shift in the broader context of the evolving contingent workforce technology solution and intermediation space.

Exploring Basware’s Recent Product Enhancements: Something for AP and Procurement (Part 1) [PRO]

In April, Basware held its Customer Connect user event in Chicago. During a mainstage talk and break-out sessions, the procure-to-pay provider highlighted a number of recent enhancements and product roadmap areas, including the continued incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) throughout its product line. Based on these presentations and recent Spend Matters SolutionMap RFI analysis, this three-part Spend Matters PRO brief highlights selected recent product enhancements as well as what Basware has in store for AP and procurement customers in the quarters to come based on its product roadmap. It also provides deeper insight into how Basware is embedding AI across its procure-to-pay solutions.

The following enhancements are covered and analyzed (with key takeaways included) in this research brief:

— Approval Confidence Scoring/Index
— Committed Spend
— SmartPDF (Basware’s version of InvoiceSmash/Cloudscan)
— Payment Plan Compliance
— Intelligent Order Aggregation

Tealbook: Vendor Introduction (Part 2) — Product Strengths and Weaknesses [PRO]

cloud solutions

In our last Spend Matters PRO brief, we introduced you to Tealbook, a five-year-old provider based out of Toronto (with an office in New York City) that is deploying a new platform for supplier information management (SIM) and discovery. Combining machine learning to accelerate data cleansing and gathering with a social media-like user experience to encourage collaborative supplier information management, Tealbook is gaining use cases and enterprise-class procurement customers that want to:

— Consolidate and better manage their supplier master data — aka the “I” (Information and Intelligence) in SIM.
— Discover and on-board new suppliers more effectively than 1) Google searches and 2) searches within proprietary supplier networks.
— Create a system of intelligence surrounding suppliers both internally (e.g., within a spend category team or project team) and externally through fully permissioned, community-based knowledge sharing.
— Quickly bring supplier diversity programs to target levels.

Part 1 of this brief provided an overview of Tealbook’s offering and a short selection requirements checklist that outlined the typical company for which Tealbook might be a good fit.

In Part 2, we provide a breakdown of what is comparatively good (and not so good) about the solution, a high-level SWOT analysis, and some final conclusions and takeaways.

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

Procurement organizations today talk a big game about automating transactional processes so that they can focus on upstream value creation opportunities. The thinking goes like this: The biggest opportunities for procurement are not in squeezing diminishing savings out of the usual vendors year after year but in identifying and contracting with the most innovative suppliers that can enable exclusive competitive advantages. These include not only strategic sourcing efforts around major categories or products but also mutually beneficial relationship-based activities like supplier collaboration, development, innovation and risk mitigation.

Yet there are several obstacles to this shift in emphasis toward more strategic activities. One is remarkably simple: The majority of procurement organizations do not have a single, accurate record of all of their suppliers. Most of the vital information that would constitute a vendor master file is instead scattered across various silos, including ERP systems, dedicated P2P or S2P tools, homegrown tools, and proverbial three-ring binders. So before procurement can earnestly attempt to spend more time on higher-impact value creation opportunities, most organizations have a lot of work to do forming a baseline off which they can build stronger supplier management, discovery and development competencies. This baseline of supplier knowledge is not just about maintaining an accurate vendor master file to pay the bills, but also a hub for information to help build supplier intelligence and a private supplier network (albeit with some community-based elements) rather than any single commercial network/marketplace.

Helping organizations form this baseline is how Tealbook, a four-year-old provider based out of Toronto (with an office in New York City), is deploying its platform for supplier information management and discovery. Combining machine learning to accelerate data cleansing and gathering with a social media-like user experience to encourage collaborative supplier information management, Tealbook is gaining use cases with enterprise-level procurement organizations that want to consolidate their efforts in master data management (MDM), quickly bring their supplier diversity programs to target levels, and find new suppliers more effectively than a search on the open web allows, as well as expedite the supplier on-boarding process. And as it continues to bring more users and suppliers into its network, Tealbook generates insights that becomes increasingly valuable to its community (without ever sharing proprietary information between organizations).

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Introduction offers a candid take on Tealbook and its capabilities. The first part of this brief includes an overview of Tealbook’s offering and a short selection requirements checklist that outlines the typical company for which Tealbook might be a good fit. 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, and some market implications and takeaways.

AI in Supplier Management: Tomorrow (Part 1) [PRO]

In our last pair of Spend Matters PRO articles about AI in supplier management today, Part 1 and Part 2, we overviewed some situations where you can find AI in e-sourcing platforms today, where we define AI as “assisted intelligence” because, as we've stated in our series about AI, there is no true artificial intelligence in any enterprise technology today. In fact, there is nothing close, at least not on the open marketplace.

But when we get to the point where we have an augmented intelligence solution that can help us not only monitor supplier performance (across a community), automatically identify issues and risks, and even help us with automated resource — and asset — assignment but can also help us identify automated corrective action resolution plans, risk mitigation strategies, and real-time relationship monitoring and resource re-alignment, they start to approach augmented intelligence and become quite useful to us indeed.

In this article, we are going to discuss the AI-enabled functionality that we expect to see in the leading supply management platforms tomorrow. We will continue our pattern and start by defining what we expect to see, how it will likely work, and then give some hints of the technology platform that will underlie it.

Tomorrow, we expect that the leading supplier management platform will also have the following capabilities:

— Smart information selection and auto profile updates
— Market-based supplier intelligence
— Real-time relationship monitoring
— Automated resolution plan creation, monitoring and adjustment
— Automated risk mitigation strategy identification
— Optimized real-time resource re-alignment

SAP Ariba Sourcing: How Does it Compare Today and What is Coming Tomorrow (Part 2: Playing the Scout Card) [PRO]

Procurement organizations previously embraced complexity in tools to enable both event sourcing and category management processes. Now, the tide has turned. Solutions that are best-in-class from a user-experience perspective, but may lack advanced features (e.g., sourcing optimization, the most capability/depth for RFP/RFI/auction support, full opportunity analysis like should-cost modeling, full project management, comprehensive integrated supplier and risk management, etc.) are increasingly winning the day — sometimes even replacing solutions that offer deeper functional capability.

Simply put, this is what I term the Scout phenomena (but in all fairness to Scout, the provider, is aggressively building out capabilities in areas that it has lagged in for our SolutionMap benchmarking tool).

In the forthcoming new releases of its sourcing product, SAP Ariba has not just co-opted Scout’s playbook. It has built on it. By masking complexity and prioritizing usability not just as a primary, but the top objective, forthcoming “SAP Ariba Sourcing” releases represent a fundamental replatforming that will put casual, business and procurement users at the center of a vastly improved and consumerized UX.

In Part 2 of the Spend Matters PRO research series providing analysis of the SAP Ariba Sourcing solution, we offer insight into the new user experience as well as analysis, commentary and customer recommendations based on SAP Ariba’s planned release schedule featuring the new UI/UX. Part 1 provided insight into SAP’s relative strengths and weaknesses today (based on the Q1 2019 SolutionMap release) and shared what we learned last month at the SAP Ariba Live event on an overall roadmap basis for the sourcing product line.

Microsoft 365 Freelance Toolkit: Retooling How Enterprises Work (Part 4) [PRO]

talent management

Previously in this series, we took a deep look into the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit: what it is, how it organically took shape inside of Microsoft and how the supplier/partner collaboration with Upwork established a complete set of enterprise-grade, full lifecycle source-to-pay capabilities for the engagement of remote/online freelancers.

— In Part 1, we took a “product development perspective,” focusing on and explaining the toolkit itself. In addition, based on our interview of Paul Estes (Gig Economy strategy lead at Microsoft and the product lead of the Microsoft 365 freelance tool kit initiative) we also looked at how the toolkit was conceived and how it evolved from a set of internal of capabilities at Microsoft into a new solution for Microsoft customers.
— In Part 2, we took a “procurement perspective.” Based on our interview of Chad Nesland (Microsoft’s director of strategic sourcing and the procurement lead in the Microsoft Gig Economy initiative), we looked at how procurement, from the very start 2 years ago played a key enabling role in the cross-functional team and process that guided the evolution of the toolkit from idea to customer solution.
— In Part 3, we took a “partner/supplier perspective.” Based on our interview of Eric Gilpin, (SVP at Upwork Enterprise), we looked at the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit coupled with the capabilities of Upwork Enterprise. We also examined Upwork’s role as a strategic supplier/partner, what Upwork brought to the table and what the partnership has meant for Upwork itself.


In this briefing, Part 4, we step back and take an analyst’s perspective on the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit and Upwork partnership, offering our observations and potential insights for procurement and HR practitioners as well as other executives/managers who are grappling with how to address and optimize the use of freelance talent in their organizations. Taking things up a level of abstraction, we provide a more comprehensive business context; we highlight and discuss a number of important aspects of the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit and the more comprehensive solution that includes Upwork Enterprise; and we suggest what possible opportunities and considerations executives/practitioner could encounter down the road.