As we said in our previous post after attending eWorld Procurement and Supply last week, it’s a great forum for meeting new procurement technology vendors. As our focus at Spend Matters is on helping procurement practitioners make the right decisions about the technology they invest in to improve their processes, efficiency and value proposition, staying on top of the young and emerging players is essential for our ongoing deep coverage of the market.
Interestingly, of the 26 vendors in the exhibition hall at this spring’s event, 13 were new to eWorld. We’ve not seen that 50/50 split before. Normally the predominant exhibitor is the more established vendor. So, we were keen to meet and talk with some of them (and to those of you we missed because of time constraints, we’ll see you on 26 September).
For clarity, we did not demo any of the solutions, but here’s an outline of the providers we spoke to.
Advanced Spend Management Suite is a very young source-to-contract solution: a child of the existing 2,700 employee- and 89 product line-strong, mid- to upper-mid-market player of business solutions with more than 22,000 customers around the globe.
The spend management suite was established just under 12 months ago, born out of demand from the finance and ERP customer space (where Advanced played heavily) to help them improve their spend management, supplier onboarding, contact management and upstream procurement processes.
The suite comprises three products that have been strategically acquired over several years: Advanced Marketplace, an end-to-end buyer catalog solution with expertise ranging from research laboratory consumables to office furniture; a full source-to-contract solution that manages the buyer’s steps from demand management through strategic sourcing to go-to market; a contract lifecycle management solution that manages everything from draft scenarios to approvals and documentation and clauses to practical completion.
The current main focus is on developing the product with data and visualizations to make the tool highly configurable to produce whatever slice of data a user needs (procurement performance analytics is a core focus).
On the data automation side, the firm also rebranded an existing product called CloudTrade into Advanced Data Automation, which specializes in the post-procurement processes of invoice alignment, data extraction and payment, with, they tell us, 100% accuracy. Rather than OCR, it uses its own patented tech, then validates and enriches the output which feeds directly into the finance system.
Advanced currently integrates with SAP Ariba, Taulia and other partners, some of which have white labelled the product.
PAID is a young tail spend procurement automation platform that facilitates large enterprises and small businesses to work together by automating onboarding, contracting, invoicing and payment.
Used for infrequent and one-off suppliers, it helps manage the whole process from fast self-serve onboarding to payment. PAID estimates that organizations spend on average $700 to onboard a supplier, generate the invoice and make the payment. While automated KYC, AML and credit checks take place behind the scenes, PAID aggregates and automates invoice creation and makes a single payment.
It is customizable and can accommodate assessments and surveys for suppliers to complete before they begin a project. Contracting, authorization and payment (which can be made in as little as two days if needed) are automated, and payments are compliant with the Prompt Payment Code. Users also get insights to identify savings, improve processes and strengthen supplier relationships.
The SaaS-based platform sits on top of existing systems and is free for suppliers. It was founded in 2019 and currently has a relatively small, but growing, customer base with names such as BT and ISS among its customers.
Vendr is a SaaS buying platform that manages, negotiates, purchases and renews an organization’s software. It offers a centralized platform to house all SaaS purchases and renewals and gives a single view of the entire company tech stack.
For a flat annual subscription based on annual SaaS spend, it will find the best-fit software with data from 1,700+ suppliers, evaluate competitive options with pricing benchmarks and industry trends backed by data collected from $2.5 billion worth of deals and allow for an informed purchase decision in one click.
Its SaaS database features over 19,000 products, and its Vestimate tool gives relevant pricing insights, estimated market share and predicted time-to-close.
Our analysts are currently assessing Vendr’s capabilities, and we will follow up in our deep dive vendor analysis series.
As with each of the above vendors, we look forward to watching them grow.
Agility, sustainability and transformation: a few presentation takeaways
Alongside meeting new vendors, we also found time to fit in a few presentations.
Unusually, the keynote kick-off, “How to Stay Agile and Adapt in a Tech-led Future,” was a panel discussion rather than a solo presentation. It worked well, injecting some early energy into proceedings, courtesy of the chair, senior CPO advisor Guy Strafford, and four strong panelists: Rob Turner, Director of Procurement and Supply Chain, Deliveroo; David Wylie, CPO, Thames Water; Juliet Sotnick, Vice President, Procurement and Supply Chain, IHS Towers; and Rob Copeland, CPO, Formerly G4S.
It started off with a bang when Sotnick suggested that procurement as a function might not exist in a few years’ time — and this was only eight minutes into the event! The debate centered on the effect technology is having and will increasingly have on procurement teams and professionals.
There were some differences of opinion in terms of just how dramatic and rapid the impact of AI, for instance, might be, but the panel agreed that change is coming, even if it will be more rapid in some organizations than others, with the public sector probably lagging private firms. But procurement must adapt to new roles and activities if it is to survive and thrive, which seems to be the mantra at every procurement event at the moment.
That mood of technology-driven change was reflected in the very strong vendor presence at eWorld this spring, with more firms represented than we’ve seen for years and with a focus on tech rather than consulting. As our ex-colleague and business author Peter Smith noted:
“The procurement tech world might be cooling down a little as interest rates rise and investment gets a little harder to find, but there are plenty of dynamic young businesses out there offering a wide range of capabilities to procurement. Of course, larger established firms were present, including Coupa, Ivalua and platinum sponsors Proactis, but the landscape is certainly changing rapidly.”
As well as the technology focus through the event, discussions around sustainable procurement/procurement with purpose/ESG (choose your buzz phrase) all featured regularly in the sessions.
Jonathan O’Brien of Positive Purchasing gave us a sneak preview of his new book, “Sustainable Procurement,” which comes out in April. The book follows his other key works on category management, SRM and negotiation, and it looks like it will give practitioners a clear and extensive guide to implementing sustainable procurement. He talked about the drivers and the strategy but quickly got into what needs to be done at working level to make progress. Seeing sustainable procurement as part of those wider processes, such as category management, is essential, he said – it is not an add-on or an optional extra.
In another keynote address Ilija Ugrinic, commercial solutions director at Proactis, talked about rapidly realizing results from procurement transformation. However, his focus was on the impact and benefits of technology being more evolutionary than revolutionary. While huge procurement transformations can be daunting, including the growth in maturity of the procurement function, it should be a progressive journey rather than a disruptive one, achievable by breaking the task down into smaller, pain-defining projects that can be solved quicker. He also advocated the rise of self-service for both stakeholders and suppliers.
How you approach the selection and implementation of procurement tech, which involves looking at where you are now and where you want to be and choosing a provider for long- rather than short-term benefits, is important in the continuous improvement journey. And that led very nicely into our analyst’s session on how to buy procurement technology wisely.