e-Procurement

A Story that Needs to be Told

On Feb 20 Ivalua launched a new company website, reflecting a new look and feel, content and messaging. Ivalua is now the Procurement Empowerment Platform. Many dismiss taglines as unimportant – simply marketing jargon. Particularly so in enterprise software. Ultimately, it’s a vendor’s products and ability to deliver that drive value for customers. There is an undeniable truth to that argument. But it does overlook one important aspect, and the reason for the change in messaging at Ivalua.

Procurement is more than Just Words

Taglines are really the basis for telling a story. These stories can have an impact not just on a vendor’s brand, but also on how the market thinks and talks about technology. At various times in the history of the Spend Management market, different vendors shaped the market’s evolution and customer expectations based on their stories.

The focus in recent years has been on the technology itself. Technology can be deployed faster than ever and packages so much best practice knowledge in it, Procurement, Finance and Supply Chain leaders need simply buy software and value will be created. Adoption seems virtually assured, and the software so good, that companies should just adapt their processes to the software to maximize value. Innovations areas such as Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning take the human element out of it even further as they can guide buyers to the right product, generate insights and much more.

This isn’t a bad story. In fact, it has had a significant positive impact on the market. Vendors have been pushed to make their products ever more intuitive, incorporate more best practices and deliver a consumer-like shopping experience to buyers. Savvy buyers expect ever more from software providers, as they should. Artificial intelligence does offer tremendous potential that can, among other things, automate much of the Source-to-Pay (S2P) process. Ivalua is a firm believer, investing 10% of our total R&D budget to AI and showcasing related innovations at Ivalua NOW this year. So what’s the problem?

Procurement needs a new Story

The problem is that this is just one story, and an incomplete one that can cause leaders to overlook factors that are critical to success. There are two aspects missing, and important ones in my opinion. The first is the human one. Yes, technology solutions have made tremendous progress, from the low TCO and rapid deployment offered by Cloud-based delivery to ongoing and accelerating innovations. As a technology provider, we actively tout our capabilities and boast about the knowledge built into our products and their powerful capabilities. But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking it is anyone but our customers that actually deliver value. Technology is an enabler, helping leaders to realize the possibilities within their spend and supply chains. Even when technology promises to fully automate processes, the biggest value is freeing people to focus on more strategic tasks. Let’s not become so enamored by technology that we discount the human contribution (and effort) involved.

My second issue with the current story is that it seems to assume that best-in-class procurement is one-size-fits-all. Software is so smart that you should just adapt to it, pull the few, limited configuration levers available and voila – maximum value. This is a dangerous mindset, particularly so in today’s highly uncertain, rapidly evolving world. It is true there are many broadly relevant best practices, covering the large majority of most companies’ S2P process. And companies with immature procurement practices would in many cases benefit initially from adapting a generic best practice approach. We built these into our platform because they do help maximize value.

But companies differ, in their industry and unique profiles. And their requirements change, as they mature and as the market evolves. We live in a time of arguably unprecedented uncertainty, with new competition, new regulations and new risks that companies must constantly adjust to or fall behind. The requirements that truly differ may be a small percentage of the overall process, but they make a big difference. To being compliant or not. To maximizing savings or not. To being fast to market or losing share. It’s impossible to know what the future requirements will be. And they frequently involve more changes than the typical SaaS solution allows. Companies that overlook the importance of technological agility are finding themselves trapped, a slave to their vendor’s roadmap, and unable to adjust as needed to our rapidly changing world.

Procurement Professionals and Technology 

That brings me to the story that needs to be told. That today, as always, it is Procurement and Supply Chain leaders that are driving strategic value as they help their companies navigate our rapidly changing world. But those doing so effectively operate in a new model, leveraging ever growing sources of information, working with diverse sets of stakeholders in varying ways and evolving their processes as needed over time. Their teams are smart, collaborative and agile.

Leaders must look to technology to empower those teams, freeing capacity, delivering actionable insights, facilitating broad and deep collaboration and providing the flexibility to easily adjust processes. They shouldn’t accept compromises – between rapid time to value or meeting unique / evolving requirements. Between deep capabilities in one area or a seamless S2P process. Between connecting to all suppliers or enabling strategic collaboration with a few. Technology should and can empower, rather than constrain.

So why is Ivalua the Procurement Empowerment Platform?

Ultimately, we provide our customers the capabilities they need today with the flexibility to adapt to tomorrow. We do so with a platform that eliminates the compromises and constraints that have come to be accepted as a necessary evil to realize the benefits of SaaS. Best-of-breed capabilities and a complete suite? Rapid deployment of best-in-class configurations for your unique profile? The ability to onboard 100% of your suppliers while still enabling deep collaboration with the strategic few? It’s possible with Ivalua.

But more importantly, we are promoting this new messaging because it is a story that needs to be told. If companies are to effectively navigate the uncertainty in today’s market, their teams must operate in a way that is smart, collaborative and agile. Technology can help, greatly. Customers must demand that vendors innovate in a way that does so.

If leaders keep the full story in mind, they can truly realize the possibilities of their spend and supply chains. We at Ivalua look forward to continuing to work with them along their unique journeys.

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