Strategic Sourcing Suites – A Case Of Convergence?

Posted 31/05/2016

In my previous blog , I observed that according to Gartner, all of the current “leaders” in the Strategic Sourcing Suite market were established before 1999. So who are these leaders, what do they offer, and, more importantly, why are they increasingly looking the same?

The four leaders identified by Gartner were SAP (Ariba), Bravo Solutions, Ivalua and Zycus. A further ten were identified as either challengers, visionaries or niche players. 

Ariba, acquired by SAP in 2012, are regarded by many analysts as still the market leader in terms of client base and the completeness of their offering, with total clients in excess of 1200. Bravo Solutions, Ivalua and Zycus are also well established with strong customer lists. 

All of them offer comprehensive suites featuring numerous modules, providing Sourcing, Spend Analysis, Supply-Base Management, Contract Management and in some cases eProcurement/Transaction Management and invoicing. 

To some extent SAP/Ariba have driven the market in the direction of process integration, selling the concept of “keeping the ice-cream frozen”, as one Ariba Account Manager memorably described it to me. 

The rest of the marketplace has largely followed suit here, albeit with (generally) shallower pockets, out of fear of being left behind either as a niche player specialising in parts of the process, or as a “bottom-feeder” in the bargain basement segment of the market. 

So this is what the market place offers – a range of products that offer soup to nuts solutions for your procurement or sourcing needs. A healthy place to be surely? 

Maybe not. Gartner sounded a note of caution regarding SAP/Ariba’s approach in their 2015 report: 

“Few Ariba customers have implemented Ariba's strategic sourcing suite and P2P solution together for contract compliance and contract burn rate tracking.” 

and 

“Many Ariba customers report feeling pushed into contracts for more modules than they can practically implement in full at once” 

Now to be fair to Ariba, they also had several positive things to say about them and negative things to say about their competition, however I use Ariba as the example here as they are in my view the market leader. 

I am also using this example to point to what I believe to be a greater truth, whilst some if not many customers may actually want the full range of functionality these products offer, few of them actually need it. 

From my own experience, backed up by Gartner’s analysis, very few Customers – possibly below 10% in most cases, have implemented the complete range of suites offered by any of the market leaders. They all struggle to provide reference sites that show all of the modules in use. 

Why is this happening? After all, process integration and master data management are two of the hottest topics in IT, and implementing a full Strategic Suite from end-to-end would seem a natural choice. In my next blog, here, I look at some of the reasons why and look for some hints on where the new challengers might come from.


Tagged by topic: Procurement Technologies

  by Mark Eveleigh

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