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Confessions of an Analyst – Are Harvey Balls enough to evaluate Supplier Management? (Part 1)

It’s been almost three months since leaving the Aberdeen Group’s Global Supply Management practice, and coming on-board to a marketing role here at HICX solutions has definitely been and eye opener.

During this time, it is even more clear to me that the emphasis on procurement excellence and optimization requires supplier management to become the direct enabler for increasing operational efficiency, reducing maverick spending, mitigating supply chain risk and ensuring regulatory compliance.

I was already convinced of its importance during my time at Aberdeen and even initiated supplier management research in this area after a long dormition of the topic.  But as a senior analyst covering the topic from a solution review standpoint, it was often difficult to understand the key differences between the platforms based on what really matters – core technical fundamentals.

Let me explain…

From my perspective as an analyst, the process of evaluating solutions was typically based on a demo, or even death by PowerPoint.  During a 60 – 90 minute session with a marketing or sales person describing the benefits of the solution and a few case studies, I was supposed to extract the best features as they applied to supplier management (e.g. risk, compliance, performance, onboarding), and in the end turn around to provide insight into how the “best in class” is using this technology.

Of course, this is only the start of the process in getting familiar with a provider.  Moreover, the objective of a good analyst is to be able to categorize and help the user community better understand the solutions available. So the experience and knowledge of the analyst should be enough to properly evaluate and label the solution feature or function into one box or the other.  Even those famous ideograms known as Harvey Balls used by other analyst firms should give you that insight you really need.  Right?

Actually not so much.  Ultimately what I am getting at is this – it is evident that despite the efforts of analysts to share their thoughts on features and functions, most supplier management platforms cannot easily demonstrate the core fundamentals needed for executing long-term success in complex enterprises.  What this takes is not only showing the bells and whistles, but also the ability to show how the platform can model a complex organization in a flexible yet highly configurable way.

In part 2 of this blog posting, I will share with you some of those areas that as an analyst, just can’t be made apparent without the benefit of looking under the covers, and going beyond the typical dog and pony show of a demo or a PowerPoint presentation.

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