Thinking of investing in some of the latest procurement technology? If you have not consulted market trends, got a third opinion and done all of your research, you might want to pull on the reins, advises Dan Quinn, Senior Vice President of cloud-based spend management provider Jaggaer (Middle East and North America).
Buying procurement technology these days is a complicated business. With ever more niche vendors entering the market and established providers offering increasingly sophisticated solutions, differentiating at face value alone can be as clear as mud. However, given that your decision will have an enterprise-wide impact, it is crucial that you assess your options and make the most informed decision possible.
1. Separate fact from fiction
Of course, you will have the product marketing collateral from each provider, such as data sheets and solution overviews. However, you need to be aware of how much is marketing ‘fluff’ and how much is an accurate reflection of the solution’s capabilities.
To do this, you can turn to customer case studies and testimonials to understand what their experience of implementing and using the solution has been like. But remember, even these sources of information come with their own challenges and shortcomings. If the case study focuses on the customer’s functional use of the product, it may not offer you an accurate view of customer service levels or product performance, which are key considerations when making your decision.
This is where third-party research and validation comes into play.
2. Look at market trends
Where do you go and how do you choose your sources of information?
The entire technology market is well served with analysts reporting on trends, competencies and guidance on the good, the bad and the ugly of the industry. When searching for technology vendors that meet your requirements, this certainly helps to sort the ‘wheat from the chaff’.
That said, the technology market is quite unique in that it experiences a rapid advance in product capabilities. With competition driving innovation, product sets evolve quickly and when you are looking at R&D in the technology sphere, one year is a long time. This means that it is essential to ensure that the information that you are using, and basing your decision upon, is up-to-date and reflective of the latest capabilities within the market.
3. Consult the Magic Quadrant
One of the world’s largest, most respected analyst organisations for technology research is Gartner. Each year or so, they produce the Magic Quadrant, which is a culmination of research in a specific market, giving individuals a broad view of the relative positions of the market’s competitors. The Gartner Magic Quadrant research provides a graphical competitive positioning of four types of technology providers in fast-growing markets: Leaders, Visionaries, Niche Players and Challengers.
Gartner produces this research for a range of technology sectors, including procurement sourcing applications, and it is a well-trusted source of information for assessing your options when you go to market.
Access the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for strategic sourcing application suites here.
4. Ensure that you are using up-to-date analysis
Given the considerations around the pace of advancements in the eProcurement sphere, it is all the more important to ensure that you are using the most current information available. In addition, because of the time between each report’s release, you will find that vendors that have been in a Leaders quadrant can fall from grace into lower quadrants/waves.
This is because, to remain in a Leaders segment, is dependent on a vendor’s investment in product functionality and features as well as their business vision to meet the needs and demands of the procurement marketplace. Customer satisfaction and referencing is also taken into consideration for the research, meaning that a strong Leader position is indicative of a satisfied customer base.
5. Get a third (party) opinion
There are a number of consulting and analyst organisations who conduct independent research of the technology space to provide a clearer, qualitative segmentation of the marketplace. By supplementing the information supplied by providers with this third-party research, you can validate performance and delivery to build a more objective view of the marketplace.
6. Do your research
As the marketplace for procurement software and technology continues to grow, it can become a confusing place for those looking to choose a solution; you have niche providers who offer specific pieces of software and more established leaders offering integrated full-suite solutions. Each promises to deliver the most effective, powerful solution but how much of that is bluster and how much is grounded in truth? By all means, utilise the product marketing information that a vendor provides but scrutinise it too. Is what they say really true?
Ensure that you conduct thorough third-party research and refer to existing customer testimonials as these are key to finding the answers to the questions and key to you selecting the best solution for your organisation.