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The Lowdown on Spend Matters 50 To Know, 50 To Watch and ProcureTech 100
Episode 93rd November 2021 • The Procuretech Podcast: Digital Procurement, Unwrapped • James Meads
00:00:00 00:32:52

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The Lowdown on Spend Matters 50 To Know / 50 To Watch and the ProcureTech100

This week is a solo episode. I rarely do them, and I thought long and hard before publishing this.

At the end of the day, I'm just one person who has a keen interest in digital procurement technology. I'm not an academic or a researcher, but I do take a passionate interest in what is out there and I have some strong views on what I feel should be the priorities when it comes to digital procurement transformations.

I'm also acutely aware that most of the listeners to the podcast are not CPOs in enterprise level organisations. My aim is to bring content out there to Procurement Leaders outside of Fortune 500 companies and to shine light on solutions that are a fit for regular, mid-market businesses.

Challenging or questioning the conventional wisdom of how these lists are made up is something I debated for a while.

Ultimately I decided that listeners need to know and understand what goes into selecting these lists, so as they can look at them with a critical mindset and draw their own conclusions.

I sincerely hope this episode provides value to everyone who listens to it and I would love to hear your feedback!

Spend Matters

Spend Matters are a household name to anyone in the Procurement space and are part of a larger parent company, Azul Partners.
Spend Matters was founded by Jason Busch in 2004 and was one of the first Procurement and Supply Chain Blogs.
The focus on digital procurement technology with their 50 To Watch and 50 To Know began in earnest in 2014, and has since grown to be the go-to resource for research, analysis and content in the digital procurement space.
So, what are the 50 To Watch and 50 To Know?
Let's have a look:

Almanac

They're part of a wider directory of digital procurement solutions housed on the Spend Matters called the Spend Matters Almanac.
The Almanac has over 530 listings from 59 categories and over 140 analyst insights.
Feeding into the Almanac is the Spend Matters Solution Map, an interactive software solution finder, where the user can select a comparison of different types of procurement software based on a bunch of different criteria and buying personas.
Spend Matters have a pretty big analyst team to crunch the data, and the listings have been going since 2014, so they have a huge back catalogue of content and analysis to draw from!
There are 23 different categories in the Almanac in total, and not all of them are focused on software itself. There are some consulting, training and membership organisations included in here too.
But this is what sets the base for the 50 To Know and 50 To Watch
So, how do we get from here to the 50 To Know and 50 To Watch lists?
"The Spend Matters® annual 50 Providers to Know and 50 Providers to Watch lists are determined by the entire Spend Matters analyst team to represent the best of the commercial providers that serve enterprise-level procurement organizations."
"We do not include brand new startups with only a few employees and customers who are piloting some “minimum viable products”. We track over a dozen of them right now and are working on highlighting them in the near future."
Spend Matters makes it very clear that participation is NOT "pay-to-play", rather "participate-to-play".
So, the 50 To Watch and 50 To Know is NOT sponsored content.
BUT
It can, however, mean that if a provider does not agree to participate according to the (pretty lengthy) RFI criteria laid down by Spend Matters that their solution will not be included.
This is also acknowledged by Spend Matters themselves - they openly recognise that there are some solutions out there who may be worthy of making the list but choose not to put themselves through the participation process for whatever reason.
"From a methodology perspective, first, the analysts review last year’s lists and determine which providers no longer meet the criteria as listed above. Then we add in the providers who have made an impact (or resurgence) in the market."
So, the previous list is the starting point, which is then refined, updated, discussed, debated by Spend Matters analyst team: This is based on the usual adage of good solutions lose their way, and new companies enter the market to challenge them.

The 50 To Know

The 50 To Know are the ones Spend Matters recognises at the best-in-class in the procurement and supply chain technology market.
Focusing on the key criteria such as innovation, market presence, tech competency, and solution delivery.
According to Spend Matters, these are the 50 most established and form the cornerstone of technology that enterprise level procurement teams should be aware of.
Some of them are not pure-play procurement tech companies.
The 50 To Know tends to focus on a mixture of enterprise level procurement suites on the one hand, as well as other well-established software dealing with other areas of the business that touch on procurement and supply chain i.e. cross border payments, financial risk, fraud, tax etc.
The list also includes Suplari and Orpheus, who have now been acquired by Microsoft and McKinsey respectively.
In fact, there are only 10 that I would describe as pure-play procuretech solutions.
Of course, this is just my analysis as one person with a keen interest in procurement tech. Take this with a large pinch of salt, because my "criteria" are going to be different than a CPO of a Fortune 500 company when evaluating what procurement tech solutions are interesting.
But that's the whole point, and is a general comment which I'll explore later.
These lists are built, reviewed and evaluated with the needs and requirements of procurement teams from the world's largest corporations in mind.
If you're a procurement leader for a $500 million company, a lot of what you see here will most likely not be so relevant.

50 To Watch

Typically the Providers to Watch list sees more turnover than the Providers to Know, and this rang true in 2021 with almost one-third of the Providers to Watch being new to the list from last year.

Future 5

Now we're talking.
This is a new feature this year, and I love it. The startups featured in this section are, according to Spend Matters website:
  • Is < 5 years old, with ideally < 2 years in the market (official product launch)
  • Has 5+ customers
  • Has an innovative, interesting application of technology
  • Maintains clear momentum and sustainability
  • Has < $10 million in revenue

ProcureTech100

ProcureTech is a new platform, founded in 2020 by CEO Lance Younger, based in London.
They are a new business and are still growing out their services but they have a prominent collaboration with Kearney which is featured heavily on their website.
The ProcureTech100 was announced in October 2021.
ProcureTech claims on their website that the 100 were selected from research of over 4,000 digital procurement solutions.
Now, I'm not actually convinced there are over 4,000 digital procurement solutions out there. But let's overlook that for a moment.
The shortlist was selected using statistical analysis of over 40 key data points, including growth, security, customer, financial and employee data.
This shortlist was then taken to a panel of over 60 experts. These experts are listed on their website and are a mix of practitioners, consultants, former CPOs,  VC firms and procurement services providers.
But, this is where the trail goes a little bit cold: How they selected them doesn't appear to be very transparent at all.
Let's take a look who's in the ProcureTech100:
Well, first of all, it's dominated by a large number of enterprise level suites.
The kind of names that when you talk to the average procurement professional who actually uses the software day-in, day-out, they don't seem too enthused by their experience of using them.
There are also a lot of providers in there who, while they definitely DO focus on procurement as part of their solution, are not exclusively a digital procurement technology provider.
In fairness, there are also some top, best-of-breed exclusively procuretech solutions in the list too. It's great to see these companies featured, especially some of those which have experienced some rapid growth since early 2020.
I've certainly watched from the sidelines as some of these companies have morphed from being pretty small startups back almost 2 years ago into becoming powerhouses in the field and experiencing incredible growth.
Clearly what they do is sought after out there!
It will be interesting to see how the ProcureTech 100 develops because, in fairness, it is still a very new directory and ProcureTech is growing and expanding as a business to offer other services in the digital procurement space.
It's one we'll keep a close eye on and watch with keen interest. It's always good to see the digital procurement ecosystem growing.

Conclusion

Which brings me to what I feel are the most important characteristics of procurement technology and, unfortunately, these seem to have been missed out of the analysis.
Note there is nothing it would seem in the selection criteria about
  • UX or UI
  • Ease of implementation
  • Time to implement
  • Amount of training for Stakeholders and Procurement Practitioners to comfortably be able to use the software
  • Complexity of the platform (ease-of-use vs. features)
  • Who is it aimed for?
    • Strategic Procurement Teams
    • Operational Users
    • Wider Stakeholders
  • How will the wider business community interact with and use the software?
  • Cost
  • Licensing / Usage model
Now, I'm not saying that these directories and rankings aren't useful. They most certainly are.
They offer a HUGE amount of value to make practitioners out there aware of what solutions there are and what they can do.
But I feel they are lacking.
First of all, they are ALL, WAY TOO FOCUSED on large, enterprise level solutions.
There is very little analysis out there that would assist a Head of Procurement or a CFO in a mid-market business who is looking to digitise his or her procurement function or P2P operations.
I don't feel that there is enough thought around who actually uses this software, and what their key criteria are.
It's not features, trust me on this one. And yet, the rankings seem to have been primarily based on features.
None of the analysis focuses on the amount of time taken to plan, execute and integrate any of these solutions into the existing tech ecosystem of the business.
If it takes a year to plan, devise and implement this type of software into your organisation, I do kind of think it's missing some of the criteria that most procurement leaders outside of Fortune 500 companies are looking for:
Namely: Agility and simplicity.
They want their procurement teams to be more operationally efficient, and one of the key ways this happens is through giving them, and their stakeholders, software that is:
  • easy to use
  • easy to implement
  • easy to maintain
Planning a digital transformation 2 years out will mean that the solution you're selecting will likely be half-way obsolete by the time it's been implemented and embedded.
So, my conclusion to this episode is that yes, these listings and rankings offer a great overview of what is out there to orient you around the leading procurement software.
But if your organisation isn't a Fortune 500 company with extensive budget and resources to plan, implement and execute a digital procurement transformation, then you may find the solutions here too expensive, too advanced, too complex, too feature rich.
Remember, simplicity is key if you're just starting on your digital journey.
My recommendation would be to focus on the 50 To Watch and the Future 5 List, as these are where I see more of a pure play best-of-breed procurement tech solution that would fit with the requirements of most non-enterprise level businesses.

Looking for advice on digital procurement solutions?

Book a call with me to see how I can help!