Key Analyst Takeaways from Ivalua NOW 2019
Earlier this week, Levvel Research attended lvalua NOW 2019, held in Chicago from Monday, April 29, 2019–Wednesday, May 1, 2019. The following post provides an overview of the event and a Levvel Research analyst’s industry insights.
Ivalua kicked off the US leg (their European conference was held in Paris from April 10-12) of their annual conference in a highly unusual way. They had a live painter on stage to paint something unknown to the crowd. Levvel Research couldn’t help but think that art and procurement don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. Modern procurement is a science that requires timing, calculation, and process. Conversely, painting is squarely an art. But as the painter progressed and the picture (literally) became clearer, the parallels between the two became obvious. The artist faced a white, blank canvas and had the opportunity to view it as a challenge, because of a lack of direction or instructions, or to view it as an opportunity to fashion the canvas from nothing into something. Just like artists, procurement heads have that same transformational opportunity. They can be seen merely as “the people that say no” or they can evolve procurement into a strategic leader. Ideally, a procurement leader should be turning excess wasted expenses into valuable organizational investments that deliver profit.
The Evolution of Procurement
CMO Alex Saric opened the conference by tying the theme of art into Ivalua’s own product. Ivalua looks at the beginning of each engagement the same way the artist looked at the blank canvas. They task themselves with the transformation of every company they talk to. Just as an artist switches mediums and evolves their technique as they mature in their craft, Ivalua tries to evolve organizations from a manual process to an automated back office that is seen as a competitive advantage. This can start out with a “deploying best practices” approach where the organization wants to generate ROI as quickly as possible, digitize critical processes, and ensure compliance. “Deploying best practices” may be rolling out a solution for one process, like AP automation or eProcurement. The next step is the “best in class” level. Here organizations are managing all spend, digitizing all processes, and are starting to gain valuable business insights and effectively managing supplier risk. This would be where organizations are implementing Ivalua’s pre-built full suite solution that is designed for their industry and/or ERP. Levvel Research has not seen the approach of tweaking your product to specific industry needs as pre-built software as commonly in other procure-to-pay products. Whether or not it becomes a competitive advantage for Ivalua will depend on how useful organizations find that extra level of customization and whether or not those extra features are unavailable on other providers’ software. The final evolution is becoming a competitive advantage. At this point your back office is driving your organization to speed up time to market, growing revenue, differentiating product, and supporting business agility. This is the level Ivalua strives to get its customers to.
Ivalua Founder and CEO, David Khuat-Duy stated that the company’s “consistent success directly results from our strong DNA”. They aim to be a customer-centric company and have a 98% customer retention rate to back this mission up. Hearing this statistic and more about Ivalua’s success makes Levvel Research wonder: what differentiates them? For one, they’re of the few providers that has a truly global footprint, with offices on multiple continents, with successful implementations in the Americas, EMEA, and APAC. They use a long term strategy that’s driven by their leadership team, a team that also has significant ownership in the company. They boast a low employee turnover of 5-8%. But one of the most unique factors that separates them in Levvel Research’s eyes is the fact that their solution is built on a singular codebase and operates as a unified suite. This is exceptionally off-trend with the rest of the procure-to-pay space, as most full suite products are built using a combination of internal development and multiple software product acquisitions, which frequently results in “Frankensoftware” that looks different across the suite of products. Khuat-Duy also spoke about what Ivalua intends to focus on to retain customers and expand their reach. Like many of their competitors, they are keyed in on future tech, UX enhancement, risk management, and analytics to improve the customer experience. One objective that’s not as common is Ivalua’s desire to speed up time to value. They aim to accomplish this through industry configurations and software integrations.
Recent and Future Product Improvements
The main focus of Ivalua’s release 162 was improving the customer experience. To accomplish this, Ivalua rolled out a refreshed user interface to make the product easier to use and offer a consumer-grade experience that employees have come to expect in their personal lives. Like other eProcurement solutions, they look to Amazon for inspiration on the ideal shopping system. Their new UI resembles an eCommerce website, with the ability to filter along the side by category and price, updated modern icons, and search that pulls results from across multiple catalogs. In addition to the UI updates, Ivalua has improved compliance features, collaboration/engagement with suppliers, and multi-tax management functionality.
Ivalua’s keynote speaker, Nancy Giordano, a Strategic Futurist and Corporate Strategist, spoke on replicators vs navigators (a theme Levvel Research sees commonly in the back-office automation space) and “developing the confidence to face the blank canvas”. Change is happening exponentially: culture, technology, and information are all shifting in ways that are largely unpredictable. Solution providers will face challengers and be forced to adjust to tech that is merely a thought right now. Faced with all of the change, lines between “competitor” and “collaborator” will blur even more. Giordano quoted the commonly cited assessment that retail will change more in the next 5 years than it has in the previous 50. This will certainly have an effect on eProcurement and the providers that have the foresight and ability to challenge traditional thinking will be the organizations that capture the most market share. Ivalua hopes that by keeping their customer at the forefront of their mission, they will accomplish the goal.