Keelvar Blog

Sourcing Optimization v eSourcing

July 24, 2018


Sourcing Optimization v eSourcing

I am often asked by companies unfamiliar with sourcing optimization why it’s different to eSourcing and why it costs more. I generally reply that eSourcing is like a bicycle whereas Sourcing Optimization is akin to a car. I use this analogy because eSourcing doesn’t have an engine even though it’s a useful means to organise data and give simple feedback.

However, the inflexibility in the workflows tend to mean that people don’t want to use eSourcing because they need more subtlety and expressiveness in order to avoid alienating suppliers or controlling specific objectives.

Sourcing Optimization has an engine so can allow sourcing teams to gather much richer data and builds a model in the background that permits nuanced communication of conditionality and is powerful and flexible enough to capture almost any process you should require. But it also allows you to do things you’d never be able to do in face to face negotiations or Excel based data gathering exercises because you’d be quickly overwhelmed by options to consider without an engine to search all the combinations imaginable.

A summary of the key differences is listed below:

  • eSourcing software is a workflow tool to help manage the flow of data (i.e. who get’s what documents, when, how they’re collected, simple feedback etc).
  • eSourcing doesn’t capture structured data. Data resides in Word or Excel document, only the authors of those documents really understand the logic or important parts of interest. Value is lost because it is undiscoverable in document silos.
  • Sourcing Optimization collects data from bidders in structured tables in databases. The logic for comparing bids isn’t an Excel formula, instead these are all structured inputs. The rules for feedback to bidders aren’t buried in unstructured documents or spreadsheets, instead these are all structured and configurable rules clearly visible.
  • Critically, eSourcing doesn’t let bidders describe economies of scale across different products, regions or services. Maybe they want to offer a 15% discount if they win a group of specific Lots that lead to operational savings? It is this lack of nuanced control that has been a barrier to adoption for eSourcing.
  • Sourcing Optimization builds a complete model under the hood for all key decisions that may need to be made (e.g. maybe you want to see the trade-off between reducing supplier numbers and increasing cost) – this reasoning cannot be done in ordinary eSourcing tools.
  • Comparing eSourcing and Sourcing Optimization is like comparing a bicycle and a car for the following reasons. With eSourcing you need to power the logic and data design and scenarios yourself. There’s no engine to power the analysis or superior control, e.g. if you’re interested in deeper insights such as “What if we keep 50% of our business with incumbents, which 50% should we switch?” There’s simply no power underlying standard eSourcing to even begin to model such a scenario. You’d have to try to do that in Excel and this approach is destined to be brittle, error-prone and non-transferable to colleagues. It’s also slow and time consuming. A major benefit of sourcing optimization is the speed it brings to evaulation. Even large bid events can be conducted swiftly and easily.

But the biggest difference between both technologies is that you receive more competitive and innovative offers from bidders. When game-theoretic strategizing is applied by suppliers, they use the option to offer combination bids (and they know their competitors have that weapon in their arsenal too) to bid more aggressively on desirable packages of Lots because contingent discounts offer them a form of free insurance against unattractive bundles. This drives win-win outcomes and allows for efficient operations for suppliers. This is why top sourcing teams in companies such as Schneider Electric, Siemens, McKesson, AB Foods, Drewry and others use sourcing optimization. Experts know that buying a bicycle for eSourcing is a false economy and motorized transport comes with a higher initial investment but the return on investment is almost immediate.

The staff profile of eSourcing and Sourcing Optimization vendors is very different too. Keelvar’s engineering team are a balanced mix of PhDs in AI and Optimization, experienced Engineers, customer focused professional services team members and UX/UI experts that strive to make power, flexibility and ease of use central to our SaaS solution.

And finally, to answer the opening question of why it costs more: if you’re smart at sourcing then you look at the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a solution and the TCO for eSourcing is actually quite high because every event that misses out on richer bid capture, insightful scenario analysis and intelligent feedback options with smart outlier detection wastes 3-10% in spend under management for that event. This is the hidden cost of using suboptimal eSourcing. Sourcing Optimization has possibly the highest return on Investment of any SaaS solution that a procurement team could buy so its a simple decision for well informed sourcing teams.

Interested in seeing for yourself? Trial a pilot project at