David Bush, CEO of Simfoni, a Spend Analytics and Spend Automation platform using artificial intelligence and machine learning to save customers time and money in their long tail.
During the conversation, David shared his thoughts on composable procurement, line of sight, democracies, thermomixes and Oxaca Old Fashioned
1. What is Simfoni’s mission?
“Our mission is to help others See Spend Differently.”
This means seeing spend analytics and visibility differently which is where our Tail Spend solution comes in. We position ourselves to be able to manage that unmanaged spend within an organisation and access it where it hasn’t been previously.
Simfoni has three best in class platforms which make up a large amount of the full sourcing and procurement lifecycle: best in class spend analysis, e-sourcing and tail spend tools. We can fit virtually any situation depending on the current tech stack that an organisation has. This ranges from fortune 100 global multinational companies through to mid-market where we configure and compose our tech solutions along with our managed services to fit what they need as opposed to just dropping a huge Source-to-Pay suite on them.
Additionally, Simfoni guarantees savings. We have a self-financed consumption-based pricing model which works really well for companies to de-risk things they’ve never done like tail spend. Our managed services teams are located all around the world, so we have numerous delivery centres in America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific, which is pretty unique. We also have One Vendor Payment where we process payment solutions and eliminate all the noise in the long tail. The combination of those things and again, how we compose them or how we configure them for the client, becomes extremely unique and there is no other solution out there that can mix and match these different things to come up with something bespoke for the customer.
2. What have been the most significant decisions and milestones on the Simfoni journey so far?
We were a little bit ahead of our time by focusing on Tail Spend about 7 years ago. Since then, we’ve expanded into other areas of procurement, but we’ve always stayed true to our roots of Tail Spend. During the journey, we’ve discovered analytics is at the heart of what we do. Corporate spend is indirect spend which is highly predictable and repetitive, so with a strong analytics capability, organisations can derive the most out of their future purchasing requirements from that historical data, including what they need to procure, where from and how much they should be paying. If you can leverage that across multiple customers, we can create an incredible platform of options for them.
Our services have matured over time, along with our global capabilities. Tail Spend sits everywhere inside organisations, but remains unmanaged and spread out across the world.
Simfoni’s network of local buy desk operations mean we can source locally which is what individual plants or facilities want anyway on these low dollar high volume spends: we have local knowledge, local capabilities and local languages, and that all becomes very important in the delivery instruments that we use to manage Tail Spend. You need to be able to automate as much of your Tail Spend as possible, such as requisition and sourcing.
3. What do you look for in the perfect customer?
“Our customers are frankly frustrated by procurement!”
They want to democratise the procurement process into a better way of working where non poor and low value spend can be managed locally, while generating cost improvement and process efficiencies.
The situation with Tail Spend is always the same. Customers often have fragmented and distributed spend profiles where they’re being unaddressed. Simfoni’s consumption pricing model is self-financed where a transaction fee tracks the costs savings we are delivering for our customers.
As far as what the perfect customer is. They come in many different forms, but we’re mainly looking for clients who have unmanaged direct spend of 10% or higher, that are distributed businesses with fragmented spending and technology gaps throughout the procurement lifecycle, so it doesn’t have to be zero technology. But they’ll probably have a gap somewhere whether it’s in spend or sourcing or catalogues and e-procurement. We’re suited to our US customers where it could be a mid-size client with a small procurement team, but don’t have enough to cover spend. We also have clients in Europe and the Middle East where they’re larger and we’re recovering a proportionally bigger chunk of spend due to the distributed nature of their organisation.
4. What are the foundations of a great team?
I’ve been in executive leadership or founder roles my entire career, so I’ve learned a lot.
“Ultimately, talent wins.”
If you have the right talent and hiring processes and can put people in difficult situations, they will come out with great solutions that you don’t have to micro-manage.
Communication: you can never over communicate, and the more you’re transparent and communicate internally with your team, the better equipped everyone is when dealing with goals and objectives.
Culture and energy are also important – do they fit within the organisation and the team? Having the right kind of pace and energy to keep up with the entrepreneurial side and work.
The last thing I’d say is being highly metrics focused, by focusing on KPIs for example. Focusing on corporate objectives through to individual objectives helps everyone work from the same playbook, which generates efficiency, high productivity and autonomy so they are performing to their highest level every day. If they know what they should be doing, and it’s aligned with everything all the way through the corporate goals, then it all fits together seamlessly. You have your well-oiled machine!
5. As we emerge from COVID what will you be doing differently?
Our future is about localization. Over the last two years, our clients have seen their supply chains heavily disrupted, if not ripped apart, by COVID.
Diversity pressures have emerged from socio economic situations. Most of them in America face environmental reporting and sustainability issues with a growing focus on simplifying their supply chains and spending a little more to help local vendors, whilst reducing their environmental impact. I guess tail spend offers a unique opportunity to execute against this and support ESG objectives which I’m seeing a lot with our customers. They want to purchase locally so we have different techniques to reduce costs.
By working virtually before, it’s emphasised how great it is to meet, talk and connect with people. It’s great to talk online when in different continents, but it’s important to avoid ‘Zoom fatigue’, especially as the world of work has changed. We’re located across 17 time zones: the days of going into the office 5 days a week are over – at least for Simfoni!
We don’t have a centralised office. Instead, we work virtually and have regional get togethers to help build personal relationships which have been very effective. Now, I’m starting to meet customers again in person and more conferences are happening. It’s great to get those personal interactions back and gauge their body language and even have a drink.
“I just know the business world won’t go back to the way it was.”
6. What is the vision for Simfoni in the future and what will be most important to achieve it?
I’ve worked closely with our Chairman and founder Chirag Shah on all this and he’s the visionary and I really appreciate a lot of his perspective on things.
At the end of the day “our concept is basically composable procurement”, and how that impacts the procurement organisation in effectively two ways. On one hand, Simfoni has a suite of strategic spend tools that enables procurement professionals to operate more efficiently which looks not just at software. On the other, we have content and enablement so that the right decisions can be made at the right time.
Today the vision is challenged by the fact that procurement is hampered by focusing on the urgent, but not important matter, of Tail Spend. Simfoni is hyper focused on Tail Spend and how we can impact that now and in the future. We aim to be the global, unquestioned leader of Tail Spend and there are numerous ways to do it. You can offshore it; you can use technology, or you can do what we do, which is a combination of all those things, by offering a self-financing plug and play spend solution that makes it easy for end users to do what they need to do. With strategic category management, we take the burden off the other pieces of tail spend and composable technology, by automating as much of procurement as we can and build in predictive analytics to liberate procurement professionals and practitioners to focus on the truly strategic issues inside their organisation, which might be category management, ESG or something else.
“We want to take the noise out of the procurement world and focus on what they’re good at.”
Our vision is to become the dominant Tail Spend provider. Ultimately, growth and branding will help make that happen. We have the operational capability to solve the tail spend problem for any organisation in the world. We have the global buy desk, technology, P2P and are always building new tools with new functionality. Operationally, we have what we need to scale extremely easily at this point.
We’ve raised capital and will be raising more in the future as we continue to scale. This comes down to client acquisition, continued growth and expansion of our team to make Simfoni the unquestioned leader in the Tail Spend space.
7. How are you doing good for the planet?
I actually have a degree in Environmental Science and Management!
It was a long time ago but is a passion of mine. More importantly, it’s a core value of Simfoni. There are several things that we do so from a product perspective. We have an environmental impact study or impact assessment that can provide for our customers that basically ties together data and externalities, such as business impact, environmental impact, supply chains, human impact and CSR.
We use data to plan, measure, track and optimise all of those different externalities, and repeat it almost like spend analysis where it’s refreshed and we continue to add in more data. During our quarterly business reviews, we work with the executives or those engaging at the C-level, where we can quantify how their organisation is reducing their impact on those different areas. That’s a really cool product that we’ve developed and continue to enhance internally. We have a lot of different initiatives that we’ve launched such as birthday initiatives, WeCare and our Green Wall, where we provide tips for our employees to be more environmentally conscious, more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint.
We have clubs and groups where employees team up together and try to promote more of an environmentally friendly lifestyle and have fun! We also have volunteering initiatives as well which are usually environmentally based. We actively promote our staff to be involved in these kinds of things, and is something we take very seriously.
Simfoni will continue to grow, we’re still a relatively small organisation, so our capabilities are always under development and our I think our employees really love that, where they can they can be part of an organisation that takes it seriously.
INSTANT DAVID INSPIRATION
1. What is your favourite book or blog and why?
I have two favourites.
The first, Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. It’s about climbers trapped on top of Mount Everest which is full of suspense! My second, from a business perspective, is No Man’s Land which looks at how you scale a business from start-up to medium size, dealing with plateaus and breaking through with a lot of practical advice.
2. Who is your favourite inspirational leader and why?
Not to be cliché, but my mother.
She was a public educator and after she retired, she became an activist for public education. She spent her entire life fighting for institutions of public education. I was raised by a teacher and brought up to respect education. It’s amazing what she has accomplished and I admire her continued passion for students and public education.
3. What is your favourite app (not your own) or piece of technology?
There’s no app that I think is just ‘amazing’: they all have very functional capabilities which I use every single day just like everyone else does.
I will note my wife bought a Thermomix, a kitchen appliance with 50,000 recipes and a computer interface, so you can make a full meal and it just tells you how to make it. 15 minutes later and you have a world class meal at home! It’s amazing!
5. What’s your favourite way to celebrate a success?
My partner in crime is my wife, who I will always spend time celebrating with. We are huge travellers, so anytime there’s a special occasion – whether it’s an anniversary or an event that we’re celebrating or whatever – we’ll either do something locally, otherwise we look for some place bigger. We’re going to Turkey soon! We love experiencing new cultures and spending time in places we’ve never been to before.
1. Don’t neglect your Tail Spend! Make savings in the forgotten bit of your procurement (its important and urgent)
2. Find ways to democratise procurement to access new sources of value
3. The future is all about localisation driven by supply chains, diversity, sustainability and simplification
4. Talent wins above all
5. It doesn’t have to be hard – make it easy for you and your customers by making the best use of technology
6. Create composable procurement to increase agility
7. Align with like-minded people who are passionate about helping others and the planet
Simfoni provides Spend Analytics and Spend Automation products to leading global enterprises.
The Simfoni platform utilizes machine learning and artificial intelligence to accelerate and automate key aspects of the procurement process, saving customers time and money and paving the way toward supply chain sustainability.
With offices in the USA, Europe, Australia, and the Middle East, Simfoni works with its customers and the wider vendor community to improve vendor diversity and achieve strategic corporate social responsibility objectives.
Our industry is moving forward faster and faster, empowered by innovative, progressive digital procurement solutions created and led by inspiring teams. ProcureTechSTARS are the digital procurement company CEOs and Founders that are leading the change, they are entrepreneurs, engineers and architects collaborating to transform procurement and the enterprise. In an open conversation with these leaders Lance Younger will be discussing the highs and lows of building the future now, the challenges they’ve faced, their perspective on accelerators and hot topics, and what keeps getting them up in the morning (and keeps them up at night).