I’ve been blogging a lot about visibility lately and mentioning Apexon rather frequently even though I’m sure most of you haven’t heard about this little company or what they do. Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Kevin Brooks (an occasional guest blogger here on Sourcing Innovation, in other words, his commentary on The Future of Sourcing is not slated to be his last post) and discuss where Apexon was, where it was going, how Apexon goes beyond spend visibility to performance visibility, and how this will eventually translate into actionable intelligence. (A topic I’ll be diving into in the future.)
Whereas most visibility solution providers (like Zycus, Procuri TrueSource, and biq) focus on spend visibility, or the determination of how much you spend on each of your suppliers, Apexon focuses on performance visibility, or the determination of how each supplier you are spending on is performing. Spend visibility solutions slice and dice on dollars, performance visibility solutions slice and dice on performance metrics – and the good ones slice and dice on the performance metrics of your choosing .
At this point, you’re probably asking are not all visibility providers equal, since all they do is aggregate, slice, and dice raw data ? Technically, they are very similar, but functionally they are quite distinct. The difference lies in the presentation, reporting, and intelligence they provide. Spend visibility solutions are configured to slice and dice on dollars, the data they extract from your underlying systems is your transactional data, and the drill down reports they provide are all pivoted around spend. Performance visibility solutions are custom configured by you to slice and dice on the metrics you track, the data they extract is the data relevant to your metrics, and the drill down reports they provide are all pivoted around metrics. Could one system do both? Yes. Do any current systems do both well? In my view, not really. (But I’m up for a conversation and a demo if anyone disagrees with me! Remember, its thedoctor<at>sourcinginnovation<dot>com.)
However, to truly be useful to you, a system should also provide actionable intelligence. Dashboards that tell you where you are performing well, where you are performing poorly, and provide you with alternatives to improve these poor situations. Although still a young product, with 2.5 slated for release in the near future, this is where Apexon is starting to break away from the pack. Dashboards let you view your performance relative to your key metrics, and then the system lets you drill down into the root causes of poor performance and the root enablers of good performance. Comparison reports can then be used to determine possible solutions – such as shifting supply to a better performing supplier or shifting certain components to different manufacturing lines.
If supply chain performance is a concern for you, and it should be, I’d say it’s worth checking out the solution, especially if you are a traditional manufacturer, particularly in the automotive, aerospace, defense sectors, since Apexon has a strong client base in these sectors that have helped shape the solution since day one. Furthermore, since the solution is a 100% on-demand solution through your browser, the effort required to test-drive it is minimal. The solution works on a push model – at regular intervals (which can occur as frequently or infrequently as you desire), you push updated data to it, and it slices and dices that data on your metrics to give you the intelligence you need to improve your operations.
Is it all it can be? No, I think it can improve in future versions – but more importantly, since Apexon is intent on building its roadmap from customer feedback, I think it will get there. More importantly, you don’t have a lot of choices, most are new offerings, some companies are not as eager to work with their customers to improve the solution, and visibility is an area you can not ignore. Make sure it’s on your list of candidates, and if you’re nearby, check them out at one of their upcoming executive breakfast series in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Detroit (on October 17, 18, and 19). And keep an eye on Sourcing Innovation and Spend Matters – if he’s not traveling, I’d guess that you can bank on Jason hiding out in the back row of the windy city presentation, pounding out notes on his Dell and posting them to you hot off the wire.