Daily Archives: November 25, 2008

The Sourcing Maniacs 2008 Vendor Tour Part 14: Source One & ThomasNet

Today’s post is a little long, so I have broken it up into Prelude and Platform. If you’re short on time, you can go straight to the Platform and skip the comedy of errors.


Wakko MFG … it’s dynamite
MFG … it’ll win the fight
MFG … it’s the power load
MFG … watch it explode!
   air guitar
  presumably to the music of AC/DC’s TNT
the doctor Guys, if I might interrupt.
  silence … as I haven’t interrupted in a while, I think they’ve forgotten about me again
Wakko Whaaa …
the doctor Your story so far has been great, but I was wondering if we could jump ahead a little bit to a couple of vendors in particular.
Yakko Why?
the doctor Well, for starters, I think that given the current economy and financial situation of most companies, I think those that are looking to dip their feet in the e-Sourcing waters for the first time would be very interested in your visit to Source One to learn about their new ThomasNet Purchasing Tools offering, and I must admit that I’m a little impatient to hear about it myself. I’m also impatient to hear about your visit with Upside Software, one of the leaders in on-demand Contract Management, which is a very important element of good risk management these days, and one of the few Canadian companies in the space!
Dot But we were just about to tell you about our great visit with …
the doctor And I fully intend to let you. You can come right back to where you are now as soon as we cover these two companies. Okay?
Dot I guess so …
the doctor Great … take it away!
  a few seconds pass as the maniacs fast-forward their story in their minds
Dot So where are we now?
Yakko Still somewhere in Georgia, I believe.
Dot No, no. Who’s next?
Wakko Why.
Dot Why?
Wakko Yes, Why.
Dot But I’m asking who’s next!
Wakko Why is next!
Dot I’m asking a question!
Wakko And I told you Why!
Dot Why?
Wakko Yes, Why!
Dot What?
Wakko Not What, Why!
Yakko Where again?
Wakko Not Where … Why!
  The Abbott and Costello routine continues for about 10 more minutes until the maniacs get a most opportunely timed call …
Yakko ring, ring
Yakko’s Yuletide Yaks … Nature’s Lawnmowers are Your Friend!
the doctor Hello.
Yakko In his best Bugs Bunny impersonation, which is rather flawless:
Eeeeh, What’s up, doc?
Yakko activates the speakerphone.
the doctor That’s what I was going to ask you. I was wondering where you were on your tour.
Yakko Yesterday we just visited Servigistics.
the doctor Good. So you’re on your way to ThomasNet next?
Wakko Yes, Why!
the doctor They offer a free set of purchasing tools that give smaller organizations a great way to try out e-Sourcing in a cost and risk-free manner ..
Wakko Not They, Why!
the doctor Who?
Dot Yes, who?
the doctor What?
Wakko Not What, Why!
the doctor I told you why. Because …
Wakko Not Because …
Yakko He’s been doing this for the last 15 minutes. I can’t even find out where!
Wakko Not Where, Why!
the doctor I think I understand now. Do you mean Why Abe?
Wakko Yes, Why!
the doctor I’ve got it now. Wakko, I’m not calling you Abe. I know you like to answer to that name, especially when you’re wearing your black topper hat, but I’m not. When I said “Why Abe” …
Wakko Yes, Why!
the doctor … I was referring to the free commerce platform, sponsored by Source One, that underlies the new ThomasNet Purchasing Tools that I asked you to check out.
Yakko And where are they?
Wakko Not They, Why!
the doctor ignoring Wakko
Yakko, ThomasNet Purchasing Tools are in New York. Source One is in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.
Wakko Transylvania?
the doctor still ignoring Wakko
You can go to whichever location is closest, but remember that you’ll want someone from Source One to give the demo, which will have to be web-based if you go to New York.
Yakko Well, since we just finished with Servigistics, we’re still somewhere in Georgia, so I think we’ll go to Pennsylvania.
Wakko Transylvania?
the doctor at this point, everyone’s ignoring Wakko
Great! I look forward to your report when your tour is done.
Wakko Why! Why!
Yakko & Dot Shut up, Wakko!
  The manicas take off towards Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. For once, they are silent!


Yakko I think we’re here.
Wakko Great!
out comes the mini-mallet
tap – tap
Proper Gentleman Hello. Can I help you.
Wakko Why …
Yakko cutting Wakko off …
We’d like a demo of Why Abe, the platform that underlies ThomasNet’s new ThomasNet Purchasing Tools offering …
Dot … and an explanation of why you decided to join up with ThomasNet.
Proper Gentleman Well, that’s easy. ThomasNet has over 3 Million users a month who need more than just supplier information. We have a great tool, that’s free to any buyer who wants to try it, that we want to make available to the mass market. It’s a perfect match. We get our tool out there, and better prepare buyers for strategic sourcing, and ThomasNet gives it’s users a way to interact with the 600,000 plus suppliers that it tracks.
Dot And what’s the big advantage? Can’t a buyer just use your tool, and then go to ThomasNet, D&B, CVM, or any other supplier information provider when they need more information on a supplier?
Proper Gentleman They could. But it’s not very convenient. And, more importantly, how do you know that they know what suppliers they need information on? The power of ThomasNet is it’s extensive classification hierarchy that allows a buyer to not only find suppliers for the products that they need, but to find suppliers that they never new existed, who are sometimes just one city over. ThomasNet also just released a “preferred suppliers” capability where it will extract those suppliers that are close to you and known to be capable of supplying the products you need in the quantities you require. Buyers have found this to be extremely beneficial. Since its introduction, the average number of suppliers invited per RFx has increased, the average number of responses per RFx has increased, and the average benefit the buyers have seen using the tool has increased. And that’s the point.
Yakko So the synergy works. But it’s just a simple CMS with primitive RFx capability, right? After all, it can’t be that good if you’re giving it away for free, considering we used to sell these platforms for six-figures a year.
Proper Gentleman Well we think it’s pretty damn good. We eat our own dog-food and use it ourselves. And I think it all depends on your definition of good. We designed a platform that would meet the needs of most small and mid-size organizations, who can’t afford, or don’t need, expensive enterprise systems that contain hundreds of “features” they’ll never use according to the 80/20 rule. All of the core functionality you need to do the majority (80%+) of your projects, the majority (80%+) of the time.

This means that it has all of your core RFx capabilities, although we do have some limitations on the number of attachments and sizes since it’s a pure SaaS application and we don’t have unlimited storage networks, your basic reverse auction capabilities, and your basic contract tracking capabilities that satisfies the needs of most small and some mid-size companies. You’re familiar with Coupa, right?

Wakko Oompa Loompa Doom-pa-dee-do
Yakko cutting Wakko off again
Yes, we’re familiar with Coupa.
Proper Gentleman Well, it’s like the sourcing version of the Coupa Express, the free open-source coupa platform. It’s not as extensive as the full Coupa platform, which itself is very affordably priced compared to some of the enterprise procurement platforms that run into the six figures, but if you’re just starting, or your needs are modest, it’s a great way to jump in and get most of the benefits of e-Sourcing without a hefty price tag.
Dot So it really is a fully-functional basic e-Sourcing platform? Even though it’s free? the doctor wasn’t pulling our leg?
Proper Gentleman Yes it is, at least at a basic level. And who are you?
Wakko Wakko.
Yakko Yakko.
Dot Dot.
Yakko, Wakko, & Dot We’re …
Proper Gentleman in a weary tone
… the Sourcing Maniacs. I’ve heard of you.
Yakko So you’ll give us a demo?
Proper Gentleman I take it you won’t leave until I do?
Dot That’s right!
Proper Gentleman ok. But you DON’T leave the conference room. OK?
Yakko, Wakko, & Dot looking rather solemn
glumly OK.
Proper Gentleman Let’s get started.

Here’s our main screen for RFX Management. It’s broken into three parts: Setup and Administration, RFX – For Buyers, and RFX – For Suppliers.

Dot Why is RFX – For Suppliers there? It’s a buyer’s tool, right?
Proper Gentleman Primarily, but it’s also a tool for suppliers to submit bids and other requested information.
Dot True, but shouldn’t that be a separate tool?
Proper Gentleman Most companies buy goods to operate and sell goods to make money, right?
Dot Right.
Proper Gentleman So a company operates as both a buyer of goods and a seller of goods, right?
Dot Right. But it’s usually two different people.
Proper Gentleman At big companies, yes. But not at small companies. Often, procurement falls under the inventory manager who is responsible for goods coming in AND goods going out. In our system, she has one login … where she can do everything she needs to do. Get it?
Dot I got it now! The right tool does what you need it to do in a manner that is as straightforward as possible. Multiple logins or interfaces to fundamentally the same tool is just confusing.
Proper Gentleman So may I continue?
Dot I’m ready …
Proper Gentleman On the set-up side, the user can set-up reviewers, block suppliers from quoting, and customize template distribution lists for current and future RFXs and Reverse Auctions. On the buy-side, a user can create a new RFX or reverse auction, bring up all active, closed, saved, or copied RFXs or auctions, and select winners. And when they are ready to issue a contract, they can click over to Contract Manager where they can define the contract meta-data and upload the contract, define reviewers, define time-based alerts that correspond to required actions or upcoming expirations, define owners, and specify the affected suppliers.
Dot That’s it?
Proper Gentleman Let’s say you’re a small company where the majority of your purchases are office suppliers and raw materials for the specialty gears that you make. In this situation, besides strategic negotation for key raw materials, how sophisticated is your procurement going to be the majority of the time?
Dot Not very.
Proper Gentleman So what else do you need?
Dot Well, in this case, not much.
Proper Gentleman Precisely. You have to remember that our goal is to take e-Sourcing to the masses. There are already enough tools out there for the Fortune 500 and Global 2000. What’s missing are tools for the hundreds of thousands of companies around the world that could also benefit from e-Sourcing, but who don’t have the complex requirements, or the bank account, that those tools require.
Yakko So is it easy to use?
Proper Gentleman The majority of users we’ve talked to say it’s the easiest sourcing and procurement tool they’ve every used. Because we don’t need complex workflows or bells and whistles, we’ve managed to streamline it to the point where it’s literally as easy as Amazon One-Click.

Everything is wizard-driven and guides you through what you have to do, when you have to do it, and in the manner you need to do it. It just asks you for the basic data, and let’s you decide what else you need – allowing you to upload attachments for anything specific to the event.

Let’s take the RFX creation process for example. You categorize the product or service, which allows ThomasNet to pull up supplier and preferred supplier lists that you can select from for ultimate distribution, specify RFP, specify the event duration, specify the currency and country, provide a description, optionally add line items, upload specification documents and an image, specify the listing type — public or private, invite reviewers to monitor the event, and distribute it. It’s literally a 5-minute process once you’ve written the RFP document you need to distribute.

Reverse Auctions are almost as simple. The only extra information you have to specify is whether you’re using rank or lowest-bid, whether duplicate bids are allowed, whether a minimum decrement is enforced, whether auto-extend should be turned-on to prevent bid-sniping, and, if it’s supplier rank, the ranking formula. The invites go out, the suppliers log in when the auction starts, and, presto, a few minutes later you have your award.

Yakko And contracts?
Proper Gentleman Just as simple. Define the basic data: the title, number, version, type, product(s), amount, physical location, signature date, start date, end date, renewal terms, commited amounts, committed quanities, searchable descriptions; upload the attachments; define the alerts; set-up some reviewers; and you’re good to go.
Yakko So it really can be that simple?
Proper Gentleman For small and many mid-sized companies, that we assist all the time in our roles as strategic sourcing professionals at Source One, it really is. We’re not trying to compete with the Aribas, Emptoris‘, and Iastas of the world … we’re just trying to provide another option for companies that don’t need the extensive e-Sourcing solutions those companies offer.

And now that you know that e-Sourcing doesn’t have to be very complex or involved for the vast majority of companies out there, it’s time for you to move on. I have sourcing events to oversee. Good day.

The Executive shows the maniacs the door.

Dot So, e-Sourcing is really simple at its heart.
Yakko And for many smaller and mid-size companies, a streamlined tool will often suffice.
Wakko It’s wakko!
  Silence again ensues as Yakko and Dot decide there’s no reasoning with Wakko today.