Daily Archives: February 11, 2010

All Outsourcing Contracts Should Include Benchmarking Clauses

A recent article over on SourcingMag.com that addressed why vendors don’t like benchmarking clauses got my attention, because I believe that, since you’re outsourcing for better performance, that all contracts should have benchmarking clauses to help insure that you get that performance. So I read it, and then discovered that the “benchmarking clauses” being referred to were not really performance benchmarks, but market-cost benchmarks. All these types of benchmark clauses do is exert constant price pressure on the vendor and, as the author notes, create a lose-lose situation for the vendor. And that’s not good.

It’s one thing to expect a vendor to improve performance year after year, and you should, but another to expect them to lower their price every time their competition lowers prices. After all, the competition might not be as good or might not be as familiar with your business, and, therefore, might not give you the same value. Moreover, you should be content to pay whatever price you agree to on day one provided the vendor continues to deliver value. And as long as the vendor improves year-over-year with shorter responses times, higher throughput per FTE, better processes and technology, etc. that vendor is delivering value.

So go ahead and put a benchmark clause in your contract that not only requires performance reviews on a regular basis but reasonable year-over-year improvements as well, because you should expect that. But don’t try to cheat your vendor out of a fair price for services rendered. Not only do they have bills to pay too, but they won’t be very incentivized to beat expectations and get you to best-in-class as soon as possible if all you do is nickel-and-dime them.

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iValua: Tackling End-to-End Sourcing And Procurement, Part II

In my last post, I described how iValua, a ten year old French software and solutions company, has one of the broadest supply management suites on the market today. From RFX to payment, the majority of the key steps in the sourcing and procurement cycle are covered in one of iValua’s many solution modules. And while it is true that most of the modules aren’t very deep, it’s also true that many small and mid-sized companies, and even some of the larger Global 3000’s that don’t have that many complicated buys, don’t need deep functionality where sourcing and procurement is concerned. Over thirty of France’s largest companies use the solution, including Air France Industries, La Poste, and Arcelor Mittal, the largest steel company in the world.

In this post, I’m going to describe some of the capabilities of the product in more detail. But first, some global capabilities. The platform, which is built on .Net, is delivered via SaaS through your browser. As a result, it is accessible anywhere. Many of the screens are built using a widget-based architecture and, like dashboards, the layouts are customizable by each user. The user can sort by, show, and hide any column of any table. Quick search and advanced search is available for every screen (and table), a navigation history is maintained for quick back-tracking, and the user can customize a favorites link for quick access to specific screens and reports. Finally, all data can be exported to Excel and all supported objects (bids, contracts, purchase orders, invoices, payments, reports, etc.) can be imported from Excel as well.

But the best platform-wide capability is the ability for the platform to be integrated to any ERP, Database, or external data source (due to the existence of appropriate abstraction layers in the platform). Before iValua decided to become a provider of a SaaS supply management platform, they were a custom software development shop. As a result, they had deep development skills and broad experience with a number of platforms. Thus, when they decided to focus on supply management, they were able to do custom integrations for each client. Now that they have over 100 customers, they have integrated with almost every major ERP and Relational Database in France, most of the major ERPs and Relational Databases in Europe, and some of the major ERPs and Relational Databases in North America. If they haven’t integrated with your environment yet, it probably won’t take them long to do so. Plus, using their partnerships with Bureau Van Dijk, D&B/Altares, Vigeo, and EcoVadis, they can enrich your supplier related data when they pull your data in.


Sourcing starts with the definition of a project. Once basic information is defined (type, process, owner, dates, and scope), the owner can define a team, create a message center, define currencies, outline a schedule, and keep track of relevant documents. Then the user can invite suppliers, create RFXs with selection and evaluation criteria, track responses, save analysis, create awards, and create an implementation plan. RFXs and Auctions support multiple lots and multiple rounds and the buyer can determine whether or not suppliers can see bids, whether or not the bids are displayed anonymously, and when they can see the bids.


In addition to requisitions, budgets, purchase orders, expense reports, invoices, goods receipts and recurring receivables, the procurement application supports catalog-based buying. The system can be integrated with any EDI, XML, or punch-out catalog, which can be augmented with user-defined items (which could include custom items or services defined in contracts). The expense reporting module supports p-cards, advance requests, standard expense, and travel expense reports. In addition, a supplier evaluation form can be attached to every purchase order (in addition to every award and contract) and reports can be run at the purchase order level, award and contract level, and global supplier level.


They have a very extensive reporting tool that allows you to look at data over the time periods of your choice (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly), in the organizations of your choice, in the spend category families of your choice, for the suppliers of your choice, along the dimensions, or axes, of your choice in a wide variety of tabular and graphical formats. Basically, the application builds a master spend cube and allows you to view any sub-cube, or sub-cube summary of your choice. While it might not allow you to do arbitrary spend/data analysis, it will more than satisfy your average procurement professional and manager. (And you could always augment the suite with off-line analysis for your senior analysts if you needed.)

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