AECsoft: SIM-Powered e-Negotiation, Part I

AECsoft, a Houston-based provider of Supplier Information Management (that also has offices in Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Shanghai), Supplier Data & Diversity, and e-Negotiation solutions, is a unique platform offering as they have a very competitive (and very configurable) Supplier Information Management (SIM) platform (that can be augmented with third party supplier [diversity] data) as well as a solid e-Negotiation platform that will meet most of the needs of many mid-market companies. Most SIM companies focus mainly on SIM, SRM (Supplier Relationship Management), SPM (Supplier Performance Management), and when they branch out they root into extensive, customized, risk, compliance, or sustainability solutions. Furthermore, most e-Negotiation platforms, once they have gone as deep as they can in terms of surveys, score-carding, and multiple auction formats, branch out into (stronger) spend analysis, contract management, optimization, and (corrective) action management. In comparison, AECsoft has taken a dual approach in its efforts to create what it calls a 360° Supplier Management solution that allows you to discover suppliers, manage their information, use that information in sourcing events, and then manage their performance during contract execution — in a manner that can be customized for each client. Given that they have over 200 customers, including some of the most progressive sourcing organizations in the world, it’s obviously paid off for them to this point, but I have to wonder how they are going to fare going forward given the divergent messaging in the SIM and e-Negotiation spaces and the number of best-of-breed players now competing in each. However, that’s a question for the analysts as we’re concerned about what they have and what they can do for you.

To this end, we’ll start with a review of the Supplier Information Management capabilities, which are used by over 400,000 suppliers that are managed by over 30,000 buyers at over 200 large corporate clients, around half of which are large multi-nationals (and many of which belong to the who’s who of supply chain innovators). SIM is their most mature platform, with development dating back to company inception in 1997 and production dating back to their first implementation in 1999, as well as their most extensive. The platform is setup to let new suppliers self-identify, buyers pre-qualify (before an e-Negotiation event, so the event can focus on negotiations and not discovery), and evaluations to be conducted in a 360° manner if necessary. Compliance can be enforced during the on-boarding process (as registrations will not be marked as complete and ready for review until all fields are filled out and necessary documents uploaded), status can be monitored (as alerts indicating expiring certifications can be set-up at any time and continuously monitored), and reviews can be scheduled in advance and pushed out at any time.

The system can be configured to track any kind of information you want — general, business data, contacts, classifications, safety & insurance, quality, certifications, product & service information, risk and so on. In addition, category/answer specific questions and workflows can be configured for any category, sub-category, or question which is answered with a certain option. For example, if a supplier indicates they supply laboratory equipment, you can ask what kind — balances, centrifuges, pumps, valves, piping and tubing, and if they indicate piping and tubing, you can bring up questions on pressure, diameter, etc. Basically, it’s your standard workflow-driven SIM where the supplier, who can access and update all of their information at any time, maintains its own information, by way of one or more authorized delegates. In addition, when the supplier logs in, the supplier sees all of the outstanding information requests that need to be completed — new requests, certificate updates, data confirmations, scorecards (self-scoring or buyer scoring), and so on. AECsoft put a lot of work into their supplier portal to make sure it was at least as easy for the supplier as it is for the buyer and it shows.

And, of course, the platform can be integrated with multiple external data feeds which capture diversity data, financial/risk data, and OFAC data, among other data sources, and which can automatically check SSN and EIN data in the US.

Finally, the platform is Hybrid SaaS, which means that AECsoft can deploy and host it for you or you can deploy it inside your own four walls. Unless you’re in Finance, Gambling (Casinos), or Pharmaceuticals, and are ultra-concerned about security and have top IT security pros in-house, I would recommend you follow the lead of most of their clients in other verticals and go SaaS. However, should you choose to go in-house, you can take solace in that the current version of the platform is built on .Net 3.5, MS SQL Server, and XML … and there are tens of thousands of developers out there familiar with the technology stack (which is 100% web-based in delivery).

In our next post, we’ll discuss the e-Negotiation platform.

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