AECsoft: SIM-Powered e-Negotiation, Part II

In our last post, we discussed AECsoft‘s Supplier Information Management platform, which is one of the oldest and most mature solutions on the market (with R&D starting on some aspects five years before CVM Solutions hit the scene in 2002). It stacks up very well in terms of basic SIM capabilities, although some of its competitors like CVM Solutions and Aravo, which chose to stay SIM-centric and to integrate more data feeds (which may or may not have value to your organization, as these feeds will get very specialized after a certain point and have no value to the vast majority of businesses) or more customized program management around SIM-based programs (like compliance, sustainability, and risk), are deeper in terms of specialized SIM applications. However, it’s the only major SIM player that also offers a complete, tightly integrated, e-Negotiation management suite as well which makes it a compelling solution for the mid-market in particular who may not have the money for a best-of-breed SIM platform and a best-of-breed e-Sourcing platform and who can do without decision optimization (or do it on a project basis when needed with a vendor that has a project model) and a pricey data warehouse driven spend analysis solution. (And while I would argue that no-one can do without good spend visibility, for some companies, who don’t have the data and analysis skills in house, sometimes the best solution is a consulting firm who has access to the best spend analysis tools and who does an spend and opportunity assessment for you on a quarterly basis.)

As with most suites on the market, the entry point is a management dashboard that gives you the status of all of your RFX’s (draft, pending, open, closing), auctions (draft, pending, open, closing), vettings (AECsoft’s terminology for compliance [verification] projects), and projects (which is AECsoft’s terminology for any SIM or sourcing project).

The RFX is workflow driven, and guides you through the process. It starts with configuration (title, number, currency, standard payment terms, project dates, etc), description, details, and contact information; moves on to user (buyer representative) selection, supplier invitations, prerequisite definitions, and document attachments; then to actual RFI/RFP/RFQ construction (which can include internal components); and finally to supplier delivery, response evaluation, and (scorecard) summarization. The advantages of the platform is that it can automatically pull in all supplier and product information related to any invited supplier, which makes construction simple and minimizes the pre-qualification and supplier survey effort (as the supplier will simply have to verify that the relevant data is still current and accurate), and automatically push any updated information back to the repository or into an e-Auction if the RFX is being used as a pre-qualification for the reverse auction. The auction tool, which is basic, is similarly straight-forward. One of the big advantage that both tools have is that all RFXs and Auctions can be scheduled, repeated as many times as you like, and fully automated. Some of their clients hold in excess of 40,000 sourcing events a year! Every day they’ll automatically push out a group of items in a category to a pre-qualified set of suppliers (with which they have standing offers) for updated bids. Some items will be pushed out weekly, some monthly, and some quarterly … depending on the category and how often prices tend to change. This allows them to focus the majority of their time on those few dozen to few hundred events which are truly strategic. As you can imagine, this feature is particularly useful in a vertical which does a lot of spot-buys to get best market pricing in categories where prices tend to fluctuate regularly or where prices tend to drop continuously (such as in electronics and computers).

The platform also includes decent library management functionality which can be used to easily track and find projects, documents, templates, vetting groups, and currency exchange rates. The master document library, which tracks all of your documents through meta-data, supports versioning and full meta-data search, and also forms the basis for the limited contract management capabilities offered by the platform. The platform can track your contract templates, contracts, and all relevant metadata, associate the contracts with suppliers, and generate alerts at renewal time.

The platform contains basic scorecarding functionality, built on the same capabilities used to weight and score RFXs. Scorecards can be on suppliers, on buyers, and filled out by buyers or suppliers. They can be filled out by a single individual, or by a team, and the results averaged. Each section can be weighted separately to compute the final score.

Finally, the platform, which can be extensively configured by the AECsoft development team, supports a decent amount of configuration by the administrator within the product itself. Administrative buyers can define and alter workflows, system settings, (SIM) menus (and data categories), permissions, user accounts and roles, category and sub-category questions, commodity codes, dashboard displays, and basic report configurations.

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