Last fall, I provided you with an update on Trade Extensions and how they traded up their UI across their sourcing suite, making it easier to use while making it easier on the eyes. Well, barraged by constant feedback from users who wanted it to be easier still for the creation of “simple” optimization models, as they transitioned from a “full-service” to a “supported” to a “self-service” model, Trade Extensions decided to trade up its optimization UI again, especially around rule generation and scenario creation.
The Trade Extensions UI and platform was impressive because it’s constraints, or “rules”, are template-based, which permit them to be saved, copied, and applied to any relevant scenario and because it’s filters, which can be used restrict application of the rules, can be defined on bidders, lots, bids, plants, lot fields, and any other defined dimension in the system. Unlike many platforms where the buyer is limited to fixed constraint templates, the Trade Extensions UI allowed the buyer to build her own. However, defining a complex constraint and adding it to the scenario could be a complex multi-step process. For example, if you wanted to restrict allocation to European suppliers to 40% of the total award in Europe and Asia, the buyer would have to:
- go to the filters screen
- add a new filter that defined the European suppliers
- add a new filter that defined the European and Asian locations
- go the rules screen
- create a new allocation rule that restricted total supply by volume to Europe and Asia by European suppliers to 40% by selecting the rule type, defining the limit, and selecting the filters
- go to the scenario screen
- add the newly created allocation rule
While certainly doable, the process was cumbersome for simple constraints like “limit the award to The Wonderful World of Widgets to 40%” or “spilt the award between 3 suppliers such that no supplier gets less than 20%”.
In the new UI, which is based on a lot of ingenuity and even more AJAX, you can define the constraint and add it to the scenario from the scenario screen, which lists all the currently associated rules, which can each be enabled or disabled with a single checkbox. Clicking the “New Rule” button brings up a new Rule Creation screen for the scenario which allows you to define a constraint by:
- selecting a constraint template from the drop down, which organizes constraints by category
- specifying the bounds
- adding or defining any required filters on the fly
- selecting any required modifiers by way of a drop down
So, in our example above, to define the constraint you’d:
- click the “New Rule” button
- select the “Allocation (%) to Specified Suppliers is at most X
- select the “European Suppliers Filter”
- fill-in-the-bound with 40(%)
- add the “Restrict To Lot” modifier
- select the “European and Asian” lots Filter
- save the constraint
Then you’re returned to the scenario screen, with the new rule at the bottom of the list, where you can edit the parameter and filter selections on-screen, as well as turning the rule on-and-off. It makes the creation of even moderately complex rules quick and painless. And if your constraint is complex, or not accounted for in one of the dozens and dozens of pre-defined templates, you still have the classic method where the complexity of the constraint is limited only to the confines of your consciousness.
They’ve also traded up their reporting as well. In last fall‘s post, I told you how they had just released the ability to view scenario results in their new OLAP engine, which is the basis of their spend analysis offering. In the current release, the entire reporting framework has been shifted over to the OLAP engine which not only allows the buyers to slice and dice the award scenarios any way they like, but, with the new report builder, build pretty much any cross-tab, pivot-table, or roll-up report they like on both award dimensions and derived dimensions (which can also be exported to Excel if the buyer so desires).
The UI for defining a new report, which is also based on AJAX, is as simple, and powerful, as the new rule creation UI. To create a new report, the user:
- gives the report a name
- specifies the bidders, lots, and bids to use, possibly by way of filters (from existing rules) (which can be inverted)
- selects the associated dimensions (which can include any associated dimension from the RFX, Auction, etc. such as brand name, division, and historical spend for the lot; name, location, and number of allocated bids for bidders; base currency, date, and bid number for bid)
- defines the facts (derived dimensions), such as total spend by supplier; year-over-year savings by category; etc.
- selects the scenarios and/or phases to include (which can range from 1 to n), depending on the type of (comparison) report
Plus, the user can also create reports by joining one or more report definitions. If the user wanted to see payment and savings by allocated bidder and the user had a Payment and Savings report and a Allocation per Bidder report, the user can simply run both reports at the same time. The system will calculate the appropriate union of bidders, lots, bids, dimensions, and facts and create the appropriate report.
Finally, they are converting all of the standard reports to templates that can not only be used to run the standard canned reports, but copied and modified to serve your buyers’ needs. It’s an impressive improvement in usability such a short time-frame.
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