Trade Extensions: No Rest for the Wicked-ly Powerful – Part II

As per yesterday’s post, it’s been less than five months since we last checked in with Trade Extensions, who had traded up to a Fact Sheet User Interface and added a slew of new features, including improved RFI support, multi-dimensional rankings in e-Negotiation, Google Earth integration, new incumbent rules, and an OLAP foundation to reporting, including the implementation of a new n-way comparison report. Since then, Trade Extensions has been on a tear to add new functionality as fast as it can to make the platform not only one of the most powerful expressive bidding optimization platforms on the planet, but also one of the easiest to use — listening to its users (which include the Fortune 1000) and adding features and functions that make an average buyer’s life easier, taking usability to a whole new level yet again. And while earth-shattering technology improvements are cool, it is usability that is the ultimate key to to adoption, use, and, ultimately, cost avoidance and reduction in your sourcing organization.

Scenario Creation & Analysis

Not only are there new rules that allow partial awards to be fixed based upon existing scenarios, but the number of constraint categories has doubled. While there were only general and incumbent constraints in the past, there are now an entire category of scenario reference rules and post processing rules. With respect to scenario reference rules, not only can allocations be kept, but bids can be favoured or penalized as well. The post-processing rules are also quite useful. Allocations can automatically be rounded and allocations that don’t meet a minimum number of units can be removed (or re-assigned to the supplier who meets a minimum allocation with the lowest total cost).

Feedback Mechanisms

The buyer now has fine-grained control over what the supplier sees, and can even mix feedback types. For example, if the buyer only wants the top three suppliers to know they are top three, but suppliers four to six to know their exact rank, they can specify that specific rank starts at bidder four, and the top bidders default to “top 3”. In addition, if the supplier does not meet a minimum bid increment, which can be defined in a number of ways (including, minimum dollar or % decrease over last bid), the supplier gets a nice red error that the bid is not acceptable AND a message indicating the minimum increment required. Finally, and this is really cool, the user can define custom color-coded bid feedback fields based on dynamic formulas that now only let the user know where they rank, but how competitive their bid is (against the current bids from the competition) in English using a buyer defined scale such as “Competitive”, “Slightly Competitive”, “Not Competitive”, and “Not Acceptable”.

Plus, the buyer can now chat with users online in an integrated IM client, and immediately see who is online when they log in as it is a widget on their project management dashboard.

Odds and Ends

The “dashboards” for RFX and auction phases have also improved. The summary, bidder summary, and lot summary are now completely customizeable by the user, support custom fields, and user-defined colour codings in the rankings. In addition, there is integrated show/hide, drill-down functionality, and customizeable pop-up (bid, trend, and bidder activity) charts where a user can select one, some, or all of the rows in each report.

They have also added a basic workflow engine that allows buyers to initiate rate requests, lot requests, and allocation publishing requests of project managers / administrators when new needs arise during a project. This allows managers and supervisors to maintain control and a complete project history to be maintained. The workflow is fairly basic at the present time, but I suspect it will mature and fill out quickly given Trade Extensions’ track record of rapid application development over the past two years. (Especially since the feature is being used by a couple of very large companies.)

All and all, it’s a lot of new functionality in a short time frame that makes the tool extremely useable by an average buyer.