In Part I we noted that since we last covered Vinimaya, the B2B Search Engine that was
the next wave in product catalogue management, they have continued building out their base platform, adding (more extensive) auditing capability, workflow-based catalog management, quick-quote (RFX), e-Forms, deep analytics, mobile, and social integration on top of a base platform that supported content management, federated search, powerful connectivity options, personalization and customization, globalization, and an easy to use shopping cart. Then, in Part II and Part III we focussed in on their vTransport technology and their new vQuote, vRank, vCatalog, vAudit, and vAnalytics solution modules. Today, in the final part of this four-part series, we are going to talk about vSocial, vMobile, and their up-coming market indices.
vSocial is the social interaction component of the Vinimaya platform. Taking a cue from Amazon, which teaches us that not only do people tend to gravitate to products with reviews but they also want the ability to comment on the products and services they receive and be part of the community, Vinimaya added social interaction capability to their platform. Buyers can post feedback on the goods they procure, suppliers can respond and provide additional details, and procurement can include explanations as to why certain products or services are preferred. In addition, the platform is artificially intelligent, so if there is no feedback for a 14.4 V cordless drill from a given manufacturer, but there is for an 18 V cordless drill from that same manufacturer, the platform will pull the feedback in for the 18 V drill in when a user is viewing the 14.4 V drill to give the user as much information as there is available about the potential purchase. It’s a simple platform, but it works quite well.
vMobile is the mobile instantiation of their platform, and one of the most unique offerings on the marketplace. Not only was the Vinimaya platform the first to do real-time federated search across punch-outs, catalogs, and databases and present the results to a user through a single buying platform, but it’s now the first platform to do the same on a mobile device. Designed for a smart-phone, a corporate buyer now has access to all of the goods and services available through the Vinimaya platform on their corporate smartphone, and despite the small amount of real-estate, it is very useable. Vinimaya put a lot of thought into their solution and made search and product retrieval very easy. In addition to the standard keyword search, the mobile solution also supports artificially intelligent barcode based retrieval. If the buyer happens to have the packaging for an item of interest in close proximity (such as the box for the last printer cartridge that requires an immediate reorder when used), she just has to scan the barcode and the solution will find all instances of the product. And if an exact match is unavailable, because the solution is intelligent and retrieves the manufacturer and product description, the search application will find all related products. Maybe the Brother cartridge is currently unavailable from your current suppliers, but a third party Staples replacement cartridge is. The platform will find that option and present it to you. The results are returned in a list and choosing an option brings up a summary of the product details which has an option to add the product to the cart. The cart can be accessed at any time from the app menu bar, which also allows quick access to search, favorites, and history functionality, and checkout can be as easy as one-click as your data is pre-populated. It’s a very slick catalog-based Procurement solution.
Sometimes, not a week goes by where a Procurement doesn’t hear “your contracts suck — I can get the same printer cartridge 5-pack on Amazon today for 5% less” from an office manager or “prove to me that our prices are as good as you say they are and that we are beating the market average because I don’t believe you” from the CFO who only seems to notice Procurement when, a year after a contract has been cut, market prices for a given commodity drop or when the CIO complains that the organization is spending too much on hardware as it’s forced to buy from an overpriced supplier at last year’s prices that are no longer the best price.
In order to get the monkeys off its back, Procurement really needs to be able to demonstrate how good it’s doing — how the majority of it’s contracts are at, or better than, market price, how paying slightly more for that printer cartridge gives it a discount on a range of electronic products from the same provider at 5% below market average pricing, and how IT isn’t factoring in the huge end-of-year rebate the organization is expecting once it meets the million-dollar spend threshold. But to do this, Procurement needs three things:
- index data, to know what market prices are,
- pricing data, to know what it’s really paying, and
- deep analytics, to put two and two together and map reality to potential.
Vinimaya has the pricing data. Not only does Vinimaya manage all of an organization’s punch-outs, catalogs, and pricing databases — but they save every search result to maintain historical pricing data for all products in the database. And, with the recent release of vAudit and vAnalytics, they have the audit trails and the analytics to analyze purchases in detail. That just leave one element to go — the pricing indexes.
The Vinimaya platform crawls a large number of consumer sites (including Amazon, Alibaba, and other online storefronts) and has a huge database of commercial pricing in its archives. This provides the foundation for a consumer price index that will allow an organization to compare its pricing for a product in many consumer categories with the average price charged to a consumer. Vinimaya serves a large number of public sector clients and since public sector pricing is public, this provides the foundation for a market index that will allow an organization to compare its pricing for a product with the average price charged in the public sector for products for which Vinimaya has a lot of data. If you’re beating the public index, you’re doing good but not great. If you’re beating the consumer index, you’re doing okay but not that good. Better shape up. And if you’re not even beating the consumer index, better get your house in order before trying to enforce your contracts on the rest of the organization!
In conclusion, since we last covered Vinimaya, they have made many advancements to their base platform in the last 5 years, but the best may be yet to come. The market indexes are just the tip of the iceberg! More to come in 2014!