Monthly Archives: March 2014

MarketMaker4: A Great Foundation for Successful Sourcing in the Mid-Market

Our last post in our four-part series that posed the question as to what the key ingredients to a successful e-Sourcing strategy are ended with an introduction to Market Making and MarketMaker4, one of the newest arrivals to the e-Sourcing party. However, unlike a number of vendors that sprung up during the latter half of the last decade, their solution is more than another me-too sourcing platform with modules and features almost indistinguishable from the platform that came before.

MarketMaker4’s new and distinct platform is buit around 4-key solution elements:

  1. State-of-the-Art e-Sourcing Platform,
  2. Integrated Company Intelligence,
  3. Integrated Market Insights, and
  4. Market Making.

This is because MarketMaker4 believes that all of these components are vital to a successful sourcing event, and it is not alone in this belief. Despite the fact that the solution was only launched a few years ago, MarketMaker4 already has over 75 global clients! Not bad for a new e-Sourcing start-up that was bootstrapped by its founders until it was acquired by Xchanging last year, which, realizing its significant potential, intends to keep MarketMaker4 as a standalone holding.

MarketMaker4’s modern e-Sourcing Platform is focussed on e-Negotiation support and the core functionality is e-RFx, e-Auction, and Reporting, with all of the standard features you’d expect from such a platform plus a few enhancements compared to the base platforms of the noughts. The most significant of these are the matrix-style bidding, which allow bids to be placed across three dimensions (such as lot, item, and [ship-to] location) and analyzed across different metrics (best price, best price by lot, best total price, best total price by lot, best weighted price, best weighted price by lot, etc.), and the custom weighting formulas that allow a sourcing manager to create custom rankings that can take all elements of a supplier’s bid into account — base cost, transportation, turn-around times, etc. — and all elements of a buyer’s assessment — quality, reliability, brand value, etc. — into account when calculating a total cost of ownership or bid ranking, by item, lot, or auction.

The platform is easy to use and integrates wizard-like walk-throughs for setting up new events. If a user is setting up a (reverse) auction, it walks the user through general settings, matrix design, uploading file attachments, design of the pre-event RFI, initial supplier identification, bid invite creation, and event launch. Progress indicators are included on each step (so a user knows how much is left to do), and all settings are defaulted whenever possible — allowing small events to be setup in minutes. When designing an auction, users have full control over the time and time extension rules, post negotiation override settings, minimim bid increments, ceilings and floors, bid notifications, the matrix view, displayed graphs, and the amount of competitor information displayed (and whether or not it is masked). Creation time can be streamlined by starting with one of the built in auction topics for common categories or by copying an existing event (for a similar category or the same category the last time the event was run).

The integrated company intelligence, which builds on a D&B license for detailed company intelligence through the MarketMaker4 tool (and which will soon be augmented with additional data from Lexis Nexis), allows a company to search for new suppliers in the MM4 database that could meet their category and product needs and then view detailed data that includes company data, financial data, key employees / managers, and contact information. It’s like a supplier network on steroids, as not only do you have a large list of suppliers, but you have aggregated, researched, third-party data on the suppliers, which even includes corporate citizenship ratings (for the sustainability-focussed). It’s easy to use, and allows you to do competitor searches on any company, which makes it really quick to find potential sources of alternate supply to invite to a sourcing event.

The integrated market intelligence is a combination of market intelligence (like you would get from a Mintec or Denali subscription) augmented with category briefs, a currency heat map (that lets you quickly identify the relative strengths of different currencies and trends, as historical currency data is tracked by MM4), and market indicators. The commodity indices cover North American, South American, Western European, Middle Eastern, and Asian marketplaces and more are being added this year.

And, finally, as introduced in our last post in our four-part series that posed the question as to what the key ingredients to a successful e-Sourcing strategy, Market Making is 24/5 project support from an experienced sourcing professional who is an expert in the platform, and the sourcing process it supports, and who is always a quick chat or call away. These professionals, based in North America, Europe, and Asia, are always there and always able to help you in one of the thirteen*1 (13) languages that MarketMaker4 supports.* Furthermore, since an online negotiation tool is useless if suppliers don’t use it, your suppliers also have access to full MarketMaker4 support — at no charge — in addition to bidder training sessions and monthly seminars.

MarketMaker4, which started with a belief that it’s not just what to source, but who to source from (Company Intelligence), when to source it (Market Intelligence), and how to get it right (Market Making), held on to that belief until they built a solution that realized their vision of what modern e-Sourcing should be. And it works. Their customers’ average savings is north of 10%, even without decision optimization (which demonstrates the power of integrated and properly applied market insight) and their average number of e-Sourcing projects is more than three times what it was before their acquisition of MarketMaker4). MarketMaker4 is another great option in what was becoming a dwindling e-Sourcing marketplace with all of the recent solution provider acquisitions.

*1 MarketMaker4 currently supports English, Mandarin, Portuguese, Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Vietnamese, Italian, Polish, Russian, Turkish, and Korean. In addition, because the platform is a modern platform that supports the full Unicode character set, new languages can be added quickly.

*2 While MarketMaker is able to offer support in each of the 13 languages it supports in the product, not all languages are supported 24/5. 24/5 support is only available for English and any language specified in your solution contract.

What are the Key Ingredients to a Successful e-Sourcing Strategy? Part III Market Making

In Parts I and II we noted that that when it comes to e-Sourcing success, you need four main capabilities, or (true) success could elude you. Specifically, you need:

  1. A Process
  2. An e-Sourcing Platform
  3. Actionable Intelligence
  4. A Sourcing Sensei

The process is easy. In Parts I and II, SI outlined a generic lucky eight-step sourcing process, which is the basic underpinnings of just about every good sourcing process you are going to come across from a services, software, or solution vendor.

The platform is essentially an ubiquitous commodity these days — especially from an e-Negotiation (e-RFx, e-Auction, and e-Contract Management) perspective where you have dozens of options. (Just remember that not all spend analysis packages are equal. Some aren’t much more than pre-packaged reports and others are just visibility tools, since they allow you to see all your data, but don’t allow you to change the underlying cube and, thus, have limited analytics capabilities.)

Actionable intelligence, at least on a category basis, while not always embedded in the platform, isn’t too hard to obtain in most categories, as there are a number of vendors that package up market indices, trends, and market insight reports that can be easily consumed and applied.

However, finding a true Sourcing Sensei could be harder than finding the bronze coated needle in the industrial farmer’s haystack, and even if you manage to find that Sourcing Sensei, luring her to your organization can be a more significant challenge still. You might be forced to settle for some category-based expert consulting from your local niche sourcing specialty firm. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this approach, as this will allow you to draw from the best-of-the-best in each category and possibly save even more on some key categories than you could with an in-house Sensei who will generally only be an expert in a few categories, but this approach doesn’t necessarily help you with process implementation, and, more importantly, doesn’t help your team use the tools at their disposal to the full extent of their capability (as the category consultants are category experts, not solution experts on your platform).

In other words, you need more than a sourcing-platform and market-intelligence subscription — you need guidance on how to best use the platform and intelligence at your disposal in your (e-)sourcing projects. You need what MarketMaker4 calls Market Making.

Founded by veteran e-Sourcing professionals, formerly of e-Sourcing pioneers that include Trade Extensions, The Ops Cube, AT Kearney Management Consultants, and Archway Consulting who realized in their former roles that one of the biggest needs of an e-Sourcing team was project assistance, especially when it came to proper utilization of an e-Sourcing suite and the integration of market intelligence for category analysis and new vendor identification, they decided that a sourcing platform, even if market intelligence was built in, wasn’t enough. That’s why they built an on-demand SaaS solution platform that not only built in market intelligence and company intelligence, but 24/5 project support from an experienced sourcing professional who is an expert in the platform and who is always a quick chat or call away. (And they mean quick. Customers are guaranteed a response to a chat request by a live person in one minute, every support person has a direct line that can be requested at any time, and the user can switch from chat to phone support at any time*1 during the chat.) In addition, as these are real sourcing professionals who work for MM4 (and not a third party or outsourced call center), these support people have full access to the MM4 suite *2 and can even perform certain tasks for you if you get stuck.

MarketMaker4, which started this decade (in 2010) promises a completely next-generation e-Sourcing system, and that is what they deliver. In our next post we’ll dive deeper into the 4 distinct parts of their solution platform from which their moniker is drawn.

* Unless, of course, the support person is already on a call, in which case you’re next!
*2 MarketMaker4 is only offered as SaaS.

Top 12 Challenges Facing India in the Decades Ahead – 02 – Media

A Free Media is critical to a healthy first world economy. It is a Free Media that

  • reports on the true state affairs,
  • holds the public (and private) sector accountable for their actions,
  • presents ideas for improving the situation, and
  • ensures that the freedoms granted to the people are maintained.

A truly Free Press

  • paints a bleak picture when the picture is bleak, and doesn’t ignore the fact that at least a third of the country is in poverty,
  • exposes corruption on a daily basis when it continues to occur on a daily basis,
  • tackles the tough issues of health care and education and presents different options for improving the situation, and
  • fights for the poor as well as the middle (and higher) classes that can afford to support them in their efforts.

However, in India

  • the plight of the poor who live in slums without access to running water or even a sanitary toilet is almost completely ignored by the daily publications;
  • even the media is corrupt; as per this article over on Realpolitik, during the fifteenth general elections to the Lok Sabha took place in April-May 2009 a disturbing trend was highlighted by sections of the media, that is, payment of money by candidates to representatives of media companies for favourable coverage, or the phenomenon popularly known as “paid news”;
  • As per Dreze & Sen’s An Uncertain Glory, among more than five thousand articles published on the editorial pages of India’s leading English-medium dailies during the last six months of 2012, less than 1% of the total editorial space was dedicated to health-related matters; and
  • the rights of the poor to be treated fairly are almost never tackled; take the plight of the Dom community for example, as outlined by Dreze & Sen and referenced in our last post — twenty five years living next to the power plant that they work for without even a single electricity connection!

The media in India is failing. The plight(s) of the poor, and even the (lower) middle class, go unchallenged, the accountability of the public sector goes relatively unchallenged, and the media itself is often corrupt. Unless the media stands up and insists on what’s right, what’s wrong will continue to flourish and all of the problems plaguing India will continue unabated.

4 Strategic Sourcing Mistakes Businesses Should Avoid Courtesy of the Strategic Sourceror

The best way to get out of trouble is to avoid trouble in the first place. In a recent blog entry, the Strategic Sourceror outlined four common mistakes that a company can avoid to minimize poor spend management and operational efficiency.

Overlooking the Importance of Supplier Visibility

Having a clear understanding of supplier practices is essential in evaluating the risks and possible sources of disruption that are inherent in sourcing partnerships. Blindly entering a relationship with a supplier may result in a procurement strategy that is misaligned with business goals, and this could result in slashed profits in the future. For example, the strategy could be high quality to support the brand, but the end result could be poor quality and the resultant impact to the brand from the high defect rate could result in lost sales and slashed profits.

Failing to Emphasize Results

Because Procurement resides in the back office, it is often tempting to think of it as a service function and not a driver of productivity and profit. It’s critical to focus on real, measurable, and substantial results and communicate the message to the rest of the business. Like any business process, procurement management needs to impact the bottom line. When it does, and the message is communicated, Procurement, unlike Rodney Dangerfield, will get more respect.

Overlooking Contracts

Without written contracts with specific language, businesses won’t have adequate protection if a supplier relationship goes sour. That’s why contracts should be reviewed by a corporate lawyer before being signed. But just getting the contract right isn’t enough. It’s also important to make sure the terms are followed, rebates and discounts are collected, and contracts are renegotiated and not allowed to go evergreen.

Permitting In-House Inefficiencies

An inefficient internal procurement process can limit firms’ ability to obtain the goods and raw materials they need in a timely fashion. Be sure to install the appropriate e-commerce tools that will help a company identify potential suppliers, execute RFxs, conduct auctions, optimize awards, and strategically manage the maximum number of categories.