In part I, we not only told you that Trade Extensions unveiled the upcoming version of their optimization-backed sourcing platform at their recent user conference in Stockholm, recently covered by the public defender over on Spend Matters UK, but we also told you that, with it, Trade Extensions are redefining the sourcing platform. But we did not tell you how.
Instead, we briefly reviewed the history of the sourcing platform, discussing the hallmarks of first generation, second generation, and (third generation) optimization-backed sourcing platforms.
Then, in Part II, we dived into some of the key features that are missing in many current platforms: namely usability, appropriate workflow, integrated analytics support, repeat event creation, limited visualization, and limited support for different types of users and collaborators. These weren’t all of the missing features, but some of the most significant ones. Moreover, for sourcing requirements to be adequately addressed, and the full power of advanced sourcing to be realized, a platform has to address these issues in a way that enables buyers of all levels of experience and capability to take equal advantage of the platform and realize equal savings for the organization with equal effort.
Trade Extensions realizes this, and is redefining their sourcing platform, and in some ways sourcing itself, so that, at least to a reasonable degree, it can not only overcome the limitations it has, but advance its capabilities to the next level. And it’s doing so in a way that makes advanced sourcing a natural exercise for every category — not just the high dollar, strategic, or complex.
So how is Trade Extensions achieving this?
First of all, their interface, re-designed in conjunction with a leading usability firm, is more user friendly to average and junior buyers. It’s so user friendly that few sourcing platforms can stand beside it from a usability perspective. With functionality grouped into key areas (and not modules), and lesser used advanced functionality buried under appropriate categories and subcategories, it’s easier to find what you need when you need it.
Moreover, since the platform is centered on fact-sheets, it’s quick and easy to access, create, import, and edit these sheets — as well as export them to Excel for editing (and re-import) — from anywhere in the sourcing process.
Secondly, instead of being centered around a relatively standard (but adjustable) workflow (with optional steps), the platform has been redesigned to allow the user to not only select the appropriate workflow, but define the workflow that is needed. That’s right, a senior buyer can define the appropriate workflow for any (and all) sourcing projects and then a junior buyer can follow it through, or even modify it slightly if needed.
And when we say the user can select any workflow that is required, we mean that. Whereas most platforms allow a buyer to select or ignore a pre-defined workflow action, every action in the new TESS Platform has been separated out as a workflow element that can be assembled in any order. If you want to start with an RFI, import historical and market data from spend analysis, run a what-if optimization, select a group of suppliers, go back to an RFP, push the data into an auction, push a subset of winning bids into a fact sheet for optimization, augment it with transportation data from third party carriers, run multiple optimization scenarios, copy one and manually modify it to create an award scenario, push the award into contract management, and create a contract, this custom configured workflow can be created and run as needed.
Plus, it can be duplicated, and modified, as many times as needed for similar categories. Moreover, not only can the workflow be customized as needed, but each step can be annotated and documented as needed. This makes setting up repeat events easy, since the workflow can be copied, and modified, with or without data elements, and repeating events becomes truly easy. So even though the workflow capability in TE is on par with the best, they are cranking it to 11.
And there is ample support for different types of users and collaborators. Whereas most platforms have a limited number of roles which are platform wide, the roles in the next generation of the Trade Extensions‘ platform can be defined at the platform, project, or even workflow element level. This makes sure that anyone who needs access can get it, and get only the access they need.
And while the usability and workflow elements are great, one of the best abilities is the new integrated analytics capability — which, finally, gives us a solution where analytics and optimization go hand in hand and give us both sides of the advanced sourcing coin? How?
We’ll get to that, but first we’ll need to provide a bit of history on spend analytics … in Part IV.