Every vendor with a supplier network touts their wares, and usually does so quite loudly. They go on and on and on (and on and on) about how their industry leading supplier network:
- makes it easy to find new suppliers
- makes it easy to search those suppliers catalogs
- makes it easy to send out RFXs
- makes it easy to place orders
- makes it easy to collaborate with suppliers
- … and so on and so on and so on (and so on and so on) …
Now, these are valuable benefits, but they are by no means unique to a supplier network. Taking ’em one by one (we’ll knock ’em all down as the satellite circus won’t leave town) …
- you can find new suppliers from online marketplaces, industry associations, co-opetition, and from within your own organization (through better data management)
- a number of online marketplaces make it easy to search catalogs, and there are a number of suites with integrated catalog management that work quite well, no network needed
- just about every sourcing, procurement, and related application (suite) has RFX functionality
- dozens upon dozens of procurement suites, e-commerce applications, etc. make order placement a snap
- e-mail, online screen sharing, online workplaces, embedded messaging, and so on make collaboration easy
In other words, no supplier network is needed. So why do you need a supplier network?
Could it be for supplier management? Some of the more advanced vendors will submit that with a supplier network will help you:
- detect supplier performance issues early
- initiate and manage corrective actions
- manage innovation management
And it will, but:
- good metric and performance tracking and regular score-carding can detect issues early just as well
- there are a number of best of breed corrective action management solutions out there, and many good sourcing suites have this functionality built in
- and there are solutions for innovation management, and most SXM solutions, which do not necessarily have supplier network capability, have these …
So why do you need a network? And, to be more precise, an open supplier network?
Because supplier information management solutions, supposed to ease the burden of information management, don’t really ease it — they just transfer it to the supplier (who is supposed to log into the portal and maintain it). This sounds great, but given that a given supplier will have hundreds (or thousands) of customers, each with their own sourcing / procurement / SXM solution, instead of one customer having to maintain thousands of supplier profiles, each supplier has to maintain hundreds of their own profile instances for their customers.
In other words, you’ve just transferred costs through the supply chain, shifting your overhead into your suppliers who will, surprise, have to pass that cost onto you. But if you have an open supplier network, a supplier only has to maintain one profile, either in the network, or in the system of their choice that is capable of exporting and updating their profile in a standard (XML) format to the open network as needed. Instead of shifting information management through the chain, and the associated costs, you’ve minimized it, and eliminated the majority of the cost.