But, as clearly outlined in our last article, it still is. Big Time. You can spend weeks just trying to identify, and do preliminary identifications on, potential suppliers before you even start your supplier discovery project in earnest.
Well, as pointed out yesterday, today’s modern S2P platforms, marketplaces, and even supplier networks just don’t cut it.
And, as a result, you are left with the age old tedious process of:
- scavenging potential supplier (names) from wherever you can
- reviewing their product and service offerings to see if they might fit
- trying to find real customer references to validate they are a real supplier and the offerings that caught your attention are real offerings
- qualifying the suppliers for participation
Which, to be honest should be completely unnecessary more than two decades after strategic sourcing hit the market and almost two decades after the first supplier networks hit the market. By now you should be able to:
- use a large, global network that contains relevant suppliers to you to identify potential candidates
- use natural language processing and machine learning based similarity match algorithms to verify that they have products and services that are a close match to what you are looking for
- use community intelligence on community forums from verified customers to satisfy yourself that they are a real supplier with real self-produced products that meet someone’s needs
- use RPA to crawl open and accessible information sources to pre-populate as much qualifying information as you can find
- use AI models to predict the likelihood that the missing information will be to your satisfaction
- use embedded templates, automated workflows, and RPA to collect the remaining information from suppliers and third parties who maintain the needed information on the suppliers
- use self-scoring gated models to validate the suppliers as candidates for your strategic sourcing event
and, moreover, you should be able to do all this with the press of a single button if you want to.
When you press “find suppliers”, the platform should
- automatically query the relevant networks (both and in-platform and third parties, because one network is not enough) to find potentially relevant suppliers
- automatically use NLP on their associated product and service listings (in the platform or on accessible platforms if you have access to Amazon Business, Alibaba, or a third party catalog provider) to insure potential matches
- access built-in and third party community intelligence to verify they have verifiable customers who will verify the authenticity of their offering
- use RPA to pre-fill as many of the RFI fields as possible
- use AI on the RFI, similar suppliers, and public product specs to infer the likelihood of the missing fields being satisfiable (yes, high score, etc.)
- present the list of candidate suppliers for the event
and once you select the ones you want to invite
- automatically manage the process of getting the RFI completed from the supplier and third parties with supplier information
And while no one platform does this yet, progress is being made on this front. If you choose a S2P platform that doesn’t lock you into its proprietary network and integrates with a provider of an open third party network like Tealbook with more advanced capabilities, you can
- push a high-level description of your requirements to the third party network (3PN)
- the 3PN will search the networks using its AI technology to find suppliers that a match the qualifications on tracked dimensions (based on the various types of metadata it extracts on suppliers and offerings and key fields)
- the 3PN will then present the matches it finds ordered on the community intelligence it has on the suppliers (from validated third party network participants who have certified the supplier has offerings in key categories)
- pull in the subset of suppliers you want to further qualify with an RFI with as much information that is available from the 3PN and the other third parties your S2P platform integrates with
It’s not perfect as you’ll still have to manually drive the RFI (as its unlikely your provider will have as much automation as you’ll like, a subject we’ll cover in another set of articles), still have to manually review the products and services used for the third party match (which will not be as detailed as your internal BoM), still have to review the community intelligence (just how “like you” were the organizations that recommended the supplier), and so on, but the level of automation provided is still substantial and can save you, in our estimates, up to 80% to 90% of the effort. And that’s substantial. For many organizations that had to spend a week finding potentially new innovative suppliers for their RFX process, they now have the answers with less than a day of manual effort.
And if they adopt a modern platform that automates a lot of the other tedious work in the strategic sourcing cycle (which is always 80% to 90% tedious grunt work that can’t even be classified as tactical), they can now overlap three or four sourcing events and triple or quadruple the events they push through a year — and that’s the real key to spend under management and value generation.