RFX Creation – Kicking You When You Are Down (Part I)

If you are an outside observer of the S2P space, like an enterprise software analyst that covers the more traditional enterprise spaces like (ERP, AP, CRM, etc. ), you might wonder how in this day and age a startup that just offers e-RFX, e-Auction, and basic SIM — technology that has been around for 20 years — could not only survive, but in the case of some new entrants like ScoutRFP and Bonfire (which only have a fraction of the breadth and depth of the market leaders, see their analyst rankings in Spend Matters SolutionMaps) thrive!

Well, it all comes down to usability, efficiency, and effectiveness. Most of the first, and even second, generation platforms only focussed on the third measure of effectiveness, and only measured it from a financial ROI perspective on completed events (not on adoption, categories under management, suppliers under management, etc.). Efficiency only mattered from the viewpoint of the implementation or services team (and only to the degree necessary, if billable hours was a major revenue center, and the teams were keeping up, then efficiency was good enough). And usability, well, the software was digital and that was better than paper — so whatever the platform provided was deemed good enough.

But it wasn’t. And we don’t need to offer any proof. ScoutRFP and Bonfire wouldn’t exist if it was, and niche plays like EC Sourcing would not have not have quietly grown from niche players to full S2C offerings with a constantly expanding customer base that is as large as some of the more prominent S2P players (which, despite the abundance of marketing they throw in your face, only have a few hundred customers).

So why does RFX creation in most platforms kick you when you are already down (in the mud trying to scavenge for potential suppliers, as per our last two pieces on supplier discovery)?

First of all, when it comes to basic supplier qualification RFIs:

  • most platforms have limited templates when it comes to the data you need to collect for regulatory compliance
  • you have to manually identify which templates you will need to collect necessary organizational data, regulatory data, location and production data on the supplier
  • search is limited and determining which templates, generally incomplete, you can start from is difficult
  • new template construction (to build what is not present) or existing template modification is usually painful as it is not responsive drag and drop as it was developed using old-school frameworks on older versions of HTML and not kept up to date
  • you have to manually define gating and scoring scales on each template individually
  • there is limited workflow and you often don’t have the ability to define logical, conditional, workflows which will block a supplier as soon as a mandatory requirement is not met or include a template that is only required if a certain process or restricted material is used — which means you often have to go through multiple rounds (as you can’t ask a supplier to fill out anything not necessary or they won’t even answer the first email)
  • there is limited or no auto-scoring and many fields have to be scored manually

In comparison, a more modern platform will:

  • either provide templates, a repository, or integrations to partners that have the templates you need (or make it easy to auto-build them from document or spreadsheet imports)
  • will index core data requirements, compliance requirements, and industry requirements against products and services you source and automatically identify which data and templates will be required
  • automatically search your library to suggest starting template (sections)
  • help you build templates for newly identified requirements
  • allow you to build, modify, and conditionally link templates in a workflow using drag-and-drop and responsive design
  • automatically define critical gating questions based on organizational policy and mandatory compliance requirements and make it easy for you to define additional gating questions
  • allow for the definition of auto-scoring across all fields and RFI sections
  • auto-score each RFI response for you

Complex RFIs that used to literally take days (upon days) to build in the first (and second) generation platforms can now be built in a matter of hours. (We’ve heard multiple, verifiable, stories of some companies that used to spend two days building an RFX on Industry Leading Platform X switching to someone like EC Sourcing and building the same RFX in 15 minutes. That’s why one of the industry leaders released a brand new, slimmed down, redesigned platform targeted at the mid-market last year. You might want the power of tank, but if it takes way too long to get from 0 to 60, you’ll never use it when everyone else has fighter jets that get to the destination first.)

But if only this was the whole story!