As per our last post, SIM (Supplier Information Management) is a very mature and stable technology with a large number of software vendors not only providing the tools and best practices to manage supplier life-cycles, but to manage risk, compliance, receivables, and even spend repositories for spend management. And now that every suite vendor has built, or acquired it, the technology is almost a commodity in the Supply Management Space, and an acquisition thereof is not likely to get baby that new pair of shoes anytime soon. Or is it?
As great as they are, most SIM products —- stand alone best-of-breed or integrated suite offerings, have at least one weakness —- and often two. In particular, the data model and the workflow. Just like early spend analysis solutions were often tied to one, rigid, UNSPSC-based data model, most current SIM solutions are also tied to one, rather rigid, data model. In addition, most of those solutions with some SLM (Supplier Lifecycle Management) also have rigid workflows.
This worked well when business processes were predictable and stable and corresponded to products with long life-spans. But the times they-have-a-changed. These days, product life-spans are measured in quarters, and not years, if we are lucky. Associated processes change to not only accommodate the new product demands but to adapt to new technologies and new business requirements. If the workflow can’t adapt, the capability, and overall usefulness, of the tool is limited.
A SIM product that could not only allow a user to define, and redefine, data models as necessary but define, and redefine, workflows as necessary would offer more value than current SIM platforms. And if that product could also maintain full audit trails, which not only track data changes but model and workflow changes, and insure that old records and workflows can still be seamlessly accessed when the data model or workflow changes, then that would be even better.
And if that SIM product went even further and allowed for dynamic organizational, supply base, and user-defined hierarchies, that would be icing on the cake. Supply Chains are not boring because they are not static. They are constantly changing. The supply chain can not only change from product to product, but batch to batch as a primary raw material or part supplier runs out of material, becomes unreachable due to a political or natural disaster, or simply gets greedy and forces the higher tier supplier to find a new source. A good SIM solution will allow the supply chain map to evolve in real-time as the supply chain evolves. Moreover, with acquisitions, mergers, and spin-offs being the normal modus operandi for many businesses, a SIM solution that can easily adapt the organizational data model is also required. Finally, for maximum productivity, a user needs to be able to maintain their own view of the supply chain, back and front, relevant to them. They need to maintain their view of the relevant multi-tier supply base and the relevant hierarchies in their organization that they have to report to and serve.
In other words, a SIM tool that allowed for a truly dynamic data model, workflow, and supply chain organization map could bring a new wave of value to a modern Supply Management organization and the individual with the foresight to acquire such a tool might just get baby a new set of shoes. But is this available? And is it becoming common place?