Daily Archives: January 16, 2024

Need a strong Supplier Management Solution? Maybe you should get one made of Graphite …

Or at least virtual graphite … which was essentially the goal of the founders of GraphiteConnect when they launched the company five years ago in an effort to modernize supplier onboarding with a solution that would stand the test of time and solve many of the problems they encountered leading purchasing in their lost jobs which included:

  • time-consuming supplier onboarding (which just increased with first and second generation supplier management solutions which often extended what used to be a 2-day fax-based process to 2 weeks)
  • difficulty of adding requirements during a process or when a new legislation or initiative comes into effect
  • difficulty of maintaining supplier documents and data that needs to be updated/validated regularly
  • ensuring financial information is valid and has not been changed by an unauthorized party
  • tracking risk and privacy protection requirements from the start of the onboarding process
  • dealing with inaccurate (unverified) supplier data and manual ERP entry
  • etc.

They also realized that the only way for this to happen would be if the suppliers maintained their own data, but the only way a supplier could reasonably do that is if they only had to maintain that data once (as they saw the proliferation of effort on suppliers who had to upload the same information for every client in the big procurement and supplier management systems of the day). So they also wanted a system where the supplier could maintain ONE profile, which could be expanded with new common information requirements over time, and the supplier could grant (potential) customers the right to subscribe (and view) their data, including data that was validated with third party registries by the platform. Thus, they decided to build a neutral network of networks, modelling their solution off of social networks to reach the desired level of capability and functionality.

By adopting a network-of-networks approach, GraphiteConnect could enable quick, many-to-many sharing of key information requirements when a new data requirement came into play as a result of a new legislation (allowing a supplier to just push it out to all its customers on the network vs. responding to its customers one-by-one). This is because the network, unlike most supplier “networks” is designed to optimize information sharing and not procurement transactions. Furthermore, to make it even easier for suppliers to transact with their customers and vice versa, translation is localized in the platform (with 18 languages so far and more coming) so that the burden of translating core data elements (or at least the descriptors thereof) is not on the customers or the suppliers, with each party being able to work in their native language for efficiency.

Supplier and buyer data elements and documents (such as contracts) are fully segregated with data associated with the owning entity (again, buyer’s subscribe to supplier data elements of interest), which means that a buyer can never overwrite supplier data (especially legal entity, banking, or verified data) and vice-versa. This is very important because you can’t trust a “network” where the buyer can change your supplier data.

Onboarding is relatively quick and risk-aware, and is integrated into the search process so that, if the buyer can’t find the supplier in their (tier-1) supply base, and the supplier is already part of the GraphiteConnect network, the user will be able to quickly add the supplier as the platform will bring up all potential entities, making onboarding simply a matter of specifying what information is needed (which asks the supplier to share that data and provide any additional data not in their shareable public profile). And if not, like any other modern system, it’s a contact and an email and a few basic pieces of information (which we’ll discuss later) to invite the supplier, which, upon basic profile completion, will be verified and ready to fully onboard.

Onboarding has a well defined workflow, and both parties see where the process is at all times. Request, initial supplier response, buyer privacy and security reviews, and push to organization master data stores at a minimum, but the request/response can be multi-stage (i.e. you don’t request non-standard data until you do baseline risk/security/privacy assessments), including extra stages for revisions, and the workflow will expand or contract as necessary.

Search is great, and is fully guided. If you’re looking for a supplier for a product or service, you start by indicating what type of supplier you want, and it guides you through a series of questions to limit you down to an appropriate set of suppliers. For example, when you are looking for contract services, it will ask if you want an independent contractor or a company (and the desired company size). It will then ask service type, and drill down (e.g. independent contractor, IT, software engineer, .NET, etc.) until it gives you a tailored list to choose from (and invite for onboarding).

Pivoting to verification, GraphiteConnect integrates with the appropriate registries to verify and validate the vendor data elements in over 130 countries globally including, but not limited to, legal name and identifier, physical addresses, VAT/TAX/Government registration numbers, bank routings, sanctions lists, additional 3rd party sources for modern slavery, forced labour, compliance, ethics, financial viability, safety, sustainability, and cyber (including Darkbeam, and trust the doctor when he says that if you’re not shining a light on your suppliers’ cyber presence, someone else is, and looking for a way to use them as a back door into you).

Of course, a buyer is not limited to existing data, they can request additional data at any time from any supplier in their network. When they do so, the requested fields are added to a supplier’s virtual data room (that houses all of the different aspects of their profile), and when the supplier rep fills out that information, it automatically grants a subscription to the requesting buyer.

And of course, once the supplier is onboarded, it’s really easy to navigate through a supplier profile and find the exact piece of information you’re looking for due to the multi-part profiles, sub-categories in the profile, elements that dynamically expand and contract as needed, and so on. In addition to core data, the platform, like any good supplier management platform, collects contacts, action plans, documents, communications, and contracts related to a supplier (that are part of the buyer’s data room) in one place for the buyer.

The great thing about the platform is that it is a network built for entity connections, which means every entity, including the buyer, which could be a supplier to other buyers in the network, has it’s own profile (in a secure virtual data room that is fully encrypted) so all of it’s data is verified and securely maintained (and editable only by its authorized employees). This means that a buyer can not only share the information with the supplier that the supplier needs to transact with the buyer but to its customers as well — and do so in all cases with ease. More importantly, it means that, when necessary, the platform can create shared secured data rooms for collaborative editing of data fields and documents between a buyer and supplier that can pull in the relevant data from each party’s private data room for document auto-fill. And when the document/new data fields are complete, it can be pulled back into the relevant party’s data room (with an auto-subscription to the other party).

And the other great thing about the platform, is that it was designed with the realization that risk needs to be front and center from before an invite goes out to a potential supplier until the last service has been completed and the last product has left the wild. And the platform enforces risk awareness, and mitigation, from the minute a buyer wants to onboard a supplier until the supplier leaves your connections. When you want to onboard a supplier, the first thing you do is identify the primary product or service you are considering, whether the relationship is expected to be one time or ongoing, the anticipated (annual) spend, and, most importantly, the categories of your data the supplier will have access to as well as any personal data of your employees or customers they may have access to. Based on this, the platform can identify the types and levels of risk your organization will be subject to and automatically request the appropriate risk data in the invite (which could include custom survey/data requests that the supplier hasn’t seen before, and which will get added to their profile when the accept the invitation and fill out that data).

The UX is extremely streamlined for the tasks the average user needs to execute with just six main areas in addition to the home screen (and the settings screen):

  • tasks – which centralizes all of the buyer’s tasks when they login
  • contracts – which is the organization’s electronic filing cabinet with easy meta-data based search
  • connections – which is the entry point to search and onboarding
  • opportunities – which is where the platform centralizes initiatives around supplier diversity, ethics, clearance certifications, etc. where a buyer can setup a portal for interested suppliers who can meet certain goals and objectives to self-register and provide the requested information (for future customer onboarding and RFPs)
  • action plans – which is where ongoing activities are collected and managed (onboarding, reviews, etc.)
  • reports – which centralizes the activity reports

Furthermore, intake in GraphiteConnect is very extensible. It can be configured to meet the needs of your sourcing, contract, diligence, and procurement teams with supplier onboarding and management and it can be configured to push back the appropriate data into each source system that needs to interact // cache supplier data.

And unlike many other platforms that were designed with the expectation that initial customers would be primarily mid-market, as the founders are ex-Intel and Adobe, it was built for massive scale and can handle enterprise scale (which requires tens of thousands of active suppliers) with the same ease as mid-market scale (which requires thousands of active suppliers) and is a solution that any company can grow with (or integrate into their Source-to-Pay-Plus stack.

So if you’re looking for supplier management platform that can auto-validate, rapidly scale, and minimize supplier burden with it’s subscription/reference- based network architecture, maybe you should look at Graphite Connect. With their ability to quickly integrate with (Open) APIs, they can solve a lot of your intake and onboarding problems as well.