Category Archives: CSR

Visibility into Vizibl, The Collaboration Platform for True Supplier Innovation

It’s been a decade in the making, especially since it took years for Vizibl (founded in 2013) to find it’s focus, but what was once yet another SRM (Supplier Relationship Management) platform is now a truly leading Supplier Collaboration, Innovation, and Transformation platform.

Starting out with the vision of a better SRM, it took a while for Vizibl to find its niche and double down on it. In fact, it took years of working with clients with highly specific (customization/process) needs for them to realize that they were good at developing for and supporting specific, sometimes, complex processes and years more for them to sit back and identify the commonality, design standard project and service layers, and bring them to market. But they did, and they have, and we will discuss the first major project/service layer they are bringing to market later in this article.

The Vizibl platform has seven main components:

  • Supplier Information Management Foundation
  • Supplier Collaboration Workspace
  • Supplier Innovation Hub
  • Supplier Relationship Management Module
  • Dashboards, Analytics, and Reporting
  • Program Layer: (Foundation for) Specific Development/Improvement Programs that Cross-Cut the Entire Platform
    (built on a virtual platform integration layer)
  • Supplier Sustainability Management

1. The Supplier Information Management Foundation is what you would expect from a leading SRM platform — it can track all of the core data and meta data you would expect on a supplier and can be extended as needed to track all of the data you require across all areas of supplier information, products, risks, compliance requirements, performance requirements, contracts, projects, initiatives, and activities you wish to manage.

Supplier Onboarding is straight forward as it’s quick and simple to create a new company record to begin the process, with only minimal data needed. New suppliers can be onboarded as standalone, children of an existing company, or related entities. The platform can maintain complex supplier tree relationships and the tree can be visualized along with a roll up of relevant metrics, project counts, and appropriate relationship data.

2. The Supplier Collaboration workspace is where the buyer can communicate with the supplier, spin off action plans and initiatives, store ideas and plans, pull in and push out data as needed, and put thought into action.

3. The Supplier Innovation Hub is where the core of the magic happens. This is where challenges can be issued, goals set, and projects planned. It’s where projects are defined to increase supplier performance, improve product designs or manufacturing, increase sustainability, or decrease CO2/GHG emissions.

Projects have activities (or tasks), roadmaps that link them together, objectives (outcomes), value tracking metrics, integrated communications, and teams.

4. The Supplier Relationship Management Module is the glue that holds it all together. In addition to integrating all of the pieces, it also supports the creation of basic supplier action/account plans, the definition of strategic objectives, and integrated overview dashboards. It also allows for the definition of supplier teams (that it calls circles) that represent the different teams the organization will be working with, the management teams, and boards of relevance.

5. The Dashboards, Analytics, and Reporting capability is used to summarize and display the various types of data, metrics, and indicators tracked by the platform. These dashboards cannot only roll up metrics across the platform, but can also roll up metrics in, and across, projects by stages, as well as break them down by regions or supplier trees.

6. The Supplier Sustainability Management module is one of their latest modules focussed on tracking and managing an organization’s sustainability initiatives. It can track all of the emissions for each supplier, those that are reporting, the associated spend, and any other GHG data of relevance to the organization. It can also track all of the data associated with ESG surveys requested by the organization, which can be custom created and as broad or deep as required.

7A. The Program Layer is the toolkit that they use to build custom cross-platform program management capability that allows an organization to tackle new, and possibly exciting, initiatives that can transform their operations, product, and / or supply chains. Programs consist of suppliers, goals and targets, indicator metrics, associated data and reporting, summary dashboards, and scores.

7B: Decarbonization as a service is the first offering from Vizibl built on the program layer that integrates all of the platform capabilities to track scope 3 carbon across the supply chain by extending the sustainability management module to focus on the import and calculation of carbon emissions by supplier over time as well as best practices and learnings that can be shared with a supplier to help them reduce their emissions through leaner production, cleaner energy sources, new production processes, etc.

When it comes to the administration of the Vizibl platform, an administrator can configure, more-or-less, everything. First of all, they can configure the organizational tree as needed to match their organizational structure and include subsidiaries and use a variable number of levels for each organizational branch. So, the organization can have the global holding company; American, European and Asian holding company subsidiaries; individual (holding) companies for each country it operates in; and, if necessary, breakdown into individual locations or divisions if needed for management purposes. You can have five levels in Asia, four levels in Europe, and three levels in the Americas if that’s what’s necessary to exactly match the organizational structure. And of course, each company node in the organizational tree can have its unique settings, inheriting from the node above anything that does not need to be changed.

Similarly, because a company is a company in the system, full supplier organizational structures can also be modelled according to their company structure and modelled down to the individual (factory) location. This is particularly important since a diversity initiative may be global but improvement efforts might be restricted to one factory producing one particularly unique component for one product line.

Then, the organization can configure, for that company:

Account Plans
for each supplier, the company can define the strategic objectives, guiding principles, and target behaviours; these can be defined from scratch or added from a common library
Data Imports
to define regular / repeating file-based imports
Initiatives & Opportunities
the overarching initiatives and/or opportunities being sought, the plans and project stages, questionnaires, suppliers, etc.; the form builder is section based, supports all standard HTML objects, and all of the (numeric) data collected can be subjected to metrics and rules (to map to binary/integer) which can be defined on multiple choices
allows a user to define the performance metrics / KPIs, organized into categories, that are to be tracked, define what levels they are tracked at / rolled up to, and even customize the metric calculation in individual nodes
define the user permissions (by role)
centralizes the organizational projects
define the supplier relationships by mapping the supplier to the specific nodes in the organizational structure where the relationship exists as well as the segment (division/category) they are servicing
define and customize the reports
define the project states for initiatives and opportunities, rejections, suppliers, etc. as needed to match the organizational process; can start with defaults
encapsulates all of the surveys that can be reused across initiatives and opportunities
custom tags for tagging initiatives, opportunities, suppliers, etc. for quick search & filter
User Management
define the organizational users
Value Trackers
defines, and centralizes, the metrics that will be used in the innovations, opportunities, and performance tracking

In summary, the administration is very powerful … in fact, it’s one of the few solutions where the organizational structure for all companies (buying and supplying organizations) is extensively customizable, where initiatives can be tailored to the subset of relevant relationships and locations, where the inheritance for an initiative can be customized, and where you fully customize and localize all supplier interactions to just the organizations and teams that you need.

This is the first aspect of Vizibl that truly makes it stand out. The degree of customization of initiatives only to the relationships of relevance, teams of relevance, with metrics of relevance is far beyond what most of the traditional “Relationship” solutions actually offer.

The second aspect of Vizibl that makes it stand out is the new program layer they’ve built to support the creation of programs that tie together all of the relevant SXM capabilities needed to completely manage an organizational initiative across the supply base. In many platforms, the organization needs to manage the surveys, performance metrics, reports, projects, collaborations separately across the different modules of the platform that were built up over time.

The third aspect of Vizibl that makes it stand out is the new Decarbonation-as-a-Service offering built on this program layer that integrates all of the platform capabilities to track carbon down to scope 3 across the supply chain, provide insight into best practices and learnings to reduce emissions, allow for the creation of projects and initiatives to tackle the opportunities, track improvement over time, and essentially turn measurement into action into improvement. Carbon calculators are a dime-a-dozen from everyone and their dog, and can be built in 15 minutes in any good modern (spend) analytics platform, but few platforms do real monitoring, few platforms allow for the creation of supplier development projects, and fewer still provide real insight into what can be done to get results.

In other words, if you really care about the “R” in Supplier Relationship Management, and truly want to manage that relationship for true supplier development and improvement, you should definitely make sure Vizibl is on your short-list.

Need Some Procurement Principles? Balfour Beatty Published a Great Starting Point.

Google sometimes digs up the strangest things when you ask for Procurement News. One thing it recently dug up was the Balfour Beatty “Procurement Strategy” page, which wasn’t so much a strategy, but a set of principles that every organization should subscribe to. (Regardless of what industry they are in.)

So, if you’re wondering what principles you should adopt before you set your Procurement organization strategy, you can start with these seven principles:

  1. Become the customer of choice
  2. Ensure that we have the right, skilled people for the job, a strong talent pipeline and that we provide an environment where they excel
  3. Put in place processes that work, are compliant and transparent, making the best use of technology to deliver for our business and for our supply chain partners
  4. Mitigate and manage risk through early and closer integration with our supply chain partners
  5. Work together to identify market risks and forecasts
  6. Keep safety and wellbeing at the forefront of all that we do
  7. Prompt Payment for Suppliers

The great thing is they will lead to a great strategy as:

  • it covers talent, technology, and process transformation
  • it places importance on the supplier, the relationship, and the supplier sustainability
  • it covers CSR (corporate social responsibility)
  • it covers risk

In fact, the only principle that is missing is Sustainability, so if you add this eight principle

  1. Embrace sustainability in all that we do

We’re pretty sure that if you were to start here, you won’t go too far astray in the creation of your Procurement Strategy.

Will a Circular Economy Work with Leakage?

Sustainability is one of the big buzzwords, and the biggest verbal pushes, in today’s Procurement. (In practicality, most organizations won’t put their money where their mouth is and if the more sustainable solution is more than a point or two more cost-wise, environmentally damaging sweat-shop production, here we come!) We need to get there, because only an idiot would deny global warming (the last 13 years have seen 10 of the hottest year on record), and no one can deny the correlation between carbon emission, atmospheric carbon increase, and global warming. (You can argue just how much is due to carbon emission and how much due to other factors, many of which are indirectly caused by warming, but not that carbon is a problem.) Thus, even though we don’t know how much carbon reduction will help, we know it will, so we need to get there.

One big way to reduce carbon is to reduce production, which can done by reducing waste, which can be done through more refurbishment, repair, re-use, recycling, and reclamation — which are all part of the circular economy. Which is where we really need to get to (because waste is a problem — in addition to overflowing landfills that can pollute nearby water suppliers and make nearby land unfarmable, and even uninhabitable, think of the great pacific garbage patch and the containers of e-waste being sent to India, which has been a problem for well over a decade, see this 2010 article on the Times of India, and you start to get a grip on the magnitude of the problem).

But how efficient does the circular economy have to be to be effective? Theoretically, anything more that we do is one step better than what we are doing today, but, given that most products weren’t designed for recycle and reclamation, technologies for recycling and reclamation are immature and possibly carbon/generating themselves (especially if the answer is extract what we can, bury or burn the rest), and that there are breaks in the chain, is this leading to new waste that could possibly offset (or exceed) the expected (carbon) savings?

It’s a question Karolina Safarzynska, Lorenzo Di Domenico, and Marco Raberto recently tackled in an open-access paper on how the leakage effect may undermine the circular economy efforts available on In the paper, the authors examine the impact of the circular economy on global resource extraction by way of an input-output analysis using an agent-based model of the capital sector. Through a detailed analysis they find that an appropriately structured circular economy economy can significantly reduce the extraction of iron, aluminum, and nonferrous metals if
implemented globally
but the leakage effect may also cause some metal-intensive industries to relocate outside the EU, offsetting the circular economy efforts because an overlooked requirement for the circular economy is not just a reduction of waste, but a reduction of transport as transportation (air, rail, truck, and ship) contributes a significant amount of global carbon. In fact, if you go to Our World in Data, in the United States, the transportation sector accounts, like the energy (electricity and heat) sector, for approximately 30% of transportation emissions. The statistics right now are similar for the EU (24% for transportation and 28% for energy). So, if all of a sudden products need to be shipped halfway around the world to be recycled and reclaimed and the core materials shipped back, transportation-based emissions would increase significantly and possibly even overtake the extraction and raw material processing emissions!

In all fairness, we should note that the paper is pretty technical and metric heavy, and this is a bit of a simplification, but it’s the core idea we need to be aware of. It’s not an improvement if the carbon you take out of one segment is exceeded by changes in another. Just like we need to home/near-source for anything we can grow/mine/make at/near home, we also need to home/near reduce/reuse/refurbish/remanufacture/recycle whatever we can. It might be that the rare earths can only be mined in certain areas, but that doesn’t mean they have to be reclaimed and re-used there.

How Do You Sustain Sustainability When True Value is Long Term …

… and the brunt of the cost is short term?

AlixPartners recently published an article over on Mondaq on how The Fourth Dimension In Strategic Sourcing, Sustainability, Can Drive Value which caught our attention because Sustainability can drive value, but most organizations under cost pressures, which are rampant in our current inflationary economy, don’t choose the sustainable option as it’s typically a higher expense in the short-term.

Moreover, the big value is investing in suppliers that invest in new technologies that will be more sustainable in the long run. However, due to the cost of implementing these new technologies, the up-front costs are higher as the suppliers have to stay in business until the new technologies start to deliver returns. For example, the following are major improvements to sustainability:

  • suppliers utilizing, investing in, or building their own renewable energy grids (solar, wind) to avoid using the energy produced by the local coal/oil burning plants
  • suppliers re-designing production lines and methods to minimize waste (through cutting of metal, processing of food, etc.) and to ensure any waste they create can be used as an input to another production line (melting and re-fab of metal scraps, animal feed, etc.)
  • suppliers investing in their own water purification technology to re-use water in the manufacturing process
  • suppliers investing in product redesign research to minimize use of scarce rare earth minerals/metals and to increase use of reclaimed minerals/metals
  • suppliers investing in reclamation technology to maximize recycling of products created with metals/minerals

… and the following, highlighted in the article, are minor improvements …

  • sustainable supplier selection as everyone is going to try and secure the most sustainable supplier of the lowest cost suppliers, leaving less sustainable suppliers or more sustainable suppliers at a higher cost that the CFO/CEO will not let Procurement pay for the majority of organizations (the small, sustainable, suppliers cannot massively scale overnight)
  • eco-friendly packaging and waste reduction as this is not new and many organizations are already be doing this to the extent eco-friendly packaging is available
  • energy-efficient products and services as this is not new either and as companies replace end-of-life products, they have been choosing more energy efficient products for a while now with the increase in energy prices over the last five to ten years, and the truth is that this is usually a small dent on their total energy footprint
  • carbon footprint reduction as that is the goal, not a specific action that can reduce carbon footprint, and. most importantly, significant reduction requires significant investment (reducing travel and forcing the CEO to give up the private jet and fly first class only goes so far)
  • collaboration and reporting because while you need to understand your footprint, and sometimes shaming goes further than incentivizeation, reporting doesn’t actually increase sustainability unless action is taken …

IF PE firms, with billion dollar funds, won’t actually invest in supply chain (which includes sustainability) improvements, because you typically don’t realize the bulk of the value until you (significantly) pass the five (5) year mark, how can you expect short-term thinking CEOs and CFOs, trying to impress Wall Street or attract PE funding, to actually put their money with their big mouths are and invest in true sustainability?

If you have answers, we’d love to hear them — comment on the LinkedIn post.

Ignite Wants to Spark Your Sourcing Success with Actionable Analytics!

the doctor has written about many Spend Analysis vendors over the last decade*, including Ignite Procurement, which is one of the few newer vendors that he expected would soon breakout of their (Nordic) niche and start expanding, something which they are now starting to do having tripled their customer count in the last 6 months to over 200 customers.

The reason for this expectation? They earned their top right status in the Spend Matters Spend Analysis Solution Map when the (quadrant) maps still existed and the doctor was responsible for grading them as a Top 5 Best-of-Breed Mid-Market focussed Spend Analysis player located in Western Europe / the UK.

Founded by ex-BCG (Boston Consulting Group) consultants in 2017, with the first version of the platform launching in 2018, the key players not only have a firm understanding of spend analysis, but what analysis capabilities a customer needs to find their spend waste and their opportunities. Plus, they understood since day one that spend analysis in a vacuum is not that meaningful and is most meaningful in the context of negotiations, supplier management and development, contract obligation management, labour compliance and ESG reporting, for example. Negotiations work best when they are fact based, supplier development efforts are best focussed on those suppliers where improvements would result in considerable cost reductions or value generation, contracts are meaningless if not adhered to (and the resulting overspend completely unnecessary), labour violations in the supply chain can result in huge fines to your organization, and exceeding your carbon caps can be even more expensive (not to mention the fines if you don’t properly report). (And yes, this is a bit of foreshadowing.)

The core of the Ignite “Spend Management” solution is the analytics offering which, like most spend analysis solutions, has two core components:

1. Data Management

It’s very easy to get data into the Ignite Platform. In fact, it can be as easy as dragging-and-dropping a file onto the browser pane as Ignite allows you to define all of your taxonomies as well as your standard file format mappings to those taxonomies. It can then detect if the data is new, incremental, or updated and allow you to add, add only new records, update existing records, or even load the file into an entirely new cube.

When it comes to taxonomies, you can start with your own or built-in and then, during analysis, you can define and redefine taxonomies on the fly, with reclassification as simple as dragging-and-dropping. You can also define and update mapping rules quickly and easily as well, fixing errors or updating classifications as the need arises.

Data enrichment is easy-peasy compared to generic analytic platforms or suites as they support a number of financial metric, industry classification, currency exchanges, commodity intelligence, CO2 emission sources, and risk metric sources out of the box and provide a full integration platform with APIs, pre-built connectors, and timed data pulls (via SFTP, for example) for those who need custom integrations.

The platform also supports multiple tables and spend cubes and allows you to work on global tables and cubes or local tables and cubes for what-if analysis.

But most importantly, it’s one of the few best-of-breed platforms with a fully integrated visual data flow manager where you can define the entire loading, mapping, enrichment, classification, and automated analytics, reporting, and notification process, including automated supplier normalization.

2. Analytics

The Ignite Platform has just about everything you would expect from a modern analytics platform including arbitrary dimension selection, formula-based dimension derivation, easy (powerful metric based) filters, multiple chart and widget types, easy drill down, easy view/report modification, and ad-hoc analytics.

It also comes with a full suite of out-of-the-box analytics to help you identify potential savings opportunities through contracting (off-contract spend), renegotiation, supplier (re) negotiation, supplier benchmark improvements, spend consolidation, invoice management, payment term rationalization, price improvement, etc. Contract coverage, PO Coverage, key supplier coverage, and a suite of KPI reports are also available out-of-the-box (including a spend development dashboard that can go beyond just spend to impacting metrics such as OTD, quality incidents, etc. if you track the data in the supplier management module).

It’s ability to identify supplier-based (re)negotiation and development opportunities is extremely good and based on its proprietary Ignite Matrix that maps “share of wallet” vs EBIT Margin (which it calculates using mandatory government disclosures and integration with appropriate feeds, such as Enin in the Nordics, and appropriate adjustments) and scatter plots the results to help you quickly identify where your business is contributing to a supplier’s high profit margiin (and where the supplier has room to negotiate without jeopardizing its stability).

On top of this they have also built:

3. Supplier Management (Information / Performance / Risk / Compliance)

With its strong data management underpinnings, the Ignite Spend Management platform can store any all supplier related you wish to track and analyze, which not only allows deep spend-related insights by supplier, but performance and risk (metric) insight by supplier, with the ability to track and compare over time.

In addition to providing a full Supplier 360 view across all data captured in the platform, the Supplier Management capability includes standard campaign management where a buyer or supplier management can create questionnaires for supplier data augmentation and collection of relevant data and documents for supplier performance / risk / compliance management.

4. Contract Management (Governance)

Due to its strong data management underpinnings, the platform can also store all relevant contract meta-data in addition to the contract documents and allow users to manage, report on, and automatically annotate spend that is covered by a contract (as well as determine if it was billed, and paid, at the contracted rate using the appropriate payment terms). Also, as with most contract management plays, it can support tasks and alerts and the linking of contracts to tasks and alerts.

5. Scope 3 Management / Carbon Accounting

The best foundation for a carbon calculator / carbon reporting application is a true analytics platform that can support the definition of all of the appropriate Scope 1, 2, and 3 Categories of relevance to the organization and/or required by the appropriate authority to which reports must be made; the integration of data feeds to allow for the appropriate carbon emission calculations; the collection of actual data from suppliers that can supply it; the generation of the appropriate reports with the appropriate calculations for mandated reporting; and the tracking of changes over time. This is precisely what the Ignite Procurement platform supports.

The entire platform is easy to use and the UX is quite modern, but you don’t have to take our word for it — you can see a three minute demo on their webpage … just scroll down to the Meet Ignite Procurement section. So if you’re looking for an analytics platform that can provide you actionable spend insights on your contracts, suppliers, and ESG that you act on to reduce waste and increase value, you should make sure that Ignite Procurement is on your shortlist, especially if you are in its current target marketplace in the EU/UK.

* Not all on SI, many write-ups are on Spend Matters, behind the revised paywall.