Earlier this year, Spend Matters ran a post by Jason Busch on Why Collect Supplier Information that highlighted some of the information needs addressed in a recent piece by Mr. Busch and Mr. Gustin on Supplier Enablement for Invoice Discounting and Supply Chain Finance: Background, Tips, and Secrets for Success that not only highlighted some of the needs for detailed supplier information but also outlined many other reasons why organizations need supplier information.
The traditional answer to this is Supplier Information Management (SIM), implemented by way of a supplier portal where suppliers provide, maintain, and verify their information to the buyer on an as-needed basis. While this sounded like a good solution, especially since the amount of information some buyers need to collect on a single supplier can be staggering, which makes the task almost impossible for a large organization with thousands of suppliers, all it does is shift the burden to the supplier. The rationale provided was that the supplier, who needs to sell its wares, would accept it as a cost of doing business, especially since the supplier would need to provide much of that information on an RFX anyway and this way only has to provide the information to the buyer once as it would be maintained and reusable on every future RFX or information request.
This sounds fine and dandy, but really only makes sense if the workload for the supplier is less than the workload for the buyer. Otherwise, the work is just being shifted, overall supply chain efficiency is not increasing, and cost is not being take out of the supply chain. And SIM is not delivering on its promise.
The reality is that the workload for the supplier is not decreased because, with the proliferation of SIM systems across Procurement, more and more organizations are asking more and more of suppliers. And the perception that the supplier has less customers than the buyer has strategic suppliers is not always correct. Since most large buyers with risk avoidance tendencies only buy from large suppliers, and since suppliers can only become large suppliers by attracting a large client base, the supplier has as many buyers as the buyer has strategic suppliers — and the supplier has just as much data entry and maintenance to do as the buyer did before the buyer purchased its SIM solution. The work hasn’t been minimized, only shifted, and the cost has only increased because the supplier’s cost of data maintenance is no less than the buyer, and the supplier will just add a mark-up to cover their cost.
The true answer to the supplier information problem is not a SIM solution, but a SIR solution — an on-line, shared-access, Supplier Information Repository where a supplier can enter all of their information once, maintain it, and, under a fine-grained security model, share it with their customers (the buyers) on an as-needed basis. This reduces costs for all parties and truly takes costs out of the supply chain as the supplier only has to maintain one set of data, and the buyers can access all data from all suppliers for one low-cost annual subscription, which, because a vendor does not have to maintain multiple SIM instances, allows the vendor to offer repository access at a cost that is less than the cost of a traditional SIM solution.