Category Archives: RFX

The Key to Procurement Software Selection Success: Affordable RFPs!

Modern supply chains are risky. Very risky. Nothing made this fragility more clear than COVID where the world essentially broke down due to an illogical (to the point of insanity, thank you McKinsey) over-reliance on outsourcing, especially to China. (There’s a reason that SI has been promoting near-sourcing, home-shoring, and home-sourcing for over sixteen years — because this breakdown was inevitable, the only unknown was whether or not it was to be geopolitical instability/war, a massive natural disaster, or a pandemic that would be the first card to topple in the house of cards.)

Despite the best laid plans, and all the precautions you can implement, something will inevitably go wrong. Very wrong. And the disturbance will cost you greatly. That’s you you buy supply chain insurance which, depending on exposure, limits of dependency, and regionalization, will cost you between 1% and 10% of the policy value (maximum claim amount). If we take 5% as an average (which is not unreasonable), that says for every 1,000,000 of at-risk inventory you need to insure (to prevent devastating loss), you are paying $50,000.

But do you know what’s just as risky as your supply chain? The investment in the technology that you use to power your supply chain. Therefore, you should do everything you can to ensure you get it right! The best way to do this is create a good, proper, RFP to help hone in on software vendors that have appropriate solutions that should be able to fill your need while ensuring that they have the minimum globalization, size, and services you will need to consider giving them an award.

But, as per previous articles, including our last article on why THERE ARE NO FREE RFPs!, you’re probably not capable of doing this on your own. This is because a proper RFP requires

  • understanding your current Procurement Maturity
    (and while you may understand what you’re doing, it’s doubtful you understand how you are faring against the market or best-in-class)
  • understanding your current processes (based on this) vs. your target processes (based on where you should get to within a reasonable time-frame, taking into account that The Hackett Group, based on their book of numbers, discovered that it was typically an eight-year journey to best in class for large global enterprises)
  • understanding how these translate into use cases that must be supported by technology
  • understanding what technological capabilities will be required to get you there and …
  • what additional capabilities would be beneficial to simplify your tasks, identify additional value, or help your team progress in Procurement maturity over time and …
  • understanding which types of solutions / modules on the market contain the bulk of those capabilities so you know which segment of vendors to send the RFP to
  • understanding if the backbone solutions in place are worth keeping or if they should be replaced instead of augmented (i.e. would the solution with the missing capabilities completely subsume these solutions [rending them unnecessary], like simple RFPs in a Sourcing Suite or catalogs in a Procurement suite, or would they still be needed, like an ERP backbone)
  • understanding the globalization needs not just of the company, but the (potential) suppliers
  • understanding the services that will be required for installation, migration, and integration
  • understanding any unique requirements of the organization that will need to be addressed by a vendor (to ensure they can meet them) before negotiations can begin

and if you don’t know

  • what the state of the market is, or what best in class is
  • how your processes should be transformed to advanced up the maturity curve
  • how to define the appropriate use cases
  • … and the key technology capabilities that will be required
  • … and which optional capabilities will be true value add
  • how to identify solution/module types based on these capabilities
  • which solutions you have that you should keep, and which you should replace
  • the full breadth of globalization needs across the extended enterprise
  • the full breadth of services that will be required
  • which of your organizational requirements are truly unique and need to be spelled out

then you CANNOT write a good RFP. So you really, really, should pay an expert, independent, advisor (or consultancy that does not have any preferred provider partnerships) to do the appropriate Procurement and platform maturity assessments and write the RFP that you need.

Especially since this can usually be done for less than 10%, if not 5%, of the 5-year cost of the investment. (Face it, you’re going to be locked into at least three years no matter what you buy, usually five years, and even if not, it’s going to be too costly to switch out even the worst solution in less than five years.) For example, as per previous Sourcing Innovation posts on how much should you pay for a starting platform, as a mid-market you would be looking at about 250K/year in license fees for a good suite across the board (120K for a starter, but that wouldn’t have all the modules or advanced capabilities where you need them), plus implementation, migration, and integration that will run you anywhere from 125K to 500K (or more) up front. Assume 250K, and this gives you a five year baseline cost of 1.5M. 10% of that is 150K, and you can definitely get the help you need for that — and it’s a SMALL price to pay to make sure you get the acquisition right of this make-or-break technology (that can deliver a 3X to 5X+ ROI done right, and cost you Millions done wrong). (And if you’re a larger enterprise, you’d be looking at 3M to 6M for a suite for 5 years, which gives you a budget that even the Big X would be interested in, but which they SHOULD NOT be considered for as they are all preferred implementation partners for at least one of the major suites.)

So if you want true success, big savings (10% for the appropriate strategic sourcing/procurement technologies), and real ROI (3X to 5X or more), put those “FREE” RFPs in the trash where they belong and find the right expert to help you create the right Affordable RFP that will ensure the successful selection that your organization needs.

MeRLIN Sourcing, A Platform With a Twist …

INTRODUCTION

When their founders were young men
they paced the fact’ry floors
from Vellore down to Chennai
they must have walked ’em all
cause they learned all of the problems
that plagued the Procurement side.
Those listen, look, and learn guys
sure made a lean platform.

The founders of MeRLIN, who started Rheinbrucke Consulting in 2013, started developing a stand-alone application for direct source-to-contract (and, for those who need it, source-to-pay) in 2018 using their decades of experience supporting direct manufacturing clients. MeRLIN was then frst released it to the market in 2022, after ensuring it actually solved the problems they were seeing and met the needs of the companies they were working with.

(While some companies might take it as a badge of honour to get a “minimally viable product” to market in a year, the reality is that when it comes to manufacturing enterprises, nothing you can develop in a year will actually solve more than a fraction of their problems, and unless what you deliver can integrate tightly into their existing enterprise software landscape, it won’t be adopted, or even bought. That’s why there are so many offerings in indirect [many of whom will succumb to the marketplace madness] and so few that offer true direct sourcing solutions, and fewer still that offer fully integrated source-to-contract / source-to-pay suites.)

PLATFORM SUMMARY

MeRLIN, which bills itself as a Source-to-Contract platform for Direct Material (primarily Discrete Manufacturing) Sourcing, is actually a Source-to-Pay platform where the Procure-to-Pay platform capabilities are baseline (and wouldn’t go head-to-head with best-in-class) and designed for the mid-market (and large enterprise) clients that don’t have a Procurement solution in place already (either through the ERP, AP, or a third party system). Since most larger enterprises have some form of decent P2P, MeRLIN decided to focus primarily on the critically underserved strategic sourcing marketplace in discrete manufacturing and direct sourcing and the capabilities all of the companies the founders worked with in manufacturing were universally missing.

MeRLIN was designed as a modular solution where

  • a client could license just the modules they wanted/needed,
  • common modules, and capabilities, were broken out into their own modules so their was no duplication of functionality, and
  • key modules could be augmented with additional value-added functionality not typically found in average products.

MeRLIN has all the standard modules you’d expect in a Source-to-Contract:

  • (Program &) BoM Management (Requirement for any Direct Solution)
  • Requisition Management (Intake)
  • Sourcing (Event) Management (Sourcing)
  • Supplier Management (SXM)
  • Contract Management & Contract Authoring (CLM)
  • Reports & Dashboard (Reporting & Analytics)

As well as basics for Procure-to-Pay:

  • Purchase Order Management
  • Invoice & Payment Management

But also has modules for:

  • Demand Management (Consolidation of Requirements from Requisitions, Manufacturing Programs, and MRPs)
  • Category Management (Part/BoM grouping & management)
  • Supply Chain Compliance (GSCA / LkSG)
  • Supply Management (Document & Shipment Management)

and the standard suite foundational modules of:

  • Master Data Management
  • Business Administration
  • Security Management
  • System Management

And even modules for:

  • Strategic Project Management (Project Management/Orchestration)
  • Finance Management (Budgets, Prices)

We’re not going to discuss all the modules and instead focus in on just the core Source-to-Contract modules, as they are the modules that are critical to direct sourcing and the modules that will allow you to understand the value, and potential, MeRLIN has for you.

Supplier Management

Supplier Management is designed to onboard, evaluate, approve, and manage suppliers, including their contacts, surveys, ratings, and documents. Qualification starts with a simple request based on supplier name, country, email, and unique (DUNS) identifier. Based on the supplier category, the next step will be to send the suppliers the qualification surveys and pull in the external risk information, send it to technical and risk reviewers, and if that passes, it will go off to compliance to ensure the supplier can comply with all necessary regulations the company is subject to and then, if that passes, the supplier will get a registration invite to provide all of the additional information necessary to do business with the company as well as details on additional products and services.

Supplier Management captures all of the core company information, locations, accounts, questionnaires, risk information and scores, compliance reviews, scorecards, and approvals. For each of these there are standard fields, and as many additional fields can be added by the customer organization as needed.

Compliance Management

Collects and manages the organizational policies, supplier policy statements, compliance surveys, audits, risks, scorecards, and complaints. It can accept all documents, support custom surveys, import third party data from financial and environmental (and other) risk providers, provide you with compliance scorecards, and automatically extract and centralize all “risks” from the surveys based on scores and/or responses in a risk management view.

Moreover, in full compliance with the German Supply Chain Act (GSCA, known as the LkSG within Germany), MeRLIN provides the buying organization, each of their suppliers, and their entire employee base, a unique portal where they can register complaints. They have upgraded their platform to fully support the GSCA and can also support other supply chain acts as well (and future releases will encode more out-of-the-box support, even though it can already be custom figured on a client-by-client basis to support the majority of acts out there).

Requisition

Requisitions can be used as traditional requisitions for purchase orders against existing contracts for goods and services normally used by the company or as intake requests for sourcing. When they are used as intake requests, they go to a central management screen where the buyer can group them by material, bill of material, and/or category to identify sourcing event requirements and then create a sourcing event off of a bundle of them.

Sourcing

Sourcing is primarily RFX based, but auctions are supported as well off of base RFQs. A sourcing event can be kicked off from one or more requisitions, a category, a BoM, or an event template, which can consist of one or more RFIs, questionnaires, and line-items with custom price breakdowns in the RFQ. Associated with the RFQ can be the suppliers, addendums, budgets, stakeholders, terms and conditions, contract template, event schedule, and ongoing Q&A.

In addition to being able to review bids by total cost per unit and evaluation score (by the relevant stakeholders), the application also supports automatic award recommendation by criteria which can include target award by supplier, range of suppliers to split the award between, minimum and maximum shares, and preferred supplier status.

Contract “Authoring” & Management

The platform is primarily “signature” and “execution” management, as authoring is simply the packing up of contract templates, terms and conditions, specifications, and associated addendums for agreement by electronic signature. The electronic signature capability is compliant with USA regulations and most European regulations for private enterprise contracts. Once the contract is signed, the platform can manage the project timeline, stakeholders, documents, events, milestones, and obligations. In addition, the user can define alerts against any event, milestone, document, obligation or other entity on status change or due date.

Reporting & Dashboards

Reporting and Analysis in MeRLIN is through widget-based dashboards that summarize any data of interest in the system. Right now there are hundreds to select from in the reporting library, with more being added as needed. For each of the built in reports and dashboards (on suppliers, spend, process, etc.), the user can apply multiple filter options and save the configuration to their liking. There is no Do-It-Yourself (DiY) widget report builder yet, but more DiY analytics enhancement is on the roadmap.

Strategic Project Management

This is MeRLIN‘s built in project management capability where a user can define and instantiate RFX templates, supplier onboarding workflows, contracting processes from award specifications, procurement processes, and even entire Source-to-Procure projects which collect all of the necessary templates and workflows together. In addition, leadership is provided with a high level overview of sourcing projects.

Master Data Management

All of the system master data templates can be altered by the user including, but not limited to, currencies and conversions, items, locations, plants, prices, suppliers, contract metadata and milestones, and other key items. The customer can control it’s master data and master data identifiers.

Business Administration

All of the templates in the system can be managed and customized in the business administration section including, but not limited to supplier onboarding, qualification, evaluation, and audit questionnaires, product and item templates, requisitions, RFQs, purchase orders, contract terms, contracts, statements of work, email, and workflow templates.

Bill of Materials Manager

A key aspect of Direct Sourcing is managing the Bill of Materials. In the Merlin platform, that can be done through the BOM Manager, which unlike basic direct sourcing platforms, can maintain as many versions of a Bill Of Materials as the organization wants to maintain (for correlation with historical sourcing and procurement and cost estimates during new product design and/or product modification).

These versions can be uploaded from the ERP (or your PLM of choice with custom integration) or created in the BOM Manager, and this creation can be from scratch or from a previous BoM version which can be copied and modified as needed.

The best part of MeRLIN‘s BOM manager is its built-in ability to allow for easy should-cost analysis during NPD and BOM (re)design. Once a BOM has been uploaded or created, the user can click a button to “cost” and it will automatically find prices for every component in the BOM for which it has a price from a contract (first), catalog/commitment (second), or quote (third). Then, the user can push the remaining items to the Demand Management module for quick quote (or import into the internal catalog from a connected source) or simply create a place holder item (with an estimated cost). They can then return to the BOM Manager and re”cost” the BOM to get a complete cost estimate, which can be compared against the cost of all prior BoM versions (that were costed). This allows the organization to understand the costs associated with BOM changes over time (independent of supplier or distributor pricing changes). Gone are the days where you have to use a completely separate application to do BOM cost estimation.

Finally, the next update to the BOM Manager will allow for the user to enter a cost estimate directly in the BOM manager for materials/parts not yet quoted for even quicker price estimates, and those estimates will be clearly marked as internal estimates only.

Other Capabilities

We’re not going to discuss the procurement modules as they are not MeRLIN‘s focus (but we will assure you that they cover the foundations if you don’t have P2P and need it), demand management as you know what forecasting should do, category management (and category strategy management) as that is rather self explanatory, or finance management, as budget and price management is also straight forward.

The Full Picture

The platform is quite deep in all core areas and one could write pages about each module and its deep capabilities, but hopefully this is enough to convey the facts that

  • the MeRLIN platform was designed from the ground up to support direct and discrete sourcing,
  • has the capability to support these projects from inception to contract signing through the very last order against the award, and
  • goes beyond just raw sourcing capability to related capabilities of supplier risk, compliance, and execution (tracking the order to the delivery and qualification)

CONCLUSION

Given the relative lack of true direct and discrete sourcing platforms in the mid-market, MeRLIN is a platform you should definitely be aware of. If you’re in direct manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, and related industries, you might want to check them out today.


It’s for discrete wizards,
it’s a platform with a twist.
A discrete wizard
needs a tech assist …

DEAR ENTERPRISE PROCUREMENT SOFTWARE BUYER: THERE ARE NO FREE RFPs!

This shouldn’t have to be said (again), but apparently it does since Zip has relaunched the FREE RFP madness in Source-to-Pay (that began in 2006 when Procuri first aggressively launched the Sourcing, Supplier Management, Contract Management, and Spend Analysis RFPs) with an RFP that is intake heavy, orchestrate light, process deficient, and, like many RFPs before, completely misses some of the key points when going to market for a technology solution. (Especially since there isn’t a single FREE RFP template from a vendor that isn’t intrinsically weighted towards the vendor’s solution, as it’s always written from the viewpoint of what the vendor believes is important.)

the doctor has extensively written about RFPs and the RFP process here on SI in the past, but, at a high level, a good RFP specifies:

  • your current state,
    it does NOT leave this out leaving the vendor to guess your technical and process maturity
  • what you need the solution to do
    NOT just a list of feature/functions
  • what ecosystem you need the solution to work in
    NOT just a list of protocols or APIs that must be supported
  • where the data will live
    and, if in the solution, how you will access it (for free) for exports and off-(vendor-)site backups, do NOT leave this out
  • what support you need from the vendor
    NOT just whether the vendor offers integration / implementation services and their hourly / project rate
  • any specific services you would like from the vendor
    NOT a list of all services you might want to buy someday
  • what the precise scope of the RFP is if it is part of a larger project
    NOT a blanket request for the vendor to “address what they can”
  • what regulations and laws you are subject to that the vendor must support
    NOT just an extensive list of every standard and protocol you can think of
  • what languages and geographies and time zones you need supported
  • any additional requirements the vendor will need to adhere to based on the regulations you or the vendor would be subject to and additional requirements your organization puts in place
    NOT endless forms of every question you can think of that might never be relevant
  • your goal state,
    it does NOT leave the vendor to guess what you are looking for (note that “goal” defines what you want to achieve, it is up to the vendor to define how they will help you achieve it)
  • what (management) processes you use to work with vendors — and —
  • what collaboration tools you make available to vendors and what your expectations are of them

And it is only created after a current state assessment, goal state specification, and key use-case identification so that it is relatively clear on organization needs and vendors have no excuse to provide a poor response.

Furthermore, a good RFP does NOT contain:

  • requests for features/functions you don’t currently need (but you can ask for a roadmap)
  • specific requests for a certain type of AI/ML/Analytics/Optimization/etc. when you don’t even know what that tech actually does — let the vendor tell you, and then show you, how their tech solves their problem
    (after all, there are almost NO valid uses for Gen-AI in S2P)
  • specific requests on the technology stack, when it doesn’t matter if they use Java or Ruby, host on AWS or Azure, etc.
  • requests for audits (tech, environmental, social welfare, etc.) when you haven’t selected the vendor for an award, pending a successful negotiation
  • requests for service professional resumes when you haven’t selected the vendor for an award that includes professional service, pending a successful negotiation
  • requests for financials, when you haven’t selected the vendor for an award pending a successful negotiation
    (because these last three [3] will scare some vendors off and possibly prevent the best vendor for you from even acknowledging your RFP exists)

And, a good RFP, goes to the right providers! This means that you need to select providers with the right type of solution you need before you issue the RFP, and then only issue to providers that you know offer that type of solution. (You can use analyst reports here if you like to identify potential vendors, but remember these maps cannot be used for solution selection! You will then need to do some basic research to make sure the vendor appears to fit the criteria.)

And if there are a lot of potential providers, you may need to do a RFI — Request for Interest / Intent (to Bid) — where you specify at a high level what the RFP you intend to issue is for, and if you get a lot of positive responses, do an initial call with the providers to confirm not only interest but the solution offered is relevant to your organization. (After all, at the end of the day, as The Revelator is quick to point out, it’s as much about the people behind the technology as the technology itself if you expect to be served by the provider.)

And even if you don’t need to an RFI before the RFP, you should still reach out to the vendors you want to respond, let them know the RFP is coming, and let them know you’ve done your research, believe they are one of the top 5 vendors, and are looking forward to their response. (Otherwise, you might find you don’t get as many responses as you’d hope for as vendors prioritize RFPs that they believe they have a good shot at winning vs. random unexpected RFP requests from unknown companies.)

At the end of the day, if you don’t know:

  • what the main categories of S2P+ solutions are
  • what the typical capabilities of a solution type are, what’s below, average or above
  • who the vendors are
  • how to determine your current state of process maturity (and how that compares to the industry, market, and best-in-class) and what a solution could do for you
  • how to evaluate a vendor’s solution
  • how to evaluate a vendor overall
  • how to write a good RFP that balances core business, tech, and solution requirements to maximize your chances of finding a good vendor for you

and the reality is that you most likely don’t (as less than 10% of Procurement departments are world class, as per Hackett research going back to the 2000s where they also determined the typical journey for an organization to become best-in-class in Procurement was 8 years, and that’s the minimum requirement to write a world-class technology RFP), then you should engage help from an expert to help you craft that RFP, be it an independent consultant or firm that specializes in Procurement transformation.

It is also critically important that the firm you select to help you needs to be neutral (not aligned with one solution provider who refers implementations to them in return for potential customer referrals) and that the firm does not rely on analyst maps either!

If you want help, the doctor has relationships with leading, neutral, firms on both sides of the pond who can help you, and who he will work with to make sure the technology / solution component is precisely what you need to get the right responses from vendors. Simply contact the doctor (at) sourcinginnovation [dot] com if you would like help getting it right.

Simply put, getting help with your technology RFP is the best insurance money you can spend. When you considering that, all in, these solutions will cost seven (7) or eight (8) figures over just a few years, you should be willing to spend 5% to 10% of the initial contract value to make sure you get it right. (Especially when there isn’t a single Private Equity Firm that wouldn’t invest in a technology player without doing a six [6], if not seven [7] figure due diligence first … and sometimes the firm will do this and then walk away! At least in your case, when you work with someone who can identify multiple potential vendors, you’re certain to find one at the end of the day.)

CF Suite for your Consumer-Friendly Source-to-Contract Needs

Founded in 2004 to help public and private sector companies save money through reverse auctions, the Curtis Fitch Solution has expanded since then to offer a source-to-contract procurement solution, which includes extensive supplier onboarding evaluation, performance management, contract lifecycle management, and spend and performance management. Curtis Fitch offers the following capabilities in its solution.

Supplier Insight

CF Supplier Insights is their supplier registration, onboarding, information, and relationship management solution. It supports the creation and delivery of customized questionnaires, which can be associated with organizational categories anywhere in the 4-level hierarchy supported, so that suppliers are only asked to provide information that the organization needs for their qualification. You can track insurance and key certification requirements, with due dates for auto-reminders, to enable suppliers to self-serve. Supplier Insights offers task-oriented dashboards to help a buyer or evaluator focus in on what needs to be done.

The supplier management module presents supplier profiles in a clear and easy to view way, showing company details, registration audit, location, and contact information, etc.. You can quickly view an audit trail of any activity that the supplier is linked to in CF Suite, including access to onboarding questionnaires, insurance and certification documents, events they were involved in, quotes they provided, contracts that were awarded, categories they are associated with, and balanced scorecards.

When insurance and certifications are requested, so is the associated metadata like coverage, award date, expiry date, and insurer/granter. This information is monitored, and both the buyer and supplier are alerted when the expiration date is approaching. The system defines default metadata for all suppliers, but buyers can add their own fields as needed.

It’s easy to search for suppliers by name, status, workflow stage, and location, or simply scan through them by name. The buyer can choose to “hide” suppliers that have not completed the registration process and they will not be available for sourcing events or contracting.

e-Sourcing

CF eSourcing is their sourcing project management and RFx platform where a user can define event and RFx templates, create multi-round sourcing projects, evaluate the responses using weighted scoring and multi-party ratings, define awards, and track procurement spend against savings. Also, all of the metadata is available for scorecards, contracting, and event creation, so if a supplier doesn’t have the necessary coverage or certification, the supplier can be filtered out of the event, or the buyer can proactively ensure they are not invited.

Events can be created from scratch but are usually created from templates to support standardization across the business. An RFx template can define stakeholders, suppliers (or categories), and any sourcing information, including important documentation. In addition, a procurement workplan can be designed to reflect any sign off gates as necessary when supporting the appropriate public sector requirements some buying organizations must adhere to.

Building RFx templates is easy to do and there’s a variety of question styles available, depending on the response required from the vendor (i.e. free text, multichoice, file upload, financial etc.) RFx’s can be built by importing question sets, linking to supplier onboarding information, or via a template. The tool offers tender evaluation with auto-weighting and scoring functionality (based on values or pre-defined option selections). Their clients’ buyers can invite stakeholders to evaluate a tender and what the evaluator scores can be pre-defined. In addition, when it comes to RFQs for gathering the quotes, it supports total cost breakdowns and arbitrary formulas. Supplier submissions and quotes can be exported to Excel, including any supplier document.

The one potential limitation is that there is not a lot of built in analysis / side-by-side comparison for price analysis in Sourcing, as most buyers prefer to either do their analysis in Excel or use custom dashboards in analytics.

In addition, e-Sourcing events can be organized into projects that can not only group related sourcing events, and provide an overarching workflow, but can also be used to track actuals against the historical baseline and forecasted actuals for a realized savings calculation.

e-Auctions

CF Suite also includes CF Auctions. There are four styles of auction available for running both forward and reverse auctions; English, Sequential, Dutch, and Japanese auctions, which can all be executed and managed in real time. Auctions are easy to define and very easy to monitor by the buying organization as they can see the current bid for each supplier and associated baseline and target information that is hidden from the suppliers, allowing them to track progress against not only starting bids, but goals and see a real-time evaluation of the benefit associated with a bid.

Suppliers get easy to use bidding views, and depending on the settings, suppliers will either see their current rank or distance from lowest bid and can easily update their submissions or ask questions. Buyers can respond to suppliers one-on-one or send messages to all suppliers during the auction.

In addition, if something goes wrong, buyers can manage the event in real time and pause it, extend it, change owners, change supplier reps, and so on to ensure a successful auction.

Contract Management

CF Contracts Contract management enables procurement to build high churn contracts with limited and / or no clause changes, for example, NDAs or Terms of Service. CF Contracts has a clause library, workflow for internal sign off, and integrated redline tracking. Procurement can negotiate with suppliers through the tool, and once a contract has been drafted in CF Suite, the platform can be used to track versions, see redlines, accept a version for signing, and manage the e-Signature process. If CF Suite was used for sourcing, then if a contract is awarded off the back of an event, the contract can be linked with the award information from the sourcing module.

Most of their clients focus on using contracts as a central contract repository database to improve visibility of key contract information, and to feed into reporting outputs to support the management of the contract pipeline, including contract spend and contract renewals.

The contract database includes a pool of common fields (i.e. contract title, start and end dates, contract values etc.) and their clients can create custom fields to ensure the contract records align with their business data. Buyers can create automated contract renewal alerts that can be shared with the contract manager, business stakeholders or the contract management team, as one would expect from a contract management module.

Supplier Scorecards

CF Scorecards is their compliance, risk, and performance management solution that collates ongoing supplier risk management information into a central location. CF Suite uses all of this data to create a 360 degree supplier scorecard for managing risk, performance and development on an ongoing basis.

The great thing about scorecards is that you can select the questionnaires and third-party data you want to include, define the weightings, define the stakeholders who will be scoring the responses that can’t be auto-scored, and get a truly custom 360-degree scorecard on risk, compliance, and/or performance. You can attach associated documents, contracts, supplier onboarding questionnaires, third party assessments, and audits as desired to back up the scorecard, which provides a solid foundation for supplier performance, risk, and compliance management and development plan creation.

Data Analytics

Powered by Qlik, CF Analytics provides out-of-the-box dashboards and reports to help analyze spend, manage contract pipelines and lifecycles, track supplier onboarding workflow and status, and manage ongoing supplier risk . Client organizations can also create their own dashboards and reports as required, or Curtis Fitch can create additional dashboards and reports for the client on implementation. Curtis Fitch has API integrations available as standard for those clients that wish to analyse data in their preferred business tool, like Power BI, or Tableau.

The out-of-the-box dashboards and reports are well designed and take full advantage of the Qlik tool. The process management, contract/supplier status dashboard, and performance management dashboards are especially well thought out and designed. For example, the project management dashboard will show you the status of each sourcing project by stage and task, how many tasks are coming due and overdue, the total value of projects in each stage, and so on. Other process-oriented dashboards for contracts and supplier management are equally well done. For example, the contract management dashboard allows you to filter in by supplier category, or contract grouping and see upcoming milestones in the next 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days as well as overdue milestones.

The spend dashboards include all the standard dashboards you’d expect in a suite, and they are very easy to use with built-in filtering capability to quickly drill down to the precise spend you are interested in. The only down-side is they are OLAP based, and updates are daily. However, they are considering adding support for one or more BoB spend analysis platforms for those that want more advanced analytics capability.

Overall

It’s clear that the Curtis Fitch platform is a mature, well thought out, fleshed out platform for source to contract for indirect and direct services in both the public and private sector and a great solution not only for the global FTSE 100 companies they support, but the mid-market and enterprise market. It’s also very likely to be adopted, a key factor for success, because, as we pointed out in our headline, it’s very consumer friendly. While the UI design might look a bit dated (just like the design of Sourcing Innovation), it was designed that way because it’s extremely usable and, thus, very consumer friendly.

Curtis Fitch have an active roadmap, following development best practices, alongside scoping workshops, where they partner with their clients to ensure new features and benefits are based on user requirements. Many modern applications with flashy UIs, modern hieroglyphs, and text-based conversational interfaces might look cool, but at the end of the day sourcing professionals want to get the job done and don’t want to be blinded by vast swathes of functionality when looking for a specific feature. Procurement professionals want a well-designed, intuitive, guided workflow, a ‘3-clicks and I’m there’ style application that will get the job done efficiently and effectively. This is what CF Suite offers.

Conclusion

While there are some limitations in award analysis (as most users prefer to do that in Excel) and analytics (as it’s built on QlikSense), and not a lot of functionality that is truly unique if you compare it to functionality in the market overall, it is one of the broadest and deepest mid-market+ suites out there and can provide a lot of value to a lot of organizations. In addition, Curtis Fitch also offers consulting and managed auction/RFX services which can be very helpful to an understaffed organization as they can get some staff augmentation / event support while also having full visibility into the process and the ability to take over fully when they are ready. If you’re looking for a tightly integrated, highly useable, easily adopted Source-to-Contract platform with more contract and supplier management ability than you might expect, include CF Suite in the RFP. It’s certainly worth an investigation.

You NEVER Have to Go Crazy on 3 Bids and a Buy!

This is a follow-up to last Friday’s article on RFP Everything? Are You Mad? Even The Squirrels Will Think You’re Nuts!,
which was in response to a LinkedIn Post where a consultant noted that a remarkable example of AI was autonomous tail spend RFP’s generating over 15,000 RFP’s annually through a programmed bot. the doctor‘s response to this was that it was absolutely terrifying. Sales professionals who are already over-inundated with ever more demanding RFQs where they know, statistically, they will only get 20% to 33% of the business if they are on par, and less of the business if they are not, are going to be so overwhelmed that they are going to have two options:

  • pick favourites and stop responding, or selling, to clients that over-inundate but under-buy or
  • acquire an auto-responder and counter auto-generated RFQs with auto-generated bids from their catalog, which may be good, bad, or pointless

Neither is good for the buying company. The counter to this was that there is a category of services which is one off and needs the collection of a number of competitive bids. The value of these services in the €10-100k bracket needed a tail spend management program for which we developed the automated ‘3 bids and a buy program’ … and there is no better way to organize it.

Which is totally not true, because the doctor saw a better way successfully implemented 16 years ago. Back in the day, Iasta (acquired by b-pack, renamed Determine, acquired by Corcentric) identified that one of the BEST uses for strategic sourcing decision optimization was services procurement (when most firms were still using it for indirect or fledgeling direct).

What they did was:

  1. identify all of the services their large mid-market clients would contract over the course of a year with typical durations
  2. collect bids from national, regional, & local providers
  3. build a huge optimization model which would identify the lowest cost providers for each service in each area and then make an annual award to a mix of national, regional, and local providers guaranteeing a certain volume / $-value of services across a certain number of service categories / roles across awarded service areas as long as the provider locked in the rates for a year

It was ingenious because, when the service was needed, the company simply sent the requisition to one of the chosen providers (lowest-cost first if available, or second-lowest if not or if they weren’t sending enough business to the second-lowest in other categories to meet the commitment).

ONE single RFQ event. One year of quotes negated. The approach regularly identified up to 40% savings, and realized up to 30% savings. David Bush and team were geniuses!

The morale of the story is this: if you think you need to send 15,000 auto-generated RFQs to get tail spend under control, you haven’t done enough thinking about, or analysis of, the problem!