Category Archives: RFX

ScoutRFP – Spreading their Silicon Sunlight from the Western Shore

When we last covered
ScoutRFP back in 2014, they were hoping to help laggard Procurement organizations leave the dark ages (Part I and Part II) and enter the modern age. Launching with nothing more than an easy RFP solution (which was a 15 year old solution at the time), ScoutRFP has taken off like a rocket in those organizations that needed an easy, lightweight, solution for everyday events with a price tag they could afford.

The RFP solution was, and still is, 100% SaaS and designed to work with minimal inputs. It guided the user through a minimal workflow to create the RFX, select the suppliers, evaluate the responses, and make a decision. It was very flexible, allowing the user to create the RFX to the level of detail they wanted, or keep it high level (and cut and paste the instructions and questions from Word). And it gave the organization visibility into, and some control of, spend. The CPO could define a hierarchy and see what everyone was doing, the directors could see what their teams were doing, and the buyers would see their events — and all the reports could roll up as well. It was simple, but it hit the suite spot of low complexity and low price for organizations trying to crawl out of the unlit Procurement dungeons.

It was such a hit that, based on this capability and reception alone, ScoutRFP was able to secure $2.75M of funding in 2015 (from NEA, Zapis Capital, and Google Ventures) to extend the platform and raise an additional $9M of funding this summer in a series A funding round. And move west (to San Francisco).

Since then, ScoutRFP has added basic e-Auction capability, project management and savings tracking, Supplier Information Management, and an improved Supplier Portal.

The platform now has the ability to track all requested, current, and upcoming sourcing events and their associated status; categorize the events using any desired organizational categorization scheme; quickly initiate new events (RFX or Auction) from the pipeline; and even auto-include re-sourcing events when contracts are set to expire. Requested events can come from any organizational stakeholder with budget or spending authority, and all spend can be placed under (minimal) management.

In addition to this new project management capability, the savings tracking capability can sum up all savings for a period of interest, in real-time, based upon (negotiated) price differentials and (expected/purchased) volumes, or savings numbers (to date) provided by appropriate Procurement or AP reps. The data is tracked in a drillable fashion and a manager can quickly see how the totals compare across categories, departments, and employees. This allows the manager to ensure that high-value categories get sourced first and that buyers who aren’t delivering value get training (or replaced).

The SIM functionality is basic. It allows the organization to track all supplier information of interest, tag the suppliers with key-phrases of interest (for quick selection by category capability, geography, performance, etc.), and build lists for quick selection in sourcing events. There’s no scorecarding or performance monitoring, but it can be used as a supplier master and it’s easy to get data in as supplier data can be loaded from existing platforms, and updated data can be pushed back out to existing platforms, using the API. And the platform makes it easy to track supplier activity — events they participated in, questions they asked, bids they made, and so on.

In the current version of the platform, suppliers can have their own portal where all of the bids they have been invited to by all of their customers are accessible through a single log in, or, if the supplier prefers [or customer(s) demand(s)], they can have a separate portal for each customer. The suppliers also have the same collaboration features available to the buyers and can invite their peers to collaborate on bids and survey responses.

The system is shaping up nicely and for an in-depth dive on ScoutRFP, and the platform, including its strenghts and weaknesses, see the recent Pro series [membership required] over on Spend Matters (Part I, Part II, and Part III) [membership required] by the doctor and the prophet.

marketdojo Opens the Dojo to Suppliers as Well

When we last checked in on MarketDojo with our posts on how you could walk your own way and plan your own path, they were a relatively new UK company that offered a basic e-Negotiation suite with category guidance. Not much, but when you consider you could:

  • try before you had to commit to a buy with their open sandpit,
  • pay per event, on your P-card and
  • see what suppliers see with toggle view

It was a good entry point for a mid-market Procurement organization that was stuck in the Procurement dark ages and unable to obtain budget for a modern suite (because the C-suite needed to have a guaranteed ROI).

While it was a good start, MarketDojo realized that is all it is — they needed that and more to conquer the mid-market, even in their native homeland. Once a lean, agile, over-tasked, and under-resourced mid-market Procurement organization gets their hand on a tool, they want to advance fast, learn faster, and apply it fast and furious — and they want to be as effective and efficient as possible.

For many companies, this means four things:

  • minimize data re-entry
  • minimize unnecessary supplier interaction
  • track relevant documents and sourcing artifacts
  • identify suppliers with potentially innovative capabilities

That is why MarketDojo has rolled out a full-featured supplier (information) management portal, called, obviously, SIMDojo and included innovation management in their primary offering (the InnovationDojo corner).

With their new SIMDojo offering, which can be used as part of the platform or standalone, which supports supplier self-identification and self-registration, buyers can create the appropriate questionnaires, have suppliers upload the appropriate documents, and lock supplier data (from updates). When suppliers change data, their profile is invalidated until reviewed by an appropriate sourcing professional, insuring only valid and validated suppliers can be included in sourcing events. The platform is simple to use on both sides, and some customers are buying it to augment other platforms they already have.

InnovationDojo is built on the RFX/Survey functionality in MarketDojo, but allows a buyer to issue innovation challenges, collect and score responses, include that information in RFPs, and track and manage innovation projects and responses separately. It’s basic, but it works quite well for the mid-market.

MarketDojo has also made functionality and usabiity enhancements to their platforms across the board, with template management in particular being noticeably improved. With few e-Sourcing companies left serving the mid-market, MarketDojo provides a solid offering, especially to those companies without (a modern) e-Sourcing solution that need to start quick, and keep it basic (to maximize efficiency and SUM [Spend Under Management]).

EC Sourcing: Getting Ready to Take the Mid-Market by Storm

When we last checked in on EC Sourcing, they had recently released an updated version of their basic e-Negotiation suite, Flex RFP, and their Supplier Corrective Action Reporting (SCAR) solution. Their e-Negotiation suite had straight-forward RFX, auctions, and a basic contract repository that was the 80% solution at the time. It couldn’t compete in the big leagues, but that wasn’t the focus — the focus was the majority of the market that the big players were ignoring (by selling overkill solutions the market didn’t need at a price point the market couldn’t afford).

The platform also had basic project management built in to allow customers to define projects — which include suppliers, users, RFXs and/or Auctions; message with users and suppliers — through integrated message boxes and e-mails; and define notifications in addition to standard project management features — such as timelines, state tracking, and document management. It also supported 4 languages, multi-currency, and formulas in auction and RFX weighting, it was a solid solution, which is further evidenced that about 1/3 of their client base are actually Global 3000s that realized that they didn’t need an overkill solution at an absurd price point to meet their daily sourcing needs.

Since we last checked in a few years ago, they have been developing steadily — improving both the base solution and adding new modules and capabilities, including some not found in the majority of e-Sourcing platforms (even when the big guys are included). They have added supplier management and workflow management and improved everything across the board (including, but not limited to, their internationalization with support for a dozen languages so far). The three biggest changes are:

Supplier Management

Their new supplier management module contains everything you would expect, including, but not limited to, self-registration, deep supplier meta-data management and search, and out-of-the-box Big ERP Integration. The supplier management module supports self-registration. When a supplier self-identifies, it will be presented with the default questionnaire(s), and upon initial review, the buyer can select the supplier for on-boarding, generate a full profile, and request that the supplier complete it. The buyer can define as many fields (across questionnaires) as they want, and each field can be tagged, filtered, and searched. Plus, the module, like the rest of the platform, integrates with JDE, Oracle, and SAP out of the box.

Workflow and Configuration

EC Sourcing has moved well beyond basic project management and now includes procurement request functionality (which can kick off a workflow outside of Procurement), deep approval and routing capability, customizeable status information associated with each task, and custom workflow definitions that allow a user to define a complete workflow for any sourcing project, with direct links into the relevant parts of the platform. All of these workflows are 100% configurable by the user, who can create them as templates, copy them, and customize them as needed for each sourcing project. Very few sourcing platforms have this capability, and no other mid-market solution has Procurement project management at this level of configurability and completeness.

e-Sourcing Automation Capabilities

It might sound trivial, but EC Sourcing’s new capabilities that allow the platform to:

  • automatically identify and invite all approved suppliers for a product/category
  • automatically attach specifications to an RFX on a line-item basis
  • automatically calculate advanced weightings and scorings (when the event is created from a template using advanced lots)

is extremely powerful, especially for large events and junior buyers.

Some categories (like office suppliers, MRO, etc.) have hundreds of line items and, for national (and international operations) that are collectively provided by thousands of suppliers. Even if each product or service specification (document set) can be located, uploaded, and attached in 2 minutes, for 210 items, that’s 6 hours of manual labour. And if there are 5 potential suppliers for each item, and no supplier can supply more than 50, it’s easy to conceive that there may be 1,000 different, pre-approved, suppliers. The manual time it would take to identify those 1,000 suppliers and then identify the lots they are allowed to bid on and configure that could be days.

However, with EC Sourcing’s auto-identification and auto-association capability, all approved suppliers in the SIM database can be automatically identified and invited to just the portion of the RFX/e-Auction they have been qualified to bid on and, if the documents follow a naming convention, all of the specification documents can be uploaded in a single zip file and the system will automatically extract the documents and associated them with the line, lot, or event as appropriate. This, as we noted above, can save days of a buyer’s time.

With the recent acquisition of classic mid-market leaders like Iasta (by Selectica, now Determine) and MarketMaker4 (by Xchanging), there are few providers that have been around since the noughts, fewer still with as mature a platform, and even fewer still with almost 2 decades of strategic sourcing advisory and consulting (which is how EC Sourcing started out before it realized that an organization could be much more effective powered by a proper platform as opposed to just a crack sourcing team with limited bandwidth). As a result, EC Sourcing is poised to make a big splash in the mid-market, and with the recent release of its newly upgraded solution, is sure to make one in the years to come.

If You Are Going to Create RFPs – Avoid RFP Hell

And Write Better RFPs!

On Sunday, in Why Create RFP Hell? we referenced a post by Larry Bodine that he posted over ten (10) years ago over on the Law Marketing Blog on Why Go to RFP Hell where we noted that, as a vendor, the last thing you want to do is answer an RFP. Especially a poorly designed RFP, because it is the only thing worse than the Spreadsheet Hell you have to endure to manage your Sourcing Project Pipeline (unless, of course, you have a Sourcing CRM solution, like Per Angusta described in yesterday’s post).

Since the last thing you want to do is be on the receiving end of a bad RFP, the very last thing you want to do is issue a bad one. If you don’t drive away the best suppliers, you will at least put them off and they will not be all that excited about giving you a great solution or putting their best effort into the project. So, as we indicated in Sunday’s post, you really need to Write Better RFPs (membership required). And the new Plus series co-authored by the doctor and the maverick is designed to help you do all that. All five (5) parts of the series are now up, and can be found here:

  1. Intro & Issues
  2. Requirements
  3. Provider Secrets
  4. Buyer Best Practices
  5. Tech Benefits

So how will this series help you write better RFPs? Instead of telling you what an RFP is, specifying the section, and giving you a template with hundreds of useless questions that will have respondents pulling out their hair (and searching for the closest voodoo shop with your linked in profile picture in hand), it addresses a number of key requirements of RFPs that most guides will fail to tell you.

For example, what is more important to keep in mind when writing an RFP — the supplier limits, or your limits? Most people would say “supplier limits” because the supplier will be providing a product or service and you need to know the extent of their capability. And while this is true, it’s more important to know your limits. If you don’t know your limits, you end up asking questions that are too detailed and that effectively only allow suppliers that fit in a neat little box to respond — a neat little box that might represent last year, or last decade’s solution. An initial RFP needs very open, broad, questions that allow a top-notch, engaged, interested supplier to show their capabilities, not just the subset you think you are interested in. Success is describing the desired end, not the acceptable means. If the supplier can host their software on a quantum computer, all the better for you.

And while you might need to Cover Your @ss, Asking CYA questions is pointless. No supplier who takes the time to fill out a 20 page RFP is going to say “NO” knowing that it could be an immediate disqualification. And while you will want to disqualify any supplier unable or unwilling to meet necessary conditions by the first delivery date, you do not want to disqualify a supplier who does not have sufficient insurance now, because, for the right contract, many suppliers will increase their insurance, change their operational practices, and participate in optional sustainability improvement programs. Simply create an attachment that lists, in detail, necessary insurance requirements, and mandatory certifications and audits, minimally acceptable codes of conduct, and any other inflexible requirements and explicitly state that any supplier unable to meet these requirements by a certain date will be disqualified in the next round and that any suppliers selected for the next round (which could be in-person negotiations) will have to verify the ability to meet all of the attached terms and conditions before they will be allowed to continue in the sourcing process. If you take the time to specify all this in detail, the supplier will know your organization is serious, but that it is willing to give a good supplier until the product or services delivery date to meet the requirements. The better suppliers will self-select.

The reality is, as per our in-depth Provider Secrets article, suppliers, and the best suppliers in particular, have a lot of reasons to ignore your RFP. If you want the best suppliers to respond, it has to be a good RFP (for a decent size project which clearly conveys that the best supplier, whether or not it already does business with the organization, has a solid chance of winning some business).

If you follow the tips and tricks in Buyer Best Practices, your chances will improve considerably, especially if you use a good RFP creation tool that makes it easy to engage organizational stakeholders, gather supplier responses, and compare them side-by-side in a meaningful manner (that goes beyond just a weighted scorecard). So check out the series (membership required) and learn to Write Better RFPs today.

Why Create RFP Hell?

Over ten (10) years ago, over on the LawMarketing Blog, Larry Bodine asked Why Go to RFP Hell? in response to a fellow lawyer who asked how her firm could get more RFPs for legal work from corporations. This question is as relevant today as it was then.

As Mr. Bodine quite astutely noted, RFPs are onerous chores leading to hideous events where clients get the chance to dictate terms, chisel down your fees and turn you into a fungible commodity. Nobody wants to be fungible. Moreover, RFPs were liked to competing to be the first to be hanged.

Why? RFPs were typically 50-page monstrosities divided into a dozen sections that required a complete history of relevant litigation, minority hiring statistics, alternative fee arrangements, financials, references, industry knowledge, and so on — all to make a short-list. At which time, if the firm was not considerably better than the incumbent in the eyes of the buyer, they would not see a penny. It is a hell.

A hell unnecessarily created by buyers who believe that they cannot even consider a supplier for an event before they know everything there is to know, even though a single piece of information can disqualify the supplier from consideration before any negotiations ever begin.

This is not a good thing to do. A company with a reputation for putting its potential suppliers though RFP hell is not one that many suppliers will want to deal with. The more a supplier’s peers complain about RFP hell with Company X, the fewer are the suppliers who will even acknowledge the existence of an RFP from Company X. As the word of RFP Hell from Company X spreads, the only suppliers that will respond to an RFP from Company X are those that are desperate. Those in bad financial shape, those without a stable customer base, and those with a bad reputation. These are not suppliers you want to deal with.

If you need to cast a wide net to find new suppliers, start with an RFI that only requests enough information to determine whether or not an RFP response from a supplier can be seriously considered. And before this RFI is issued, make sure to understand the category need in detail and what the absolutes are and that the RFI addresses each absolute. If multi-lingual support is an absolute, if a platform that encrypts 100% of data is an absolute, if a company with a headquarters in a country where it can be held responsible and liable for its products is required, or if a company with a factory with certain equipment is required, the relevant questions should be asked in the RFI. You should never ask a supplier to complete a 50-page RFP until you are sure the supplier can meet every absolute requirement. You can ask them even if their chances, based upon their initial RFI response, are less than 1% (as long as you make the award criteria, and weightings, abundantly clear), but not if their chances are known to be zero. (With complete requirements, award factors, and weightings clearly known, a supplier should be able to determine its own chances and determine whether or not its investment of time is worth it.)

And then, make sure that if you need a supplier to complete a lengthy RFP, that the RFP is well written. For details on how to write better RFPs, see the ongoing series over on Spend Matters Plus (membership required) by the anarchist, the maverick, and the doctor, of which 3 parts are already up.