Category Archives: Sourcing-Maniacs

The Sourcing Maniacs 2008 Vendor Tour Part 20: Ketera

This post is a wee bit lengthy, so I’ve broken it into kidding and Ketera.


  the maniacs are enjoying themselves somewhere in Alberta
Wakko Hee Haw!
Dot That was a classic, wasn’t it. Did you know it had Canadian roots?
Wakko Yippie Ki Yo Yippie Yay!
Dot We’re in Alberta, not Texas, Wakko!
  ring, ring
Yakko Yakkos Yiddish Yamakas … cheery caps for cheery chaps!
Australian Accent G’day, Mates! You wanted a demo of Ketera?
  if you’ll recall, back in part 12 (Kinaxis) the maniacs asked Ketera for a demo … they were too busy at the time, but promised to get back to the maniacs
Yakko Yes, we did.
Australian Accent Ace! Could you do it now?
Australian Accent Is that a Brumby I hear? Is this a good time for you blokes?
Yakko It’s just fine. I’ll fire up the satellite and we’re good to go!
Australian Accent Bonzer!
Are you out in the bush, mate?
Yakko No, we’re just enjoying the ranch.
Australian Accent Texas?
Yakko Alberta.
Australian Accent You’re in the Back of Bourke, aren’t you?
Yakko I guess you could say that.
Australian Accent You’re sure it’s a Mickey Mouse time for you?
Yakko No problem. I’m ready.
Dot I’m ready.
Yakko We just need to wrangle Wakko. One sec.
Get your strides over here now!
Wakko Why?
Yakko It’s time for the Ketera demo!
Wakko Now? Here?
Yakko We got sattelite internet, remember?
Wakko glumly
o. k.
Dot You can get back to having fun as soon as we’re done!
Wakko cheering up
  Wakko moseys on over.
Yakko We’re ready to give it a fair go!


Australian Accent switching to his best American for the demo
Today I’m going to run through our new e-Sourcing application. It’s pretty straight-forward, so it won’t take much time.
  unlike the maniacs’ walkabout …
Yakko No problem! Take it away.
Australian Accent I should start off by noting that what we noticed was that a lot of people were spending a lot of money on enterprise sourcing applications without using the full extent of their capabilities … most of our catalog, procurement, and supply network customers were just using e-RFX and e-Auction and most of those customers were just using single round RFXs and traditional reverse auctions … not the dozen or so variants that have sprung up over the last ten years.

We saw the need for a low-cost 80% solution that would give the market what we felt it needed most … a basic sourcing solution for small and mid-size companies without large budgets or sophisticated software needs. And that’s what we built.

Our e-Sourcing solution is just RFX and Reverse Auction … and unlike many enterprise applications that take hours, if not days, to set an event up … our solution allows an event to be configured in minutes using a very simple 3-step process.

Step 1: Create a new event.
Step 2: Specify the items and item details.
Step 3: Invite suppliers.
  Then you just sit back, and watch prices tumble.

Yakko If it’s that easy, is it really an 80% solution?
Australian Accent Think about it. How much does an e-RFX and e-Auction solution really have to do?
Yakko Well, one thing we learned from talking to Source One about WhyAbe is that, for many categories, and many small to mid-size companies, it doesn’t have to do that much.
Australian Accent Precisely. And their offering is actually a good starting point to understand our offering.
Yakko So how does your offering compare to theirs?
Australian Accent Quite good. We both have the bare minimum requirements for e-RFX and e-Auction, but whereas, in our view, they’re more of a 60% to 70% solution, we add a few features that, although they sound like bells and whistles, are actually necessary for an 80% solution in today’s global e-Sourcing marketplace.
Yakko Like what?
Australian Accent Localization. Contract tracking. Fine-grained scoring on RFX questionnaires. Microsoft Excel integration. Templates. Instant-Messaging and Alerts. Customizable dashboards. Supplier Master Management. Wizards for each step of the process. The little things that make it easy, useful, and a pleasure to use — all embedded in a streamlined application with a carefully designed UI that buyers want to use.

And, unlike many other e-Sourcing platforms, it’s a low-cost, self-service, pay-as-you-go platform.

Yakko How low?
Australian Accent $39.99/month for unlimited RFIs, RFPs, RFQs, and reverse auctions. Plus, you get instant access to thousands of suppliers in the Ketera network.
Yakko Beaut!
Australian Accent Too right!
Yakko Anything else we should know?
Australian Accent It’s very easy to administrate, and the item and supplier master views support numerous filters for quick location of the appropriate item or supplier. It’s straightforward to enter proxy bids on behalf of a supplier. All of the reports have decent graphic capabilities. We support the UNSPSC schema for item categorization. And it has basic project tracking capability — you can quickly see your open events, events requiring bid evaluation, and recently evaluated events at any time.
Yakko So it really is a decent sourcing solution for small and mid-size companies just starting out on their e-Sourcing journey, or those companies without sophisticated sourcing needs.
Australian Accent We think so. And, as I said before, very easy to set-up a sourcing event.
Wakko I’m out of baloney. How long to set up an event to source a 3-months supply?
Australian Accent Five minutes. Watch.
  five minutes pass as the salesperson demos the tool
Wakko That’s it?
Australian Accent That’s it!
Wakko Fair suck of the sav!
Apparently, Wakko has his Aussie down pat! If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was from the Never Never!
Yakko Well, thanks for the demo. It certainly is an interesting take on the e-Sourcing space. A sourcing tool that every business can afford.
Australian Accent Thank you. Hooroo, Journo!
Wakko Hooroo, mate.

The Sourcing Maniacs 2008 Vendor Tour Part 19: Servigistics

Today’s post is a little length, so it’s been broken up into Survey, Service, and Servigistics.


Wakko in a pie shop, somewhere outside of Boston
What’s taking so long?
Dot It’s only been twenty seconds!
Wakko But I want my pie now!
Dot When don’t you want pie?
Wakko When I want baloney.
Yakko Figures.
So, SupplierSoft‘s supplier management applications, built on Salesforce were really cool.
Dot Who knew that SRM, like CRM, had so many fundamental similarities … that both required extensive information management capabilities.
So, where are we off to now?
Yakko Are we still on the S’s?
How about Saqqara?
Dot What do they do?
Yakko e-Procurement and Item Master Management I believe.
Dot Anything unique on the e-Procurement Side?
Yakko I think it’s primarily catalog and content management.
Dot Probably worth checking them out. Where are they?
Yakko They’re back in California.
Dot I’m still not ready to go back yet. Who else?
Yakko SciQuest?
Dot Aren’t they working with Emptoris now?
Yakko I think so. Maybe we shouldn’t bother. I’d hate to trek all the way back to North Carolina just to be shut out again.
Dot Do you really think they’d do that?
Yakko I don’t know. I do know that the doctor hasn’t covered them, despite the fact he thinks they’re important enough to make his Vendor Day listing, so I’m not taking that as a positive either.
Dot Okay. So we’ll leave them until we happen to be back in the area. Who else is there that starts with S? Didn’t the doctor tell us the name of a company that starts with S that we were supposed to check out?
Yakko I think he did! Let me check my notes.

Here it is … Servigistics!
Dot SERVIce loGISTICS? What on earth would they do?
Yakko I haven’t a clue. Maybe we should check out the doctor‘s posts for some background. I’m getting a little tired of looking stupid …
glaring at Wakko
Wakko What I’d do now?
Yakko ignoring Wakko
According to the doctor, in his post Servigistics – Tomorrow’s Strategic Service Management Today, Servigistic’s does strategic service management, particularly in the areas of parts, pricing, and workforce management.
Dot What’s strategic service management?
Yakko According to his wiki-paper, it is a proactive approach to satisfying the customer in a manner that is both efficient and profitable while balancing organizational strategy, resources, commitments, and pricing. Strategic Service Management supports the integration, optimization, and management of core business processes, adds to your overall business solution, and helps to differentiate your offering from that of your competitors.”
Wakko That’s a mouthful. What does it mean?
Yakko Good question. Just a sec …
taking out his cell-phone
    ring … ring
the doctor Hello?
Yakko Hello, Doc. We have a question. Let me put you on speaker.
Yakko activates the speaker phone.
Wakko We don’t want to look stupid.
the doctor We’ve been over this already, Wakko. I’m not *that* kind of doctor. You want a plastic surgeon …
Yakko No, no. What Wakko means to say is that we’ve decided to go see Servigistics and we don’t want to show up not knowing anything about strategic service management. We’re getting tired of looking stupid because of our ignorance.
  We skip ahead a bit here. Part 16 filled in the blanks.
the doctor Okay. So what do you want to know?
Yakko When you say that “strategic service management is a proactive approach to satisfying the customer in a manner that is both efficient and profitable while balancing organizational strategy, resources, commitments, and pricing”, what do you mean.
the doctor That’s from the wiki-paper. Did you happen to read more than the first sentence?
Yakko The first paragraph …
the doctor If you’d learn some patience, and read the great materials that are available to you — at no cost, I might add– in full, you’d probably find that the wiki-paper answered most, if not all, of your questions.
Yakko Well can you give us the highlights?
the doctor I guess so. What, specifically, do you want to know?
Yakko Can you give us the nut?
the doctor But you already have Wakko.
Wakko Hey!


the doctor Well, when I say that strategic service management is a proactive approach to satisfying the customer in a manner that is both efficient and profitable while balancing organizational strategy, resources, commitments, and pricing, what I am effectively saying, if you’re a procurement organization, is that services are as important to your cost management initiatives as direct and indirect goods, and that, properly managed, they are a point of savings and revenue generation, and not just a cost.
Dot But how does that work? Services require people — who cost money, and tools — which cost money, and parts — which cost money.
the doctor Let’s break it down.
Wakko Break it down?
the doctor Yes. Let me ask you this. How many people? What tools? And how many parts?
Dot What do you mean?
the doctor Let’s say you have 10 people, but you could provide the same level of service with only 7 if you managed them better, or, preferably, manage service for a customer base that is 40% larger with the same number of staff! Let’s say you’re using an expensive ERP-based enterprise CRM but you could get away with a SaaS solution based on open source. And let’s say that you currently stock ten 225 KVA three-phase transformers, when you only use an average of two in any given month. How much more are you spending than you need to?
Dot A few thousand?
the doctor Try a few hundred thousand. A good service professional, depending on what you’re servicing, costs you somewhere in the 50 to 150 K band annually; ERP-based enterprise CRM systems often cost in the millions annually when the TCO is fleshed out, while a SaaS solution will often cost less than 100K; and those transformers list for 15K a-piece, storing eight more than you need at an annualized overhead of 35% is almost equal to one person’s annual salary.
Dot So good service management can really save you a bundle.
the doctor And make you a bundle too. What do business customers pay for?
Dot Goods and services.
the doctor And what goods and services do they pay more for?
Dot Uhmm .. the ones that provide more value?
the doctor That’s right. And how do you provide more value?
Dot Better products and services?
the doctor Yes, and value-added services to be precise. Good service management will allow you to deliver a better level of service than you do now, for less than it is costing you to deliver your current service level. And customers will not only pay for that, but they’ll likely pay a little more for that if you reduce their workload.
Wakko So strategic service management is about managing your people, parts, and technology in a way that allows you to do more with less and deliver more with less, decreasing your costs while increasing your revenues. It’s strategic sourcing, on steroids, for services.
the doctor stunned
You’ve got it, Wakko!
Yakko, does that answer your question?
Yakko I think so. Now can you tell us what Servigistics does?
the doctor I don’t want to spoil your fun. Go find out!


Yakko So now that we know what strategic service management is, let’s see if we can piece together what Servigistics does. In his post Servigistics – Tomorrow’s Strategic Service Management Today, the doctor indicates that Servigistic’s does strategic service management, particularly in the areas of parts, pricing, and workforce management. Then, in Workforce Management: A Servigistics Approach, the doctor dives into workforce management and says it is “a software-based solution that optimally plans and dispatches field service technicians and their properly stocked vehicles to a customer’s location in a timely manner in order to deliver on their service commitments” and that it will “typically addresses demand management, workforce scheduling, workforce dispatching, and mobility solutions”.

Diving in, the posts says that the Servigistics “workforce planning component forecasts workload to determine the appropriate workforce size, the scheduling engine automatically sets and adjust optimal assignments based upon available data and available rules and updates those assignments in real-time if a higher-priority service call enters the system, the web-based appointment request feature allows customers to self-schedule, and the service mobility solution not only enables workforce communication, but allows the technicians to indicate where they are in the delivery cycle”.

Dot It sounds pretty sophisticated.
Yakko Sure does. Let’s go talk to them.
  the maniacs travel from Boston to Atlanta, Georgia
Wakko tap, tap, tap goes the mini-mallet
Hello. Hello.
Sharp Dressed Man a sharp dressed businessman opens the door
Hello … oh no!
Wakko looking around in a confused manner
Sharp Dressed Man You!
Yakko You know who we are?
Sharp Dressed Man Of course I do! I read Sourcing Innovation every day. It’s the best blog out there! You usually spell Trouble with a capital T, and we’re a no-nonsense operation here!
Yakko We’re not here for trouble!
Dot We just want to learn more about strategic service management.
Yakko And how it can help companies.
Dot And what you do.
Wakko the doctor sent us!
Sharp Dressed Man He what?
Yakko Well, he didn’t exactly send us. He told us if we really wanted to learn about strategic service management, and what innovative companies are doing, we should consider checking you out if we were in the area. And here we are!
Sharp Dressed Man Yes you are. Well, the doctor‘s right in that respect … we can teach you about SSM … and if you really — really — want to learn, I’d be happy to talk to you. But you have to be good.
Dot We’re always good!
Sharp Dressed Man looking directly at Wakko
And put away the construction tools, roman candles, mechanical gadgets, and anything else that can be used for destructive purposes. Got it?
Wakko putting his mini-mallet away
Got it.
Sharp Dressed Man Okay. So, do you know what strategic service management is?
Wakko It’s about managing your people, parts, and technology in a way that allows you to do more with less and deliver more with less, decreasing your costs while increasing your revenues. It’s strategic sourcing, on steroids, for services.
Sharp Dressed Man Not bad. Do you know how we enable it?
Yakko You provide solutions for parts, pricing, and workforce management – the cornerstones of strategic service management. Your workforce management product, in particular, is quite extensive and includes workload forecasting capabilities, a dynamic scheduling engine, and a service mobility solution that service personnel can use to stay up to date in the field.
Sharp Dressed Man Not bad. But do you understand how these solutions provide value to our customers?
Dot They allow you to do more calls with less people through optimal scheduling, identify the most cost-effective tools and solutions to get the job done, and optimize inventory to maximize service levels while minimizing carrying costs?
Sharp Dressed Man Correct, but do you understand how we provide value to our customers? Do you understand why a customer wouldn’t just go out and buy a parts management solution from competitor Alpha, a best-of-breed price management engine from competitor Beta, and a workforce management solution from competitor Gamma?
Yakko I guess not.
Sharp Dressed Man We provide a holistic solution to strategic service management.
Wakko I like 3-D.
Yakko Not holographic, holistic — as in concerned with the whole and not just the parts?
Sharp Dressed Man Correct. You see, the full value of strategic service management only materializes when you tackle the whole problem. You can have the best workforce scheduler, but if they don’t have the parts, your personnel can’t perform the service. You can have the best inventory forceasting and management solution, but if the parts aren’t available where your service personnel need them when they need them, it’s for naught. And you can have the best pricing engine in the world, but you still need to have the parts available where the people are going to buy them.
Wakko So there’s no real value unless you look at the whole picture?
Sharp Dressed Man Correct. And that’s what we do. Through our Command Center, we unify our parts management, workforce management, pricing management, and knowledge management solution — which makes your workforce more productive — into one cohesive platform which doesn’t “improve” one aspect of service, such as workforce management, to the detriment of another, such as parts & inventory management.
Dot I never knew there was so much to good service management.
Sharp Dressed Man Now you do. And with that, may I bid you good day?
Yakko Since we’re here, we really should get an update for the doctor!
Sharp Dressed Man If it will get rid of you … and keep you OUT of my server room …
glaring at Dot and Wakko
I can do that.

Since we last spoke to the doctor, four big things have happened for us here at Servigistics.

First of all, we’ve made a number of updates to our workfoce management solution, including a web-based portal for customers to track their service status — think Fedex package tracker on a steroid shake; we’ve enhanced automatic e-mail notifications and the command center dashboards; we’ve added dispatch capability to TomTom navigation devices, e-mail, and SMS; and, probably most significantly, leveraged grid-computing technology in computation-intensive portions of the software for dramatic improvements in scalability.

Secondly, we’ve made some significant enhancements in internationalization. We now support 8 different languages, including double-byte Japanese, Mandarin, and Korean; we can add a new language in two to three weeks, and each user can see the same data in her language and custom date and currency formats.

Thirdly, we’ve added some specific aerospace functionality with respect to fleet provisioning, rotable pool planning, inventory consolidation, PBH/PBL cost-based planning, RTP and de-manufacture, scheduled maintenance planning with respect to repair BOMs, and replacement forecasting for life-limited parts.

Finally, in addition to netting a number of significant new global customers, we’ve also landed some very big aerospace manufacturers, carriers, and MROs

Anything you need elaboration on?

Yakko Uhmm … no?
Sharp Dressed Man Great! Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day!

Editor’s Note: At this point, we’ll be taking a short break for the 12 days of X-Mas, but we’ll return with the final two parts of the maniacs’ road tour on December 29 and December 30.

The Sourcing Maniacs 2008 Vendor Tour Part 18: SupplierSoft

This post is a bit lengthy, so I’ve broken it into Set-Up and Supply.


Waiter Your pie, sir!
Wakko Thanks!
Wakko dives into yet another pie. A stack of empty pie trays sits beside him.
Waiter Shall I fetch another?
Wakko Most certainly!
Yakko So, not all industries are created equal when it comes to sourcing.
Dot I guess not! I never knew that some categories were so involved!
  the maniacs just finished their visit with Power Advocate, an end-to-end solutions provider to the energy and utility industry
Wakko between mouthfuls of Boston Cream Pie
So, where next?
Dot On to the Q’s I guess!
Yakko Quintiq?
Dot Supply chain optimization? That’s too much for Wakko …
Yakko QP Group?
Dot I think they’re consulting.
Yakko You’re right. How about Quadrem?
Dot The marketplace? Maybe.
Yakko I think they also provide solutions and services.
Dot Sounds good. So where are they?
Yakko Good question. I believe they have offices all over the world.
Dot I bet most our sales. Where’s their head office?
Yakko Let me check.
Dot Too bad. They might have been interesting. On to the R’s?
Yakko Rapt?
Wakko between mouthfuls of Boston Cream Pie
Didn’t Microsoft buy them?
Dot I think you’re right. I don’t want anything to do with Microsoft …
Yakko Rearden Commerce?
Dot Back in California … and they’re a little corporate for my taste.
Yakko I’m not ready to go back to the valley either. Resources Global Professionals?
Dot They’re a consulting and staffing services agency, not a consulting and staffing solutions provider.
Yakko Oh. Hmmm.
Yakko Yakko’s Yummy Yams … picture perfect produce …
the doctor Hello, Yakko. You guys looking for someone else to check out?
Yakko We are, actually.
the doctor Great … I just got contacted by SupplierSoft … a new supplier management solutions company … they want to give a demo.
Yakko Will they give it to us?
the doctor I don’t see why not.
Yakko Great! Where are they based?
the doctor The valley.
Yakko We’re not ready to head back to the valley yet.
the doctor That’s okay. They’re 100% SaaS and they will do the demo on-line.
Yakko That sounds good.
Wakko between mouthfuls of Boston Cream Pie
What does doc want this time?
Yakko He wants us to review SupplierSoft, a SaaS company. He says we can do the demo from here.
Wakko Great!
Waiter …
Yakko So, when’s the demo?
the doctor Ten minutes. I’ll send you the details. Have fun!
Yakko Later, doc!
  the maniacs prepare for the demo
  beep bip-beep-bop boop-bop-bip boop-bop-bip-beip
Yakko Hello?
Mr. CEO Hello. Is this the doctor?
Yakko No, this is Yakko.
Wakko I’m Wakko.
Dot And I’m Dot.
Mr. CEO The maniacs? Don’t you work for …
Yakko Not since last year.
Wakko We were wakko’d. Get it?
Mr. CEO Sorry to hear that. Anyway, I’m expecting a call from the doctor
Yakko Something came up. Doc can’t make it. He asked us to take the demo on his behalf.
Mr. CEO Well …
Dot Don’t worry. We’ll convery everything we learn!
Mr. CEO Do you work for the doctor?
Yakko We don’t work for anyone at the moment.
Dot So we’re doing a vendor tour …
Wakko learning as much as we can about the sourcing world …
Yakko and passing on anything useful that we learn to the doctor
Mr. CEO That’s interesting.
Dot Very. We’ve learned a lot!


Yakko So, can we have the demo?
Mr. CEO Uhmm, sure. Where should we start?
Yakko Well, Doc literally just asked us to do this ten minutes ago, so we haven’t the first clue about you. We didn’t even know you existed until then!
Mr. CEO That’s probably because we’ve been in stealth mode developing our solutions and working out the kinks with our beta customers until very recently. I don’t believe in vaporware, and since we’re a pure SaaS solution, I wasn’t going to launch a product for mass-market adoption until it was ready.
Yakko So how long have you guys been around?
Mr. CEO I started the company last year …
Yakko and you already have a product ready for the mass-market?
Mr. CEO We have four actually …
Dot Are you serious?
Mr. CEO Yes. Since we built our solution on the Salesforce platform …
Dot Isn’t Salesforce CRM? I thought you were in the supplier management space.
Mr. CEO We are. There’s actually a lot of similarity between CRM and SRM …
Yakko But one solution is focussed on customers and the other solution is focussed on suppliers …
Mr. CEO That’s true, but what you have to realize is that both platforms require the same foundation …
Dot … which is?
Mr. CEO Extensive information management capabilities. CRM requires you to maintain an interaction history with the client. Those interactions are captured and categorized as data. SRM requires you to maintain an interaction history with the supplier. Those interactions are also captured and categorized as data. Fundamentally, from a technical standpoint, they’re almost identical solutions … the only real difference is one solution faces the downstream customer while the other faces the upstream supplier.
Dot But what about SPM? (Supplier Performance Management) There’s no CPM equivalent …
Mr. CEO You’re right. But the foundation is, again, data.
Yakko So you’re telling us it really is possible to build an extensive supplier management platform on Salesforce?
Mr. CEO And then some!
Yakko Ok, I’ll bite … why would you do so?
Mr. CEO Salesforce is a scalable, secure, reliable, and proven platform with 47,000 customers and 1.2 Million users. They’ve spent over 150 Million on their infrastructure. It allows us to offer our customers big enterprise scalability and reliability from day one … and do so at small company prices. How many companies in the supply management space can say they’re hosted on a 150 Million infrastructure?
Yakko Uhmm … uhmm … uhmm …
Mr. CEO That’s my point!
Yakko So what solutions do you offer?
Mr. CEO We currently offer Supplier Management, Environmental Compliance Management, Supplier Corrective Action Management, and Supplier Audit Management solutions with embedded process and project management. And we have a Supplier Help Desk Application in beta.
Yakko I guess we should start with the Supplier Management solution.
Mr. CEO As you can see, it’s an extensive supplier information management solution that captures a complete supplier profile; contacts based on roles; diversity, quality, and environmental certificates; insurance certificates; non-disclosure agreements; documents; meetings and meeting notes; projects; and custom data-capture requirements. In addition, you can tag items, include custom links, and search your entire supplier database based on multiple filters. It also has fairly extensive reporting capabilities, and a customizable dashboard for the home-page which keeps track of your tasks, calendar, waiting approvals, and the reports of your choice.

In addition to being able to define your own suplier data model, it supports multiple sections for each information type, it supports attachments whereever you need them, customizable step and task-based workflows by user or role, and an instantly accessible supplier view from anywhere in the supplier management application.

Yakko What does that do?
Mr. CEO It allows you to see what the supplier will see at any time.
Yakko Well, so far it sounds similar to what Aravo and CVM Solutions offer.
Mr. CEO There are similarities, as they also offer supplier information management solutions, but we feel we have some significant differences that will make our platform more attractive to our target market.
Dot Like what?
Mr. CEO The stability of our underlying platform, our low-cost, and, most-importantly, the tight integration with our other modules, which include not only the environmental compliance (which we believe allows us to match Aravo’s capabilities) and the supplier audit management (which we believe is better than CVM’s capabilities), but our rather unique corrective action management and help desk solutions.
Yakko Let’s move on. I’m still waiting to be suitably impressed.
Mr. CEO No problem. As you can see, our Environmental Compliance Solution comes with extensive environmental data collection capabilities at the Bill of Material (BOM), part, and raw material level; the ability to track all of the relevant regulations and regulatory exemptions; complete specifications, parts, component materials, and material declarations; substances and substance declarations; and AVLs.

It supports standard PDF forms that can be filled out by suppliers and uploaded into the system by way of XML extraction and automated data load; it validates and verifies all data on definition and import; it can generate user-defined alerts whenever a substance, material, part, or BOM is not in compliance; and in addition to a standard set of compliance reports, it allows users to define their own.

Yakko So you’ve more or less matched the lesser-known offerings from EcoVadis and Co-exprise.
Mr. CEO Well, I’m not really familiar with those solutions, but I think our solution does what an environmental compliance solution needs to do. And it integrates with our Information and Audit Management solutions, which we feel is a big plus.
Yakko Interesting. Show us your Audit solution.
Mr. CEO No problem. As you can see, it builds on our information and environmental compliance solutions and allows for collaboration between our customer, their suppliers, and third party auditors. It also allows for the definition of corrective action plans and projects to implement and monitor those corrective action plans, which is based on our integrated workflow and project management capabilities.
Yakko Not bad at all. So how did you build it all so fast?
Mr. CEO We took advantage of everything Salesforce had to offer and built it in their Apex language, which essentially wraps Java in a rapid development language designed to take full advantage of the multi-tenancy environment. We also used good coding practices and created our applications in an object-oriented manner that allowed us to re-use common components, which could be tested once and re-used wherever needed.
Yakko So what are your plans?
Mr. CEO Eventually, we plan to be the Salesforce++ of the SRM world.
Wakko But I thought you said you used a Java-Based language?
Mr. CEO Ha, ha. Good one, Wakko.
It’s an ambitous plan, but one we believe is ultimately realizable. Of course, we’re starting small. Right now, we’re focussed on manufacturing and distribution.
Yakko Why?
Mr. CEO That’s where we see the biggest pain, and the biggest benefit of our solution.
Yakko How so?
Mr. CEO Consider a large manufacturer sourcing 10,000 parts from 500 suppliers who has to get the lead out to comply with RoHS. How are they going to do this without our solution? They’re going to use spreadsheets. This is going to result in hundreds of thousands of spreadsheets. How do you analyze that many spreadsheets to find out which parts from which suppliers are not in compliance. And, more importantly, how do you insure that they get to the right person at the supplier who you are certain will fill them out properly without a central supplier database with up-to-date contact information? You don’t … and you scramble a very large team on a very large project, that takes way too long, trying … and risk huge losses from product recalls if just one part slips through.
Yakko And with your product …
Mr. CEO You select the parts that need to be in compliance, all of the suppliers get the PDF forms e-mailed to them, once the form is filled out it is automatically uploaded into the system, and you can run a report at any time that tells you how many parts are compliant, non-compliant, or in an unknown state because the supplier hasn’t provided you with the information. You can then run another report to get a list of the suppliers, listed contacts, and follow-up with them through the system, which integrates with Outlook. As you maniacs would say, once the supplier and part masters, and their relationships, have been defined … it’s easy-peasy.
Wakko Whoa!
Mr. CEO You said it, Wakko. And if anyone wants to see for themselves how powerful our solution is, we offer a free 30-day trial. We’re sure that it won’t disappoint.

The Sourcing Maniacs 2008 Vendor Tour Part 17: Power Advocate

This post is a bit lengthy, so I’ve broken it into Prelude and Power.


Wakko Faster! Faster!
  The maniacs are describing their ride on the Mindbender at the West Edmonton Mall, which they visited after meeting with Upside Software.
the doctor I’m glad you enjoyed your trip to The Mall, but would you like to get back to where we left off before I had you jump ahead in your story?
Yakko Where were we?
the doctor You were describing your on-line review of MFG
Wakko MFG … it’s dynamite
MFG … it’ll win the fight
MFG … it’s the power load
MFG … watch it explode!
  air guitar
the doctor Yes, Wakko, we covered that already. So who did you visit next?
  A brief moment of silence while they collect their thoughts … a daunting task for Wakko.
Wakko I’ve got the Power!
the doctor Uhmm …
Yakko That’s right! Power Advocate.

We were sitting in the Chinese Cafe …

Wakko finishing up our sixth order of Chow Mein …
Dot while wrapping op our review of MFG.
  The maniacs return to their story and, as usual, proceed to ignore me.
Dot Where to next?
Wakko Hopefully someplace a little less breezy. I’ve lost three kites today!
  The maniacs are still in Chicago, having recently visited Kinaxis before hopping into the cyber-enabled Chinese Cafe for their MFG research.
Yakko We’re on the N’s. I don’t know many N’s. New Momentum?
Dot Predictive market intelligence using optimization models. I think that’s a wee bit over Wakko’s head.
Yakko Fair Enough. NewView?
Dot Visibility solutions for automotive and aerospace?
Yakko I think so.
Dot Given the turmoil in those markets, I’m sure they’re too busy trying to get their solution installed at manufacturers that desperately need it to talk to us.
Yakko Possibly. the doctor did mention that he’s never been successful in his reach out attempts to them …
Next Generation Logistics?
Dot Again, Logistics.
Yakko Right. Not our focus. Well, I’m tapped.
Again, because he doesn’t check the Resource Site often enough, which currently has over ten companies that start with N.
Dot On to the O’s?
Yakko Sure! I’ve always been intrigued by Open Bravo.
Dot Aren’t they headquartered in Spain?
Yakko I believe so. But maybe we could get a web-demo and research them from right here!
Wakko That would be great! I could have more chow mein … six is an unlucky number in Cantonese … while eight is very prosperous … Waiter!
Yakko Let’s see if I can Google a number …
tappity, tappity
Here we go! A US number too!
beep bip-beep-bop boop-bop-bip boop-bop-bip-beip
Operator Hello …
Yakko Hello … could we get a demo of Open Bravo?
Operator You can download Openbravo ERP through SourceForge or access our demo centre for a quick overview. As we’re open source, you have free access to the product.
Yakko Oh. Uhm … thank you?
Operator You’re welcome.
Dot So?
Yakko Looks like “O” stands for “Oh, Bother”.
Dot What happened?
Yakko They told me to download it and try it out for myself. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like installing an ERP system just to review it.
Dot Neither do I. Who else starts with O?
Yakko I’m too bummed to think about it. Let’s just move on to the P’s
Dot Perfect Commerce?
Yakko Perfect? As far as I can tell, they got their ass-whooped so bad in the market, they had to be saved by a European-based services firm by the name of Cormine, that, for reasons beyond me, decided to keep the name. Plus, especially considering what we’ve learned so far on our tour, I think it’s really conceited to claim that your applications enable “perfect” commerce.
Dot Prime Revenue?
Yakko Interesting. Online billing and payment is commodity these days, but supply chain finance is cutting edge. However, as most companies still haven’t figured out that making your suppliers wait 30 extra days for payment isn’t supply chain finance, the concept might be too innovative for the market and an area we should tread carefully in.
Dot Power Advocate?
Yakko Didn’t the doctor mention them as a company he wanted checked out?
Dot I think so …
Yakko Where are they?
Dot Back in Boston …
Wakko Awesome! I was just thinking how great a cream pie would be to top off my eighth order of Chow Mein!
Wakko is, apparently, addicted to Boston Cream Pies.
Yakko I guess that settles it. Back to Boston we go!
Wakko So who will we be visiting?
Dot Power Advocate
Wakko I’ve got the Power!
Yakko Wha …
Wakko Like the crack of the whip I snap attack
Front to back in this thing called rap
Dig it like a shovel rhyme devil
On a heavenly level
Bang the bass turn up the treble
Radical mind day and night all the time
Seven to fourteen wise divine
Maniac brainiac winning the game
I’m the lyrical Jesse James

apparently, Wakko likes Snap


  We rejoin the maniacs a few days or so later back in Boston.
Dot Are we here?
Yakko I don’t know … I always get so turned around in this city … even Wakko could have done a better job at urban planning!
Dot I think this is the right address.
Wakko raps on the door with his mini-mallet
British Professional Good day, sirs and madam. How can I help you?
Wakko Do you have the power?
British Professional Well, as you Americans say, we always pay the hydro on time …
Yakko I believe what my colleage is asking if this is Power Advocate.
British Professional Absolutely. How can I be of assistance?
Wakko Well, we came here from Chicago to find out what you do?
British Professional Blimey O’Reilly! You trekked all the way here from Chicago and you don’t even know what we do? Are you off your rockers?
Wakko Nope!
Somehow, Wakko has found a rocking chair.
British Professional On the cadge?
Wakko Not yet …
British Professional Well, that doesn’t sound very made up. So why are you here?
Wakko the doctor said we should give you a check-up.
British Professional Well, now I’m in bits.
Wakko You look whole to me!
British Professional looking very cautiously at Wakko
Yakko I believe what my colleague is trying to say is that the doctor of Sourcing Innovation said we should check you out if we wanted to expand our horizons.
British Professional Well that certainly clears things up a bit. I thought I was going bonkers.
Yakko Conversations with Wakko often have that effect. So, can you enlighten us.
British Professional I can definitely give you the griff. What would you like to know?
Yakko Let’s start with the basics. What do you do?
British Professional In his best American
We provide cost-effective supply-chain solutions to the energy industry with the goal of helping our customers achieve operational performance goals. We have deep expertise in the energy, utility, power, gas, chemical, and manufacturing industry; a custom 3-tier schema for the utility industry that captures detail in critical areas that UNSPSC and other generic schemas lack; tailored sourcing and spend analysis solutions; and customized category intelligence and cost-indices that you won’t find anywhere else.
Yakko That’s a mouthful!
British Professional It’s definitely not half! Where would you like to start?
Yakko Let’s start with your sourcing platform.
British Professional It’s essentially your standard e-RFX and e-Auction platform.
Yakko So why would someone choose your platform over Ariba or Emptoris?
British Professional Well, besides the fact that it’s a lot more affordably priced, it’s customized for the energy and utility industry. We have a lot of built-in commercial and technical templates as well as extensive capabilities for buyers to build their own data-sheets for apples-to-apples comparisons.
Yakko Don’t scores of platforms come with templates and templating capabilities?
British Professional They do, but buying hardware in the energy and utility industry is very different than buying a stapler from the cheapest office supply site. A lot of this stuff isn’t commodity, and even standard components are often only made by a handful of companies. Plus, it often takes a lot of detail to distinguish one component, like a transformer, from another … detail that’s lost without the right questions … which require the right templates … which requires the right category knowledge, which your average e-Sourcing firm lacks.
Yakko And you have that expertise?
British Professional Yes. That’s what differentiates us not only from other supply chain software providers, but other sourcing consultancies — our expertise in the energy industry where we’re an end-to-end solution provider. Even the new marketplace entrants, like Co-Exprise and CombineNet Energy don’t have the platform – services – market intelligence package that we can offer our customers. You have to remember, we’ve been around almost a decade, and many of our staff members have been doing this for over two decades … giving us hundreds of years of collective experience in the energy and utility industry and expertise that we feel is unmatched.
Yakko Can you tell us about your expertise?
British Professional Our expertise comes in the way of three major offerings: category intelligence based on years of experience that helps you get the most from your sourcing events; our new capital and O&M cost indices that provide our clients with leading market intelligence on the categories that matter to the energy and utility industries; and our customized taxonomy, used by a number of Fortune 500 companies, that provides the foundation for our leading spend analysis and visibility solutions.

Let’s start with our new cost indices. They’re web-based and provide our clients with real-time access to supply market data. They’re dynamic and allow users to define their own scenarios, with their own assumptions, to create their own probabilistic cost and demand forecasts in addition to the forecasts we provide them. And since they’re based on over 880 publicly available indexes that are augmented with data from over 65,000 suppliers and 1,000 international companies, they provide the most accurate market trend information you can get.

We currently offer six O&M indices and seven construction indices, with more coming in 2009, including “green” indices in first quarter and European indices in second quarter. The 5-level indices break costs down to the commodity level and allow the impact of each commodity to be measured and understood. The data goes back to 2000, and for any index, or any component category, sub-category, item, or commodity you can view trends based on at least five years of data.

These indices complement the decades of category expertise in the energy and utility industry that we bring to our clients, as well as our unique category intelligence power-search tool that acts like a Google for the energy industry. We also maintain extensive supplier lists, like Thomas Net, but with more detail, and our own category hierarchy, which underlies not only our spend analysis and visibility offering, but a number of Fortune 500 ERP taxonomies as well.

With regards to spend analysis, we offer all of the standard data-aggregation, cleansing, and enrichment capabilites that all of your standard spend analysis vendors offer, augmented by 20,000 unique industry specific auto-classification rules that allow us to parse transactions and automatically classify a much greater percentage of your spend faster.

Yakko 20,000 rules?
British Professional Yes, 20,000 rules.
Yakko I thought automatically classifying spend was easy and only required a small rule set?
British Professional That’s what the big players want you to believe. The reality is that there’s so many suppliers, so many abbreviations, so many SKUs, so many part numbers, and so many ways to identify a part in a limited-size description field that it’s almost impossible to automatically classify spend across an organization. Most solutions don’t even come anywhere close to 80% accuracy, which a good data analyst can do by hand in a few hours with the right spend analysis tool that allows real-time rule-generation and data classification!
Yakko Then how do Emptoris and Zycus do it?
British Professional Lots and lots of manual labor in India. The reality is that unless they’ve already classified spend at another company in your vertical with a similar supply base and similar purchases, they’re “automated classification engine” won’t even classify half of your spend, and they’ll have to ship it off to their offshore operation to clean it up and classify the rest. That’s why it often takes them 3 weeks to 3 months for them to build you an initial cube … they’re classifying your spend by hand and building the rules your organization needs to automatically classify similar transactions in the future.
Yakko So that’s why you have so many rules?
British Professional Yes, that’s why we have over 20,000 rules … which, by the way, only map spend in energy and utility companies. (A cross-industry solution would need hundreds of thousands of rules!) And it’s also why we use the most powerful spend analysis tool we could get our hands on that allows for real-time rule-generation and classification of spend. It’s called BIQ. You might have heard of it. Between our huge rule-set and our ability to apply our domain expertise on the fly, we can build a starting cube in a matter of hours, and do an initial spend analysis for our customers in a matter of days.
Yakko Days?!?!
British Professional Absobloodylutely!
Yakko But I keep hearing about how it usually takes a few quarters to select a solution, build a data warehouse, map the data, clean the data, enrich the data, configure the reports, and get actionable information.
British Professional Well, if you’re using last-generation technology, it certainly does, but we use BIQ, a rule-set we’ve been building for years based upon decades of experience, and deep expertise. Did you know that Lexington Analytics, another services distributor of BIQ with deep expertise in the financial industry, routinely goes to client sites and builds an initial cube, on the fly, in a few hours in their first meeting?
Yakko You must be pulling my plonker!
British Professional I assure you I’m not. With the right tool, and the right expertise, it really is possible to build starting cubes that fast. You really should read Eric Strovink‘s guest posts on Sourcing Innovation carefully. A real spend analysis solution allows you to map data on the fly … and do so after you’ve applied a layered rule-set that allows you to progressively refine rules until you’ve achieved the required level of accuracy … usually 90% is sufficient for a good spend analysis. And it allows us to get results quite quickly.
Yakko But you say you also offer a web-based solution. BIQ is desktop. How do you do it?
British Professional Right now, we build the initial cube in BIQ, map it to our taxonomy, and when we have the right view, export it to our custom on-line viewing engine that provides you with dozens of built-in reports and allows you to slice and dice the data in the cube anyway you want.
Yakko Doesn’t the data get stale?
British Professional It would if we didn’t update it, and we have an automated process to do that. Which, to be quite frank, is just as good as any other product out there, as they all work the same way.
Yakko And what if the user wants more flexibility?
British Professional Such as …
Yakko Multiple-cubes. Measures. Meta-measures.
British Professional We rarely run into that. The reality is that only the power-users even think about that level of analysis. It’s not a problem though. Since we use BIQ ourselves, we can provide our clients with a full data dump of their cube at any time, the associated ruleset, and relevant report templates that will allow them to use BIQ on their own machine.

Plus, if the demand is there in the future, we will take advantage of BIQ’s new XML interface, forthcoming in its next release, that allows it to be driven over the web through a standard web-browser.

Yakko It sounds like you guys have an extensive solution for the energy industry.
British Professional We do … and we’re building out a basic contract management solution that takes into account energy-industry specific needs as we speak. An initial version will be available next year.
Yakko How will it compete with the stand-alone players like
CMA Contiki,
Open Text,
Symfact, and
Upside Software, and a slew of others I know I’m forgetting?
British Professional It won’t. Just like our sourcing platform isn’t built to be the be-all-and-end-all of generic sourcing platforms, our contract management solution isn’t being built to be the be-all-and-end-all of enterprise contract management platforms. It’s being built to meet the needs of the energy and utility industry, and will offer capabilities, and templates, that specifically meet those needs. It will help us serve our clients better. We don’t serve companies buying staplers from office supply vendors. We serve utility companies buying transformers from electrical equipment manufacturers. There’s a big difference, and that’s why you need a customized solution.
Yakko So you really are an end-to-end solution for the energy industry.
British Professional Yes we are.
Yakko Cool.
British Professional Very, and with that I bid you ta-ta old bean!

The Sourcing Maniacs 2008 Vendor Tour Part 16: Next Level Purchasing

This post is a bit lengthy, so I’ve broken it into Prelude and Purchasing.


  In Part 19, a conversation between the doctor and the Sourcing
Maniacs eventually results in Wakko uttering the following line. The following conversation, which is left out of Part 19, ensues.
Wakko We don’t want to look stupid.
the doctor We’ve been over this already, Wakko. I’m not *that* kind of doctor. You want a plastic surgeon …
Yakko No, no. What Wakko means to say is that we’ve decided to go see Servigistics and we don’t want to show up not knowing anything about strategic service management. We’re getting tired of looking stupid because of our ignorance.
the doctor You could do something about that.
Wakko Hey! I like the way I look!
the doctor I was speaking figuratively Wakko.
Wakko Oh.
the doctor You could get some training.
Yakko Who does training in this space besides the vendors, who, often, teach their own version of the truth and the ISM, who tried to force feed an outdated C.P.M. down our throats last time we talked to them?
the doctor Have you ever heard of Next Level Purchasing?
Wakko Who?
the doctor The creators of the SPSM – the Senior Professional in Supply Management, which was introduced as the first truly global supply management professional certification back in 2004.
Wakko What?
the doctor I thought you read my blog!
Dot We do … but …
the doctor But what?
Dot We tend to skim it … and …
the doctor And?!?
Dot Not pay much attention unless it’s entertaining.
the doctor No wonder you’re so desperately in need of some education! An education that, to some extent, you can get for free, I might add, on Sourcing Innovation.
Yakko Well, I think we’ve learned how remiss we’ve been by not reading your blog … carefully … on a daily basis. By sticking to a single vendor viewpoint, we’ve certainly missed a lot over the last decade.
the doctor Yakko, I still don’t think you have a clue as to how much you missed. It’s not just sourcing, procurement, and supply management technology that’s advanced by light years, but entirely new applications in global trade and supply chain management have appeared on the scene — as well as a couple of good training options in industry and academia and, as per this conversation, the first international certification in supply management — which I’ve discussed numerous times on this blog.
Wakko Numerous?
the doctor Yes Wakko, numerous. I’ve reviewed four of the six core courses:
Mastering Purchasing Fundamentals (Parts I and II),
Savings Strategy Development (Parts I and II),
14 Purchasing Best Practices (Parts I and II), and
Supply Management Contract Writing (Parts I and II);

I’ve reviewed their course in
Expert Purchasing Management (Parts I and II);

I’ve reviewed their Purchasing Assessment of Skills for Success (PASS) program (link);

and I’ve reviewed the following white-paper from Next Level Purchasing:
The Importance of the Job Description to your Talent Management Strategy

Wakko Really?
the doctor Yes, Wakko … Really! I do more than write catchy lyrics. Much more.
Yakko Maybe we should have checked them out when we were on the N’s!
the doctor Maybe you should go check them out as soon as you finish with Servigistics. They’re not a software vendor, so they wouldn’t mess with your insistence on visiting software vendors alphabetically, and you certainly could use the education.
Yakko Maybe you’re right.
the doctor Of course I’m right. And while you’re there, why don’t you see if you can eek out some of their plans for 2009. It will be the fifth anniversary of the SPSM. I’m sure they have some big things planned!
Yakko Will do, doc. So let’s get back to Servigistics.
the doctor Okay. So what do you want to know?


  Immediately after the Sourcing Maniacs finish their visit with Servigistics in Part 19.
Wakko Georgia, Georgia
The whole day through
Just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind
Yakko There sure is a lot to strategic service management! I think we need to listen to the doctor and investigate Next Level Purchasing.
Glaring at Wakko.
What do you think, Wakko?
  Wakko is currently banging his head against a tree rapidly in his best Pileated Woodpecker impersonation.
Yakko Let’s go, Woody!
Dot So, besides what the doctor wrote about the courses, do we know anything else about Next Level Purchasing?
Yakko Checking his new iPhone … obviously the maniacs haven’t been reading Vinnie’s blog either and don’t understand the TCO
Looks like the doctor sent me some links. Give me a few minutes and I’ll see what they say.

(The SPSM Certification on e-Sourcing Forum,
The SPSM Certification Story Continued on e-Sourcing Forum,
Chamber Honors Moon Company on Your Moon Township,
Supply Market Assessment on Supply Excellence,
Online Education Provider Gets High Marks From Buyers on Purchasing,

Tools for Professional Excellence on Supply & Demand Chain Executive, and
The Purchasing Certification Blog by Charles Dominick, Founder and President of Next Level Purchasing.)

  Next Level Purchasing also has the Purchasing Certification Channel on YouTube, but knowing the maniacs don’t read enough, I decided to leave this out.
Wakko Wakko starts humming the Jeopardy theme song. I’m not even going to fathom a guess as to why.
Yakko It looks like Mr. Charles Dominick founded Next Level Purchasing back in 2001 when he noticed a lack of decent private training offerings in the supply management space as well as a derth of on-line training options, and, in particular, a lack of how-to programs for delivering measurable results in the workplace. For the first three years, it just offered training classes, but after a number of students commented that they learned a lot, that their performance improved dramatically, and that they should be certified for their effort, he decided to research ISO 17024 — the international standard for personnel certifications. After examing the marketplace and realizing there were no globally recognized purchasing certifications, he decided to create the first valid certification program in supply management.

It’s a low-cost option, with the basic program currently only $1,149*, and although the average completion time is 4.5 months, it has been completed in less than two months **. It looks like it pays for itself in spades, as the 2008 Purchasing & Supply Management Career & Skills Report found that SPSM Certification holders have an average annual salary that is $19,220 US more than their peers! They have 10 courses now and they currently appear to be adding at least three courses every two years.

As for Charles, he spent much of the 90’s working in, and managing, procurement departments at various large organizations including Kurt J. Lesker Co., US Airways, and the University of Pittsburgh where he noticed that one of the key challenges facing supply management organizations was that staff members were either not being encouraged, or were not acquiring the necessary skills, to be independent actors … which is necessary for leaders to lead. Otherwise, a lot [of work] gets upwardly delegated, and that really attracts from the leaders’ ability to focus on what upper management’s vision is.

  *Yakko’s going to waste more money on his shiny new iPhone in his first year of ownership! And less than what one of the four prepartory courses for the now defunct CPM certification used to cost.
**If you know what you’re doing, relatively up-to-date on your job, and willing to devote yourself all-in to the task, you could do it in a month. (It only took me a [long] day to complete, analyze, and write-up each class I reviewed, and the final exam, which I also reviewed for Charles, is only 3 hours. Of course, I am the doctor and already knew the majority of the material, but an ambitious and intelligent student willing to go “back to school” and put the long hours in could do two classes in a 6-day week. One week for review, final, and documentary requirements and you’re done.)
Dot Sounds like we really should check them out and see if we can learn something. Where are they?
Yakko Back in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Wakko Do you think the Penguins will be having exhibition games yet?
Yakko I don’t know, but we can look into it.
Wakko Great! I can’t wait to see skating penguins.
Yakko shakes his head in disbelief
Dot also ignoring Wakko
Are we off?
  We catch up with the maniacs a few days later.
Dot Well, we’re in Moon Township. I think this is it.
Wakko Are you sure? Looks kind of small … is this another micro-organization?
Yakko No, it’s a small company … you have to remember, not everyone gets massive 500 square foot plus executive offices. Some companies are frugal and only give employees the space they actually need to keep costs down and value up.
Wakko If you say so …
out comes the mini-mallet
Dot taking advantage of the opportunity, knocks on the door
Charles Dominick Hello and welcome to Next Level Purchasing. How can I help you take your purchasing career to the next level?
Wakko I don’t want to look stupid anymore.
Charles Dominick … without missing a beat
Here at Next Level Purchasing we help you find intelligent answers to the many questions that plague your daily job as a supply management professional. Would that help you with your problem?
Yakko I don’t think anyone can help him with his problems, but we’ve recently discovered there’s a lot more to supply management than we ever thought there was …
Charles Dominick That’s certainly true. There have been a lot of changes going on in purchasing, and people in purchasing today are doing different things than they did 20 years ago, 10 years ago, and even 5 years ago. Now it might be easy to say that I’m qualified because I’ve been in my job for 20 years, but that’s not really an indicator of how skilled I am or how capable I am of delivering great performance. I could be doing the same things that I was doing 20 years ago and doing them just as badly. That’s why we developed the Senior Professional in Supply Management, or SPSM, certification here at Next Level Purchasing. Certification provides a best-practice third-party standard that I can follow and have confidence that I’m doing my job well. Could you use the SPSM certification?
Yakko Well Wakko
who’s trying to use an otoscope and a periscope to look inside his own head
is definitely certifiable, but I was wondering how you help professionals advance in their careers?
Charles Dominick At the core of the certification is six core courses that provide you with 44 continuing education hours. These courses cover the basics of purchasing, contract writing, purchasing tools, project management, and savings strategy development. On top of this, we’ve introduced courses in negotiation, expert purchasing mastery, international procurement, and global sourcing strategy with new course offerings on the way in 2009 — which will mark the 5th anniversary of the SPSM on July 1.

However, we understand that continual skills development and knowledge acquisition is vital to a supply management professional’s success these days, and offer a number of free resources to help our students throughout their careers. We’ve been offering semi-monthly purchasing articles for a number of years, I maintain the Purchasing Certification Blog, and we recently created the Purchasing Channel.

Yakko It certainly sounds like your program has a lot to offer.
Charles Dominick We think it does, and we strive to make it better everyday.
Dot So, would you be up to telling us about it.
Charles Dominick Certainly, where would you like to begin?
Dot Donning her grey fedora and black trenchcoat
How about an interview?
For Sourcing Innovation?
Charles Dominick Well, if you think the doctor will run it, I’d be happy to. We’re certainly a believer in education here at Next Level Purchasing.
Dot How many certification holders are there?
Charles Dominick We don’t give that number out as it changes daily. I will tell you that over 3,000 students have enrolled in our paid classes to date, from over 100 countries. At last count, we have SPSM’s in over 40 countries.
Dot I notice that you also have an enhanced results program that comes with an extensive multi-media study-guide on an iPod. What prompted NLP to go multi-media and be one of the first programs anywhere to offer materials on an i-Pod? What type of enhanced results are you seeing?
Charles Dominick Three principles drive how we make our education available: convenience, innovation, and fun. As innovative as it was – and still is – to put multi-media procurement study material on an iPod, it was a natural decision for us given our commitment to those three principles. We’ve done some tests with people who have failed the SPSM Exam then used the SPSM Multimedia Study & Implementation Guide and dramatically increased their scores on the SPSM Exams. If they grasp the material that much better, then it is only logical that they are better prepared to deliver the types of measurable results like other successful SPSM’s. We are in the process now of gathering data on actual performance. Because we’ve only introduced the SPSM Multimedia Study & Implementation Guide about a year ago and the Senior Professional in Supply Management Program allows up to two years to complete the study, we are still gathering the amount of data necessary to be statistically significant.
Dot This year saw the course-offerings kick it up a notch from a global perspective with “Basics of Smart International Procurement” and “Executing a Global Sourcing Strategy”. What is NLP going to offer next year to take it to 11?
Charles Dominick As I answer this question, we are in the midst of finishing and launching four new innovations and improvements that will kick off in late 2008 and gain traction in 2009.

First, there’s PurchSearch – our search engine designed to help purchasers do research more quickly while also getting more authoritative results when compared to doing a traditional search.

Second, we are launching mid-term games. These are multi-media games based on popular game shows like Jeopardy and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire that will not only make our students’ learning experience more fun, but will also help them retain and apply what they’ve learned for real-world results. Sourcing Innovation readers can play a free game based on our PurchTips newsletter.

We will be formally launching the Purchasing Certification Channel on YouTube. This channel will feature what I believe is the largest collection of online procurement education videos consisting of vlogs, interviews, SPSM Certification Success Stories, and more.

Finally, we will be announcing the results of our massive annual update. While we update our material in small chunks throughout the year and do one comprehensive review and update every year, this year we were really determined to increase the value our students get from our programs. A couple of our courses had content increases in the 12 – 15% range. And we didn’t raise our prices a penny!

In early 2009, we have a surprise launch planned that will help deliver our procurement training on an even more global basis. Stay tuned for more information on that. And, as you know, innovation is a continuous process for us. It is not a one-time event. So you can expect more exciting developments throughout 2009.

Dot Any spoilers?
Charles Dominick Not today.
Dot This year also saw NLP start promoting department-wide certification programs, and also showcased a case study demonstrating remarkable results with essentially exponential returns in ROI. What are NLP’s future plans for offering it’s certifications on a department-wide scale? Are you going to offer classroom sessions to accelerate training on a department wide-scale?
Charles Dominick We currently offer an assessment program called “Purchasing Assessment of Skills for Success” or PASS as a first step for procurement leaders to determine whether the SPSM Certification is right for their teams. This assessment is based on our research that indicates that there is a correlation between seven key skill dimensions and the savings that procurement professionals achieve. That program has been wildly successful and has helped many procurement teams. In 2009, we will be expanding the skill dimensions to also assess management readiness and global procurement skills.

In addition, we are developing technologies and services that will be available at no additional charge to our clients who enroll their entire teams with us.

We are actually seeing less interest in classroom sessions than ever. This is due to a number of factors including the quality of our online training as well as the costs and environmental implications of travel.

Dot Next year is the silver anniversary of the SPSM in the “modern” system. What surprises does NLP have in store to celebrate?
Charles Dominick If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise now, would it? But you are right, we have something massive planned for the five year anniversary of the SPSM Certification on July 1, 2009. Let’s just say that we will be introducing an innovative process for giving SPSM’s the assurance that the SPSM is scalable, will always represent the highest level of credentials available in purchasing and supply management, and will adapt to the inevitable changes that our profession will face over the next few years and decades.

And with that, I have to get back to making our purchasing programs better. To your career!

Charles Dominick ducks back inside Next Level Purchasing’s offices and gets back to work.

Dot Wow! There’s certainly a lot to purchasing these days!
Yakko And to think we used to believe that an RFX could solve all your problems!