Category Archives: Supplier Information Management

Be Wary of FREE Supplier Discovery

As per our recent pieces on how supplier discovery shouldn’t be a kick in the pants, at least today, it shouldn’t be free either — because a good supplier discovery solution costs a lot of money to maintain.

A number of vendors are now offering, or considering an offering of, free supplier discovery bundled with their Sourcing or Procurement Solution because, just like it shouldn’t cost suppliers to do business on a network, it shouldn’t cost you anything to do searches (when search engines are free), in their view.

And while it sounds great in theory, at least today, it’s not practical in practice. Computing power, storage, internet access, and electricity costs money … as does a lot off the software used to enable this FREE supplier discovery (as there is no free software, someone still has to compile it, integrate it, maintain it, etc. And this resource time is costly as well). Google only enables free search because it makes money on ads and services that it sells, which subsidizes the internet search.

This means that the only way a provider could really offer free discovery is if it was subsidizing that search with other software offerings (which means you’re still paying for it as it could charge less for those offerings if it was not subsidizing supplier discovery). And if it this is its main offering, you need to ask how it’s making money as it costs a lot of money to maintain a good supplier discovery solution, and if the provider tells you it is cheap (and some providers are making this argument), then the solution is not good.

I’ve heard some providers argue that since there is so much supplier information out there freely available on public directory sites (paid directories that are open, supplier associations, government registries, investment sites, etc.) that it would be cheap to scrape and combine all off this information if you have a good AI engine and all you really need is just a lot of storage and fast internet access, which can be relatively low cost. And while this sounds good in theory, it’s not good in practice.

First of all, the majority of all supplier listings are micro-businesses, and most of these aren’t big enough to serve a corporation in any capacity. Many have never done any substantial business and there’s not enough information to assess risk or capability. Many listings are outdated and incorrect and many more are for out of business suppliers. Many listings don’t have enough information to determine products or services to any level of accuracy. In other words, the majority of free information is bit-garbage.

In order to have a good supplier directory, you have to have information that has been manually validated to a reasonable extent. Which means that either the vendor needs to spend a lot of expensive manpower validating or start with third party databases that have been manually validated, which cost money to access. Either way, good information costs money, which means that a supplier discovery vendor can’t create or maintain anything good for free.

Which also means that if the information is good, it’s likely also limited to a directory supplier discovery vendor has built up over time from its customer base, which will only be good for you if there are like organizations doing business in like geographies already in that customer base.

So, just like there’s no such thing as a free lunch, there’s no such thing as a good, free supplier discovery service. At least not today or tomorrow.

How Do You Identify a Truly Stellar Supplier

Assuming one exists, how will you know one when you find one?

Five years ago, we asked how do you identify a stellar supplier? One way, as we pointed out, was to find a supplier that actively self manages. A supplier which measures, tracks, and even reports its own performance against SLAs and KPIs, accepts — and even helps to identify — the corrective actions it needs to take, actively works to not only meet expectations but exceed them, and communicates as soon as something happens that could threaten a KPI, SLA, commitment, or expectation.

Then, if you find multiple candidates, find a supplier that wants to collaborate. Find a supplier who will work with you to jointly identify opportunities for efficiency improvements and cost reductions and help keep costs down for all. This is even better. But is it as good as it gets?

No. You want a supplier who will open its books, at least so far as what it’s costs are that affect you. And what you can do to bring those costs down. That dives into its overhead costs and lets you know if energy, manpower, or cost of capital (if it needs to borrow to meet daily cash flow needs until you pay for finish goods 30 days after shipment) and what it could use from you to lower costs — such as faster payments, help with de-regulated energy negotiations, or production line improvements and lean initiatives to keep manpower costs steady. And into raw material costs, and where it needs more volume or negotiating leverage to keep costs down.

And then a supplier that helps you identify your tier 2 supply chain risks. What good does it do for a buyer to know it’s tier 1 risks when most disruptions begin further down the chain — and when the only way to possibly recover against them is to get early warning. A truly stellar supplier also works with you to put in place systems that will allow the supplier to report on potential disruptions in its supply chain (when raw materials don’t show up in time, when the quality of components it gets goes down, etc.) so you know when trouble might be brewing and, if your supplier needs help, when you can help it to prevent troubles later.

A truly stellar supplier doesn’t hide its risks and costs from you — it shares the and allows you to work with it hand-in-hand in lean efforts to create truly stellar supply chains.

Tealbook … Not Just a Journal Anymore!

When you hear teal, you probably think of the colour which gets its name from the coloured area around the eyes of the common teal, and when you hear tealbook, you’re probably thinking of a notebook in the calming hue of teal, perfect for a journal or personal contact book … maybe even one you can keep your supplier contacts in!

But we all know the problems with a contact book. Contact information changes as people are shuffled around the company. Contacts leave the company, and you not only have to update their information but add a new contact. There is only a limited amount of room for notes. It’s really hard to share the information, and, if your peers are also using handwritten ‘teal journals’, get them to share the information, especially when you need it quickly.

That’s why supplier information management (SIM) modules and platforms were developed. All of the supplier and contact information in one place, accessible to, and updatable by, anyone in the organization. Plus, anyone can search the supplier database for suppliers new to them … but not new to the organization. This was one major limitation. Another was lack of community intelligence from peers. Were they selected or known for certain capabilities, or not? Do they have other customers for a product or service who will serve as references? Are they (now) capable of satisfying a minority designation or certification requirement (in a certain geography)? You can ask this, update the system to track it, but a community keeps this information up to date.

But most importantly, with traditional Supplier Information Management (SIM), you know what you know and you don’t know what you don’t know. You have no way of determining how many potential suppliers you don’t know about for any given category or requirement. Or how good the suppliers are for your needs relative to the suppliers you don’t know about.

That’s where a modern Supplier Information Management with Supplier Discovery platform comes into play. A modern supplier discovery platform, which is more than just a supplier network — as a supplier network is nothing more than a database of suppliers that have been transacted with through a particular platform, allows a community of organizations to keep track of, and provide information and recommendations on, potential suppliers (whether transacted through a platform or not); potential suppliers to self-identify and provide relevant information up front (such as diversity status and certifications); and all parties to share information of potential relevance.

tealbook‘s vision is to create a shared, trusted, supplier base with 100M suppliers that provides a central repository of reliable supplier intelligence that can be used as a stand-alone platform or integrated with your current ERP, sourcing, procurement, contract management, and other spend management systems of relevance through an easy to use API and an interface that is configurable to your organization’s processes and privacy preferences. tealbook already includes 1M vetted, and de-duplicated, suppliers with rich insights and expects to grow daily at an exponential rate to reach 4 million within 12 months.

And while this three-year-old start-up doesn’t have the 100M supplier database yet, they have the solid foundations for a reliable, scalable, extensible, and integratable community supplier intelligence platform that can be configured to your organization’s needs. That is getting the attention of some of the biggest organizations and consultancies in North America.

In the tealbook platform, a user can easily do a search for potential suppliers, review verified supplier profiles, review community generated expertise tags (similar to individual specialty tags on Linkedin), review provided supplier content, create a supplier list for vetting, interact with the supplier to get more information, interact with her teammates for initial vetting and review, and then select a subset of those suppliers for export for consideration in her sourcing/procurement project. And she can do it through the web platform, or the mobile app if she is documenting new potential suppliers at trade shows. Plus the database of connections and employees is always up to date, so she knows who to contact, and who she knows, or knows of, at the potential supplier.

Supplier Discovery (incumbent or new) can be quite time consuming without such a platform. Most organizations would resort to searching online databases, getting recommendations from professional societies, going to events to get information from peers, and so on. Discovery can take weeks on its own when a proper platform with a community built and maintained platform can knock that down to hours. And the information is a lot more reliable than that obtained from a single source. This reduces the time, effort, and risk to discover, pre-vet, and qualify new suppliers substantially — which makes for an improved sourcing and procurement process.

And the search in the tealbook platform is quite powerful — it’s not just keyword, industry, tag — it’s also specific to your data and connections — it’s semantic and it uses machine learning to increasingly improve the relevance of supplier recommendations. And that’s key to identifying the right suppliers for you. And it’s a great choice even if your platform has a basic SIM module. For example, tealbook complements newer sourcing platforms such as ScoutRFP (and eliminates the need for a supplier network entirely), Coupa customers can add on tealbook to fill in the holes in the Coupa S2P platform, and Ariba customers are, as you may have guessed from above, finding it provides that missing piece: mobile, user friendly and socially derived supplier intelligence. With tealbook, they are finally able to rapidly and easily look up updated supplier data, identify and qualify known or new suppliers without going through an extensive process before initiating a sourcing event in Ariba.

In other words, if you are looking to know more about suppliers who have already transacted with your company or regularly need to discover new suppliers (including increasing access to innovative and diversity suppliers) check out tealbook. It might be the platform for you.

The More Things Change … Supplier Intelligence

This week we’re revisiting posts from ten years ago to demonstrate that, to date, the more things change in Procurement, the more they have, unfortunately, stayed essentially the same.

Ten years ago we published a post on what you can’t afford not to know about your suppliers that summarized some key insights from Jim Lawton (who was VP of Marketing at Open Ratings until its acquisition by D&B, where he became SVP and General Manager of Supply Management Solutions).

Jim, who noted that global supplier insight can become as indispensable to sourcing and supply management as a stage is to an actor, also noted that in order to acquire this insight, an organization has to focus on:

  • supplier performance and quality management,
  • supply risk management, and
  • supplier content and connectivity

And nothing has changed. Any organization that wants to understand total landed cost from global markets and with predictability still needs these capabilities today. Considering that the the final cost of any purchased product is ultimately dependent on the supplier and its ability to delivery a product to spec on time and on budget with minimal defects, supplier performance management is as critical today as it was a decade ago.

Similarly, considering that a single disruption can wipe out the entire identified and negotiated savings on a category (as the result of a six week disruption), supply risk management still takes center stage. (This goes double when the chance of an organization not experience a disruption is 15% or less for any 12 month period.)

Finally, without an understanding of supplier policies, practices, and the providers your suppliers employ, you’ll never know whether or not they are adhering to your corporate social responsibility standards, whether or not they are implementing six sigma and other best practices to ensure quality and keep defects down, and whether or not they are buying from, or subcontracting component development to, third parties that don’t adhere to your quality, responsibility, or ethical standards.

Supplier Intelligence is as important now as it was then, and, most importantly, many organizations don’t have the depth of intelligence they should have, as evidenced on the relative lack of uptake of modern Supplier Relationship Management solutions.

PRGX – The Biggest Analytics Provider You Don’t Know!


For those that do not know it, PRGX would appear to be one of a select number of dominant services provider in the niche market for recovery audit services — a market that unlike other procurement services faces tremendous price pressure for its core recovery, statement and related auditing and profit recovery services.

the doctor and the prophet, PRGX Intro on Spend Matters Pro (membership required)

In particular, PRGX would appear to be a recovery audit specialist for the global retail sector. And that is what they are, but that is not all they are.


PRGX has started to remake itself quietly from within — out of necessity, given these broader market trends — building and acquiring technology capabilities in the spend analytics and supplier management areas, both to expand its relevance and to start driving automation and scale in its core business.

PRGX has built the most complete, and in many ways the most advanced, analytics and recovery solution for the retail sector and, in doing so, has built one of the most complete and advanced analytics and recovery solutions for just about any sector that buys and relies on goods. Pharma, Manufacturing, and Aerospace and Defense, just to name a few, could all benefit intensely from the out-of-the-box PRGX solution.

This is because it has evolved it’s application from a simple recovery analytics application to a full featured analytics solutions with modules for:

  • Payment Analytics
  • Spend Analytics
  • Product Analytics
  • Recovery Avoidance Analytics
  • Supplier Information Management

With the latter two coming through its recent acquisition of Lavante.

It can analyze what you paid (payment analytics), what you should have paid (recovery analytics), what you are spending (spend analytics), how much that is costing you and profiting you on a product level (product analytics), and what suppliers are supplying that product and how they are performing (SIM with a hefty dose of SPM).

And it can do this analysis end to end around a product or category, and allow you to simultaneously see what you ordered, spent, overspent, took in on sales, lost on returns, and profited when all was said and done. It’s one of the most powerful analytics solutions you don’t know about. Stay tuned — there is more to come!