Category Archives: Supplier Information Management

Close the Supplier Loop with LUPR

Suppliers are key to sourcing and procurement success because you depend on your suppliers for the products you sell, the services you provide, and the materials you need for your daily operations. Thus, Supplier Management is key to sourcing and procurement success, but most companies don’t even have up to date information on their suppliers.

In order to achieve the value you expect from your suppliers, you need to

  • properly onboard and vet them
  • manage their information
  • monitor their performance
  • record related issues
  • manage the relationship
  • store contracts
  • track the savings goals
  • track the realized savings
  • and so on

And, more importantly, your supplier account managers need to work with the supplier representatives in each of these tasks, which need to be streamlined for both parties.

The founders of LUPR, each with two decades (plus) of Procurement project experience, realized this and created a supplier management platform that could tackle these issues, and it did so on top of Salesforce, which makes it an easy buy for any organization already using Salesforce as the platform has already been vetted by IT, Risk, Sales, and Finance. It also makes it easy for staff to learn the platform, as they are already used to the basics of Salesforce, and they have staff who can help out.

Before we get into the specifics (modules) of the solution, one thing to note is that because it’s built on Salesforce, it has:

  • high levels of configurability
  • security down to the field level in an object (record)
  • automation
  • familiar reporting and analytics capability
  • easy integration with other Salesforce AppExchange apps

The platform has the following primary modules:

  • supplier registration portal (for self-serve onboarding)
  • supplier information management module
  • risk assessment module
  • issue reporting and performance tracking
  • supplier corrective action resolution (SCAR) control
  • savings tracking and pipeline management
  • reporting and analytics

Supplier Registration Portal
The supplier portal is a very user-friendly web-based portal where a supplier can go and register itself as wanting to do business with the buying organization as well as provide all of the information requested by the buying organization. When it comes to onboarding, it should be noted that the only available out-of-the-box integrations (subscriptions required) for supplier validation are Experian, CreditSafe, Equifax and RapidRatings for business identifiers, financial information, and/or credit scores. Additional, custom, integrations are possible, but if you have other validation data being pulled into your ERP (such as SAP and Oracle which they integrate with), you can pull the validated data in from your ERP rather than collecting it from a supplier (and having to validate it manually).

Supplier Information Management
Upon login, the user is taken to their dashboard, which can be custom configured, and usually overviews their approved supplier list (by product and service), their top supplier spend (by supplier), outstanding tasks (including approvals for onboarding, information updates, etc.), suppliers by relationship tiers (as it supports multiple tiers, which can be custom configured, but are defaulted to critical, strategic, transactional, and leverage, which matches many consulting 2*2 breakdowns), today’s events, NCRs by type, NCR and KPI trends, etc.

Supplier profiles are typical of what you would expect and you can define and track all standard corporate data (including registration numbers), contacts, banking information, risk scores (through an API or collected from surveys), ESG data (from AppExchange partners, including Ecovadis and CSRHub, or pulled in from surveys), and spend (with an ERP or P2P integration). You can also store certificates and track associated metadata, see the supplier’s Z-score, its KPI scores (and drill into scorecards), see any associated nonconformance occurrences, open activities, surveys, and create supplier level initiatives (around overall savings targets, organizational alignment, performance measurements, etc.).

Products and Services
One unique capability of the LUPR platform is that they support extensive product and service definitions, which are associated with the corresponding suppliers, as well as the corresponding organizational standard product or service, and you can drill into each individual supplier product/service from both the supplier profile and the standard product/service, which can be organized by category (or category hierarchy with additional system hierarchy). It’s also easy to search for products and services by keywords (and then filter into particular categories or suppliers if desired).

The built-in out-of-the-box support is very extensive, and allows buyers to analyze total spend, define organizational needs, analyze markets, engage stakeholders, create strategies, and manage performance by product as well as manage performance by suppliers (discussed below). The assessments can be quite deep and look at the business aspect, supply market flexibility, savings estimation, and ease & speed of implementation. Furthermore, any relevant stakeholders can be engaged in the analysis as needed.

Issue Reporting and Performance Tracking / KPI Scorecards
Performance tracking in the platform revolves around KPI scorecards which can be very extensive, depending on how much data the organization tracks and integrates into the platform. The platform comes with a number of scorecard templates (and a large number of pre-defined measures in the KPI library), but LUPR can build custom scorecards to evaluate a supplier on any dimensions that are relevant to your business. (Also, all of the templates can be updated as you see fit, measures added and removed and weights updated to suit organizational preferences.) (They’ve done quite a few over the years and can implement extensive, custom scorecards relatively quickly.) Contract compliance, (On Time) Delivery, Quality, ESG, realized savings, etc. can all be tracked (by default) at the supplier level if the data is available, and you can get KPI scorecards by supplier, category, supplier-category, or a subset of the supply base (restricted to a region).

Nonconformance / Supplier Corrective Action Resolution
The system comes with built in templates to capture nonconformances (related to contracts, delivery, quality, invoices, etc.) that can be filled out by any system user and then turned into a supplier corrective action workflow by a supplier (account) manager that will accept and complete the information, share the nonconformance report with the supplier through the supplier community, get additional information back, propose a corrective action, capture supplier acceptance (or rejection, and then restart the process), track progress, and when the issue is resolved, close it out. LUPR has a detailed dashboard to help the Procurement team track nonconformances for fast resolution.

Savings Tracking and Initiative/Pipeline Management
The entry point is the initiative dashboard which is a Kanban type project management dashboard that summarizes projects in each stage (idea, evaluation, validation, execution, finalization, and realization) as well as the total dollar value of all projects in each stage. If the user prefers, she can flip to a tabular view that can be filtered by stage, owner, spend category, SOP category, and other relevant dimensions. Upon drilling into an active initiative, the user can see all of the associated data as well as what has been realized to date in the realization phase.

A new initiative can be created by simply defining a small amount of project data (name, owner, bracketing dates, business unit, etc.), the spend category, and one or more actions that will need to be performed. Actions just need a name, type, associated category, and one or more suppliers or products you are tracking the action against, each of which is associated with a start date, end date, tracking frequency (one time, monthly, quarterly, etc.), and accounting categorization (capex, opex, etc.).

Reporting and Analytics
Most reporting in the system is summarized in dashboards (from which you can drill into the individual reports behind the widget).

Provided the system is integrated with your ERP or spend analysis system, or someone enters the monthly spend or (data necessary to calculate the) savings realized against each initiative, one of the key reports is the savings dashboard that summarizes the initiatives, total anticipated savings, savings targets for the year, target run rate savings by month, targets by owner, targets by status, targets vs actioned, and so on to allow a supplier and/or category manager to get a firm grip on how initiatives are going, where they may not be going as well as projected, and where supplier management may be needed.

Another key report is the category dashboard which tracks on-time delivery, NCRs not resolved within 30 days (or the number of days defined by the organization), average NCR resolution time (by supplier) invoicing errors, spend, identified savings by quarter, and other key metrics filterable by category.

LUPR comes with out-of-the-box reports and dashboards which can be further configured for you upon implementation, or you can build your own.

The system also maintains complete, unalterable, audit trails on every data element in the system which can be queried and reported upon at any time in the reporting module.

Global Search & Chatter
It’s worth pointing out that the platform also supports global search, and will show all results by type (supplier, product/service, projects, reports, dashboards, events, etc.).

It also has built in slack-like communication where the user can communicate with other users, supplier users, or custom groups of users.

Administration
As the platform is built on Salesforce, everything can be customized, and, most importantly, users can be given access rights down to an individual data element if needed. Most of the administration takes place in the object-manager, which allows the user to select any LUPR system object for customization, as appropriate. Within an object, the user can edit the data elements, the allowed value ranges, the display criteria and layout, the access rights, etc.

So if you’re on the market for a Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) solution, and especially if you are a mid-size organization looking for an SRM solution, that’s quick to buy, quicker still to implement (if you already have Salesforce), and a great complement to a modern Sourcing and Procurement solution (as their API can be used to build integrations that pull data in from your ERP/AP [and they already have integrations with SAP and Oracle] and push up-to-date supplier data to your sourcing platform), LUPR is a platform you should check out. As with the new generation of solutions aimed primarily at SME organizations, it starts at a very affordable price point and as it was designed by Procurement consultants with over two decades of experience, you know they will help you configure it to support the supplier management projects and reporting your organization needs.

Don’t Have Your Supplier Information Covered? Maybe You Need a Canopy.

Next month, Canopy will be releasing the new SaaS version of their platform, built as a modern multi-tenant SaaS application using a modern stack, that is a new version of their current hosted offering, released in 2022, that was built using ten years of knowledge building customized, bespoke, supplier/contract/document data management solutions for enterprises who wanted particular processes supported, single-tenant solutions (due to multi-tenant apprehension), solutions that looked like they were in-house, etc. As they built these solutions (through OCG Software Limited), they learned a lot about supplier information management challenges in global mid-size and enterprise clients — and what a modern SaaS platform needed to do to support it (especially now that companies have realized there are often more disadvantages to single tenant than multi-tenant).

However, as they worked with clients across the spectrum, they learned a few things:

  • organizations of all sizes struggled producing a single golden supplier record
  • … as you decreased in organization size, due to lack of resources, they struggled more
  • there weren’t many solutions for the SME that were easy to learn, use, and configure to just what the organization needed
  • there weren’t (m)any solutions that were completely self-serve that could be bought on a credit card with 100% transparent pricing
  • despite the market noise around onboarding, smaller procurement departments didn’t always want mandatory onboarding out of the box — it takes time to get other departments aligned and change existing processes; they want to start with a golden record and go from there
  • most of these SMEs that don’t have supplier management don’t have contract management either
  • everyone wants performance capability, but not everyone uses it … it’s way more important they get compliance requirements in order, than risk under control … some smaller enterprises will never get beyond that

As a result of these learnings, they decided on the following:

  • the focus in the core application is making it easy to create a single, centralized, complete, verifiable supplier golden record
  • … which can be as basic or extensive as the organization needs to minimize the effort on the practioner
  • it’s fully configurable in terms of data elements — there are basic categories and elements out of the box, but these can be hidden, renamed, or extended as needed
  • they are releasing a basic SIM (Supplier Information Management) offering at 99£ that will allow up to five users to maintain supplier records (which can include all associated contracts) and anyone in the organization to read them
  • the onboarding solution is the next tier up (at 499£ a month)
  • performance is included in the tier 3 solution, which also includes extensive compliance and risk management capabilities for the average SME and ERP integration (where they integrate to your ERP — they’ve integrated with 7+ of the top 10 already)

Canopy have built a tiered offering that should serve the majority of the SME market at the price point they can afford and realize significant value from. (Also, the price point fits in the 120K, which, per year, is what a mid-market should expect to pay for Source-to-Pay (because 120K is more than enough for source-to-pay). We will discuss the solution tier-by-tier.

Tier 1: Supplier Information Management

The Canopy solution is a fairly extensive Supplier Information Management out-of-the-box. It allows you to capture all of the basic information on the:

  • company (ownership, HQ, primary categories, etc.)
  • contacts
  • category hierarchy (their default USPSC or yours)
  • products & specifications (mapped to the categories)
  • quality
  • services
  • insurance and other certificates
  • financial summary
  • tax status
  • health & safety
  • modern slavery
  • diversity

as well as allowing the buyer to

  • make arbitrary notes and maintain them chronologically over time
  • access a complete, unalterable, audit trail of all changes made by any party over time
    (which has been tested, and accepted, by the courts)
  • manage the administrative and non-administrative users and define what data they can edit or access
  • add arbitrary data elements to each category as needed
  • filter on any data element
  • output supplier reports summarizing all key supplier information
  • output text reports / supplier lists on any set of data points
  • get automated notifications based upon document expiry or pre-defined dates
  • define supplier owners

Quite good for a 99£/month starter solution!

Tier 2: Supplier Onboarding, Approvals, and Contract Management

The Canopy solution for the SME market that wants automated onboarding, supplier approvals, contract management, and the option for ERP integration is their tier 2 offering at only 499£/month (or less with an up-front payment for a year, which can be put on most company p-Cards) … still cheap enough to put on a credit card while meeting all of the basic needs of a SME Procurement department just starting their company wide supplier management journey.

Supplier Onboarding

Canopy built their solution to not only be highly configurable by the user with respect to the data that can be collected, the approvals that can be required, and the documents that can be stored, but also with respect to the UX configuration for the supplier. The branding and colours, in particular, is very configurable so it looks like the supplier portal is an in-house buyer solution. Canopy doesn’t appear anywhere in the configuration.

A supplier logs in, sees the profile they need to complete (which can have conditional elements so they only need to see relevant questions), and any questions or requests outstanding from the buyer. It’s designed to be as intuitive as possible to minimize the need for buyer interaction (or support).

Approvals

In the Canopy system, the buyer can define approvals against any category or item of information in the supplier profile — bank account info, Infosec/IT requirements, modern slavery requirements, insurance requirements, etc. These can happen in parallel, and until all approvals are given, the supplier can remain in an unapproved state.

Contract Management

The platform supports the majority of the core requirements for basic contract management / contract governance which, as per Part 24 of our S2P series on Contract Governance, is:

  • indexing and classification with document management
    the system supports all of the standard metadata and the buyer can define additional fields as necessary
  • obligation, deliverable and expiration tracking
    the system tracks expirations by default, and you can add fields for obligations and deliverables
  • alerting & notifications
    the system can be configured to alert you near / on / after expiration and send out notifications
  • amendment & addendum management
    the system can support the inclusion of as many addendums (and thus amendments as you like)
  • equal support for buy-side and sell-side
    suppliers can upload all requested documents and view what they uploaded; not quite equal, but enough for most SMEs

Tier 3: Compliance, Risk, and Performance

The Canopy Solution also has modules for compliance, risk, and performance.

Compliance

The compliance module allows the organization to define supplier compliance requirements that can be category or profile dependent. It can track the required documents, expiry, the appropriate metadata for easy search, approval status, and, most importantly, whether the supplier responses or documents meet the organizational and/or regulatory compliance requirements. And, if a supplier is non-compliant, it can clearly put them into a non-compliance status and, if you have integrated the platform into your ERP, push the compliance status into your ERP.

Moreover, out of the box, it comes with detailed profiles for modern slavery, ESG, and one or two other compliance requirements the majority of its UK/EU customers have to deal with. (In contrast, the basic tier 1 solution only has a small basic data set, no approvals, no dependent requirements, etc.)

Risk

The companion to the compliance module, it allows the organization to define risk criteria of interest that can be category or supplier profile dependent. It can track any requested or required documents, the “expiry” for when you want a supplier to re-upload or reconfirm the documents, all appropriate fields, the last update or confirmation, and, most importantly, the risk the supplier poses with respect to a requirement based on how they answer the requirement, which can be dependent on a series of questions and answers that can differentiate between high-medium-low risk (or, if configured, additional levels such as very high and very low). It can then compute an overall risk profile based on the highest risk or the average risk.

Also, like compliance, out of the box, it comes with a number of detailed profiles for info-sec, financial status, and health and safety. Which, of course, can all be edited and customized to the buyer’s liking.

Performance

The performance module allows the buyer to define the dimensions they want to evaluate the suppliers on, the scale (1 to 5, by default, or 1 to 10) they want to grade suppliers on, grade those suppliers singularly, or send out surveys to as many users as desired and compute a weighted store. It’s simple, but that means it’s also quick and easy and usable by an SME. The one request that almost every SXM buyer puts into a SXM RFP is Performance Scoring, Tracking, and Management. The least used feature, simultaneously, is also Performance because it’s usually an effort to get everyone on board and get it done, especially in an extremely overworked and understaffed Procurement Department in an SME organization. But since it’s so simple, it can actually be rolled out once the impacted users in risk, compliance, finance and other departments get used to the system (through their approvals).

ERP Integration

Finally, this level, with a minimum one year commitment, includes integration into your ERP. They have integration experience with most of the big ERPs, and know the quirks of SAP, Oracle, Vista, NetSuite, IFS, and Microsoft Dynamics in particular.

Full Data Export

Canopy belives your data is your data, and you can do complete .csv exports at any time. They also support JSON on request, and if you need your data in a certain format (XML, etc.) for integration to another system, they can do that on request. (Service fees may be required.)

Coming Soon: The Roadmap

They have quite a bit on their roadmap, especially at Tier 3, and you’ll see the first iterations of the following this year.

Graphical Analysis and Reporting

Right now, the reports are largely text based, but since they support Risk and ESG data, they want the data to come alive. Also, as they’ve found that most of their customers don’t have good spend analysis, they plan to support spend import from the AP/I2P system (invoices and payments) and provide the users with basic spend reports by supplier (along with an invoice repository for users who want to drill in). This won’t be a (replacement for a) spend analysis system, but basic spend levels to help users understand how much spend goes through a supplier, when it was last used, and how important compliance/risk assessments are.

NLP/LLM Document Processing and Metadata Extraction

Right now, you can upload all the documents you want, but you have to define and fill in all of your own metadata. This will parse the documents and pre-fill the metadata fields with suggested data (based on confidence matches), which the buyer can then override, for easy document upload and indexing.

NLP query support for metadata and document search

Can’t remember where that parameter is? No problem, just type a question in the NLP search box and the system will find the field and generate the right query/filter. Also, did you forget to index something, but need to know all documents that have it (such as a risk clause for a specific risk, renewal clause, etc.), they’re working on NLP queries that can support free-form (not just metadata) document search as well. (This latter feature may not come this year, all depending on how fast they finish the above.)

In Summary …

All in all, it’s a very extensive SXM solution for a SME given that tier 3 can start at only a few thousand pounds a month for a SME! And it’s clean, quick, and easy to use to boot. If you’re an SME in the 20M to 200M range, we strongly suggest you check it out. It might be just what you need to get your supplier management challenge under control.

Mercanis: Men with a Mission to bring Modern Volkswagen Efficiency with BMW Style to Source-to-Contract! Part 2

As discussed in Part I, Mercanis is a new Source-to-Contract mini-suite provider based in Berlin, Germany that is bringing a powerful, affordable, and easy to use solution to the mid-market that not only has core capabilities in sourcing, supplier management, analytics, and contract management, but also has core capabilities around risk assessment AND intake, which is not something we have traditionally seen in mid-market Source-to-Contract, and even enterprise Source-to-Contract and Source-to-Pay suites.

Logging into Mercanis takes the end user, who could be a buyer, an AP clerk, or an average employee who needs to go out to market for a product or service to do their job, to their customized dashboard (according to their role) where they can see an overview of their events/requests, contracts, suppliers (including individual supplier overviews) they manage or have access to, organizational spend they oversee, and other relevant information depending on the selected widgets.

Yesterday we overviewed Sourcing, Supplier Management, and Risk. Today we are going to overview Contracts, Spend Analysis, and Platform Administration.

CONTRACTS

Contract Management in Mercanis is straightforward contract document management with a sprinkle of contract creation capability. It stores all of the contracts and associated metadata, including the supplier, active term, value, type, and status (which is draft, pending, active, inactive, and archived by default). It’s easy to search, filter, retrieve, and view a contract at any time. Viewing takes the buyer to the summary screen, from which the user can drill into more detailed screens on payment, linked documents and contracts, stakeholders, relevant clauses, and other (custom) information screens as appropriate to the contract type. The system also supports the definition of tags and contracts can be tagged to categories or conditions of interest, such as sensitive of personal data, auto-renewing, special initiatives, and so on.

Uploading a contract in the Mercanis platform is easy. You drag and drop the document and it auto-extracts most of the key meta data elements that are described in the platform using OCR and advanced NLP. It’s not perfect (no system is, no matter how much fancy AI the systems claim), but it’s easy for the user to override any extract data that is not quite what they want, or not found, and index into the relevant part of the contract.

Finally, contract queries can be search and filter on metadata or Natural Language chat, which will learn from repeated use and adapt to the user’s natural language queries over time.

SPEND ANALYSIS

Basic Spend Analysis is integrated into the core and allows the user to select filterable widgets and dashboards that show spend by category, cost center, supplier, and other major identifier in the system (contract, sourcing event, etc.). It is instantiated with AP data on system implementation, which the system auto-maps to your pre-defined category taxonomy using (auto-generated) mapping rules consisting of suppliers and keywords/phrases/abbreviations/tags in the line item descriptions (identified by AI and curated by humans) and provides sourcing professionals insights from the date of go-live.

As with every other modern platform, it’s easy to drill into the categories (and sub-categories), suppliers, cost centers/business units, and contracts and see the associated transactions. Filters will also allow limiting to date ranges or other record values of interest. And it’s very easy to pop-up a supplier profile from a spend analytics widget or screen or a contract as the analytics, while basic compared to best-of-breed spend analysis tools, are fully integrated.

ADMIN

When it comes to platform administration, it is highly configurable by the organizational administrators. This administration includes the ability to configure approval paths, role groups, individual users, and workspaces (which roles can be limited to) as well as the company information your suppliers see about you. (It’s such a simple concept, but even many SRM platforms don’t make it easy for a supplier to access the customer information about you that they need as a supplier.) There can be different approval paths for every workflow including, but not limited to, supplier onboarding, sourcing (intake) request approval, sourcing awards, and contract approvals, including conditional/branching approvals based on arbitrary fields (such as amounts over or under 50K, product/service category, etc.). These flows can be built using a visual approval workflow builder that can support all standard Boolean logic and if/then/case conditionals.

Let’s dive into workspace configuration, as this is one of the most unique capabilities. The platform supports the definition of as many workspaces as you want, where each workspace can have its own dashboard, its own subset of modules, restricted/no admin access, approval workflows, and templates. Most importantly, a role can be associated with a workspace and when a user is associated with role, that is the workspace, and the only workspace, they will see when they log in. If necessary, the platform can support hyper-personalization natively.

In addition to the platform administration capabilities outlined above, the organization can define business units, manage its category tree (for sourcing and the built in spend analysis), define it’s default meta data requirements by contract type, visually manage all platform workflows (across all modules), manage its currency exchange rates, define its (supplier/RFQ) ratings, and define and manage the data collection templates for every module in the system including supplier data collection forms, pricing sheets, RFP questionnaires, and contract/document templates.

When it comes to workflows, just like the platform can support as many workspaces as you like, it can support as many workflows as you like for each process supported by the module. For example, you can not only have a different sourcing workflow for each category, but you can have multiple workflows based on expected spend. You can have different supplier onboarding workflows depending on category, geography, or a combination thereof (for example), different contract / document creation and management workflows (in addition to approval), and so on. And each can be linked to the associated module in the associated workspace. Highly configurable.

Workflow definition is enabled by the rule builder which is very flexible, and just like approval workflows, is completely visual, supports all Boolean logic, and allows rules to be easily defined in a rule chain that defines the category/ies, role group(s), workspace(s), discriminator (such as budget amount), and action (which can itself kick off another workflow).

The pricing sheets are very flexible and essentially act as mini-spreadsheets embedded in the sourcing tool. Allows for detailed cost break downs and calculations in both sourcing events, and analytic comparisons. The templates can have any number of elements and support all standard HTML components.

IMPLEMENTATION

The system can be implemented and configured for go-live in as little as two weeks, as long as the relevant supplier dataset and spend history can be provided day one and is complete enough that their processes can sufficiently classify the AP data on the first pass to the point that they can complete the processing with manual intervention within the timeframe. Note that the buying organization can choose to load all suppliers, all suppliers used within the last x months or years, or just currently active suppliers that will be used in sourcing events.

Mercanis is a great new entry to the mid-market Source-to-Contract space, especially considering all of the acquisitions and roll-ups of the last 5 years or so that took a lot of companies out of the mid-market and into the enterprise suite game. If you’re looking for a new S2C solution, and especially if you are based in Europe, Mercanis will make a great addition to your shortlist. It’s come a long way in a short time and the doctor has no reason to believe that they won’t continue to make significant progress, and add significant value, over the next few years while maintaining a price-point the mid-market can afford.

Mercanis: Men with a Mission to bring Modern Volkswagen Efficiency with BMW Style to Source-to-Contract! Part 1

Mercanis a new Source-to-Contract mini-suite provider based in Berlin, Germany that is bringing a powerful, affordable, and easy to use solution to the mid-market that not only has core capabilities in sourcing, supplier management, analytics, and contract management, but also has core capabilities around risk assessment AND intake, which is not something we have traditionally seen in mid-market Source-to-Contract, and even enterprise Source-to-Contract and Source-to-Pay suites.

Logging into Mercanis takes the end user, who could be a buyer, an AP clerk, or an average employee who needs to go out to market for a product or service to do their job, to their customized dashboard (according to their role) where they can see an overview of their events/requests, contracts, suppliers (including individual supplier overviews) they manage or have access to, organizational spend they oversee, and other relevant information depending on the selected widgets.

Today we’re going to discuss Sourcing, Supplier Management, and Risk.

SOURCING

Creating a sourcing event in Mercanis for new or previously sourced articles can be accomplished in just a few minutes as the platform was designed for high efficiency. With integrated intake, the system will either guide an organizational user to a self-serve sourcing event for articles (products/components/fixed services) in acceptable categories under a certain amount or funnel to the appropriate sourcing team, as appropriate.

When an organizational user wants something, they define their event name, a unique departmental project reference, category, budget, RFX due date, relevant organizational tags, affected business unit[s], preferred NDA (from those associated with the category), and then the system will either notify the requester that this needs to be a (strategic) sourcing event and direct it to the sourcing team or take the buyer to their (selected) workspace where they can set it up on their own.

In either situation, the next step is to select suppliers. Suppliers are auto-suggested by the system and it’s one click to select them (and the user can search for other known suppliers or even invite a new supplier for onboarding if they want to). After that, they select an appropriate pricing sheet (from those associated) which is automatically pulled in, and then they select appropriate RFP surveys that they want filled out (which are also auto-suggested based on the article). They can then launch the event immediately, or specify a later date, and at any time they can (come back and) add stakeholders.

For a single article, since everything is auto-suggested, they can literally select the core suppliers, price sheet, and surveys with a few clicks and launch a small event in a minute. Most events on an article or category can be reasonably defined in five to fifteen minutes (vs. the 15 hours for some first, and even second, generation suites).

In the Sourcing projects can be multi-round if necessary. Once the results come back, the buyer can kick off another event based off of that project and link it to the existing one to create a multi-round event.

Also, once response come in, as many stakeholders as desired can score it, the scores can be weighted, and once an award is decided upon, it can be sent to the contract module. Survey responses for each survey can be compared side-by-side for easy comparison against peers. And when the individual responses are scored, the buyer can see the assessment criteria scores graphically in spider graphs, including a calculated score based on total relative pricing. When it comes to price sheets, which can include embedded formulas, the buyer can select the prices of interest for side-by-side comparison as well. And to make the comparisons pop, the buyer can even shift to dark mode. While not always the best for data entry, it does make certain visual comparisons pop.

The entry point to sourcing is the dashboard which will summarize the requests, events by category, upcoming, and current sourcing events that need to be reviewed, managed, or awarded.

An organizational buyer can also two-click a new sourcing event by going to the article summary screen, locating the article of interest, clicking on it, defining an event name, selecting one of the associated sourcing workflows (defaulted if just one), selecting one of the associated pricing sheets (defaulted if just one), and confirming the event creation.

SUPPLIER MANAGEMENT

The Supplier Management module revolves around the Supplier Repository which organizes all supplier related information in the system with each supplier maintained by the system. It’s easy to search suppliers by name, category, location, associated transaction cost centers, and other information. Upon implementation, Mercanis can import all of your suppliers from your ERP, just a subset you mark as active, or only those suppliers used in the past x years.

On implementation, they will pull in as much information as they have, fill in gaps with any information they have in their system, and augment with a 360-degree profile they auto-generate using their AI tools that scrapes supplier websites and pulls in data from third party sites, Compliance Catalyst, Dun & Bradstreet and/or other third party supplier data providers you have a subscription to. This profile will include a short description, any known (reference) customers, categories the supplier (can) supply in your taxonomy, any known contacts, owners, known business units, primary / head office location, website and Linkedin URLs, and even known similar suppliers in your database. It will also contain direct links to any third party profiles you have access to, and can even pull all of that information into the platform for you.

This is in addition to the basic corporate information (and contacts) maintained by the system (which includes legal identifiers, basic accounting information, and location data), supplier states (which can be buyer organization defined), tiers (as the organization can track tier 2 suppliers or suppliers typically used by your suppliers, third party ratings (from the ERP or a data partner) and data that can be pulled in (which can be visually displayed in spider graphs), specific information collected during onboarding, and appropriate risk data (including cached data from any third party data feeds you have a license too). Note that suppliers can also be evaluated using organizational surveys that can be associated with them, and multiple evaluators can be associated with these surveys.

The SRM system also centralizes and maintains a record of all system activity, including sourcing events, contracts, risk profiles, and associated supplier analytics. It also tracks all associated tasks from across the system in one location, all associated (onboarding/sourcing/contract) requests, and any notes the buying organization wants to add.

New supplier creation is easy. It can be as easy as defining a name and email to kick-off the onboarding process, which will send a request to the buyer to provide the requested information. (Note that if you provide an appropriate legal identifier or URL and the supplier is in the Mercanis database, base information will automatically be populated to simplify the onboarding process for the supplier.)

Search can be customized to work on any given supplier identifier.

RISK

The risk module, primarily used in supplier pre-qualification, tracks country and industry risk across the globe and can instantly associate the relevant country and industry risks with an existing, or new, supplier based on its address and NAICS code. The platform uses over 40 different data sources to analyze country and industry risk in accordance with the German Supply Chain Act and computes a score for every country-industry risk correlation.

In addition, it can integrate with third party data from providers like IntegrityNext and Ecovadis and, for any supplier, pull in all the relevant data if the customer has the data feed licenses and automatically compute advanced risk measures using their data (from public sources) and third party data.

Come back tomorrow for Contracts, Spend Analysis, and Administration.

Need a strong Supplier Management Solution? Maybe you should get one made of Graphite …

Or at least virtual graphite … which was essentially the goal of the founders of GraphiteConnect when they launched the company five years ago in an effort to modernize supplier onboarding with a solution that would stand the test of time and solve many of the problems they encountered leading purchasing in their lost jobs which included:

  • time-consuming supplier onboarding (which just increased with first and second generation supplier management solutions which often extended what used to be a 2-day fax-based process to 2 weeks)
  • difficulty of adding requirements during a process or when a new legislation or initiative comes into effect
  • difficulty of maintaining supplier documents and data that needs to be updated/validated regularly
  • ensuring financial information is valid and has not been changed by an unauthorized party
  • tracking risk and privacy protection requirements from the start of the onboarding process
  • dealing with inaccurate (unverified) supplier data and manual ERP entry
  • etc.

They also realized that the only way for this to happen would be if the suppliers maintained their own data, but the only way a supplier could reasonably do that is if they only had to maintain that data once (as they saw the proliferation of effort on suppliers who had to upload the same information for every client in the big procurement and supplier management systems of the day). So they also wanted a system where the supplier could maintain ONE profile, which could be expanded with new common information requirements over time, and the supplier could grant (potential) customers the right to subscribe (and view) their data, including data that was validated with third party registries by the platform. Thus, they decided to build a neutral network of networks, modelling their solution off of social networks to reach the desired level of capability and functionality.

By adopting a network-of-networks approach, GraphiteConnect could enable quick, many-to-many sharing of key information requirements when a new data requirement came into play as a result of a new legislation (allowing a supplier to just push it out to all its customers on the network vs. responding to its customers one-by-one). This is because the network, unlike most supplier “networks” is designed to optimize information sharing and not procurement transactions. Furthermore, to make it even easier for suppliers to transact with their customers and vice versa, translation is localized in the platform (with 18 languages so far and more coming) so that the burden of translating core data elements (or at least the descriptors thereof) is not on the customers or the suppliers, with each party being able to work in their native language for efficiency.

Supplier and buyer data elements and documents (such as contracts) are fully segregated with data associated with the owning entity (again, buyer’s subscribe to supplier data elements of interest), which means that a buyer can never overwrite supplier data (especially legal entity, banking, or verified data) and vice-versa. This is very important because you can’t trust a “network” where the buyer can change your supplier data.

Onboarding is relatively quick and risk-aware, and is integrated into the search process so that, if the buyer can’t find the supplier in their (tier-1) supply base, and the supplier is already part of the GraphiteConnect network, the user will be able to quickly add the supplier as the platform will bring up all potential entities, making onboarding simply a matter of specifying what information is needed (which asks the supplier to share that data and provide any additional data not in their shareable public profile). And if not, like any other modern system, it’s a contact and an email and a few basic pieces of information (which we’ll discuss later) to invite the supplier, which, upon basic profile completion, will be verified and ready to fully onboard.

Onboarding has a well defined workflow, and both parties see where the process is at all times. Request, initial supplier response, buyer privacy and security reviews, and push to organization master data stores at a minimum, but the request/response can be multi-stage (i.e. you don’t request non-standard data until you do baseline risk/security/privacy assessments), including extra stages for revisions, and the workflow will expand or contract as necessary.

Search is great, and is fully guided. If you’re looking for a supplier for a product or service, you start by indicating what type of supplier you want, and it guides you through a series of questions to limit you down to an appropriate set of suppliers. For example, when you are looking for contract services, it will ask if you want an independent contractor or a company (and the desired company size). It will then ask service type, and drill down (e.g. independent contractor, IT, software engineer, .NET, etc.) until it gives you a tailored list to choose from (and invite for onboarding).

Pivoting to verification, GraphiteConnect integrates with the appropriate registries to verify and validate the vendor data elements in over 130 countries globally including, but not limited to, legal name and identifier, physical addresses, VAT/TAX/Government registration numbers, bank routings, sanctions lists, additional 3rd party sources for modern slavery, forced labour, compliance, ethics, financial viability, safety, sustainability, and cyber (including Darkbeam, and trust the doctor when he says that if you’re not shining a light on your suppliers’ cyber presence, someone else is, and looking for a way to use them as a back door into you).

Of course, a buyer is not limited to existing data, they can request additional data at any time from any supplier in their network. When they do so, the requested fields are added to a supplier’s virtual data room (that houses all of the different aspects of their profile), and when the supplier rep fills out that information, it automatically grants a subscription to the requesting buyer.

And of course, once the supplier is onboarded, it’s really easy to navigate through a supplier profile and find the exact piece of information you’re looking for due to the multi-part profiles, sub-categories in the profile, elements that dynamically expand and contract as needed, and so on. In addition to core data, the platform, like any good supplier management platform, collects contacts, action plans, documents, communications, and contracts related to a supplier (that are part of the buyer’s data room) in one place for the buyer.

The great thing about the platform is that it is a network built for entity connections, which means every entity, including the buyer, which could be a supplier to other buyers in the network, has it’s own profile (in a secure virtual data room that is fully encrypted) so all of it’s data is verified and securely maintained (and editable only by its authorized employees). This means that a buyer can not only share the information with the supplier that the supplier needs to transact with the buyer but to its customers as well — and do so in all cases with ease. More importantly, it means that, when necessary, the platform can create shared secured data rooms for collaborative editing of data fields and documents between a buyer and supplier that can pull in the relevant data from each party’s private data room for document auto-fill. And when the document/new data fields are complete, it can be pulled back into the relevant party’s data room (with an auto-subscription to the other party).

And the other great thing about the platform, is that it was designed with the realization that risk needs to be front and center from before an invite goes out to a potential supplier until the last service has been completed and the last product has left the wild. And the platform enforces risk awareness, and mitigation, from the minute a buyer wants to onboard a supplier until the supplier leaves your connections. When you want to onboard a supplier, the first thing you do is identify the primary product or service you are considering, whether the relationship is expected to be one time or ongoing, the anticipated (annual) spend, and, most importantly, the categories of your data the supplier will have access to as well as any personal data of your employees or customers they may have access to. Based on this, the platform can identify the types and levels of risk your organization will be subject to and automatically request the appropriate risk data in the invite (which could include custom survey/data requests that the supplier hasn’t seen before, and which will get added to their profile when the accept the invitation and fill out that data).

The UX is extremely streamlined for the tasks the average user needs to execute with just six main areas in addition to the home screen (and the settings screen):

  • tasks – which centralizes all of the buyer’s tasks when they login
  • contracts – which is the organization’s electronic filing cabinet with easy meta-data based search
  • connections – which is the entry point to search and onboarding
  • opportunities – which is where the platform centralizes initiatives around supplier diversity, ethics, clearance certifications, etc. where a buyer can setup a portal for interested suppliers who can meet certain goals and objectives to self-register and provide the requested information (for future customer onboarding and RFPs)
  • action plans – which is where ongoing activities are collected and managed (onboarding, reviews, etc.)
  • reports – which centralizes the activity reports

Furthermore, intake in GraphiteConnect is very extensible. It can be configured to meet the needs of your sourcing, contract, diligence, and procurement teams with supplier onboarding and management and it can be configured to push back the appropriate data into each source system that needs to interact // cache supplier data.

And unlike many other platforms that were designed with the expectation that initial customers would be primarily mid-market, as the founders are ex-Intel and Adobe, it was built for massive scale and can handle enterprise scale (which requires tens of thousands of active suppliers) with the same ease as mid-market scale (which requires thousands of active suppliers) and is a solution that any company can grow with (or integrate into their Source-to-Pay-Plus stack.

So if you’re looking for supplier management platform that can auto-validate, rapidly scale, and minimize supplier burden with it’s subscription/reference- based network architecture, maybe you should look at Graphite Connect. With their ability to quickly integrate with (Open) APIs, they can solve a lot of your intake and onboarding problems as well.