Category Archives: Supplier Information Management

SIM? Is It Old News or a Shiny New Pair of Shoes? Part III

As per our last two posts, SIM (Supplier Information Management) is a very mature and stable technology with a large number of software vendors not only providing the tools and best practices to manage supplier life-cycles, but to manage risk, compliance, receivables, and even spend repositories for spend management. And now that every suite vendor has built, or acquired it, the technology is a commodity in the Supply Management Space, and an acquisition of the typical implementation is not likely to get baby that new pair of shoes anytime soon. Especially since most of these platforms use static data models, fixed workflows, and have little support for supply chain visibility beyond tier 1.

More specifically, as per our last post, what is needed is a SIM tool that allows for a truly dynamic data model, adaptable workflow, and a supply chain organization map that could truly bring a new wave of value to a modern Supply Management organization.

And while many of the classic platforms do not have this capability, as well as many of the best-of-breed platforms, some of the newer, and more innovative, platforms are going down this path.

For example, Ivalua, one of the few suite providers built from the ground up on a single code-base, has spent years building a powerful workflow engine that underlies their entire platform and that can be configured to support just about any supplier on-boarding process you can imagine — as well as integrate just about any data source you want to augment the profiles through its end-user data source integration capability.

Then we have SourceMap, which allows you to map your supply chain down to the source raw material, collect data up and down the chain, and dynamically alter it as raw material providers entered the chain or dropped off. And you can visualize it, create risk models that work on propagated data up and down the chain, and even estimate the impact of a delay or disruption.

And, more importantly, we have HICX, the little vendor that could, did, and keeps on trucking. Fully dynamic, adaptable data model that can even be configured into your own workflows and allow you to hang sub-tier supplier information off of supplier nodes. A powerful UI which can be heavily customized, and more innovations coming soon.

In other words, while classic SIM is old-tech and indistinguishable between about two dozen providers, modern SIM is beginning to undergo a resurgence, and when we finally get open networks, centralized, validated data, and community intelligence, we’ll see a new level of value ooze from these solutions.

So choose wisely, and your solution may just grow with you (instead of taking you back to 2009 when we had a feeling things would get better, but didn’t).

SIM? Is It Old News or a Shiny New Pair of Shoes? Part II (Updated)

As per our last post, SIM (Supplier Information Management) is a very mature and stable technology with a large number of software vendors not only providing the tools and best practices to manage supplier life-cycles, but to manage risk, compliance, receivables, and even spend repositories for spend management. And now that every suite vendor has built, or acquired it, the technology is almost a commodity in the Supply Management Space, and an acquisition thereof is not likely to get baby that new pair of shoes anytime soon. Or is it?

As great as they are, most SIM products —- stand alone best-of-breed or integrated suite offerings, have at least one weakness —- and often two. In particular, the data model and the workflow. Just like early spend analysis solutions were often tied to one, rigid, UNSPSC-based data model, most current SIM solutions are also tied to one, rather rigid, data model. In addition, most of those solutions with some SLM (Supplier Lifecycle Management) also have rigid workflows.

This worked well when business processes were predictable and stable and corresponded to products with long life-spans. But the times they-have-a-changed. These days, product life-spans are measured in quarters, and not years, if we are lucky. Associated processes change to not only accommodate the new product demands but to adapt to new technologies and new business requirements. If the workflow can’t adapt, the capability, and overall usefulness, of the tool is limited.

A SIM product that could not only allow a user to define, and redefine, data models as necessary but define, and redefine, workflows as necessary would offer more value than current SIM platforms. And if that product could also maintain full audit trails, which not only track data changes but model and workflow changes, and insure that old records and workflows can still be seamlessly accessed when the data model or workflow changes, then that would be even better.

And if that SIM product went even further and allowed for dynamic organizational, supply base, and user-defined hierarchies, that would be icing on the cake. Supply Chains are not boring because they are not static. They are constantly changing. The supply chain can not only change from product to product, but batch to batch as a primary raw material or part supplier runs out of material, becomes unreachable due to a political or natural disaster, or simply gets greedy and forces the higher tier supplier to find a new source. A good SIM solution will allow the supply chain map to evolve in real-time as the supply chain evolves. Moreover, with acquisitions, mergers, and spin-offs being the normal modus operandi for many businesses, a SIM solution that can easily adapt the organizational data model is also required. Finally, for maximum productivity, a user needs to be able to maintain their own view of the supply chain, back and front, relevant to them. They need to maintain their view of the relevant multi-tier supply base and the relevant hierarchies in their organization that they have to report to and serve.

In other words, a SIM tool that allowed for a truly dynamic data model, workflow, and supply chain organization map could bring a new wave of value to a modern Supply Management organization and the individual with the foresight to acquire such a tool might just get baby a new set of shoes. But is this available? And is it becoming common place?

SIM? Is It Old News or a Shiny New Pair of Shoes? Part I (Updated)

Supplier Information Management, also known as SIM (but which has almost nothing to do with your Subscriber Identity Module card in your cell phone, which is what you probably think of when you hear SIM), is not new. The early leader in this space, Aravo, which boasted the likes of GE and CISCO as clients, was formed in 2000 and followed not only by a slew of companies trying to be best of breed in SIM (including AECSoft, acquired by SciQuest which is now Jaggaer; Hiperos, now owed by Coupa; and Lavante; now owned by PRGX to name a few) but by a slew of suite vendors that began to implement enhanced SIM into their platforms (including Ariba, Iasta [now Determine], and Zycus).

And most of the basic features are now commodity. Try to find a vendor that sells SIM that doesn’t track all headquarter location, financial, core product, service, insurance, and third party risk information associated with a tier 1 supplier. Most of the good vendors also track third party credentials, compliance information against all relevant laws and directives, internal performance metrics and third party ratings, and even integration with third party supplier directories, databases, and or networks.

And the uses are well known.

  • Where are the bulk of my suppliers located?
  • What is the financial health (risk score) of my top 100 suppliers?
  • Are any of my products out of compliance with regulations in one or more countries?
  • Do all of my suppliers have their relevant insurance certificates up to date?
  • Who are my riskiest suppliers?
  • Have all of my suppliers verified their primary contacts in the last six months?

And the more mature companies, to try and maintain an edge, maintain their customer base, and expand into new companies and additional verticals have started to integrate additional, and related, functionality. Aravo evolved into a full Supplier Lifecycle Management solution that balanced compliance, performance, and risk management. Hiperos, before its acquisition by Opus Global and then Coupa, focussed on Third Party Management and on Compliance and Risk Management in particular. For example, their compliance management solutions included code of conduct, diversity management, insurance attestation, social accountability, and sustainability. Lavante focussed on on-boarding and integrating SIM with audit recovery services and advanced to the point where it was acquired by the leading audit recovery services provider, PRGX.

When all is said and done, SIM seems like a very mature space that is very old news. Typically when a technology gets to a point that all the suite vendors are just gobbling up what’s left, there’s nothing new. And betting on it definitely musters the image of an old gambler clutching dice in one hand and his last dollar in the other mumbling “baby needs a new pair of shoes“. But is it a bet you would lose?

Visibility is Key to Managing Suppliers

For the first part of this week, we have been talking about the significant overlap between sourcing and supplier management and the necessary platform elements needed to support both. Key elements included performance, relationship, and risk management, because all are necessary for sourcing and supplier success.

Spend Matters recently ran a 3-part series on a sub-set of the issue, based on a recent interview with Ecovadis, that talked about how Visibility is Key to Managing CSR Risks in Indirect Spend (Part I, Part II, and Part III). But visibility is needed for more than just addressing risks in indirect spend. It’s also needed for addressing risks in direct spend.

Direct spend has all the same risks, they just aren’t one step removed through an intermediary. And you have to trace all of the products down to the raw materials to identify not only in your supply base, but your supplier’s supply base, their supplier’s supply base, and their supplier’s down to the mine, the farm, or the harvester.

But it’s not just the suppliers you need visibility into, it’s the environment that surrounds them. After all, a natural disaster can cut them off. An economic downturn can render them bankrupt if the currency they do business in (and keep the majority of their cash on hand in) crashes. A geo-political uprising can cut them off at the border. A port strike can cut off their primary shipping routes. And so on. You need a full 360-degree view around the supplier to ensure success.

But how do you get that? You can’t watch everything everywhere, and when you consider the extent of the global supply chain, you almost have to.

That’s why it’s key to have a platform that can integrate with 3rd party sources as you will need to integrate dozens, if not hundreds, of data sources to keep on top of all of the data you need to populate the models to evaluate and track the risks.

And that’s why two of the key elements we look for in a platform are integration and dynamic data model extensibility. You never have enough data. Without the right data, you don’t have the visibility, and that’s key to success. Or at least to preventing major unexpected disruptions.

Digging Into Significant Sourcing Supplier Management Synchronization Part II

Earlier this week we started to describe the second most significant change to the upcoming Q2 Release of the Spend Matters Solution Map, and that is the introduction of a new common sourcing – supplier management section because you can’t do sourcing without suppliers and you don’t manage suppliers without the ultimate goal of doing business with them

This new section contains the following common sub-categories:

  • Enhanced Information Management for discovery and onboarding
  • Performance Management for tracking performance
  • Relationship Management for managing the relationship
  • Risk Management for keeping tabs on, and managing, the risk
  • Enhanced Portal for information management and collaboration

Our first post explained why these sub-categories were relevant. In our last post we covered the first three sub-categories. Today we’re going to start discussing what’s important to consider in the remaining two categories.

So what are the key capabilities we’re looking for in the risk management and enhanced portal sub-categories?

Risk Management

  • Assessment because if you can’t assess a risk, you can’t properly identify the magnitude of the risk and the need to monitor it
  • Mitigation Planning because credible risks need to be planned for and mitigated
  • Model Definition to allow you to quantify both the likelihood of the risk and the expected cost should the risk materialize
  • Monitoring & Identification to allow for the events that could (potentially) materialize to be monitored for and detected
  • Regulatory Compliance to quantify the extent to which the platform can track compliance requirements and a supplier’s ability to conform to them
  • Supplier Risk Management to model overall supplier risk based on assessment, models, external monitoring, third party data, compliance, and performance

Supplier Portal

  • Information Management to allow a supplier to maintain, or at least comment on, their data (and data related to them)
  • Performance Management to allow a supplier to respond to their performance review’s and conduct 360-degree reviews on the buyer
  • Relationship Management to allow the supplier to raise issues, respond to issues, and collaborate on corrective action plans
  • Collaboration to allow full interaction and feedback

These are also all key capabilities for sourcing and for successful supplier management.