Category Archives: Supplier Information Management

Digging Into Significant Sourcing Supplier Management Synchronization Part I

In our last post 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 on-boarding
  • 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

And our last post explained why these sub-categories were relevant. Today we’re going to start discussing what’s important to consider in each of these categories.

Enhanced Information Management
There are three main categories of functionality we are looking for:

  • Discovery and the ability to find suppliers beyond the platform
  • On-boarding Support and the ability to get new suppliers quickly into the platform
  • Supply Base Profiling and the ability to create holistic supplier profiles

Performance Management

  • KPIs and the ability to define and manage them
  • Preferred & Blacklisted Suppliers and the ability to define and manage them appropriately

Relationship Management

  • Issue Management and the ability to define, track, and manage issues
  • Plan Management and the ability to define, track, manage, and resolve plans to manage and resolve issues

These are all key capabilities for sourcing and for successful supplier management. Tomorrow we’ll review the last two joint categories.

Significant Sourcing Supplier Management Synchronization

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been laying the foundations for the significant changes coming in the upcoming Q2 release of Spend Matters Solution Map, with the new common-foundations and the Sourcing, Supplier Management, and Analytics Maps designed by yours truly, the doctor of Sourcing Innovation.

While the biggest change was the introduction of a new common platform section, which evaluates solutions based on the underlying platform (which is becoming more and more important now that more players are offering “suites” and the longevity of a platform without a good platform is limited), the next biggest change is the introduction of a new common section that overlaps sourcing and supplier management because you can’t do sourcing without suppliers and you don’t manage suppliers without the ultimate goal of doing business with them. (And while this is not yet common to e-Procurement, it may soon be a common requirement for any catalog providers as more and more such providers offer enhanced supplier management and interaction.)

So what are the common elements that one needs to consider?

  • 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

And why are these important cross application elements?

  • Suppliers are the life-blood of your organization, but they don’t consistently perform over time and new suppliers are sometimes vital. That’s why discovery and on-boarding are so vital.
  • The key to good performance from your suppliers is monitoring and managing that performance.
  • The key to correcting performance and preventing problems in the first place is often the result of good relationship management.
  • The key to preventing unexpected supplier-based disruptions (which affect a significant number of supplier chains every year) is to keep a tab on risks and prepare for the significant ones with mitigation plans ready to go.
  • They key to keeping information up to date is to let the supplier help you with a portal that is built to do so (and that they want to use).

So what should you look for? While we won’t dive into every detail (but you will be able to with a custom Solution Map if you want to (just contact Spend Matters to find out more), we will highlight some of the more important details ( so you can know that when we evaluate a vendor’s technology, we truly evaluate the technology from the point of view of a technology analyst, not an industry analyst (see our recent post on Industry Analysts vs Technology Analysts) and this is absolutely critical if you want to select the right technology.

Supplier Solutions – All About the Space … (Repost)

… of Supplier Enablement. In our recent post about Supplier Networks, we discussed the value wasn’t what the provider typically promoted, but the fact that it greatly decreased the effort required by the supplier to do business. It enabled them to be efficient, whereas most sourcing and procurement applications just suck their time.

So if you are going to buy a supplier management solution, then it better be one that truly, truly, truly enables suppliers. So what does this mean?

Find a solution that focuses suppliers on missing, outlier, and information that can’t be confirmed.

Many solutions just send out regular “please review and correct” alerts and call that supplier information management. But information management isn’t about reminders and checking boxes, it’s about finding issues and fixing them. A good solution identifies missing information, information that is outlier from norms (i.e. an insurance certificate is usually only 1 year, but the supplier entered 10), and information that can’t be confirmed (such as third party audits from organizations that can’t be found in government registries).

Find a solution that makes integration with supplier’s systems (MRP, CRM, order management, etc.) easy.

Suppliers need to quickly get POs out of your portal and into their order management, MRP, ERP, accounts receivable, etc. system for which your vendor will likely not have an out-of-the-box integration solution that you are able to implement on behalf of your supplier. So make sure the solution has a well-defined API that makes it easy for the supplier to integrate their systems if they want to and well defined file formats that will allow them to export orders, etc. from your system and import shipping notices, invoices, etc. from theirs.

Find a solution that includes cash forecasting capability for the supplier based on your early payment discounting schedule.

Face it. A supplier isn’t going to go for your early payment discount program just because you say it’s a good idea — they need to run their own numbers and realize that 2% is less than they are paying in interest, etc. Give them an easy to use calculator, especially since their Procurement or AR guys are likely NOT as financially adept as your financial modellers.

In other words, if you want a true supplier solution, find one that truly, truly, truly enables the supplier. Not just you.

Supplier Management Is Not Enough. But Neither is Enablement. So What Is?

Very good question.

As per our post two years back on how it’s time to go beyond supplier management (which has been a thing every since Aravo burst onto the scene way back in 2003), supplier management is a lot more than just information tracking, performance metrics, and simple compliance requirements.

As per our last post, it’s also:

  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • Supplier Information Management (SIM)
  • Sustainability Initiatives
  • Supplier Development
  • Risk Management
  • Compliance

and

  • (Supplier) Contract Management
  • New Product Introduction
  • Maintenance, Repair and Operation (MRO)
  • Services and Service Management
  • (Supplier) Spend Analytics

but it doesn’t stop there. There’s also:

  • Supplier Discovery
  • Supplier Financing
  • Supplier Marketplaces
  • Supplier Networks
  • etc.

And then there’s the fact that the organization needs strategic and high performing suppliers, and most won’t make the cut until they are enabled. But just enabling a supplier to do better (one time) is not enough — you have to be able to take advantage of that enablement. Which means you have to be able to monitor, plan for, track, utilize, and respond to the changes made by the supplier. That requires a fairly advanced system.

And, as per our previous article, you need visibility (into the supplier and its supply chain); value-driven design (that produces a product a consumer wants); and verocity (for real time spend insight). But that’s not everything. You also need vetting (so that you can insure regulatory and compliance requirements are met); variability (as different suppliers require different levels of management and insight); and vindication (objective measurements over time that you made the right choice). And so on.

We still don’t have the answer, but we do know that the platform must be more than just information management, checkbox tracking, and messaging with audit trails. It must be collaborative, open, flexible, and evolving. Then, maybe in a few years, we’ll have a better idea of what the right answer is really is.

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.