AECSoft — Another Supplier Diversity Vendor Branches Out (Part 1)

If anyone has been to ISM's spring event recently -- and stepped in the vendor showcase area -- it would have been hard to miss CVM Solutions, a vendor that practically bought out half the floor these past 2 years. Many companies know CVM Solutions as just a provider of supplier diversity content. But they've long since branched out into other areas as well. AECSoft, a provider that is not as well known as CVM Solutions, has followed a similar path, building its reputation around content but successfully releasing application-focused solutions across the sourcing and supply management sector of the Spend Management technology arena. Today, AECSoft enjoys material traction in both parts of its business and has also entered new markets (e.g., content on Chinese suppliers) where it has limited domestic competition. In Part 1 of this write-up on AECSoft, I'll provide an overview of their basic solution and content capabilities. And in Part 2 will dig into some of the more advanced and innovative things that they're up to.

AECSoft divides their solution focus into six areas: supplier management, diversity management, performance management, sourcing, contract management and spend analysis. Within this solution set, I believe that AECSoft differentiates itself mostly in the supplier and diversity management solution arenas. Some companies are using AECSoft at the front-end of procure-to-pay initiatives for supplier on-boarding and registration, capturing financial information, locations, contact details, etc. In this area, AECSoft competes against companies such as Aravo, SupplierForce, D&B and CVM Solutions, all of which offer some capabilities in the area of managing supplier information outside of a transactional or negotiation environment. One customer is using AECSoft to facilitate their SAP SRM roll-out and is pushing data from SAP into the AECSoft environment for data collection and verification from suppliers (following this process, the completed data is then pushed back into the SAP environment).

But the broader power of AECSoft's supplier management approach is the integrated way in which its solution can gather, match and validate -- against both AECSoft and third party databases -- supplier information including diversity data, environmental/sustainability information and Federal databases (e.g., Tax ID matching), allowing companies to manage supplier information by exception. To illustrate how this can work in practice, consider the case of a large, global pharmaceutical company that uses AECSoft for basic supplier registration data collection (including appropriate branching, routing and workflow) as well as social responsibility data based on supplier surveys that include scoring, email alerts and action plans. To save companies time, W9 or W8 Ben classification forms are automatically generated by the system as PDFs with barcodes for a supplier to provide a signature that is then automatically reconciled to correct the supplier record for storage in the company's AECSoft supplier database. Companies can also use these capabilities to manage supplier information (e.g., diversity data) on the tier two level and, once a supplier is set-up in the system, to manage performance via scorecarding, surveys and other collaboration capabilities.

AECSoft is perhaps best known to many companies as a competitor to Equifax, CVM Solutions and D&B as a provider of supplier diversity content. While clearly a competitor in this area that companies should shortlist in their evaluations, AECSoft's proprietary content also extends to the realm of global suppliers, focusing primarily on the Chinese market. Companies subscribing to AECSoft content can use the system to search and rank US and Chinese suppliers across a range of fields including commodity codes, keywords, revenue, employee count and year of incorporation and can then request further information via custom or off-the-shelf qualification surveys.

In this post, I've chosen to not focus on AECSoft's sourcing, contract management and spend analysis capabilities. I'd argue that their solutions in these areas seem sufficient for many organizations though, in most cases, are probably best suited for companies already working with AECSoft in other solution or content areas or if there is a compelling financial reason (e.g., low price) to consider these capabilities over another provider. For those interested in learning more about AECSoft, stay tuned for Part 2 of this post later in the week.

- Jason Busch

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