When I stopped by the Dublin headquarters of Supplierforce this fall, I was struck in my discussions about how the Supplierforce team had adapted the product to fit the needs of a market that was clearly a couple of years behind the US in general Spend Management technology adoption. To be specific, one of the areas that surprised me at first -- but now makes perfect sense -- is why they chose to include RFQ/RFX functionality when this has largely become a commodity in the market, available from low-cost sourcing providers (e.g., Ketera). However, when you're dealing with a market that is just starting its procurement technology transformation journey, there's a significant need to not only show what is possible, but to also walk along in a phased approach that provides what's needed and when -- without having to turn to a myriad of providers in the process.
Now, this is not intended to oversimplify the toolset that Supplierforce offers. For example, their new vendor approval process is sophisticated and simple at the same time, masking the effort and complexity it usually takes to bring new suppliers online -- from gathering basic banking details to validating information internally and uploading this information to an ERP environment. For companies that manually set up new suppliers today -- either in an eProcurement or an ERP environment -- the Supplierforce approach would not only save time and reduce head count, it would also reduce error risk, drive compliance and create a single environment to manage both administrative and strategic information about a supplybase.
Even though Supplierforce has only targeted the Irish market to date, they're developing quite a local following. O2 claims to "have reduced vendor set-up and data maintenance costs by 71%" while JurysDoyle Hotels have reduced their "audit process costs significantly and increased the transparency of supplier compliance" in line with their QA standards. Companies are -- and I previously admitted to being somewhat surprised by this -- finding the integrated sourcing capability to be quite useful as a direct complement to supplier information management, allowing a single view of a supplier in the context of all supplier facing activities. Granted, in the future, Supplierforce could most likely integrate a more advanced sourcing capability from third-party providers, but getting it today from a single provider with expertise in the nuances of a particular local geographic market (i.e., Ireland/UK) is proving appealing.
For procurement organizations that don't have the ability to have team building exercises while drinking a locally brewed pint of Guinness the way it was intended to be enjoyed -- in Ireland -- is Supplierforce worth talking to? At this point, they are not focused on branching out past the local Irish market other than to explore options in the UK. But I suspect if their success continues, they'll be on the Continent and possibly in the North American market sometime in the near future. And I'm sure, given their hosted deployment model, that they'd be happy to support a non-Irish/UK deployment if it made sense. So if you're in the market for a supplier information management solution, put Supplierforce on your list of providers to consider and learn from. Their unique approaches to various elements of the supplier management process stand out as elegant and simple -- perhaps the perfect recipe for a segment of the market looking to get the most from their overall procurement, sourcing and supply management efforts quickly and effectively.
- Jason Busch