CVM Solutions: Peddling Diversity, Pushing Much More (Part 1)

When I had the chance to meet a number of CVM Solutions customers on their Supply World road show last year, I was struck by the level of interest and apparent loyalty exhibited for a company their size. It's not that CVM is a small vendor. But they're not an SAP or Ariba, either. And they still managed to draw a sizable crowd of customers in nearly all the cities we ventured too despite somewhat limited promotion. So what's at work here? What engenders this level of interest in a provider? The answer is simple. Three things: a strong focus on supplier diversity (and the loyalty of supplier diversity professionals), an understanding of the role of content throughout the procurement process and solid software and information products.

Supplier diversity professionals have not only been CVM's target customer in the past -- they have the ear of the rest of the procurement organization when it comes to helping CVM sell its broader suite of solutions. And this is a huge differentiator, especially considering that the level of customer satisfaction seems quite high across CVM's hundreds of diversity customers. Of course it helps that CVM invested as much in service delivery as their content and tools. This strategy was central to insuring, from what I can tell, a level of customer satisfaction that appears to be among the highest in the content space.

So in other words, CVM really is peddling its supplier diversity content and wares as a key to get in the door and develop relationships. But once they're in, they often have the chance to up-sell other solutions, including what they call their supplier relationship management capabilities which include a suite of applications ranging from a basic but effective supplier portal and supplier performance management toolset, to a rather complicated set of workflow and process governing technology that sits on top of an existing procure-to-pay infrastructure (either ERP / best of breed procurement or ERP direct materials procurement).

CVM's main challenge in rationalizing this suite is that core parts of it appear to have been developed over the years based on specific customer needs rather than surveying the broad market and building a one-to-many applications suite of capabilities from the beginning. Initially, there might have been some benefit to this approach, as it enabled CVM to build highly targeted products that served very specific customer needs. But overtime, this approach does not scale, as CVM knows. CVM's transition from a somewhat custom development mentality to a SaaS-based approach to solution delivery is progressing, but as always, takes time. When I sat down to talk with CVM a few weeks back over a two-hour briefing where I actually got to play around with forthcoming products, it became abundantly clear that CVM gets this transition in spades. Now it's just a question of making it.

This direction is very promising. I already count CVM as one of the core players in the emerging supplier information management (SIM) market despite the fact that Aravo and a few others have taken a different spin on the concept with their solutions. Even though the SIM language is not showing up on CVM's website yet, when I spoke with some of their customers early this year, it appears that this is precisely what they plan to turn to CVM (or others) for in the future.

And in many cases, supplier diversity appears to be the perfect first test case for managing multiple-tiers of supplier information both for internal and external reporting and usage. But imagine extending this paradigm to such areas as supplier capability, supply risk, supplier performance and multi-tier spend analyses. CVM is not there yet -- nor are their competitors, I might add -- but they have over 300 large customers waiting for them to get their new solutions to market. And when they do, you can be sure that the uptake will be strong provided they can deliver on the goods.

Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of this series on CVM Solutions.

- Jason Busch

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