Late last year, I had a briefing from SupplierSoft, a very early stage company in the nascent supplier information management marketplace. Run by a former Aravo employee -- who clearly learned a thing or two in his past gig -- SupplierSoft has actually taken the potential for supplier information management a step further inside one of their initial reference accounts that I spoke to last week. I'll leave the details of what I discovered in talking to this beta customer for a post later this week, but needless to say, it's rare that I get such detail from non-procurement users of an application designed to help manage supplier information and supplier-facing business processes (the customer was a manufacturing engineer, not a procurement manager). In this first post in my two-part series on SupplierSoft, I'll provide some background information on the company.
First, the good news (and bad news). SupplierSoft is tiny. "Less than ten people," I was told, but I suspect significantly less. Still, this means that they can pay attention to all the details and requirements for customers and potential customers at this early stage. In other words, potential users should not necessarily be turned off by their size, even in this environment (since the company is self-funded at this stage, there's also no concern about investors pulling the plug). From a functionality perspective, Balu Sharma, the founder of SupplierSoft, built his application to provide a single platform to manage all supplier information and non-transactional or negotiation-focused interactions. And he built it to deliver these capabilities at an exceptionally low price point: $75-$100 per user, per month, in an SaaS environment. In fact, the the reference customer I spoke with found SupplierSoft's pricing an order or magnitude lower than other best-of-breed competitors and two orders of magnitude lower than a custom ERP-based approach to solving the same problems.
But what does SupplierSoft enable? On a basic level, a user might use it to gather financial and related corporate details for onboarding suppliers for a P2P implementation. Or in more advanced scenarios, customers can use the platform to support such processes as environmental compliance, supplier corrective action plans, first article testing (e.g., PPAP) and supplier qualification / audits. Like other tools in the same space, SupplierSoft provides configurable workflow capability to customize information gathering requests, surveys and related data requests. It also provides dashboard and reporting capability that can provide different views to different users based on roles, permissions, etc.
In my view, SupplierSoft takes a rather novel technology approach to supplier information management. By using the Salesforce.com platform as the technology underpinnings behind its architecture from the development platform to the UI to web hosting, SupplierSoft is putting its development and support eggs in one basket. But it's potentially a good one. If you're a business user, you're probably asking yourself: why does this matter? For a small company such as SupplierSoft, it matters for a lot of reasons. First, it allowed them to rapidly build-out a capable supplier information management platform that competes with the likes of Aravo, D&B, AECSoft and CVM Solutions (and soon Ariba) in a rapid timeframe. It also gives them credibility in talking to and selling into prospective accounts. In fact, the reference user I spoke with thought the fact that SupplierSoft was built on Salesforce.com was a key asset to the company and the application. For one, this gave him a feeling of security from a data hosting perspective.
But more than that, the Salesforce.com platform has allowed SupplierSoft to rapidly develop and customize a supplier information management toolset for the manufacturing and distribution markets. In fact, the capabilities I've seen so far and spoken to a user about make it seem as if SupplierSoft has been at it for significantly longer than they claim to have been. In years past, it would have been impossible to develop such detailed capabilities in less than 18 months. But today, thanks to Salesforce.com, SupplierSoft has been able to bring a highly customizable platform to market designed for the supplier management needs of manufacturers right out of the box. Granted, it's not perfect and there are many more modules/workflows to build out, but I reckon that given the low price points and the detailed manufacturing focus, that SupplierSoft will be able to offer up a range of industrial success stories in the years to come.
- Jason Busch