SupplierSoft — Supplier Information and More (Part 2)

In my first post on SupplierSoft, I provided some basic background details on this vendor's products, platform and history. But one thing I should have noted in this original post is how similar -- if you peel past the first level message veneer (e.g., supplier compliance management vs. information management) -- some of SupplierSoft's solution positioning appears to be to Aravo, the former employer of the founder, Balu Sharma. It is also worth noting in the PowerPoint that Balu showed me via webex that some of the ideas and approaches seemed similar to Aravo's material (Balu declined to provide a copy of the PowerPoint when I requested it after the briefing and demo, making a direct comparison difficult).

Still, while it looks like SupplierSoft was at least influenced -- some might say "inspired" -- by some of Aravo's earlier approaches and workflows, they have ported these ideas to a new platform that is customized for the manufacturing and distribution industries to facilitate direct materials supplier process management and manufacturing outsourcing. But I'd still argue that despite these differences, the similarities are worth pointing out given the recent litigation between Ariba and Emptoris, even if SupplierSoft has changed their top-level focus to reflect a new twist on the market.

Enough backdrop. In this post, I'd like to continue the discussion, providing some useful anecdotes from a SupplierSoft reference user I spoke with who made a strong business case for the need of non-procurement team members to access and automate supplier business processes, information gathering and related efforts. The gentleman I spoke with works for a high-tech manufacturing operation as a manufacturing engineer. In his current role, he works extensively with suppliers and was looking for a solution to automate information gathering and data exchange with a supplier that is doing a significant amount of engineering work for the company.

In his words, "one specific process was a very large time pit and we discovered we could breakdown the workflow step of this process" and use SupplierSoft to "manage the tracking of these steps." The company has found that the tool enables different extended team members at the supplier site to take ownership of updating the status and tasks of various elements of the process across 25,000 parts and 10 different programs. Without SupplierSoft, just keeping track of this information would have consumed at least one or more full time resources.

And given the fact that supplier is located in India, maintaining this information and visibility would have been even more difficult and costly without the tool. Moreover, this user has managed to take control of this initiative without even stepping foot on the ground in India for a face-to-face meeting. His approach facilitates, from a distance, the overall management of the supplier team, the mentoring of the individuals working on the project, and daily training and support. Moreover, SupplierSoft lets the manufacturing organization show their internal customers the current status and results of the project via dashboards that have real-time updates.

While this manufacturer has only used SupplierSoft in a highly targeted manner so far to support a specific initiative, they see a range of potential areas to deploy the tool in the future across multiple supplier-facing workflows and processes -- from environmental compliance to facilitating information exchange and data collection around other manufacturing and outsourcing practices. The project sponsor believes that the SaaS model will make it relatively easy, inexpensive and quick to get additional workflows up and running and views getting procurement more involved as a natural extension of the current use case that they've deployed today. Even though they've been live for only two months, the project is already paying dividends in both hard and soft cost savings areas. And you can't ask for much more -- except for procurement to champion (and pay for) such an initiative for all supplier information management needs, both on their side of the equation and throughout the rest of the business.

- Jason Busch

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