Editor's note: I sent this letter to the original invited participants earlier this morning. If you did not receive it and are a vendor / solution provider that would like to participate, please get in touch as soon as possible: jbusch (at) spendmatters (dot) com.
We are excited to begin to solidify the details of the process and timeline for the bake-off evaluation process. The process will have three key stages:
1) Answer the Spend Matters general RFI. We estimate this will take 2-4 hours (at most) of your time to complete if you are used to filling out customer RFIs in the optimization area. It will take 4+ hours if you are not used to filling out this type of information. This RFI will be very similar to what a pre-sales or marketing person would have to respond to in the regular course of business selling into a company and will include requests for basic background information, customers/references, company size, products (optimization related or part of a broader Spend Management suite), services, pricing and how you position and differentiate the products in the market. We will make this RFI available to you on or before April 1, 2008. Responses will be due by April 15th, 2008.
2) Answer the Spend Matters optimization RFP. As part of this stage, Spend Matters will provide specific data sets for you to work with. The primary deliverable for this phase will be a 2-hour webex demonstration. We estimate this phase will take 5-10 hours of offline time to develop in addition to the 2 hour presentation and demonstration. Participants will have a chance to demonstrate how their optimization tool can be applied to a range of possible business scenarios. Possibilities include: truckload spend, other transportation categories (air and ocean), packaging, MRO / chemicals, services, highly engineered parts, and overall sourcing decisions incorporating various supply risk and performance management factors. We are in the process of determining the specific scenarios, but you should expect to respond to at least 4 of the 5 that we provide in the RFP. We are interested in understanding how your solution performs in a number of areas including, but not limited to, the types of constraints you support, the number of items you support, how configurable / customizable your solution is (and how much time is required to do so), specific business use cases (e.g., support for supplier capacity), reporting / category specific reporting data integration structure, training requirements / ease of use, data portability and various market and bidding mechanisms. Everything we ask to see and examine will be based on real-world optimization needs -- not pie in the sky academic wants. We expect to conclude this phase in early May.
3) The final stage will focus on a one-day onsite demonstration of capabilities in Chicago, IL, to take place on a date to be mutually determined in the May timeframe. The final phase will focus solution usability; absolute capability will be evaluated in the previous phases. We plan to include some Michigan-area graduate students in supply chain, procurement and operations research on the evaluation team. They are a good representation of young buyers/sourcing managers that will use these tools in the future. They will use the applications to achieve results based on one of the previous scenarios in the RFP, as will we. As a result, the final round will, in part, be based on the DIY and intuitive nature of the software. We feel that their next generation perspective is invaluable to incorporate.
Thanks for your consideration and, we hope, your participation. We look forward to providing you with the Phase 1 RFI in the coming weeks. If you would like further background on the bake-off series including our overall philosophy and approach to comparing solutions to an absolute ideal vs. in a relative ranking perspective to each other, please see the original Spend Matters post.
Last, if you could signal your initial intention to participate in the affirmative or negative, we would appreciate it. This will help us for planning purposes. Please note that this does not have to be a final answer (i.e., you can change your mind later in the process).
Jason Busch (Co-Lead, Spend Matters bake-off series)
Paul Martyn (Co-Lead, Spend Matters bake-off series)
Gail Hohner (Subject Matter Expert and Co-Lead Optimization bake-off)