Supplierforce: Supplier Information Management and Beyond (Part 1)

In years past, I introduced Spend Matters readers to a little-known supplier information-management vendor, Supplierforce, which is based in Dublin (you can read previous posts on Supplierforce here and here. Supplierforce has moved beyond its SIM past to embrace a broader portfolio of Spend Management technologies designed, in its words, around "empowering procurement, optimizing performance and accelerating savings and value." Most of these descriptors are rather generic, but if you get past the buzzwords, Supplierforce provides early proof that it's possible for a vendor to build out from a targeted area into others while maintaining its initial focus. In fact, Supplierforce would argue that by incorporating a range of capabilities related to spend visibility/intelligence, strategic sourcing, and supplier relationship management (not in the SAP sense, mind you), it's sharpened its core supplier management strengths in the process.

Let's look at how the company has changed since we last looked at it in 2008. For one, it's added a range of procurement services capabilities to its arsenal, picking up a local Dublin-based consultancy, The Clearview Group, in 2009. Combined with organic software sales, this acquisition helped Supplierforce grow significantly in 2009, although they are still a relatively small venture in comparison to some of their competitors. More important, the acquisition gave it a services capability to more easily jump-start initiatives for clients (e.g., spend analysis, supplier health checks, etc.). Supplierforce has also expanded its customer base to a substantial portion of Ireland's private and public sector companies and agencies. Their expansion outside of Ireland into the EU and UK has been limited so far, but it may expand more aggressively as the company ramps up its sales and marketing efforts.

If we start from the top at the executive-dashboard level, Supplierforce has focused significantly on providing visual intelligence on the performance of procurement organizations and suppliers. By graphically depicting open issues and allowing users to drill down into specific areas from a central interface (e.g., spend under management, sourcing, supply risk, supplier performance, compliance), the system can enable both procurement and non-procurement (e.g., finance) executives to rapidly view and analyze how their organizations and suppliers are performing -- and to watch for any potential red flags.

In building out its capabilities around spend analysis, sourcing, and contract management (among other areas), Supplierforce has leveraged at its core the same workflow, alerting, and communications capabilities it used in its original supplier information-management toolset. They've also built both business- and regulatory-driven (e.g., SOX-compliant) processes into its applications to enable less-sophisticated users and organizations to quickly adopt some of the more advanced and useful features of its tools. If an organization needs an additional services push, Supplierforce's consulting organization (which includes but goes beyond technology implementation and configuration to support areas that include strategic sourcing) can facilitate additional efforts.

Supplierforce shares a similar vision with Ariba, BravoSolution, and Emptoris by being able to provide what it -- and many in the industry -- describe as a "360 degree view of supplier activity" through a single application, starting with supplier information-management and progressing through spend analysis, sourcing, supplier performance, contract management, and risk management. How does Supplierforce measure up here? Its SIM capabilities are most certainly worthy of consideration as a stand-alone, and its other modules may also warrant a close look, if both overall price and suite integration are determining factors.

Spend Matters' cursory analysis suggests that Supplierforce is ahead of its competitors in offering an integrated suite of capabilities built around a supplier information-management core at the center of its architecture. However, the individual capabilities of its additional modules may leave more advanced customers wanting additional features and depth. Regardless, for Europe-based companies, depending on the priority levels for different capabilities, Supplierforce is most certainly worth looking at to understand how SIM details should play a greater role throughout the sourcing and supplier management lifecycle.

Stay tuned for further analysis of Supplierforce's functional enhancements and capabilities.

Jason Busch

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