CombineNet: Taking Out a New E-Sourcing Playbook for Companies to Follow?

Even though Spend Matters is in the middle of a series covering CombineNet (Part 1 and Part 2), I thought it would be worth spending a minute in between longer posts examining the provider to share some recent news that under the surface could signal a potential new undercurrent in the broader e-sourcing market. Last week, CombineNet announced an expanded relationship with Procter & Gamble, a long-time CombineNet client/user who will now expand its "use of CombineNet's Advanced Sourcing Application Platform (ASAP), including its new ... RFxpress Sourcing Solution, for online bidding and request-for-proposal (RFP) sourcing events."

Having spent sometime digging into the application recently, what's most interesting about CombineNet ASAP is that the lower end variant could potentially serve to augment or even replace the use of other basic sourcing tools (especially the limited capability resident in ERP-solutions like SAP SRM). CombineNet suggests that "RFxpress offers buyers a fast and easy way to create online bidding events within the ASAP platform ... [for] configuring multiple types of supplier, item and bid collection information ... and designing cost models."

In my view, while RFxpress is unlikely to displace e-sourcing tools like BravoSolution, Emptoris, Iasta and SAP E-Sourcing where they're well entrenched, and especially where other suite elements are already installed and integrated, for companies looking for more robust basic capability that's not covered well in ERP operational sourcing modules, it -- and other solutions like it -- could potentially prove disruptive if rolled out broadly within an enterprise. Moreover, it could allow CombineNet to compete for broader e-sourcing suite deals upfront, for companies willing to purchase a stand-alone solution in this area, which is not integrated tightly into spend analysis, supplier performance, contracting, supplier management and other typical modules.

However, with RFXpress, CombineNet is entering a market that's getting more crowded, as incumbent e-sourcing providers refine their new offerings (e.g., Ariba recently -- finally -- announced it was introducing enhanced basic optimization capability) and upstarts such as Pool4Tool and Co-Exprise bring direct material oriented sourcing capabilities to market that can fill voids currently being sub-optimally handled today within an operational sourcing toolset or quite often offline, as the case may be. In this regard, it will be critical to watch CombineNet for other customer announcements to see if they can get non-marquis accounts to adopt this new module and overall sourcing approach to increase overall sourcing coverage and control. If you're in the market for an e-sourcing toolset and want to check out something that's quite different (and potentially more powerful) than other basic solutions, you owe it to yourself to check out CombineNet as well as Pool4Tool and Co-Exprise, in discrete or process manufacturing settings, if they're not already on your shortlist.

Jason Busch

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