Today, D&B will announce a new mobile website for accessing supply risk information on a variety of wireless smartphone devices. Spend Matters was briefed about the new mobile toolset yesterday and had the chance to walk through a webex demonstration and then demo the capabilities on our own mobile device. In our analysis, D&B Supplier Risk Management Mobile (see picture below) essentially takes much of the basic capability from the standard Supplier Risk Management modules and makes it available in a streamlined and faster loading interface optimized for mobile devices. Users that log in to the mobile site, which has a different URL than the main D&B log-on, are treated to a customized profile page based on the alerts and configuration of their regular web portal site. This new service is available today, and is free for D&B users.
D&B Supplier Risk Management Mobile is not a true "app" (more on that later), but having played around with the interface on my iPhone, I can say that a certain subset of highly mobile D&B supply risk users will find the tool (targeted at users of iPhone, Droid and Blackberry devices) invaluable. My test run using both wi-fi and 3G settings suggested the site loaded at least 50% faster (in some cases significantly faster) than the regular D&B Supplier Risk Management web interface. More important, there's no zooming in and out required to search for, navigate and read/input information. All the information is there just as it would be in an app (although without the rich navigation, location-specific services and other capabilities that a well executed app-approach could provide).
D&B itself suggests the specifics of use cases in the tool's announcement, including the ability for users to "receive phone-ready e-mail alerts that a supplier's status has changed, review supplier company profiles, including company identification, predictive scores (SER, SSI, FSS), Paydex, financial and legal indicators, diversity status, and government violations (EPA, OSHA, OFAC), and search for suppliers in D&B's 179 million record global database."
In back-to-back testing of the D&B Supplier Risk Management site on my notebook computer and iPhone, it was clear D&B winnowed down the mobile client to a base level of essential information about suppliers from an on-the-go perspective. Still, I found it possible to drill into detailed alerting information, including user-defined (and subscribed to) scores and metrics, including SSI, SER and Paydex ratings. There's nothing you'd necessarily miss or need if you're out of the office, even in the case of alerts. There's even a pared down version of the alert description type and how to decipher it based on D&B's glossary and explanation. On one search, I was able to zero-in on a range of financial and legal risk indicators (which are available based on configuration) for areas like disasters, criminal proceedings, financial/legal alerts, operations issues, suits/judgments, liens/claims and other government indicators (e.g., EPA).
How does D&B think that customers will use the mobile capabilities in practice? Essentially, they started with a handful of areas that they believe will be important for users that travel on a regular basis. These include reviewing supply risk alerts (which can only be sent via e-mail at this point, not SMS) and then logging into the site based on the e-mail alert (e-mails contain a URL to click to go straight to the alert). To simplify log-on credentials, the username and password remains the same as on the regular log-on URL for a notebook/desktop device.
The other popular use case for the mobile client will be supplier/risk profile look up (which can quickly be accomplished by searching under company name, D-U-N-S number, internal supplier IDs, etc.). The search technology is the same as the main D&B Supply Risk Management applications. Using and entering information to search on D&B Supplier Risk Management Mobile is not as easy for people with fat fingers like me because you're still reliant on the device's virtual "keyboard" or small blackberry keys, but the entire experience is fast, easy and I'd argue more intuitive than even the standard web client version.
Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of this post, where we'll examine more about how the mobile interface works in the field based on our own testing and analysis as well as what a next generation of on-the-go capabilities from D&B and others may bring in the coming years. We'll also look at some of what D&B's own research found when they surveyed potential mobile users of the tool about their requirements.