Trade Extensions: Sourcing Its Own Growth Rules (Part 3)

Please click here for Part 1 and Part 2 of this post.

Trade Extensions is one of the first vendors we've seen to adopt leading analytics and reporting technology as a core third-party component of a sourcing suite itself (rather than just spend analysis). Intenda is, perhaps, the only other vendor to place such an emphasis on event-driven reporting and analysis and they, too, have OEMed a third-party engine. Spend Matters' perspective on reporting capabilities is that solutions such as QlikTech and Tibco Spotfire have come so far (with such flexibility), that there is no point for Spend Management providers to focus any development effort on delivering core reporting as an internal competency. With Trade Extensions, it's easy to link rules with reporting. You can also save rules and easily select them from a menu.

Moreover, just as you would create a constraint in the context of optimization analysis within a sourcing toolset, it's easy to create a rule that then cascades into the analytical reporting engine, even for ad-hoc queries, enabling the production of a useful chart/visual just as quickly as a spreadsheet-like environment. In addition, all the set-up work for creating a report can be done in the tool itself -- there's no need for offline Excel analysis to show off your pivot table skills (leave that for the twenty-something analysts you've got working through the night).

The Tibco Spotfire web player that Trade Extensions embeds (the same tool that Beeline OEMs for its VMS suite) is intuitive, powerful and fast, owing to its in-memory capability and streamlined interface and charting ability. With the built-in reporting capability, users have access to essentially an unlimited number of potential reports and views based on the ability to leverage any project, supplier, KPI or event field in a reporting context. The integration between Spotfire and Trade Extensions is well conceived as it's not only possible to, for example, create cross-project and multiple scenario views within the sourcing module and create a visualization of the data in Spotfire with a simple click, but also to get up and running without worrying about data models or database integration because the reporting engine is fully integrated with Trade Extensions' underlying platform and DB.

Trade Extensions has included a new upfront user dashboard that provides a common environment from which to access projects, manage individual profiles or users (for administrators), management tasks and associated dates (e.g., training, spend data review, bidding events, etc.), recent projects and to communicate with other team members via a real-time chat/IM capability. It's a clever and straightforward user portal that masks the underlying potential of the bidding configuration and event management console for actual sourcing events (see in the graphic, below, one of the nifty event configuration capabilities).

Trade Extensions has also headed for the cloud with its latest release -- the technology cloud (in the true sense of the word, versus how some companies have bastardized its definition for their own marketing purposes). In this context, Trade Extensions has moved away from just offering static hosting for users in favor of a new environment where they can access computing power on-demand for solving complex scenarios in parallel in a true pay-per-use model. The way users access the cloud computing power (e.g., Amazon via Trade Extensions) is very straightforward. For example, let's say a user wants to run 100 different award scenarios (highly complicated scenarios, mind you) that would each take 20 minutes to run normally based on Trade Extensions normal hosting and infrastructure capability.

With the new Amazon cloud service, you can run them in parallel (i.e., complete all 100 in 20 minutes). In this context, customers pay based on what amounts to actual CPU usage. For every CPU second that a request consumes (e.g., a solve request) it is five euro cents. Now, these numbers might at first seem to add up fast, but remember that a typical scenario is solved in 20 second or less. The virtualization and cloud design extends to how Trade Extensions has architected its optimization capability that, as it has in the past, is not reliant on any one solver. Trade Extensions can use and substitute ILOG/CPLEX (IBM), XPRESS and Gurobi solvers based on the task at hand. Many other providers in the sector are locked into a single solver.

Without question, Trade Extensions is pushing the sourcing (and cloud) limit with what they've been up to of late. Spend Matters suspects that their greatest barrier to building additional market and mind share at this point is just awareness and reach. Perhaps coming from Upsala, Sweden, this should not be a surprise. But we suspect that the procurement and operations community will be hearing more from them in the future.

Jason Busch

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