Examining SAP Supplier InfoNet (Part 3)

Click here for Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

InfoNet is geared around the construct of a social network, not just an enterprise performance management or front-end BI interface. It shows, for example, "which suppliers I'm following." On top of this, it layers the capability to manage alerts, suppliers, explore your supply chain network (at multiple tiers) and analyze network performance. Tabs enable users to select how they want to visualize their supply base, manage suppliers, view suppliers and select those they want to pay attention to. When it comes to the type of information InfoNet tracks, companies can get quite granular. For example, in the quality area, organizations can track quality at specific levels based on what they define in their systems including KPIs and metrics such as defective parts per million (DPPM), lot acceptance rates (LAR), fill rates, basic lead time, On-Time-Delivery (OTD) cycle time, etc.

Individuals can then set alert bands (e.g., red, yellow, green) based on what they deem to be acceptable levels for different metrics or KPIs based on supplier performance across the network. This is where InfoNet begins to deviate from every other solution in the market. To wit, when users set alerts, they're monitoring not just how a supplier performs with them, but how the supplier performs in the entire network of those participating in the program.

When a user logs into the system to start receiving new information and alerts, they are presented with options for drilling down on changes in the overall supplier landscape, clicking on alert types, resolution states, alert severity, alert dates and descriptions, alert locations, etc. Alerting information is based both on systems data -- provided by those in the InfoNet network -- as well as structured and unstructured data from the web and third-party information. SAP would not share with Spend Matters what their specific sources of third-party data are, but did note that a core competency of the solution is to "collect, mine and display information" from aggregate third-party data sources. It's safe to say that given SAP's recent deal with Cortera, that D&B data is not included in the pool of sources, at least not officially.

For example, in looking at the performance of a supplier, an alert might pop up that shows a recently filed lawsuit or bankruptcy. Like other well-configured supplier performance management tools that look at just internal data, InfoNet then allows users to look at the potential severity and impact of an alert based on such fields as the annual spend with a supplier and even the potential at-risk revenue that could result from a disruption.

Alerts are just part of the package. InfoNet excels in the area of predictive analytics, including directional trending of different predictive KPI metrics. In other words, the fields the system tracks and measures to look at past performance can be used to create a predictive metric that's based on past and current performance (and unstructured and third-party information) of the aggregate supplier data file. But the "gee whiz" factor does not stop there. The system can also show the confidence level of a prediction alongside a specific prediction date. For example, InfoNet can predict where PPM levels for a certain supplier will be a certain number of months out and can then share the confidence level of this specific prediction.

From a benchmarking perspective, users can deploy InfoNet to see how their suppliers are performing across a range of KPIs including average lead-time, fill rate, OTD, CARs (corrective action reports -- editor's note: we have never seen this acronym before), DPPM, LAR, etc. The system shows the percentile of suppliers meeting certain KPI metrics as well as the percentile performance of a given supplier both within the SAP network and for your organization.

Specifically, the solution allows companies to see how a supplier is performing for them, relative to their broader set of customers. Stay tuned as our walk through of SAP Supplier InfoNet continues.

- Jason Busch and Thomas Kase

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