Examining SAP Supplier InfoNet (Part 5)

Click here for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of this series.

In addition to the display of all relevant numerical and quantitative information about supplier risk and operational performance, Supplier InfoNet enables users to create their own data/audit trails around suppliers by posting or appending comments to records. Users can decide whether or not a comment they submit will be available only to them or also to their broader organization. Spend Matters finds this unstructured information quite valuable and hopes that SAP looks for a way to enable the confidential sharing of qualitative information and comments (based on opt-in permissions at the user and comment level) across the network in the future.

From an architecture perspective, SAP is using a standard SQL database as the back-end database for InfoNet in version one, but the next version plans to use SAP's in-memory database HANA. As we mentioned previously in our write-up, Supplier InfoNet is using its own spend and supplier based classification system to tag, categorize and map data. Spend Matters suspects that SAP will eventually standardize on one platform in this area across all of its solutions (currently, their Spend Performance Management solution relies on a different classification engine).

From a pricing standpoint, Supplier InfoNet is designed for affordability across a wide set of company users and spend. SAP shared that annual subscription pricing will be based on company size, number of employees, etc. ETL and manual matching (classification/enrichment) are grouped as separate cost line items, above and beyond standard fees. It's important to note that in its pricing strategy, SAP did not want to make the tool spend-based or user-based. The idea is to enable as many companies and users within an organization to use a tool that monitors and covers their entire (direct materials) supply base.

In summary, Spend Matters believes that SAP Supplier InfoNet is something truly unique and valuable in the marketplace today. As procurement experts, social networking geeks and analytical data junkies, it is hard for us to contain our enthusiasm for the InfoNet concept and execution. Perhaps most important of all, now that we have entered the "InfoNet" networked age, supplier management will never be the same again.

It is our strong recommendation that companies within SAP's target markets for this solution should seek out SAP directly for information rather than waiting for a sales call. Anyone tasked with monitoring supplier risk, supplier performance and related information could very well find Supplier InfoNet an invaluable supplement or even replacement for existing solutions they may have deployed already, or may be considering for the future.

In the future, Spend Matters believes that Supplier InfoNet will be a logical extension to other SAP solutions e.g., Spend Performance Management or, potentially, may even subsume other modules and suites available from SAP today. However, there is no doubt that the concept of networked intelligence in the context of supplier performance, supply risk information and even spending data on an aggregate level provides a step-change level of value from sourcing and managing this information from just internal systems. Because of this, Spend Matters believes that SAP Supplier InfoNet will change not only how companies think about these areas, but will also change the broader marketplace as competitive software vendors and content providers scramble to react to this offering, taking advantage of truly networked intelligence paradigms.

As a final thought, Supplier InfoNet is proof that the combination of a small and nimble product management and development organization (radical new solution. Anyone who thinks that the old software rules apply today from a time-to-innovation standpoint in the B2B applications and content environment are going to be in for a rude awakening as other breakthrough products like InfoNet hit the market without battalion size development organizations behind them.

- Jason Busch and Thomas Kase

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