SAP Sapphire: Supplier Lifecycle Management Update and Initial Views (Dispatch 2)

There's much ado about supplier management at Sapphire this year. Yesterday, we sat down with the solution managers for two products: SAP Supplier Lifecycle Management (something new!) and SAP Supplier InfoNet. We'll give a detailed introduction and analysis to SAP Supplier Lifecycle Management (internally called "SLC" to differentiate from the real SAP SLM - i.e. Software Lifecycle Management) soon, and also take a closer look at the latest in our favorite multi-tier supplier management product, SAP Supplier InfoNet. But today we'll give our cursory thoughts at both solutions, beginning with our initial impressions of Supplier Lifecycle Management in this post (check back later for a quick update on InfoNet).

SAP Supplier Lifecycle Management is designed to serve as a core supplier information toolset. It supports both closed registrations (i.e., those in which you invite pre-selected suppliers) as well as open registrations (e.g., a supplier diversity registration portal). 70% are currently doing closed registrations primarily and 30% are predominately doing open registration approaches, according to SAP. Supplier Lifecycle Management differs from SAP's On Demand Sourcing Supplier Management toolset in the following ways:

  • The functionality at a glance looks like it stands up against many of the boutique SIM solutions beyond basic registrations (it's full-blown on-boarding, classification and supplier management). We will nitpick where the solution is lacking in a more detailed post, but our first impression was positive
  • The solution appears to have many field-level security/access rights/permissions to deal with more sensitive data points that SAP Sourcing On Demand Supplier Management
  • A key differentiator will be how far SAP opts to pre-load with generalized and industry specific templates (ISO, TS, category-specific, etc.)
  • It features built-in SAP StreamWork collaboration as standard. Think a next generation SharePoint type collaboration built around supplier management, in this case
  • It has dynamic qualification workflow with additional RFI-like questionnaires, triggered by how vendors respond to questions -- which can then trigger specific on-boarding workflows, approvals, etc.
  • Archiving and reporting -- in the good German software development fashion, there are virtually n-tier audit trails. Uber supplier management CYA, in our view

All in all, Supplier Lifecycle Management looks like an early winner for SAP. Many IT organizations will undoubtedly find a way to mess it up for procurement organizations by complicating and taking over deployments and not implementing the solution to its full potential. Still, we think that pure-play competitors such as Aravo, CVM/Kroll, Hiperos, HICX Emptoris/IBM and Rollstream/GXS should take notice of this new solution and should be expecting to begin to compete against it. Perhaps most important, SAP customers should take a close look at it if they're considering pursuing a supplier information management (SIM) path.

Stay tuned for our full review.

Thomas Kase and Jason Busch

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