IBM Emptoris Version 10: Supplier Management and Virtual Supply Master Technology (Part 1)

The Spend Matters team recently caught up with members of the IBM Emptoris product, technology and marketing teams to get a detailed demonstration and overview of some of the latest capabilities contained in IBM Emptoris Strategic Supply Management Version 10 (launched in December of 2012). The release is important for a number of reasons:

  • It comes when there is an increasing willingness among users of sourcing, spend visibility, contract management and related solutions to evaluate their options given a combination of consolidation and new innovation in the market
  • Compared to the time prior to the acquisition, IBM Emptoris have been somewhat targeted in their product and marketing efforts as the company went through a focused period of integration into the broader IBM solution portfolio following the acquisition (which closed in early 2012). They did, however, provide updates to customers at the IBM Smarter Commerce Summits in May and September of 2012 and publicized launch enhancements twice last year
  • IBM Emptoris has prioritized a new approach to managing supplier information (virtually) as the centerpiece of its recent enhancements – new capabilities are in line with increasing procurement demand for more holistic and broad-based ways of managing spend, supplier, and related information in a single platform

In positioning the need for its new platform for managing supplier data in a virtualized manner, sitting above, but connected to existing systems of record, IBM Emptoris notes that the current situation of “large and increasingly global supply bases” combined with disparate data silos has creating an outcome where companies are overwhelmed with managing information and knowing how to “apply this information to mitigating risks and achieving greater value for the organization.”

To address this challenge, IBM Emptoris’ new Virtual Supply Master Technology (VSM) connects with internal (SAP, Oracle, Ariba, PeopleSoft, etc.) back-office systems as well as the rest of a procurement suite. This includes, in Emptoris’ case, supplier lifecycle management, spend analysis, sourcing, contract management, program management, telecom expense management, and services procurement.

The goal is a truly virtualized system of record for supplier data. Note, this new capability is not a replacement for IBM Emptoris Supplier Lifecycle Management, which enables a range of capabilities including managing supplier qualification, onboarding, performance management, supplier development, risk management, and other related processes. It’s actually designed as a complement.

For each supplier, users can browse basic information (including supplier details), address information, or external identifiers (ERP coding, D&B numbers, tax IDs, etc.) in a general view and can then proceed to more detailed, duplicate, or incorrect information as they go deeper into the application. This includes vetting established (or third-party provided) parent/child hierarchies, contact information, change histories and a variety of other fields. Where possible, this information is provided in a graphical/workflow format (e.g., hierarchies).

Creating supplier master data requires viewing existing entered information (which can come from several sources, including multiple ERPs), uploading new records, or manually entering in information, which is then validated in the process. Before information ever becomes part of the “virtual master” record, users (typically a data steward) have a chance to review information that’s entered or gathered (e.g., based on surveys created elsewhere in the product suite or through sourcing, contract, or related information). There is a clever capability to overlay 'assessments' to drive what fields are being checked within the mastering process. In addition to supplier information, VSM also acts as a master source of categories, internal business units and regions.

See other recent coverage of IBM Emptoris solutions (post acquisition close) below:

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