IBM Emptoris Version 10: Supplier Management and Virtual Supply Master Technology (Part 2)

In reviewing the IBM Emptoris Virtual Supplier Master solution, one way to think about how the product fits in with other procurement tools, back-end systems and third-party information sources is to see it as a central hub or clearinghouse for information coming in from multiple sources. This may include, as we reviewed in the first installment of this series, third-party data services (like D&B) and internal systems (ERP, CRM, PLM).

But it can also incorporate highly detailed procurement-related suite information from sourcing activities, contract management data, spend analysis and supplier management (supplier lifecycle management, in IBM Emptoris parlance) areas. Users can opt to incorporate a registration process where information is cleared and validated in the IBM Emptoris Supplier Lifecycle Management (SLM) toolset prior to it entering the staging area for creating a virtual supplier master record. For supplier lifcecyle management data integration, a variety of fields can link to the virtual record.

These can include individual assessments (e.g., risk) based on supplier financial stability (including score), corporate social responsibility (CSR) metrics/scoring, quality data, code of conduct, and related information. Additional overlay, such as the overall strategic nature of the supplier to the business, can also be included.

This new capability is directly integrated with the rest of the IBM Emptoris product suite. For example, within the context of the SLM module, users can also navigate to a master data area where they can begin to work with the virtual supplier master, individual supplier records, categories, regions and other fields (based on characteristics that comprise supplier master data)

It is not surprising that IBM Emptoris supplier lifecycle management processes and data are most closely integrated with the Virtual Supplier Management module. But other elements of the suite are linked as well. For example, one can opt to associate specific information from sourcing, spend analysis or contract management directly using the master record. This may include, in the case of contract management, specific agreements (MSAs, SOWs, payment term amendements, etc.) Or it could include specific spend data and classification structures from the spend analysis area.

Global supplier profile information contained in a sourcing context (e.g., based on an RFI for a specific event) may include overlapping information that also needs to be “mastered,” like contact standard vendor profile data, contact information, classification (industry information), etc. D&B data is directly integrated into the Virtual Supply Master toolset along with the ability to query the D&B database, searching by DUNS number, company name, size, contact information, industry, ownership structure, and a variety of other fields.

We will save specific comparative analysis and recommendations for the Spend Matters PRO subscriber base. But for now, IBM Emptoris has taken an approach within supplier management to mastering information within its suite (and outside) that is somewhat unique, especially given the integration with other Emptoris modules (including sourcing and spend analysis). There are certain items we’d like to see additional focus on, but we suspect IBM Emptoris has much up its sleeve.

It’s important to note that other providers have also invested significantly in this opportunity to create virtualized vendor master approaches, including Oracle (Supplier Hub), HICX, Aravo, and SAP. Yet it’s obvious to us that IBM Emptoris will have a leg up, especially over smaller providers, regardless of how the product compares feature-by-feature, given the large internal professional services and BPO expertise backing the solution up as part of IBM, not to mention the existing Emptoris customer base.

But perhaps most important, IBM Emptoris is hitting the market at the right time with a solution that requires a multi-year journey on behalf of large clients to get right. It extends far beyond a master data management approach to supplier and spend information. While others may sell software licenses to supplier MDM approaches, the broader IBM services wrapper (combined with the IBM partner ecosystem) could help create an environment where solutions like this become the central focus of procurement tools investment in the coming years.

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