The Supplier Network of Tomorrow: Accenture and Spend Matters on the Future of Procurement Technology

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Supplier networks today will be very different from those of tomorrow. In the future, supplier networks will form the basis of not just transactional buyer and supplier connectivity, but more. In the recently publishing Accenture whitepaper, Procurement’s Next Frontier – The Future Will Give Rise to an Organization of One, the authors suggest the elements that may comprise networks of the future.

“The Supplier Network, which will be accessed via an app, connects a company seamlessly with the supply market, the virtual company mall (i.e., for transactions of purchase orders and invoices), and to the supply analytics apps. Powered by technology solutions supporting tendering, performance assessment, supplier discovery and supplier interaction, the app is also linked to both the virtual supplier room and the virtual category room,” the paper stated.

In other words, the network of the future is a sort of clearinghouse of all sorts of information likely at multiple levels of the supply chain – with deep linkages to other procurement and related applications. Applications – and “mini-apps” – will be embedded in the network capability itself. Reading into Accenture’s description, here is my own view of what the network of the future will need to consist of at its core:

  • Both indirect enablement and direct materials enablement (EDI replacement) for document exchange and complex, multi-organization transaction workflows
  • A platform-as-a-service (PaaS) architecture for connecting with the outside world (i.e., other applications and systems) but allows that outside world and the users on the system to create their own applications via the network. The network must also, as part of this, have its own development stack for anyone to build on, with development also abstracted, ideally, to the business user level
  • Application-driven compliance tools that synchronizes with the various cross border and internal country supplier and buyer systems and tax jurisdictional requirements, including invoicing rules and information capture
  • A massively parallel processing capability that has both speed and smarts (think Facebook for business)
  • Advanced analytics that combines the same degree of support that competitive analytics packages do for marketing users today – which make spend analysis datasets often look tiny by comparison – for both buyers and sellers, with enabling capability and procurement and sales apps tied into the analytics
  • An ability to deliver views into the network through different form factors (e.g., mobile, desktop, etc.) as well as the ability to also deliver network information, in real-time, via other applications

Doesn’t this sound awesome? The somewhat sad fact for users of first generation network technology today, including Ariba, Basware, Coupa, Perfect/Hubwoo and just about everyone else is that one could deliver this today. Tradeshift is trying. Others will soon as well.

So what do you say? Let’s stop living in the supplier network dark ages and make the plunge that Accenture has its sights set on.

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