SAP Ariba LIVE Dispatch: Does Supplier Diversity Have a New Visionary?

supplier diversity

SAP Ariba and ConnXus announced a new partnership Tuesday at SAP Ariba LIVE. ConnXus is one of the last remaining independent supplier diversity vendors with any scale, although still a small firm itself.

There are only a few hundred people in the procurement industry who have tracked the market for supplier diversity databases and software solutions over the years and know it well. Those familiar with this area know that the road to tapping supplier innovation and managing diversity spend through these tools has been paved with the great intentions of vendors that somehow got sidetracked along the way.

AECSoft, which wanted to be all things to all people through multiple code-bases and customization, and CVM Solutions, which went down a broader supplier management path, are cases in point — great starts ending in divergent paths, but both journeys based on chasing shiny objects (and, of course, some decent exits for the founders).

But might ConnXus be different? Certainly it looks that way. For one, Rod Robinson, ConnXus’ founder and CEO, comes from a procurement background at the most senior levels. (He’s also a Penn/Wharton guy, so I have to give him some extra credit for being a Quaker.)

While I can’t speak to the depth of ConnXus’ solution in terms of broader supplier management and diversity sourcing capability — we have yet to do a Spend Matters PRO deep dive on it yet — I’ll take SAP Ariba’s vote of confidence in partnering with Robinson and his team that it at least checks certain boxes. But more than that, I was impressed with his take on the future of supplier diversity when I asked him a number of questions this morning, as well as the focus of his firm.

In answering two of my questions, Rod put forth a vision for the future of supplier diversity in an age of supplier rationalization and the integration of diversity functions directly into procurement — often without dedicated headcount anymore.

First, he suggested the future of diversity spend (especially in tapping supplier innovation) will be category based. Take marketing spend as an example, where suppliers can be more differentiated (when small) than other categories.

Second, he suggested it will be regional, as spend in specific geographies can bring certain benefits to both buying organizations and local communities.

And third, he said it would be global, meeting unique requirements in different countries.

Spend Matters looks forward to looking more closely at ConnXus and tapping Robinson’s knowledge on a topic that is important for a number of reasons, especially given multiple trends working against smaller, innovative suppliers in today’s procurement market.

Kudos to SAP Ariba, as well, for partnering with a firm that not only is making a difference but also brings much needed perspective and expertise on the future of supplier diversity as an integral part of sourcing and procurement — not separate from it.

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