Trade Extensions Dispatch: Templates on Sourcing Steroids or Just An “App” By Another Name?

Trade Extensions co-founder Professor Arne Andersson is approaching 60 — which makes him twice as old as some of the leaders of different startups in the procurement technology sector. With age comes both wisdom and humor (but what was not humorous was the time that the ever hospitable professor served me raw chicken for dinner once at his home with a colleague — but my gut managed to laugh that one off, and I think Arne was mortified when we told him later).

Flash forward a few years, and Arne started his 90-minute talk and demo this afternoon, which previewed the next release of the Trade Extensions platform (TESS 6.0), by telling everyone that he was about to do what one should never do at an event: preview pre-release software during a live demo. But he went on to do it anyway, including showing us a screenshot of a problem with the demo site when he tried it from his hotel room this morning (evidently the kinks were worked out since then!).

The next release of TESS (coming this spring or early summer) marks a giant step forward. The entire user experience is transformed. More on this from us later, but one aspect of the new release is “apps.” These are essentially templates on steroids. Yet they’re simple and powerful at the same time.

Not one to mince words or listen to his sales and marketing people, Arne described these forthcoming apps as “just a marketing name” for templates “that sounds better.” But they’re more than templates as we’d think about them.

In the 6.0 release, Arne notes these “apps” are template projects that are stored in an “app” list that typically contain a guide. It’s possible to associate an “app” with a given type of category, event format or bid type. Users can create apps (and a third party, including Trade Extensions, can build them as well).

Examples of very simple apps he shared include specialized auction formats such as Japanese auctions. A Japanese auction is a format in which an event starts with a set “high” price, and all bidders are “in.” Yet as the price ticks down, bidders can opt to leave, and the last remaining bidder wins. Or take the example of a Dutch reverse auction, where the bid starts “low” and the price ticks upwards — and bidders are “out” until they “opt” in. The first bid wins in this format.

These are example of basic apps that Trade Extensions has created. But they can get much more complicated, factoring in formulas, feedback and bidding rules for complex-sourcing-meets-supply-chain type projects (or category-specific projects such as logistics, packaging or contingent labor). Or, in simple cases, a centralized procurement organization could configure “apps” for enabling business users to run small-scale sourcing optimization events without even having to know how optimization works — perhaps even in the context of a P2P suite.

Setting up events or processes that run off apps is as easy as setting preferences, adding lots and bidders, and then sending invitations. But as Arne points out, his apps don’t get into the code (and hence aren’t really “apps”), even if they are easy to use in minutes to turn into simple or complex sourcing events.

Still, in our view, the power of whatever you want to call them will really begin to show itself when it comes to pushing optimization to users who have never been exposed to them before (and want a “turnkey” for their needs). And if successful, something as simple as these “ap-plates” could increase the use of sourcing optimization approaches by an order of magnitude inside many companies.

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