More on GXS Rollstream – get closer to your supply base

We gave an introduction to Rollstream last week, now part of the GXS product suite. We met the founder of Rollstream, Nick Parnaby, recently, and after the general introduction we got into the more specific capabilities of the product.

One immediately interesting point is the way it’s positioned as a platform, with various applications then sitting on that platform. So customers buy the base platform, then can buy the apps on an optional basis depending what exactly they want and what they’re trying to achieve.

So, for instance, there’s an “issue management” app, that is designed to help buyers and sellers work through a problem resolution process. That includes features such as an “e-room” that encourages working together within a supplier management framework.

Onboarding is another very commonly used application – gathering information about current or new suppliers so that you can start transacting business with them.  There’s built in workflow, enabling an internal approvals process and giving the buyer visibility of where a supplier registration has got to in the process. Once onboarding is complete, the platform can send PQQs or similar to registered firms. Other functionality, such as D & B checks on the participating supply base, can be built in.

We sometimes see onboarding as an administrative task with little “added value” in our procurement world, but Parnaby explained that in some markets, and for some firms, slow registration is actually a revenue blocker (rather than just the hassle it tends to be for procurement people). For example, it may be that the appointment of resellers or agents has a direct effect on the "buying" firm’s bottom line, so effective processes here to onboard such partners can be directly related to profitability.

Both initial registration, and then effective management of supplier information (“master data management”) is important territory for procurement, as we’ve said before in blogs and papers. Getting it right will improve governance, control and spend visibility; and help manage supply chain and supplier risk.  And the Rollstream principles around ease of use and social media type design make the platform more immediately acceptable to users and buyers, increasing implementation speed and the likelihood of effective day to day use.

Ongoing benefits range from fairly obvious and straightforward aspects around easier access to contact details, and creation of supplier profiles, through issues such as understanding parent / child supplier relationships, to supporting complex supplier management initiatives or joint buyer / seller project management.

An example is the interactive tool that enables you to capture, share, and immediately collaborate with trading partners on performance-related data with full traceability and audit control. So automating the process of managing supplier disputes (e.g., issues with orders) like this can take a lot of the hassle out of that process.

It’s also possible to run surveys across all or a sub-set of the supplier base; useful for managing compliance in CSR and related area. For example: “GXS customers use Rollstream to track compliance against programs related to consumer product safety regulations (e.g. US CPSIA), voluntary greenhouse gas emissions and conflict minerals (e.g. Dodd-Frank)”.

We got talking about supplier lifecycle management, and Parnaby explained that the same principles and functionality are appealing to some clients who aren’t  in the procurement world at all . For instance, banks are using this sort of platform because it can give them a greater depth of insight into their customers than they get from “traditional” CRM technology.

All in all, Rollstream is clearly an interesting option in the supplier information management arena, particularly if you like the Facebook-type interfaces and style of the platform. There’s a lot more to be said about GXS as well, but we’ll leave that for another day when I have my technology brain switched to full power!

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