CVM Solutions: Peddling Diversity, Pushing Much More (Part 2)

When I sat down and got my first briefing in this sector in 1998, I was hungry to learn about the basics -- how companies could buy and sell using internet technologies, the potential of marketplace platforms (ironically Tradex provided the first briefing that I ever sat through in the procurement space) and above all, how negotiation and supplier management approaches were changing. A lot has changed since my first foray into learning about the space.

Today, I'm far more interested in digging down into the trenches when I examine products and services than 10 years ago. In fact, my favorite briefings these days do not just include webex or in-person demonstrations but also usernames/passwords to actually log-in and play around with applications and datasets after the initial discussion. In late November, I had the chance to sit down at CVM Solutions' office for a briefing discussion, but the planned chat quickly fell apart as we dug into the provider's next generation products, logging into development servers and playing in the proverbial software sandbox.

But I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. CVM has much to offer today, including a range of data enrichment services, spend analysis, supplier relationship management and supplier diversity offerings. Even though CVM is best known for their diversity content offerings, this bucket of revenue represents a minority of their overall business today. At this stage, I'd rank CVM as one of the top players in supplier content overall. Their offerings, price points and data quality put them at the front of the pack based on my own analysis and numerous questions I've posed to their customers in the past year. D&B is larger and broader, but CVM is building a solid and competitive content business.

Where CVM really shines is in its data validation component that focuses entirely on making sure that a company's most critical suppliers (i.e., the ones that it really cares about) are as close to 100% accurate in their data profile as possible. CVM's process to insure this level of accuracy includes manual validation, data remediation, proprietary information and third-party content as well as technology. I've heard competitors criticize CVM for this level of manual support (e.g., running a call center), but you can't dispute the level of accuracy it can produce.

CVM's technology products are not universally as sophisticated or at the top of the market -- at least not yet. CVM's spend analysis, for example, lacks some of the capabilities of the leading providers, although I would encourage prospects to judge it on its own merits based on their circumstance and spend mix (i.e., it is more suited for indirect than direct spend). But in contrast, CVM's supplier portal, multi-tier reporting and tracking capabilities are quite solid indeed, making CVM one of the top providers in the supplier information market based upon products if not in market-share. CVM's supplier performance, contract management and risk management services are sufficient, though not market leading as standalone solutions or capabilities. Still, collectively, they stack up well when integrated with CVM's other solutions.

If companies are considering working with CVM Solutions today, they should be very confident in their decision from a supplier enrichment and content perspective. Whether it's gathering, enriching and managing multi-tier supplier diversity information or basic parent/child relationships, CVM is at the top of their game in the content business. Their software offerings are also solid, although like many providers with diverse product sets, the relative level of sophistication and feature/function capability differs across the board.

For some companies, all of CVM's products might be sufficient. But more sophisticated procurement organizations will most likely mix/match some of what CVM has today with best of breed capabilities from other providers and potentially with ERP SRM components as well. For example, one CVM customer uses Ariba for core P2P and CVM Solutions for content and overall procurement process management. Another in the financial services sector uses CVM Solutions for supplier diversity and content and SAP/Frictionless for E-Sourcing and E-Procurement.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this post when we examine where CVM Solutions is headed.

- Jason Busch

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