"Supplier Management" by Any Other Name Would Still be As Descriptive

With apologies to the Bard, who famously commented on the name of a rose not affecting its attributes, I've been struck lately by the naming around an emerging area of interest to Spend Matters readers. That area is called ... well, that's the problem, isn't it? What is the name of that group of buyer-side processes that manage the information, risk factors, performance, certifications, etc. of their suppliers?

There are vendors with solutions in this area like CVM Solutions, Aravo, D&B, Hiperos, Ariba, Emptoris, etc. Players in the space claim they do "Supplier Management" when others with only slightly overlapping capabilities also claim they are doing "Supplier Management". So we have a problem of defining the wider borders of this thing as well as the salient components lying within those borders.

The simple favorite for naming the whole space, "Supplier Management," is also problematic because it is so easy for the uninitiated to presume they understand. That is, even if all us experts agree on what Supplier Management is, the wider audience will need a lot of education to disabuse them of misconceptions coming from the use of two very generic words like "Supplier" and "Management". It may as well be named "Content Management" (which suffers from the same problem)!

I do think it should be named and defined. Scratch that -- perhaps its best to define and then name the space in question. Define by listing out the bill of materials included in "it" and then perhaps a name will arise clearly out of the mix. In the hope of using the Spend Matters readership as an open-source audience of experts (and making this blogging thing more interactive), how about we try a two step approach? 1) Fill out the Indented "bill of materials" for the space (with definitions of the components if necessary), and 2) debate the larger terminology encompassing the whole area (and there's no skipping ahead to #2 before we're all reasonably satisfied we've covered #1).

As a straw man for step 1:
"That which we will name eventually" includes:

  1. Supplier Information (where information is data that is relatively static)
    1. Supplier Owned and Maintained Information (name, dba, address, contacts, tax ids, etc.)
    2. Buyer Owned and Maintained information about a supplier (ERP id, preferred status, internal manager, etc.)
    3. Third Party Owned and Maintained infromation about a supplier (DUNS, SIC, NAICS, Certifications, etc.)
  2. Supplier Risk (where information is dynamic)
    1. Credit Risk
    2. Supply Chain Risk (interruptions, quality, safety, etc.)
    3. Competitive Risk (they become a competitor, serve your competitors better or leak IP to competitors)
    4. Performance Risk (on-time, quality, etc.)
    5. Cost Risk
    6. Legal Risk
  3. Performance
    1. Quality of Service
    2. Ease of doing business
    3. Price Competitiveness
  4. Transactional
    1. Sourcing (how the supplier is represented in sourcing processes)
    2. Contracts (status of existing supplier contracts, effectivity dates, content, pricing, etc.)
    3. Content (catalogs, punchouts, service level agreements, line card pricing, SOWs, etc.)
    4. Orders status
    5. Invoices status
    6. Payments status

I can't help but want a taxonomy for this area given my background in spend visibility (so shoot me), but I also know that folks out there who've thought more about this will see major gaps in my straw man. Alright then, identify yourself and let me have it. Either in the comments to this post or directly to me via email (leonluap at gmail dot com).

- Paul Noël

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