Streamline Supplier Collaboration and Accelerate Spend Management with a Supplier Network

It's been a packed week for Spend Matters and MetalMiner on the speaking and webinar front. The team will have participated or spoken at four different events in less than seven days. We apologize in advance for any gratuitous plugs for our in-person speaking gigs and webinars in our posts, but hopefully the value we provide in the content will more than offset any personal advertorial alarm bells that go off. The last event to cap this busy speaking week is a webinar I'm participating in with Shell on behalf of SAP and Hubwoo, titled Streamline Supplier Collaboration and Accelerate Spend with a Supplier Network. This free event is taking place at 10:00 AM CT on Wednesday, June 29 (and you can register for it via the previous link). Even though the title of the webinar may contain a few buzzwords, I can promise that my part (and Shell's part) will be quite substantive.

In my chat, I personally plan to explore the intersection of two areas of growing interest on Spend Matters -- supplier management and supplier networks. I'll dig into how supplier management is becoming an absolutely essential piece of the full P2P process and specifically, how network models are important to different parts of enablement and management. Shell's Chuck Scorpiniti will tell his company's story of enabling over a thousand suppliers and driving $60 billion in spend through their systems on a global basis.

My overall premise is that if you look at many of the requirements of supplier management outside and inclusive of collecting information and credentials, we're often doing far too many things on a one-to-one basis where network approaches can make more sense. Now, networks can take many forms. They can be simple, standards enablers for document interchange. I personally believe this was the original vision of such networks as the Ariba Supplier Network, the Oracle Supplier Network, Hubwoo, etc. and many others. Or they can be much more, serving as a shared service to manage a range of different elements including much of the electronic invoicing process, not just the interchange of documents. And of course they can play an important role in such areas as content and catalog management, supplier identification, requisitioning (e.g., cross-catalog and network search) and holistic compliance inclusive of company and vendor activity rather than just looking at individual compliance activities within eProcurement and invoice automation in isolation.

I know that my future vision for supplier networks is one that some vendors take issue with (e.g., Ariba), as it directly affronts one of their current business models of charging rising fees for basic connectivity. Still, you can't run from where reality is taking us. I previously wrote and continue to believe more than ever that in the coming years, "the network of the future will begin to take shape, looking like something of the following: Take a connectivity service like the Ariba Supplier Network and put it at the core. Strip out value-based transaction fees for commodity document exchange (and potentially make basic connectivity free). Add fees back in where value is actually created (e.g., financing) by taking a reasonable cut. Combine supplier discovery services that go beyond publishing an RFX to providing detailed insights on suppliers in the manner in which a buyer wants to see them as part of search capabilities that combine and aggregate third party information sources. Then toss in basic supplier enablement and supplier management and registration tools for suppliers to manage profile, financial, certification, credential and other data in a many-to-many matter."

And that, my procurement and finance friends, is the future of supplier networks and connectivity: at least as I see it. But since no one can offer it today, I'll start by digging into the most important elements of what matter in leveraging supplier networks to become a central part of supplier management and supplier connectivity -- for P2P and beyond. If you're curious about the topic, join me this Wednesday at 10:00 AM CT.

Jason Busch

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