Examining SAP Supplier InfoNet (Part 4)

See previous posts in this series here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Using SAP Supplier InfoNet, it is easy to cross-compare supplier performance (based on either a company's own suppliers or across the aggregate performance of suppliers in the SAP Supplier InfoNet system). Granular drill-downs are available (e.g., by country, state/province, industry code, min/max revenue). Users can also use the visualization capabilities of the tool to generate heat maps that look at supplier performance and information and can more easily steer users -- compared to basic alerting, tables and charts -- to areas that require their attention. Using the heat map capability, for example, an organization might opt to group suppliers by industry or spend and then look at relative on-time delivery information or quality data (or number/type of alerts) based on color (green, yellow, red) and relative size/risk presented by the heat map.

It's then possible to drill into further information about suppliers (users can also begin a more specific query about a supplier through numerous other access points), examining fields ranging from the general (e.g., annual revenue) to the specific (e.g., KPI performance history, alert history) to the external (e.g., structured data such as newsfeeds and enrichment information on the supplier or a particular facility). Based on drilling down into this information, Supplier InfoNet helps users close the loop on what to do next, and goes beyond the presentation of past (and current performance) and risk analysis. In the future, additional integration points will enable InfoNet (and InfoNet-enabled SAP applications) to analyze and map the best path to resolving potential shortages, understanding specific alternatives when a supplier de-commits on a delivery, what customer orders are impacted by a supply chain event and which alternative suppliers are best suited to step in as temporary or permanent alternatives.

Yet all is not in the future. Already today, InfoNet can display related strategy effectiveness KPIs based on similar situations that may have occurred in the past. For example, in the case of delivery-related issues, a user can see -- provided the company measures this data and/or SAP has a log of related information in the InfoNet network already -- the relative effectiveness (and impact on specific metrics) of such resolutions as changing carriers, pursuing alternative suppliers or expediting orders. Users can drill down to understand how often different strategies are used (on a percentage basis) in addition to their percentage effectiveness.

Aside from understanding the impact of past strategies on actual performance in mitigation situations, one of the most unique aspects of Supplier InfoNet is the sub-tier explorer capability embedded as a core component of the network value proposition. For example, SAP walked us through a demonstration showing how users can use the explorer capability to see their top 15 suppliers and then expand the view (with one click) to see those suppliers' suppliers -- provided the information is mapped and available in the aggregate file information.

While a mouse-over movement over a company's own (tier one) supplier's icons would immediately show specific company names and associated events (e.g., performance degradation, debarment) by default, users cannot see tier two or lower name information if the source of that information is another OEM in the network. In part, the model mirrors the LinkedIn approach to security, as users can't see all the profile details of suppliers not in their specific network. In the multi-tier hierarchy, users can keep drilling down and selecting suppliers to identify potential lower tier supply chain hiccups and can then communicate with lower tier suppliers once given permission by their direct suppliers which they can freely communicate with in the InfoNet system.

The above image shows a network view where the tier-2 suppliers are visible but in an anonymous fashion. Once the tier-1 supplier PAC Wireless provides access to a user of G2 Manufacturing, they can then see more information on their tier-2 suppliers as shown below.

With InfoNet, a user must request access to information from those who may (or may not) be the actual source of that information, but are the intermediary for the actual trading relationship. For example, a user might request debarment access for an anonymous supplier it sees two levels down in its supply chain. That request would go to their tier one supplier, the lower-tier supplier's customer, who can login and grant that access (e.g., company name, in this case) directly in the system. SAP told Spend Matters that enabling this direct communication and permission request is critical, as it does not want to be the content middleman. Rather, SAP is just providing access to the information and the routing for a user to request information from the appropriate party to the relationship and event they are monitoring.

Stay tuned for our final installment of this post looking at SAP Supplier InfoNet in which we'll offer concluding comments and summary observations.

- Jason Busch and Thomas Kase

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