Social Networking, Supplier Engagement, Contract Management: Do We Need a Big Step Forward? (Part 2)

In the first post in this series, we shared some of Tim Cummins' musings on how social networking and communities could have a role in the world of partner (i.e., customer, supplier) selection and contract management. In the second installment in this series, we'll toss out a few additional ideas for discussion and debate on the same topic. Perhaps most important to start with is the "Big Step Forward" that we see about to take shape in the next generation of procurement and contract management products involving social networking and social communities. Some of the tools we've seen include social networking (internal, with trusted suppliers and with suppliers on a network) as a core component within sourcing, supplier management and contract management modules. In other words, when these tools begin to ship en masse, companies will have a controlled means of enabling social networking and community within sourcing, buying, vendor management and contracting processes with the flick of a switch.

For example, in the context of creating a new RFI for a given category, a sourcing manager could click an icon and query the extended organization in a Facebook-like update, question and comment thread about any potential clauses or surveys that should be considered based on any range of new criteria -- geography, supply market dynamics, divisional requirements, etc. But arguably more powerful than this, as Tim Cummins describes in his post, would be an automated function that prompts category managers to include specific areas to probe on in an RFI based not only on policy, but the actions of others in the network (e.g., a certain number of updates or tags involving a particular supplier, supply market or geography might prompt a particular action).

Then, for supplier selection and ultimately contracting and final T&C negotiation, the application could follow a similar approach by suggesting or requiring certain actions, terms, clauses, sign-offs, etc. based upon not only general rules and requirements, but the broader marketplace dynamic as shown through the distributed intelligence of others inside the company -- including their own questions, tags, profile updates, activities -- plus activity in the market as evidenced and confirmed by third-party information sources (e.g., newsfeeds, supplier past performance supplier credit and network ratings). Imagine, for a moment, the concept of adding a dynamic component to clause libraries requiring certain prompts and recommendations for enhanced or beefed-up elements for new contracts or renewals based on the underlying organizational and distributed social intelligence of the company.

It's possible. And here at Spend Matters, we think it will likely come sooner than you think, owing to both generational shifts and underlying technology availability with procurement and contract management toolsets that will begin to shift with social components and community built-in at the core as a start -- and ultimately predictive capabilities based on the social community and network as well.

- Jason Busch

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