RollStream and GXS — The Start of a Combined Supplier Management and Trading Network (Part 1)

Earlier this year, Spend Matters sat down with the GXS team to learn more about the integration and plans for the RollStream supplier information management asset, which it acquired last year. We've had the chance to look at RollStream from a distance over the years, going through occasional demonstrations and walkthroughs and speaking to the occasional customer or two. For those who have not seen the RollStream product, it was the first in the supplier management sector -- one could argue the broader procurement tools sector -- to adopt a user interface and navigation experience that leveraged key elements of social networking connectivity and paradigms. The interface is still among the best we've seen, but more important, it's what users are doing with RollStream, and the specific types of supplier onboarding, compliance and lifecycle management programs they're making happen and managing.

In a series of posts looking at the latest from RollStream and GXS, we'll first cover the broader vision of integration between the two organizations based on what we learned from conversations with the team. We'll then turn our attention to the product set and ultimately conclude our analysis with a Spend Matters PRO feature (subscriber only) that considers prospect, customer and competitive recommendations and analysis. Let's begin with the 30,000-foot view in terms of how RollStream fits into the GXS portfolio (GXS along with IBM Sterling are the leaders in EDI and related trading connectivity for direct spend today).

From this vantage point, GXS views RollStream as a key element in its strategy to enable supplier onboarding and enablement for broader trading partner connectivity (either through proprietary point-to-point EDI connections or a more open trading network environment leveraging a range of GXS assets). RollStream also provides what GXS describes as a "value-added SaaS" layer, including "active apps and governance, process and productivity" on top of the data and connectivity layer linking trading partners involved a range of activities -- logistics, purchasing, retail/POS data, inventory management, design engineering, treasury/payables, banking, service parts and warranty/claims. In GXS marketing-speak, this is essentially about "connecting people to the information and process around the transaction."

With RollStream, GXS sees a broader opportunity here to engage IT leadership around a broader architecture vision for connectivity, rather than just project or program-based mindshare. It also sees an opportunity to target business users across procurement, finance and regulatory silos in companies rather than selling primarily to the IT organization. For business process enablement, the RollStream vision is about "aligning supplier lifecycle management with the transaction and mission critical operations" and ultimately "tapping into the [GXS] grid to differentiate via risk and community enablement."

Looking at what RollStream currently enables, the toolset is rather straightforward in terms of its functional checklist (the interface is quite different than most, but we'll get to that later). For supplier governance and visibility, the tool enables the standard registration and qualification process for closed (i.e., invite-only) or open settings. It includes the requisite workflow management, permissions and data management components that other supplier management products in the market also possess. This laundry list of SIM buckets we keep track of (and measure solutions against includes:

  • Supplier registration/portal
  • Supplier self-service for responses
  • Data integration (internal systems, third-party information)
  • Multi-tier approvals, workflows
  • Multi-tier visibility and reporting
  • Document and certification storage and management
  • Workflow and process management
  • Full audit trails and process auditability
  • Scorecarding capability and vendor collaboration/development
  • Embedded templates, questionnaires
  • Collaborative stakeholder engagement (RollStream takes this further than others in the SIM market, in our view, at least from a usability perspective)

Using this combined set of capabilities, SIM toolsets such as RollStream are being used today to enable a range of specific programs beyond AP and transaction-centric supplier onboarding. This includes managing supplier information and overall vendor details for:

  • Supply chain traceability
  • Safety and quality standards
  • Insurance certifications
  • Individual certifications and accreditation
  • Cross-industry CSR compliance
  • Labor practices, standards, supplier codes of conduct, etc.
  • Factory audits
  • Government watch lists
  • Requirements built on regulatory requirements and reporting

Stay tuned as we explore the RollStream/GXS approach to supporting these types of programs and where the integration of the providers is headed from a supplier management perspective.

- Jason Busch

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