RollStream and GXS: The Start of a Combined Supplier Management and Trading Network (Part 2)

Please click here for the first post in this series.

From a deployment perspective, RollStream is one of the largest SIM vendors that you probably haven't heard of (at least in relation to some of the accounts from the likes of Aravo and Hiperos, among others). Yet like HICX, RollStream has quietly built a very strong list of accounts, including a number that GXS has brought to it as part of their relationship together (these include Comcast, Tesco and Owens & Minor, among others). Add to these a range of retailers, life sciences and other big name accounts that RollStream had previously and it's clear that their SIM client list is really every bit as impressive in the early stages of this market as anyone. But of course it's what these accounts are doing with the toolset that matters more than just listing them as accounts.

With its new owner, the integrated GXS/RollStream vision initially aims to capitalize on the stability and reach of the new parent (i.e., positioning RollStream as a more stable and secure vendor compared with all of the other small players in the SIM market, which could likely get snapped up at anytime without any guarantee of continued similar direction and innovation, or fold entirely). RollStream is backing up its approach of positioning itself as a less risky provider by capitalizing on the tenure, financial stability and infrastructure of GXS, from data center support to enhanced globalization and language support of the product.

Looking at the roadmap, GXS intends to prioritize a range of initiatives with RollStream, including "deeper integration with the GXS trading grid" that will in part provide unique access to "leading indicators of risk and compliance." This may sound like marketing jargon mumbo jumbo, but think about this claim for a minute. GXS sits on a massive amount of supply chain transactional data that is a far better leading indicator of risk than credit providers that rely on a rear-facing mirror.

In contrast, the GXS data for direct spend is similar to what Ariba sits on for indirect. But for direct spend, leading indicators are more valuable because a change in demand signals, order quantity, inventory forecasts, payment terms and the like are available immediately and could be aggregated to show rising or declining risk levels in particular vendor relationships based on production (tied to top line) data versus just spend indicative of SG&A changes. The value of GXS transactional data taken from POs, invoices, logistics documentation etc. and aggregated in a manner that does not step on any customer confidentiality agreements could become an absolutely killer supply risk application.

Of course this is in the vision phase, but ultimately, RollStream customers may find themselves with some proprietary content and insight that (like SAP Supplier InfoNet) is based on aggregate data across a trading network. Nearer term, GXS shared that the SIM and supplier lifecycle management focus will zone in on broader enrichment and alignment with ERP information (including item and transaction level data). RollStream will also play a more central role as a B2B enablement tool for GXS overall, from, in their words, "source to test to transact."

Taking the discussion back down to the current supply risk earth with what is available in the RollStream toolset today, the user experience is still very much based on managing and accessing profiles. These can include company names, sub-groupings (e.g., divisions), contacts, company IDs, specific items and programs. A tagging structure provides the ability to get outside the standard taxonomy box to quickly discover certain types of intelligence, like looking at groupings of suppliers by status, accounting codes, frequency of volume, geography, internal vendor manager, etc.

Behind the scenes is an elegantly simple but complex workflow engine that a frontline user wouldn't even have to know exists -- but that can carefully route and manage workflows such as requests for registration or information, internal approvals, general supplier responses and the like based on a range of actions, responses or lack of responses (e.g., unclicked links or unopened emails). It reminds us a bit of what some of the better-known SIM vendors have created, but the visual workflow in GXS makes configuration more accessible to a line of business user (without necessarily requiring a business analyst or IT type).

Stay tuned as we continue to run through an updated walkthrough of some of the capabilities of the RollStream suite.

- Jason Busch

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