Supplier Management: “Real” or “Desperate” Procurement Housewife in 2014?

I’m not a huge fan of reality TV. There’s a reason studios exist, in my view—to create Game of Thrones, True Detective, and House of Cards, duh. But the truth is that reality TV calls it as it sees it. As “scripted” as it can be, it’s untamed and rough around the edges, lacks manners, can’t do small talk well, and generally leaves a negative impression (we’re looking at you, Honey Boo Boo and Mama June). Such is life outside of Hollywood.

The same is true of supplier management inside most companies. Like most reality TV, it’s not ready for primetime - or if it is, it’s something of a sh*t show. I won’t go so far to call supplier management’s situation that a “desperate” procurement housewife (after all, that was ridiculous fiction), but it’s closer than most of us would like to admit. To be kind, let’s stick with the “Real Housewives” (minus the Skinny Girl cocktail spin-off companies, or the jail time - we hope).

Where to start? Earlier this week, Spend Matters published Supplier Management Forecast: 2014 Customer Recommendations and Vendor Shortlists for our PRO members. This is the fourth in a series of 2014 market outlooks we’ve published on Spend Matters PRO. We are also covering e-invoicing (see here and here), eProcurement (see here and here), supplier network (see here and here), strategic sourcing, spend analytics, and trade financing markets. The recommendation and shortlists go along with a previously published brief from earlier in March, Supplier Management Forecast: 2014 Market Growth, Analysis and Predictions.

In the brief, we suggest that before getting to shortlists, it is important to factor into account a number of variables regarding supplier management selection and usage. These include:

  • Enablement
  • Visibility
  • MDM
  • Integration
  • SaaS
  • Open registration
  • Unstructured data gathering
  • Content-enabled risk management
  • Cascading functionality

We go on to explain and explore each of these areas in more detail. Then we get to the shortlists and use cases themselves. These include (with full explanation and vendor recommendations for each):

  • Give me basic AP-driven visibility
  • I need more advanced supplier lifecycle management capability for XYZ
  • Supplier performance management and supplier development
  • Master Data Management
  • Three-letter-acronym-specific help (CSR, EHS, GRC etc.)
  • Supplier financial risk management
  • Diversity now!

Just as any suburban lifestyle is not without caveats – as our analogous housewives discover – supplier management selection and shortlists also come with some polite stipulations (which we share openly in the piece, including the value of investigating ERP options, and why – not to mention which ones).

We end with a smattering of recommendations. Here’s one to whet your appetite: “take an inventory of all the random spreadsheets and systems you use in the areas above to get a sense of all the little shadow systems, especially the ones that touch suppliers. Do a customer satisfaction survey (on all key stakeholders – including GRC type folks) and a supplier satisfaction survey on how well the systems are working. Also use your audit partners, who usually have some good supplier risk/compliance capabilities. And use ‘open source’ GRC frameworks from cross-industry NGOs (e.g., OCEG), customers, industry groups, auditors, and/or supplier management providers.”

What vendors make our shortlists, and where? Read the PRO post in its entirety to discover where and how the following vendors make the cut (and no, we don't count services-centric providers like Achilles, which perform an admirably but really don’t have standalone software, on our list):

  • Aravo, HICX, SciQuest
  • BravoSolution
  • ConnXus, DiversePoint, Supplier Gateway & DIR
  • CVM Solutions/Kroll, Rollstream, and Lavante
  • Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax, Bureau van Dijk, Cortera, SAP
  • EcoVadis, Source Intelligence
  • Hiperos, Biznet
  • Iasta, Zycus
  • IBM/Emptoris
  • Oracle

Spend Matters PRO subscribers can access the full research brief here: Supplier Management Forecast: 2014 Customer Recommendations and Vendor Shortlists. If you're a qualified practitioner who would like access to a free trial of Spend Matters PRO, please don't hesitate to reach out to Sheena Moore:

With improved practices, let’s hope that by 2015 we can graduate the state of supplier management out of “Desperate” or “Real” Housewives territory (perhaps heading toward the Iron Throne??). But until then, procurement, A/P and other parts of the business will continue to need to tread lightly as they navigate the potholes of their own Wisteria Lane. And no, we promise your vendor master does not have the same appeal of Eva Longoria.

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