Spend Matters View: Realizing Accenture’s Future Supplier Network Vision (PaaS Fundamentals)

supplier management

I’m glad Accenture put supplier networks at the core of its future vision for technology in its recent white paper: Procurement’s Next Frontier – The Future Will Give Rise to an Organization of One. But the supplier networks of tomorrow will look very different than those that are most common today. Tradeshift, which is pitching a future network vision at the core, is perhaps the first active participant in this space today to leverage some of the early thinking and network capability in practice with platform-as-a-service (PaaS) approach.

PaaS is critical to understand how we’ll build and deploy connectivity hubs between buyers and suppliers at all tiers of the supply chain, as well as applications that support communication. But what is PaaS in the context of a network? As I’ve noted previously, future business networks will be supported by cloud computing models that include PaaS, an approach which will become increasingly productized and prevalent starting this year.

When you think of PaaS, think of Concur, Force.com, AWS and Apple and the ability to drive more seamless integration of various services, such as applications, data and content not necessarily through common standards. It’s worth noting that standards (e.g., cXML) become irrelevant as data formats and schemas become abstracted as part of a network offering and networks ultimately get smart enough to auto-map different fields to each other.

Today, some tech vendors are building their own services or aligning themselves with others to offer such services, and tech buyers in procurement and beyond are becoming more knowledgeable of cloud computing and the power of PaaS, even if they don’t know to call it that.

Looking ahead, the core building blocks for scalable and global networks will enable providers to build out app-store-like model – not so different from what related providers like Concur and Salesforce have done. But this will require delivering an extendible format, opening up access to core data points and creating a platform that partners and related solution providers can hook to build additional capability. In many ways, it’s the opposite of what Ariba did with its first generation network form a business standards, enablement and business model standpoint. (But they know they are in fact trying to change things behind the scenes with a next generation approach.)

As a follow-up to this post, I’ll share some thoughts from Tungsten’s recent customer conference, where I shared some thoughts on the types of applications that future networks will bring through a PaaS model.

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