Supplier Information Management Content

‘What other needs do you have?’ — Lessons from ConnXus, a supplier relationship expert

Supplier relationship management (SRM) has grown from just sourcing the best deal to really evaluating suppliers for diversity, ability to innovate, value generation and their risk.

In this series on SRM, we’ve discussed how the development of supplier diversity has improved supplier management overall, and we’ve explored how companies can meet their goals to have a robust supply chain that’s diverse.

Businesses now know to get their spend data in order and should know how to measure the impact of that spend. They should be able to develop suppliers and drive innovation. Responsible businesses can protect their brand reputation by assessing their main suppliers (tier 1) and those deeper in the supply chain, as well as having a plan to mitigate risks, like unethical sourcing, forced labor in the supply chain or poor performance in the past. But, it’s also clear that lacking in supplier diversity or being weak in supplier information management (SIM) are risks themselves.

To learn more about these issues, we talked with SRM expert Daryl Hammett, the general manager of ConnXus, a provider that connects buyers and qualified suppliers.

ConnXus Brings ‘Quick and Clean’ Supplier Data Cleansing to the Masses with SmartScrub: Vendor Snapshot Update [PRO]

For the majority of procurement organizations today, obtaining and maintaining accurate supplier master data is a huge pain point. Most organizations still do not trust their vendor master as a single source of truth (or even have one!) — nor do they have the time or personnel to continuously validate and enrich supplier records to the degree that is necessary to create that level of trust.

One solution to this problem for the last decade or so has been to gather a list of suppliers the organization has worked with in the past year and submit the records to one of several firms that clean and enrich this data as a service for various purposes (e.g., deduplication, verification, enrichment, etc.). Among these firms is ConnXus, a best-of-breed solution provider within the Supplier Relationship Management & Risk SolutionMap category. ConnXus is best known for strong supplier diversity management and a growing set of adjacent capabilities (such as a next-generation supplier network where a supplier can register once and share its profile with any business).

As technology has improved in the market, new options for supplier master data cleansing and enrichment have turned this service into an increasingly automated process (e.g., doing so via API every time a new supplier is added). But offerings vary. Some require a license to the entire platform to use the data services, while others provide a cost-effective entry point that do not guarantee perfect results. So ConnXus, as of this week, is seeking to provide a middle ground between these two extremes: A competitively priced supplier data cleansing and enrichment subscription called SmartScrub that guarantees 98% accurate records for U.S.-based businesses returned in under 24 hours — often much faster, as the service is completely automated once users provide an uploaded template containing supplier name and valid address.

More important for procurement organizations, SmartScrub’s capabilities are available for purchase without engaging ConnXus’ supplier management solutions. And at the price points ConnXus is offering, most companies will have the ability to validate, centralize and report on diversity and industry data for thousands of records where before such solutions may have been inaccessible. Although ConnXus does aim to turn these subscribers into full customers, of course, especially as it quickly evolves its data validation capabilities into what it sees as the next logical evolution: mass supplier discovery of diverse and industry-specific vendors.

This Spend Matter Vendor Snapshot Update reviews ConnXus’ new SmartScrub subscription and explains how the supplier management vendor is taking a potentially disruptive approach to enabling MDM cleansing and virtualization. It is an addendum to our previous reviews and analyses of ConnXus:

Part 1: Background and Solution Overview
Part 2: Product Strengths and Weaknesses
Part 3: Commentary and Summary Analysis
ConnXus Envisions a Next-Generation Supplier Network With myConnXion: Vendor Snapshot Update

Mastercard Track: A Gateway to a New Kind of B2B Ecosystem (Part 2) — SWOT Analysis and Market Implications [PRO]

Over a decade ago, American Express led the payments way in making innovative investments aimed at procurement organizations and their suppliers, primarily through its venture and partnership arms. (Remember MarketMile/Ketera, anyone?) But more recently, it appears that Mastercard has picked up the B2B innovation mantle, opting to organically build a solution aimed at buyers and suppliers with procurement front and center in the business case crosshairs. This new solution, Track, surprised us in multiple ways (click here for an introduction to Track), especially for its audacious supplier network vision (and we might add also for what it is not doing, at least not yet).

Is the tail of Mastercard’s new supplier network offering — comprised of a trade directory, supply risk monitoring capability and payment ledger — wagging the payments dog? The answer might surprise you. This purebred procurement solution can hunt without even hinting at the need to enable a virtual or corporate card swipe.

Indeed, with its new Track solution, Mastercard appears quite serious about the procurement and supplier management market beyond just finding creative ways of leveraging its rails to enable payments. With this new product release, Mastercard stands in contrast to American Express, among others, which still appears to be taking the same old B2B payments and financing pooch out for a walk, albeit with an updated veneer for the digital working capital era.

But before we drown in our doggy metaphors, let’s analyze what’s good — and what’s not so good — about Mastercard’s first generation Track release and what it means for procurement organizations, supporting services providers (e.g., consultancies) and the procurement technology sector as a whole.

Mastercard Track: A Gateway to a New Kind of B2B Ecosystem (Part 1) — Vendor Introduction and Solution Overview [PRO]

B2B payments represent a significant opportunity for payments providers. Within the U.S. alone, Deloitte research suggests that B2B payments are expected to reach $23.1 trillion by 2020, following a 5.8% CAGR since 2014, with large enterprises accounting for more than 60% of all transaction volume. Financial institutions, however, have placed comparatively less emphasis on the B2B space in favor of B2C transactions, which in spite of their smaller relative total size present less complexity in terms of technological and process problems to solve. Yet this is beginning to change. Banks, payment providers and other institutions are doubling down on the opportunities in B2B, and some are even starting to get their foot in the door by offering software targeted toward procurement organizations. For example, Mastercard has been rolling out its new Track solution in partnership with major banks and P2P and S2P suite providers and via public demonstrations at vendor conferences like Basware Connect and Ivalua NOW. Following the integration of Track’s payment capabilities with Singapore’s Networked Trade Platform (NTP) last year, Mastercard is getting its procurement technology start in, of all things, supplier master data and risk management. This may seem like an odd fit, especially when there are other technology providers offering similar — or in some cases, far more sophisticated — tools for managing supplier data and tracking third-party risk. As many B2B “old timers” know, banks and payment networks (Mastercard included) have been trying to insert themselves into P2P processes for nearly 20 years, and the results have been a failure every time, because they were always about funneling the transactions to their payment networks in order to charge suppliers 2% to 3% processing fees. This relegated these initial efforts to tail spend and highlighted how they couldn’t add value to the broader S2P process.

But we think this solution from Mastercard actually has huge potential and will likely be a market disruptor. Why? Well, from a practitioner standpoint, what would you think of a vendor who took all your supplier master data and then ran it through its “magic engine” and then showed you all the duplicates and supplier risk warning flags — and they did this on a freemium basis? That should catch your attention. And it should catch the competitive attention of D&B, LexisNexis, supplier networks, supplier risk/intelligence providers, supplier discovery tools and others that play in this space, as well as the partnering attention of S2P application providers that want an instant supplier network partner that can do more than process low-dollar transactions on a payment network.

Mastercard is just starting the first act of a longer, platform-based play, and the question today is simple: Is this “priceless” MDM and supplier risk solution worth a look? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Because unlike other services in the space, Track takes the long view, supporting Mastercard’s aspiration to enable and connect into a global B2B ecosystem of multiple services, from business identity and risk management to payment facilitation and trade finance. And while we expect many of Track’s initial capabilities and partner offerings to evolve over time — what Mastercard has been publicly demonstrating over the past several months is more of a minimum viable product than a fully matured and battle-tested solution — the first cut is worthy of a deeper dive.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Introduction offers a candid take on Mastercard Track and its initial capabilities. Part 1 includes an introduction of Mastercard’s offering and a breakdown what the solution can (and can’t) currently do. Part 2 will provide a SWOT analysis and our key recommendations to interested parties (procurement organizations, technology providers, supporting services providers) evaluating Track as encountered through partner P2P or S2P providers.

Promena: Vendor Introduction (Part 2) — Product Strengths and Weaknesses [PRO]

contingent workforce

In our last Spend Matters PRO post, we introduced you to Promena, an 18-year-old provider based out of Istanbul that is deploying a platform for strategic sourcing, supplier management and e-procurement. Operated under the umbrella of Zer, a procurement BPO firm that itself is a subsidiary of Turkey’s largest industrial conglomerate, Koç Holding, Promena has a solution with a long history of development and some relatively mature functionality despite its lower name recognition in the global procurement technology market. And while its newest modules are still finding their footing amid a rapidly changing sector, the solution overall offers a strong baseline off which Promena could expand it functional footprint.

Part 1 of this brief provided an overview of Promena’s offering and a short selection requirements checklist that outlined the typical company for which Promena might be a good fit. In Part 2, we provide a breakdown of what is comparatively good (and not so good) about the solution, a high-level SWOT analysis, and some final conclusions and takeaways.

AI in Supplier Management: Tomorrow (Part 2) [PRO]

complex sourcing

In Part 1 of AI in Supplier Management: Tomorrow, we began our discussion of some of the AI-enabled capabilities that you can expect to find in tomorrow's supplier management platforms, where we define AI as assisted intelligence (because, as we have discussed, there is no true artificial intelligence in enterprise platforms today and there won't be tomorrow either). AI is a buzzword, not a reality. But we don't need true AI to achieve software that can radically increase our productivity. Reaching assisted intelligence will add multiples to our efficiency and effectiveness.

In our last article, we discussed how tomorrow's supplier management platforms will offer smart, automatic, supplier profile update (suggestions) — taking the headaches out of profile maintenance that results in most profiles being out of date in a supplier management system shortly after they are created; market-based supplier intelligence that is more in line and reflective with reality — and not just the experience of an anomalous customer subset; and real-time relationship monitoring that paints a relatively full picture of the relationship, not just a point-based performance picture.

So what else will tomorrow's platforms do to help you focus more on the strategic side of supplier management? Let’s look at the next three areas:

— Automated resolution plan creation, monitoring and adjustment
— Automated risk mitigation strategy identification
— Optimized real-time resource re-alignment

Visibility is Key to Managing CSR Risks in Indirect Spend, EcoVadis Says (Part 3)

Indirect spend often gets overlooked by businesses because the outcomes from buying those goods and services are not the company’s core product, which relies on direct spend. But the potential for lost money and increased risk is so great that businesses must find a way to manage indirect spend.

“The broad reach of indirect spend, coupled with a lack of visibility creates risk, so the key to gaining visibility and managing this risk is to prioritize indirect spend management within an organization and start assessing indirect supplier performance in a formalized way,” said EcoVadis, a risk mitigation provider that offers business sustainability ratings and intelligence.

EcoVadis joined us for a Q&A to explore the next steps to figure out how to identify weak points, prioritize areas to defend against and create a plan for mitigating risks.

Tealbook: Vendor Introduction (Part 2) — Product Strengths and Weaknesses [PRO]

cloud solutions

In our last Spend Matters PRO brief, we introduced you to Tealbook, a five-year-old provider based out of Toronto (with an office in New York City) that is deploying a new platform for supplier information management (SIM) and discovery. Combining machine learning to accelerate data cleansing and gathering with a social media-like user experience to encourage collaborative supplier information management, Tealbook is gaining use cases and enterprise-class procurement customers that want to:

— Consolidate and better manage their supplier master data — aka the “I” (Information and Intelligence) in SIM.
— Discover and on-board new suppliers more effectively than 1) Google searches and 2) searches within proprietary supplier networks.
— Create a system of intelligence surrounding suppliers both internally (e.g., within a spend category team or project team) and externally through fully permissioned, community-based knowledge sharing.
— Quickly bring supplier diversity programs to target levels.

Part 1 of this brief provided an overview of Tealbook’s offering and a short selection requirements checklist that outlined the typical company for which Tealbook might be a good fit.

In Part 2, we provide a breakdown of what is comparatively good (and not so good) about the solution, a high-level SWOT analysis, and some final conclusions and takeaways.

Tealbook: Vendor Introduction (Part 1) — Background and Solution Overview [PRO]

Procurement organizations today talk a big game about automating transactional processes so that they can focus on upstream value creation opportunities. The thinking goes like this: The biggest opportunities for procurement are not in squeezing diminishing savings out of the usual vendors year after year but in identifying and contracting with the most innovative suppliers that can enable exclusive competitive advantages. These include not only strategic sourcing efforts around major categories or products but also mutually beneficial relationship-based activities like supplier collaboration, development, innovation and risk mitigation.

Yet there are several obstacles to this shift in emphasis toward more strategic activities. One is remarkably simple: The majority of procurement organizations do not have a single, accurate record of all of their suppliers. Most of the vital information that would constitute a vendor master file is instead scattered across various silos, including ERP systems, dedicated P2P or S2P tools, homegrown tools, and proverbial three-ring binders. So before procurement can earnestly attempt to spend more time on higher-impact value creation opportunities, most organizations have a lot of work to do forming a baseline off which they can build stronger supplier management, discovery and development competencies. This baseline of supplier knowledge is not just about maintaining an accurate vendor master file to pay the bills, but also a hub for information to help build supplier intelligence and a private supplier network (albeit with some community-based elements) rather than any single commercial network/marketplace.

Helping organizations form this baseline is how Tealbook, a four-year-old provider based out of Toronto (with an office in New York City), is deploying its platform for supplier information management and discovery. Combining machine learning to accelerate data cleansing and gathering with a social media-like user experience to encourage collaborative supplier information management, Tealbook is gaining use cases with enterprise-level procurement organizations that want to consolidate their efforts in master data management (MDM), quickly bring their supplier diversity programs to target levels, and find new suppliers more effectively than a search on the open web allows, as well as expedite the supplier on-boarding process. And as it continues to bring more users and suppliers into its network, Tealbook generates insights that becomes increasingly valuable to its community (without ever sharing proprietary information between organizations).

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Introduction offers a candid take on Tealbook and its capabilities. The first part of this brief includes an overview of Tealbook’s offering and a short selection requirements checklist that outlines the typical company for which Tealbook might be a good fit. The second part of this brief provides a breakdown of what is comparatively good (and not so good) about the solution, a high-level SWOT analysis, and some market implications and takeaways.

AI in Supplier Management: Today (Part 1) [PRO]

suppliers

With this brief we begin the next installment of our series on the application of artificial intelligence (AI) to various source-to-pay technologies. Previous entries focused on AI in procurement (Today, Part 1 and Part 2; Tomorrow, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3; and The Day After Tomorrow), AI in sourcing (Today; Tomorrow, Part 1 and Part 2; and The Day After Tomorrow), AI in sourcing optimization (Today; Tomorrow; and The Day After Tomorrow, Part 1 and Part 2) and AI in supplier discovery (Today, Tomorrow and The Day After Tomorrow).

Following the path from supplier discovery and selection is the topic of our current series, supplier management. As with each preceding entry, the aim is to define what is available with AI(-like) technology and what will be possible tomorrow. And just as the best platforms for supplier discovery are starting to use machine learning and RPA, so too are the best supplier management platforms — but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Sponsored Article

Putting the ‘Relationship’ Back in SRM

contingent workforce

At ConnXus, we’ve worked with countless buyers and suppliers — ranging from global fortune 500s to small and diverse businesses. One of the biggest opportunities we consistently see between buyers and suppliers in the B2B space is the ability to boost supplier relationship management (SRM). Successful SRM is a pivotal milestone in maximizing the value of your supply chain. Developing relationships with your suppliers can help foster collaboration, drive innovation and impact your bottom line.

AI in Supplier Discovery: Tomorrow [PRO]

interest rates

In Spend Matters’ last PRO article for the AI in Supplier Discovery series, we overviewed some situations where you can find it today, or at least functionality that looked like it was enabled by artificial intelligence (even if it was not), and set ourselves up for a discussion of true AI that is going to creep into supplier discovery platforms tomorrow.

However, when we say true AI, we mean the definition of AI as “assisted intelligence,” because there is no true artificial intelligence out there and probably won't be for a very long time (with some futurists conjecturing it will be 2060 before machines are as smart as the dumbest of us). Note that we don't even mean “augmented intelligence,” as even though the platforms will augment your knowledge, it will still be up to you to make the right, intelligent, decisions tomorrow. (And maybe the day after that, but that is a subject for our next article.)

In our last article, we reviewed the capabilities of the leading discovery platforms today, which mainly revolved around:

  • Smart search
  • Community intelligence

...and the intersection of both.

We discussed how the improvements in computing power and web-usability made it possible for platforms to implement better and more powerful search algorithms that actually made searches useful across wide supplier directories and networks; how community intelligence allowed an organization to quickly narrow potential supplier pools down to reasonable sizes; and how the intersection allowed for the definition of "like" searches that could not be done before now.

But as of today, those "like" searches are still pretty high level. And they are best at finding suppliers that provide finished products and services that can be well-defined and compared to other suppliers that provide similar finished products and services. In fact, most systems with "like" searches are for the identification of suppliers for indirect. Not direct. (And not services either.)

But that is going to change tomorrow. Tomorrow, supplier discovery systems are going to support:

  • deep capability match that uses bill of materials, production requirements and other deep factors to support supplier search for direct suppliers
  • resource capability match that can identify needed skill sets, knowledge and related attributes for services suppliers

And we'll finally have smart supplier search for all. But how will it happen? And what will it look like? Let's explore.