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CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE: Fraud, P2P and Vendor Management Safeguards — Protecting cash and rapidly vetting suppliers in a crisis

In this installment of our “Coronavirus Response” series, Spend Matters will explore fraud, P2P and vendor management safeguards. With the COVID-19 crisis creating new fires for procurement to put out and critical supply risks arising to address, fraud is an unfortunate reality that businesses need to remain on guard against — especially in times where bad actors mobilize to take advantage of distracted and newly remote operations. This PRO brief will focus on the first three solution providers that we’ll profile in this category: AppZen, ConnXus and APEX Analytix.

The mission of this series is to examine categories of relevant solutions and example providers that professionals in procurement, finance and supply chain organizations should investigate to reduce, and even mitigate, coronavirus supply risk. And even if the solutions are only addressing a subset of the issues, the ability to respond intelligently in the short term can also help set organizations up for the future when sanity returns to the world.

Today’s brief focuses on the fifth of the seven solution categories that we’re covering:

1. Supply risk management solutions that include supply chain risk, CSR risk, supplier financial risk, etc.
2. Sourcing and commodity management, including advanced sourcing, direct sourcing, automated supplier discovery, and commodity management to help dynamically plan and source. (See this category’s recommended solutions for direct sourcing here.)
3. Advanced procurement analytics to enable direct procurement and/or to perform “spend planning” when demand drops out or spikes. (Its profile for this series is here.)
4. Procure to Pay (P2P) that emphasizes working capital, dynamic discounting, payment control and related finance priorities to help inject cash into the P2P process — especially for many cash-starved suppliers. (This category is discussed in-depth here.)
5. Fraud, P2P and vendor management safeguards when new suppliers need to be set up quickly, and also when lowlife fraudsters try to use the pandemic as a way to steal money and IP.
6. Providers with deep contract analytics that can analyze a contract portfolio for affected contracts from suppliers (and customers) for not just force majeure clauses, but other related clauses that tie to the multiple risks popping up at once in the pandemic.
7. Contingent Workforce and Services solutions that are able to, at a minimum, help rapidly ramp up on-demand workers to deal with massive resource shortfalls. We are looking at four categories of solutions for sourcing remote/online work; solutions for sourcing and managing contract workers at geo-specific capabilities; solutions to “direct source” and manage contract workers; solutions for data management and analytics. (The first PRO brief from this category, about sourcing remote/online work, can be read here.)

Owing to the magnitude of the crisis, Spend Matters recently made the series introduction available for free to all readers. PRO subscribers can see our follow-up pieces that profile the other categories and their solutions in that market. We will include a lot of information on each category PRO brief that readers can see without hitting a paywall, but since we also draw heavily from our existing deep-dive analysis of the providers from our SolutionMap database, some information will be available only to our PRO subscribers.

For fraud and vendor safeguards, the immediate need for companies in all sectors will include proactively detecting fraudulent behavior from all possible sources, whether it’s employees abusing normal corporate channels (e.g., stocking their own homes with toilet paper on the company dime) or cybercriminals posing as suppliers to reroute payments into personal bank accounts. At the same time, manufacturers may need to identify new sources of supply, leading them to rapidly onboard new suppliers. Yet without proper safeguards in place, a frantic selection could lead to longer-term problems, should the supplier have past issues with regulatory compliance or run an unsustainable operation.

The initial three solutions — from AppZen, ConnXus and APEX Analytix — all have capabilities in proactive fraud detection or supplier risk management, especially as it pertains to the validation of supplier information. We will likely add providers with similar and other strengths in fraud detection and vendor risk management at a later stage.

Each category-specific PRO piece in this series has three sections:

1. Problems and Use Cases. We’ll highlight the problems in force (which will vary through different phases of the crisis) and the various scenarios where solutions can provide deeper insights, intelligence and scalable workflows.
2. Solution Rationale and Value. We’ll outline how various solutions can help solve the problems and the specific questions that they’ll help answer.
3. Example Providers. We’ll highlight the solution providers that can support the problems and deliver value.

Some providers are offering coronavirus-specific programs and “freemium” commercial offers, and we’ll note those whenever we update this piece. We’ll also start the series with providers that we already have deep knowledge on, but we’ve been seeking information from other vendors too.

Let’s jump into how fraud and vendor safeguard solutions can help.

Through April 2020, a special PRO Expert Survival Pack is available to procurement practitioners only* at up to 50% off — Learn more

How to reach your goals on supplier diversity and supplier management

When a company considers how to improve its supplier diversity, it can do so along with improving its supplier management overall. But how does a business go from getting started to reaching its goals with suppliers?

In the first article in this series, we showed that businesses starting this process don’t have to choose between supplier diversity and supplier management. You should do both at the same time.

But now, let’s consider how to execute a plan to build relationships with suppliers and reach your business goals. You’ll need to understand three areas of SRM, or supplier relationship management: how your suppliers align with your business goals, how you manage supplier risk and how you address supplier development.

ConnXus Brings ‘Quick and Clean’ Supplier Data Cleansing to the Masses with SmartScrub: Vendor Analysis Update

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

Supplier Risk & Ethics Analysis: Time to Get Started

For many buying firms, the quality of goods and services are contingent on their suppliers. Suppliers can indirectly impact brand perception from business to consumer. While delivered goods can be inspected through quantitative metrics, there are a host of other metrics that firms should track related to their vendors, including risk and ethics.

ConnXus Envisions a Next-Generation Supplier Network With myConnXion: Vendor Analysis Update

supplier management

ConnXus has grown in less than a decade from a specialized supplier diversity compliance tracking service to a notable provider of supplier relationship management solutions.

As Spend Matters’ Q4 2018 Supplier Relationship Management and Risk SolutionMap indicates, ConnXus offers mid- to top-tier functionality for capabilities including supplier performance management, risk management, configurability and services — making it a recommended fit for all five supplier management personas and a Value Leader in two personas: Nimble and Turn-Key. The Mason, Ohio-based solution provider has driven these results primarily by supporting procurement organizations in their efforts to identify, qualify and introduce the right suppliers, including the right diversity suppliers, into global supply chains.

Recently, however, ConnXus expanded the scope of its offering with the introduction of myConnXion, a platform that connects buyers and suppliers into a single network where both sides can create, edit and share their profiles with anyone (even users outside of the network). While myConnXion may appear to be an incremental evolution for ConnXus, filling in some of the core supplier information and master data management functional gaps that handicap it relative to other providers, the new platform is also more than that. Going forward, myConnXion will be the foundation for ConnXus to pursue all future innovations, including ambitions for a global e-sourcing capability and blockchain-based compliance tracking.

This Spend Matter Vendor Snapshot Update reviews ConnXus’ new myConnXion platform and explains why it’s more than just another supplier network concept for procurement organizations looking to tackle supplier diversity tracking. It is an addendum to our previous review and analysis of ConnXus.

ConnXus’ Multitier Tracking Capability: Creating a Sustainable Picture of Supplier Spend

procurement software

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our series The Featured Feature, where we explore unique technology capabilities that differentiate procurement software companies. Read our introductory post to learn more.

Supply chain visibility is a major concern for today’s procurement organizations. In a 2017 Geodis survey of 623 companies, respondents named improving supply chain visibility as the third most important priority for their businesses, behind only full deliveries and product availability. Yet only 6% of those respondents said they had full visibility of their supply chains. Acknowledging this need for better visibility and information about their suppliers, businesses are increasingly turning their attention to the latest generation of supplier management solutions. ConnXus, a more recent entrant to this sector, is one such example, with a particular expertise in supplier diversity tracking and reporting.

ConnXus: What Makes It Great (Supplier Management SolutionMap Analysis)

Editor’s note: This “What Makes it Great” column is normally reserved for SolutionMap Insider Subscribers, but ConnXus has generously agreed to support access for readers who are not yet members.  

Supplier management technology has traditionally been a bit like Beaujolais nouveau: developed quickly (in certain cases on an ad hoc basis to meet specific needs) but not necessarily prone to aging well. ConnXus, a relatively recent entrant on the supplier management and supplier diversity scene (see our three-part Vendor Snapshot on the provider here, here and here), is a case in point, rapidly eclipsing previous generation solutions.

ConnXus’ recent Q2 2018 SolutionMap performance provides compelling evidence that it sets the standard not only for what to expect in a modern supplier diversity solution but also what organizations should look for overall when searching for a Nimble supplier management technology provider. Join us in exploring what make ConnXus great, based on the latest functional and customer SolutionMap benchmarks from Q2 2018.

“What Makes it Great” is a recurring column that shares insights from each quarterly SolutionMap report for SolutionMap Insider Subscribers. Based on both our rigorous evaluation process and customer reference reviews, each brief explains how the provider excels and where it beats the SolutionMap benchmark, concluding with a checklist for ideal customer scenarios in which procurement, finance and supply chain organizations should consider the vendor.

ConnXus: Vendor Analysis (Part 3) — Summary & Competitive Analysis

supplier diversity

The market for supplier diversity and supplier management solutions has clearly entered its “2.0” phase. While the DNA of firms competing in this market segment has not changed considerably from the first wave of specialists, the level of capability and overall user experience has evolved considerably since the previous generation of solutions — and what one can do with the solutions has matured, as well.

Users of these solutions can still expect a combination of diversity data enrichment, supplier on-boarding and basic supplier information management capability. But this is now just the ante for a newer generation of providers like ConnXus, a supplier (information) management solution designed to simplify the complexity associated with identifying, qualifying and introducing the right suppliers, including the right diversity suppliers, into global supply chains in a manner that achieves organizational goals of responsible and sustainable sourcing.

This final installment of our multipart Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot series covering ConnXus offers a SWOT analysis, competitive assessment and comparison with other similar and “crossover” providers in the supplier management and supplier diversity market. It also includes a user selection guide and summary evaluation and selection considerations. Part 1 and Part 2 of this PRO research series provide a company and deep-dive solution overview, product strengths and weaknesses and a recommended fit analysis for what types of organizations should consider ConnXus.

ConnXus: Vendor Analysis (Part 2) — Product Strengths & Weaknesses

From a technology and content perspective, the market for supplier diversity-specific supplier management solutions has remained somewhat of a cottage industry for over a decade. Larger vendors, including both software and risk-centric providers, have not been able to take advantage of scale or reach. Further, over the years, even those organizations which have acquired diversity-centric vendors (e.g., Kroll, Jaggaer) have not been able to consolidate the market.

This has opened the door for more recent entrants, such as ConnXus, to not only develop technology, solutions and content for supplier diversity professionals but also to integrate these capabilities with broader offerings across the supplier management spectrum, as well as set a new standard for what should be included in a supplier diversity solution in the first place.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot explores ConnXus’ strengths and weaknesses, providing facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations decide whether they should consider the provider. The first installment our analysis provided a company and solution overview and a recommend fit list of criteria for firms considering the provider. Part 3 will offer a SWOT analysis, user selection guide, competitive alternatives, and additional evaluation and selection considerations.

ConnXus: Vendor Analysis (Part 1) — Background and Solution Overview

suppliers

The supplier management technology market is a microcosm of the procurement technology market generally, as it has many subsegments and is fragmented from a provider perspective. Procurement organizations need to do their full homework when evaluating potential suppliers, including newer technology vendors and a host of incumbents that have been competing for a decade (and sometimes more) in this market segment. Consider that two components within the supplier management, supplier information management (SIM) and supplier discovery management (SDM), have been around since the early 2000s, when Aravo pioneered capabilities in this area and signed progressive companies like Google.

But when it comes to supplier management, SIM and SDM are not the whole story. Within this segment, specialized supplier performance management (SPM), supplier relationship management (SRM), supply/supplier risk management, supplier network management (SNM), and other takes on supplier management that haven't even hit mainstream yet are helping drive specific buying decisions for technology. That probably accounts for the recent explosion in supplier management technology providers over the past few years, with a new one either hitting the market or becoming mainstream seemingly every quarter.

One of the companies that is now becoming mainstream in this broader sector is ConnXus. Founded in 2010 out of the founders’ frustration in their inability to quickly and easily identify, and qualify, new diverse suppliers as a result of incomplete databases, fragmented resources and expensive software, ConnXus is on some levels a next-generation version of previous diversity specialists including CVM Solutions and AECSoft. The founders also observed that small business owners and diverse suppliers found it difficult to share diversity qualifications or develop relationships with procurement executives directly.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot provides facts and expert analysis to help procurement organizations make informed decisions about ConnXus’ solution offering in the supplier management and supplier diversity markets. Part 1 of our analysis provides a company background and detailed solution overview, as well as a summary recommended fit suggestion for when organizations should consider ConnXus in the procurement technology area. The rest of this Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot research brief covers product strengths and weaknesses, competitor and SWOT analysis, and evaluation and selection considerations.