As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information. – Benjamin Disraeli

Over the course of the past 15+ years, I have focused my career efforts towards ensuring organizations leverage the best possible information as they manage their procurement, accounts payable, supply chain, and compliance functions. (before that I was amiss – dealing with boring, less-impactful, solutions)

The journey has provided me with considerable experience within spend analytics, source-to-settle, performance and risk, diverse and small business reporting, and (my favorite) Supplier Information Management (SIM). In fact, before the three-letter acronym was borne, I was giving sermons on the criticality of supplier information, and the strategic advantages of leveraging this data better.

Many Supply and Demand Chain Executive’s annual “Pro to Know” awards later, I have had the honor of working closely with over one-half of the Fortune500, and a significant portion of those within the Global500 not already represented in the Fortune500.

So, as it relates to supplier information, what do I most often hear from the market?

To start, ALL seem to recognize that:

  1. Downstream efforts, whether PO processing, invoice processing, contract management, accounts payables, or other, are heavily dependent on the quality of supplier data;
  2. Efficiencies, or inefficiencies, are established at the beginning of the information gathering process; and,
  3. Everything from what information is collected, to the governance over the data and processes, has to account for a complex set of variables (e.g., geographic location, commodity type, supplier type, business unit, function, etc.), yet maintain global corporate standards.

Seemingly very complex, as this matrix seems to change from one company to another. And, most solutions already fall short by now in not being able to adapt to the required organizational and governance models.

But what I hear most often is… How can we replicate the same “master data management” model (collect once, use many) on a bigger scale? If you have verified a TIN, or Company Registration Number, or other, why not push that to all clients of that supplier? Yet, where my needs differ, such as a bank account change triggers a specific internal audit, let me tailor the system to my needs.

Makes sense. A many-to-many network to create incredible efficiencies, yet a powerful Supplier Information Management platform that fits the needs (client-specific data, client-specific processes, client-defined data stewards, environment-specific integrations, and so forth) of each organization.

Until Lavante, this hadn’t existed. Yes, supplier networks existed; however, there has always been a trade-off. Ariba has a well-known network, but it’s purpose is simply to enable payments – and, as I’ve been told, the Supplier Information Management module overlooks many of the dynamics required as mentioned above. Yet, over 3 million suppliers are already actively engaged in the Lavante Connect supplier network – AND the platform is completely configurable to the most demanding and complex environment.

Hence, I joined Lavante’s team. Not to sound sales-y, as that’s not my intention: what we’ve all imagined in enabling supplier information across organizations, across business units, across functions, across relationship owners, and across downstream systems (e.g., ERP, eInvoicing, PO systems, etc.) is here.

In my prior experience, there’d have to be a tradeoff, as in the Ariba example above. The permutations of variables (both in supplier data collected, and in workflows triggered) within an organization is already complex for a software. But to add a layer above it, network-enabled data, and the governance of how and what data flows into an organization, versus what is kept out?

By solving this puzzle, systematically, the buzz is high. In fact, just this last week in New Orleans, PayStream Advisors awarded Lavante with their 2015 Innovation award for Supplier Information Management.

When the rubber hits the road, the ROI has to be there. There is little question that ensuring clean and accurate supplier data, at the beginning of the process (from requisition, onboarding, etc.) pays huge returns in efficiency, and capturing value of downstream processes, such as: invoicing and early payment discounts, compliance initiatives, fraud avoidance, etc.

Most are aware of this, but many delay due to expensive and lengthy implementations. I’ve seen 2+ year implementations, at a 5x implementation to software cost. That is a big commitment – and another reason why I made the move to Lavante. Here it is more common to have implementation costs at ½ to 1x implementation to software – and go live in short months.

Is all of this possible?

Yes, this is all possible. In fact, we were just put to the test. A very large $150b multinational had requirements to tailor our platform to handle several of their supplier-related compliance areas (specifically: Conflict Minerals Reporting, Disaster Recovery, RoHS/REACH, and C-TPAT) and enable them to test the supplier engagement, the data collected, the processes, and the reports IN THREE DAYS TIME to meet their deadline. The prior company had many months; however, Lavante successfully delivered the platform in time and the feedback was, “Even we didn’t think it was possible. You hit a home run!”

Of course this isn’t the norm, but, regardless, implementations shouldn’t be a barrier to your success. Straight out of the box, Lavante’s platform is already 100% configured for: supplier requisition; FACTA compliance; small and diverse business; validations (e.g., OFAC, SWIFT, USPS, etc.); Conflict Mineral Reporting; and many, many more areas. Clients can leverage what is there, yet tailor as necessary.

A true supplier network, and the ability to cost-effectively deliver Supplier Information Management… As I started this post by mentioning that I’ve “focused my career efforts towards ensuring organizations leverage the best possible information as they manage their procurement, accounts payable, supply chain, and compliance functions”, I continue on that path today and am excited to be a part of this huge leap forward within Supplier Information Management.