May 29, 2013

What’s in a name?

Probably most recognized for his declaration that, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”, the renowned philosopher, George Santayana, also stated that, “Chaos is a name for any order that produces confusion in our minds.”

And, there is no better way to define the naming and nomenclature surrounding supplier management, than… chaos.

It is not a new practice for solution providers, and analysts alike, to spend countless hours trying to invent a new term, which they can stake claim to and profess that they “invented the space”. The result is confusion, and the consequence is chaos.

Put into practice, within supplier management, at a cursory glance (note: I am confident that there are many, many more terms I am overlooking), one has to navigate between:

  • Supplier Management
  • Supplier Relationship Management (SRM)
  • Supplier Information Management (SIM)
  • Supplier Master Data Management (S-MDM)
  • Supplier Lifecycle Management (SLM)
  • Supplier Lifecycle Risk Management (SLRM)
  • Supply Base Management (SBM)
  • Extended Business Relationship Management (EBRM)

Let us not overlook subsets either…

  • Supplier Onboarding
  • Supplier Enrollment
  • Supplier Discovery
  • Supplier Registration
  • Every singe combination of “Governance”, “Risk”, and “Compliance” (e.g., GRC, Supplier Risk Management (SRM), etc.)

Oh, yes, and each combination above with the word “vendor” in place of “supplier”.

It took only Request for “Proposal” (RFP), Request for “Information” (RFI), and Request for “Quote” (RFQ) for the market to reterm the lot into RFx. Sure there are slight differences, but the foundational structure and feature-set within each solution were the same.

Supplier Management’s core tenents include:

  • The creation of business initiatives
  • Requesting supplier information (either internal or externally-driven)
  • Workflow (access, approve, reroute, etc.)
  • Communication (emails, alerts, collaboration, etc.)
  • Master data management (match/merge, integration of 3rd party data, syndication to other systems, etc.)
  • Scorecarding (risk, performance, compliance, etc.)
  • Document management (contracts, insurance, etc.)
  • Search, reporting, and dashboarding

And… all performed with the organizational model in mind, whether global controls or down to a plant/local-level.

Though simplified, this combination of functions can be configured to solve any of the supplier management terms above. So…  are we at the point of “SxM”? Or, should we add more terms to further the supplier management confusion? If so, for the record, I want to be the first to suggest “Trading Partner Knowledge Management System” (TPKMS), as it just rolls off the tongue.  …kidding, of course 🙂

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