It was 10 years ago that my passion at the intersections of supplier diversity, strategic sourcing and technology started. As CPO of a fortune 1000 company, my team was accountable for delivering procurement cost reduction and increased utilization and spend with diverse suppliers. Our supplier diversity efforts were driven primarily by four key factors:
- Business customer/contractual demands – key customers demanded it and it included specific requirements within our contracts.
- Corporate strategy – Just as the company wanted the employee base to reflect our customer base, the company believed that the supplier base should be approached in the same way.
- Increased competition – The more suppliers you have competing for your business, the better your chances for higher quality and lower cost. We found that diverse suppliers increase the probability of this phenomenon.
- Regulatory – There were also regulatory drivers, but the 3 drivers above put us well beyond these requirements.
Given these drivers, my team was tasked with conducting targeted supplier outreach based on our internal requirements for specific goods and services, performing due diligence on newly identified suppliers and the ongoing tracking of supplier spend data for periodic reporting to various constituents. Over time, we had iteratively started attending conferences, joining organizations or subscribing to various services aimed at making the process more efficient by providing access to qualified suppliers. However, we found that we were spending increased amounts money from our shrinking budget only to find that many of these organizations had agendas that did not necessarily align 100% with promoting the growth and development of diverse suppliers. We had to spend a lot of time reaching out to independent organizations depending on the category of supplier targeted (MBE, WBE, DBE, etc.). As highlighted in Figure 1, this first generation process was costly and complex.
I started thinking about all of the other ways that we were leveraging technology within procurement to streamline processes. In fact, we had just implemented a new e-sourcing solution that enabled us to execute reverse auctions and other e-sourcing events. I then started dreaming up a similar solution, but more complete with a focus on all of our supplier diversity needs.
My vision was first limited to a marketplace that connected buyers with diverse suppliers, but that vision continued to grow into what is now ConnXus…a Next Generation Procurement Platform & Marketplace that provides a fully-integrated solution. As noted in Figure 2, the platform consists of a closed loop process that starts with buyer requirements and ends with spend tracking & reporting capability. In the future, to support our user’s ability to interact, share best practices and customize features, our platform will also include a robust networking community that will continue to evolve and improve over time based on our user feedback. Our development team has been hard at work on these features and will soon be ready to roll them out to further enhance your user experience. Stay tuned!