Agiloft’s new RFx module is cleaning up RFx’s bad wrap
Let’s be frank, RFx’s have a bad wrap. And rightly so. The process is often highly cumbersome and ineffective, so much so that it often deters bidders from throwing their hat in the ring and procurement leaders from even bothering in the first place. Agiloft’s new add-on module is giving procurement the tools they need to do something about that.
I sat down with Andy Wishart, the Chief Product Officer at Agiloft, to hear all about it.
Agiloft is a no-code Contract Life Cycle Management (CLM) solution that helps organisations create, draft, negotiate and manage both their buy and sell side contracts.
“What we've just announced recently is an add on module to that contract platform. And that solution is a sourcing and supplier information module. We're really interested in the data flows and the events that lead up to the contract record... such as packaging up an RFI or RFP, and making that available to suppliers to respond to,” said Wishart.
Agiloft’s new add-on module for RFx processes helps to create a more streamlined and democratic approach to sourcing by centralizing the creation, approval, collaboration, and decision making for sourcing events. Standardised templates with pre-approved language and customized supplier questionnaires ease the creation of bidding documents while digital access to the tender allows suppliers to collaborate more easily on the response and simplifies the response process.
Stakeholders can now appraise, score, and compare suppliers responses online. Notifications and alerts help team members and suppliers stay on schedule. Wishart says “One of the great things about this facility being available on a single sourcing and supplier information platform alongside contracts is that we could facilitate a one-click creation of a contract once the contract has been awarded to a supplier, extending the reach and the value of our customer's investment in a CLM solution and capturing more of that workflow from source to contract.”
The flexibility procurement needs with the ease that it wants
Of course, how you rate a supplier is unique to every company and every bid. But lest you worry, Agiloft is built for flexibility. Wishart explains, “We offer a lot of flexibility broadly across the platform because every organization's business process is unique. To zero in on the scoring mechanism, we provide a flexible approach to that. So, on the initiation of a new sourcing event and the creation of a package that would be posted on the supplier portal, it's possible for the supplier managers to define the scoring criteria for that specific sourcing event. That could be in the form of a set of questions and possible answers that all evaluators need to complete after reviewing the responses from the supplier.
“To give complete flexibility, it could also involve the upload of an Excel spreadsheet that provides the scoring mechanism as well. We pride ourselves on our heritage of building our contract life cycle management solution on a no-code platform. That means that our customers, without any coding skills, can configure the business processes, rules and the scoring mechanisms all within the administrative functions of the platform".
“When we think about the RFP package and the RFP document itself, there are obviously a lot of parts of that document that are specific to the goods or service that’s being sourced, but there is a lot of ‘boilerplate', standard language as well. Information about the company that is issuing the bid for example. So we can leverage the document automation capabilities within the Agiloft platform to generate that outline package for the RFx that includes all of the standard language. And then the sourcing manager can add in the customisations and specifics for that particular event”.
Compliance and Contract lifecycle management
“Beyond the efficiencies that are gained from adopting an automation solution like CLM, there are certainly important benefits around compliance and risk, those are areas that go beyond efficiencies and cost savings. A good example is by automating the language that's used for standard contracts and putting guardrails around that language organisations are able to better ensure supplier compliance.”
“There are certainly huge benefits to be gained from standardising the contract process in order to ensure compliance in those supplier relationships”. Before being able to respond to bids, suppliers must be uploaded into the portal, at which point Agiloft assists with verification of compliance to requirements".
“We have mechanisms in order to gather the information that the company needs to know about that supplier… documents related to the goods and services that they're providing, which the compliance team needs. That can happen pre-selection, pre-contract, but it also has a role post contract. If the contract has been awarded to a supplier, it's important that the information contained within the Agiloft system is up to date. We utilize custom recurrent questionnaires that can be sent to suppliers to remind them to complete further annual information or re-upload insurance certificates [for example].
“One really important element is the data set that sits within the contract record. Now, if you think of the old world of contracts being stored, either in a filing cabinet or in a repository like SharePoint or Dropbox, those are just static documents which contain a rich amount of really important information. Like the term of the agreement and what happens at the end of the initial term. Will it auto-renew and does it have to be renewed? If it is auto-renewed, then is there going to be any change in the terms or the price?”
“All of those data points are really, really important. We often regard that as the DNA of the contract and therefore, of the relationship between the buyer and the seller. Agiloft captures that information in the contract record. And from that information, we can create obligation tasks within the platform that remind the business stakeholders as we get closer to those renewal dates that they have to take a look at that contract and that they will have to make a decision. It’s very important data that then drives behaviours during the life of that contract”.
Beyond Cost: Mitigating Risk
“There are some other aspects that are perhaps a little bit more difficult to quantify in terms of the value, but the value is clear. A good example is, imagine an event that happens externally, like, for example, the pandemic, or a container ship getting stuck in the Suez Canal. Those are external events that can have dramatic impacts upon the economics of certain sourcing contracts that a customer could have.”
“It's really been important to be able to pinpoint contracts that may be impacted by a change in regulation, or a change in the environment. So what's needed is a robust solution that contains a rich set of data around those contracts and a robust search function that enables contract administrators to pinpoint those sections of contracts that are impacted and understand whether they have to remediate or terminate those contracts or take some form of action based on that event. These are the things that are a little bit more difficult to quantify, but that are business critical intelligence which Agiloft’s CLM offers".
3 Marketplace Myths in the Rush to Digital Supply Chains
The coronavirus-induced rapid digital transformation has thrust online marketplaces into the spotlight. Sellers now desperately want and need to get in on this revolution but do not always completely understand the implications of marketplace selling in the rush to establish their digital supply chain.
The hype is understandable. Online marketplaces offer a flexible business opportunity with relatively low start-up costs, provide an additional channel to market and sell products, reduce marketing costs, and facilitate expansion into new geographic markets.
They also help vendors meet consumers where and how they shop as consumers prefer marketplaces over brand websites for various reasons, including customer reviews, product comparisons, fast and free shipping, and easy returns. In 2020, marketplaces comprised 62% of global e-commerce sales, with the top 100 selling a total of $2.67 trillion.
The prospects are enticing. However, setting a marketplace strategy up for success calls for understanding what it actually means to sell digital services and subscriptions at scale. Let’s clear the air by dispelling some common myths.
1) It’s just one marketplace and done.
Joining or creating a marketplace is not the be-all and end-all to ensure an efficient digital supply chain. It is just one avenue to digital transformation—and often, the solution is more than one marketplace; it can be two or three or more. Companies might even have a unique marketplace for different verticals, with their small and medium-sized marketplace different to their corporate marketplace.
Ample, convenient, and varied purchase points help shape a next-level customer experience and allows for greater agility. Vendors that promote in three or more channels can see a 200% increase in gross sales. So sellers need to strategically diversify their sales channels with the help of a sustainable strategy and be aware that a marketplace serves as an extension of their overall digital presence and an important part of branding.
In order to prepare for a multi-marketplace offering and draw up a winning game plan, vendors should take some crucial factors into consideration and avoid certain pitfalls:
- Select the right marketplace: It may be tempting to take a spray-and-pray approach and list your offerings on as many marketplaces as possible, but it usually leads to poor results and wasted resources. It can also leave customers with an inconsistent impression of your products and services. Find your core competencies and look for platforms that fit your multi-marketplace strategy and allow you to sell well with competitive price points and acceptable margins. Remember that quality trumps quantity.
- Tailor your content to each marketplace: Apart from the fact that duplicate content strategy is a red flag for search engines like Google, it implies lack of discretion and respect for your target audience. Carefully study your chosen channels, identify the unique drivers for success on each of them—including what they require, how their algorithms work, and what its users respond to best.
- Know the right timing: A major element of a successful multi-marketplace strategy is listing the right offerings in the right place, and at the right time. This requires you to keep close tabs on the market demand, the latest trends and opportunities, and consumer behaviour on each channel.
- Align your multi-marketplace sales strategies with your overall objectives: As a marketplace is an extended arm of your business, your sales strategies there should eventually help you advance your mission, vision, and values as a seller if you want to achieve sustainable growth.
2) Backend operations are negligible and a headache.
It is not just the shiny front end of the marketplace. Businesses should have powerful backends for catalogue and subscription management, which involves much more than simple publication. But although selling through multiple marketplaces may seem like an incredible amount of work, a wide range of technologies are available that take this daily tedium off your plate and out of the realm of human error.
Automate all steps of the process for best results, including bringing your offerings to various marketplaces, registering purchase orders and billing as well as managing upgrades, downgrades, and cancelled subscriptions.
It is also paramount that sellers have the right technology in place to seamlessly connect their infrastructure, workforce, and partners through data. It not only optimises the operations but also enables better collaboration across all the players involved, offers easy access to consumer data and analytics from every channel, helps consolidate data silos, and unifies the customer experience.
Most importantly, automation and data integration provide actionable insights. Accessing insights enables sellers to react in real-time and pushes them to improve and innovate around the consumer’s experience, needs, expectations, and buying behaviour—which eventually helps them stay relevant and competitive.
3) Ecosystem is just a buzzword.
Sellers should not underestimate the power of strategic alliances. The ultimate goal of marketplace selling is to effectively orchestrate an ecosystem, with partnerships unlocking distributed innovation and enabling new revenue-generation streams for you and your entire network.
Since a strong network of partners can offer products and services beyond that of a single company, a well-managed ecosystem can create a positive feedback loop and help you achieve a competitive advantage that would be unattainable alone.
In fact, an ecosystem advantage is the best result of digital supply chain creation as it can exponentially multiply the value and utility that your business has to offer to your customers without incurring the exponential costs of doing so.
To start building your ecosystem, you should first adopt an ecosystem mindset. Traditional selling is conducted manually and face to face, and any changes in the products, as well as sales and marketing strategy, are communicated to each partner reseller individually. In order to scale in an ecosystem, this is no longer possible. You must shift to automating every aspect of your business such as sales, marketing, and fulfilment or your business will never grow at scale.
And don’t reinvent the wheel. Companies that try to go it alone and build their own marketplace management platforms will get left behind because the time, energy, and expense it takes is too much. Instead, businesses should rally around a standardized technology solution to help companies quickly and easily build and manage digital ecosystems.
Software vendors especially are advised to build products with ecosystems in mind. Ask yourself: “How can I bundle this product into a holistic solution within an ecosystem?” You should also look to simplify full-time product delivery and customer service to fit into and stand out in an ecosystem.
A worthwhile endeavour
Every smart strategy starts with asking the right questions, and jumping on the multi-marketplace bandwagon is no exception. Layout a detailed, clear roadmap from end to end. Ask yourself who you are targeting and what the problem you are trying to solve is. Then chart the entire customer experience from their point of research and purchase to delivery of the product, the payment process, and post-delivery services.
Starting here will ultimately touch on all other areas of consideration, including contract flows, publishing, provisioning, order flows, billing and invoicing, channel management, reporting, business intelligence, and subscription management.
With this sales journey front of mind, today’s myths and misconceptions should not disrupt your move to the digital supply chain. It is just a matter of building your image on different marketplaces slowly and steadily, with a cautious eye on the bottom line of your business. And it sure is worth the effort.