Remember owning a Nokia or a Sony-Ericsson in the 2000s? These “feature phones” had plenty of functionality for the time (text, email, digital cameras, GPS navigation), but every application was built on a proprietary operating system.
Smartphones, on the other hand, are designed to cater to third-party application development. Instead of attempting to build everything themselves, iOS and Android are a platform for an ecosystem of tools and connected apps built by others.
This is known as the best-of-breed model, and it’s the direction in which technology is moving, with every business function from marketing, to finance, to procurement building their own “tech stacks” or technology ecosystems.
In a previous post I looked at the evolution from siloed systems to the rise of the procurement technology ecosystem. Here, I want to talk about how integration can work to securely connect tools, processes and data to enable information to flow into and out of a procurement platform such as VendorPanel.
How does integration happen?
Integrations mainly happen in three ways.
Through Open APIs (Application Programming Interface), which is the intermediary that enables two software tools to connect securely and talk with each other
iPaaS (Integration Platforms as a Service) such as Workato, TIBCO and Zapier, which have have pre-built connectors to a wealth of SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions
Datasheets: Information can be uploaded via simple datasheets to enrich data in your core systems. An example would be uploading supplier details from an external source to enrich vendor profiles on your procurement platform.
VendorPanel in the information stream
Like any healthy waterway, a stream is a complex, interconnected ecosystem. A procurement ecosystem shares similar characteristics - it’s adaptive, sustainable, and flows can be linear and nonlinear. The flow of information on a platform like VendorPanel occurs at multiple points:
Upstream integrations (bringing data into the system that originates before you start the procurement process). This may mean connecting procurement planning software, or our HowToPurchase app, where you can create a policy-compliant process guide for buyers
Supplier intelligence: Financial, sustainability, compliance and other supplier data can be added to supplier profiles on VendorPanel to create Supplier Intelligence badges that buyers can see at a glance. Compliance data may come from contractor management tools such as Rapid, LinkSafe, iPRO or Avetta, but it is easy to create custom integrations for the unique set of badges you need
Downstream integrations (pushing sourcing data to external systems). Sourcing data can flow to downstream systems including ERPs like SAP or Oracle, P2P platforms like Coupa or Ariba, CLM such as Portt for contract lifecycle management, and Business Intelligence systems for reporting and analysis.
Hub or spoke approach
If you’ve ever spoken with a single-system salesperson, one of their arguments against the ecosystem approach is around complexity. A company with over a dozen best-in-breed systems, they’ll tell you, will have an impossible job of managing so many applications at once and searching for piecemeal information in multiple locations.
But this is not how ecosystems work. In practice, organisations will use a preferred program as a “hub”, which pulls all the necessary information from “spoke” systems into a single dashboard. The ecosystem can be built over time, and will evolve as needs change.
Like the smartphone, your procurement hub becomes a platform for an ecosystem of tools that can be built by several software vendors. And within that model, VendorPanel can be either the hub or a spoke:
Hub: You may want to place VendorPanel at the centre of your ecosystem. As the hub, it connects quickly, securely, and affordably to any other system (via the spokes) to create an integrated procurement suite.
Spoke: VendorPanel can also act as a “plug-in” for other systems, feeding Source-to-Contract data into your preferred hub.
If you want to connect your VendorPanel enterprise with your business systems or a third party provider, contact your Customer Success manager.
If you want to explore VendorPanel as a hub for your procurement activity or as a specialist sourcing tool to integrate with an existing ERP or bolt on provider, contact us.