Continuing to investigate Trade Extensions’ auction capability, the next area worth pointing out is how their latest enhancements to the tool provide real-time information on bidder activity. For example, users can see not only the actual pricing bids suppliers have submitted, but they can also see fields as the overall coverage of a supplier’s offer (based on the overall event) and trending for comparative pricing and coverage (up or down on a percentage basis) in the same screen. Obviously users can also see more typical fields at their fingertips including lot groupings/names, rankings, historic cost, reserve pricing savings, volume, bid taken down to the per unit cost level (if applicable), etc. The cockpit environment is transformative. We’ve included a couple of screen grabs throughout this post highlighting the level of detail contained on a single screen in Trade Extension’s latest release.
A fair analogy in comparing the cockpit environment of Trade Extensions to solutions like Oracle’s E-Sorucing product is that one is a Diamond DA-40 and the other, a basic Cessna (the analogy holds for comparing the F-22 to the F-16, as well). No doubt, both aircraft are proven and capable — and can get you from Point A to Point B. But the overall level of information truly at your fingertips is completely different. And this in turn enables you to focus on flying the metaphorical sourcing aircraft and overall situational awareness rather than just getting your bearings. I should note, however, that neither tool provides the type of last-ditch parachutesthat certain small aircraft provide — you’re on your own if you cause a supplier relationship to crash and burn based on your tactics and approach.
One of the more unique capabilities of the Trade Extensions’ auction capability is the ability to rapidly build awareness around potential award decisions in the context of a live happening that has not yet closed. For example, one summary view (a single screen) can provide access to not only some of the elements we’ve previously discussed, but also insight into the impact of potential allocation decisions (based on volume, payment decrements/terms and savings). With this capability, users can quickly run scenarios analyzing the impact of all or partial volumes for a particular bidder. The ability to filter this information and related bid content can enable users, during the course of an event, to conduct a detailed analysis that would usually take hours after the close of an auction or eRFX. And of course, the information changes dynamically as new offers come in.
Trade Extensions’ auction component now includes the ability for suppliers to bid in different quantities (full or partial). In addition, users can configure custom feedback for specific suppliers. As Trade Extensions suggests, this information can be used to provide “real-time, custom feedback” to bidders in the case of “outlier analysis.” For example, a user can configure a formula based on whether a bid is above the average — and to what extent above the average — to display a comment to a supplier that their offer is “higher than average” or, to be more blunt, “out for consideration/contention.” Formulas can be complex in this case, factoring into account total landed costs (e.g., unit cost, freight, tax, duties, inventory, etc.).
In terms of auction set-up, it’s now quite easy to set up an event from an intuitive wizard interface that also allows for the simple (and detailed) cloning of past events and/or past event elements. The cloning capability is extremely powerful and granular (e.g., the granularity of just RFx definition for cloning can extend, separately, to lot type, lot & bid fields, lot supplements, lots, bid supplements, lot specific supplements & constants, questionnaire data, transaction fields, lot field mappings, bidder mapping and transactions, among other RFx definitional elements.) There are other enhancements that Trade Extensions has made as well (e.g., level of workflow configuration for events), but we don’t have time to tackle that in this post.
On a comparative basis, there’s really nothing quite like Trade Extensions’ auction cockpit and absolute real-time bidding/bid analysis capability. Anyone looking for an advanced e-sourcing capability should also consider competitors including BravoSolution, CombineNet, Emptoris, Co-Exprise (which has a surprisingly good auction module) and Iasta. But a direct comparison would not be fair to either of these parties in the auction module itself since Trade Extensions provides such extensibility in the context of a competitive bidding event. Now, where others differentiate is exactly where Trade Extensions comes up short, including broader category management, supplier management (in the context of a sourcing event) and non-negotiation components of managing a sourcing negotiation (e.g., the collaborative sharing of information outside of an event, eRFX response templates, RFX matching based on capability/supplier lists, etc.).
Yet without question, auction junkies will reach a new level of geek with Trade Extensions in the context of a bidding event itself. Stay tuned as we conclude our reporting and analysis of Trade Extensions’ latest release.