Think for a minute about the third-party vendors who service your company - the folks who run the cafeteria, deliver office paper, clean the restrooms or provide security services, just to name a few. Now, think about a company the size of General Electric, an international conglomerate with more than 325,000 employees working on everything from the set of Saturday Night Live to a parts facility for GE Aviation.
Keeping track of the vendors that service GE - all 500,000 of them - is no easy task. Some offer bulk pricing while others are required to provide proof of licensing or special insurance. And with so many different divisions within a company like GE, who's the say the Joe the Vendor isn't providing one company under the GE umbrella with one price and another company under the same umbrella with a different price. That doesn't sound very efficient, does it?
This week, General Electric announced the official launch of a Web-based Software-as-a-Service platform from Aravo Solutions, a San Francisco company that's hoping to do for vendor management what salesforce.com did for customer relationship management. Since March, GE has been rolling out Aravo SIM (Supplier Information Management) as a way of increasing efficiency and reducing costs throughout the company.
Through the Internet, GE vendors can access the system outside the company's firewall to do things like upload insurance policies or change unit prices. Inside the firewall, GE divisions that need to access the database - from facilities to accounts payable to HR - will get a broader look at information about that vendor, which, in turn, will help streamline operations and expenses.
But as much as this is an innovative effort for General Electric, it also serves as a validation of SaaS as a legitimate way of doing business and of Aravo itself, which proudly boasts that, if their services can work for a company the size of GE, they can work for any company. Aravo believes the GE rollout, which will eventually include 500,000 suppliers doing business in 10 countries and six languages, could be the largest SaaS deployment in the industry.